In This Review

The Idea of Decline in Western History
The Idea of Decline in Western History
By Arthur Herman
Free Press, 1997, 400 pp.

At one level, Arthur Herman's book is a marvelously efficient compendium of dismal predictions or resigned assessments of ongoing, imminent, inevitable, or just possibly avoidable political, social, economic, cultural, or racial declines by hundreds of very famous, less famous, or infamous thinkers, novelists, poets, and artists, starting with Homer and ending with the Unabomber. The efficiency derives from Herman's uncanny ability to compress the views of the likes of de Maistre, Schopenhauer, or Sidney Webb into a short paragraph or two, while disposing of many others in a single sentence, often a quotation.

Thus we find that, faced with the

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