Sunday, June 06, 2004

Spengler

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I've got this e-mail about one of my previous posts, Hitting the Walls:
You mention that Spengler's "The Decline of the West" was translated in the early 90's. Do you mean it was translated into Farsi by hardliner's? I can speculate here but can you elaborate on why this would have happened?
I am curious to know if the translation exists and what connections it could have with post-revolutionary Iranian society. I am using Spengler as a source in my master's thesis in Architecture [...]. Sometimes I get the feeling that my professors are puzzled at why an Iranian would cite Spengler.

I thought it would be better to post my response here since I have received several other e-mails regarding Hitting the Walls. So it might be interesting for others to read it as well.
Oswald Spengler's The Decline of the West is not translated into Persian in its complete form. A few chapters of the book (I think chapters 8 and 9) were translated into Persian in the late '40 -or early '50- by JahaňČngir Foruhar, who was said to be affiliated with the Iranian 'neo-Nazi' party of the time, SUMKA.
The book was out of print for years till the early '90, when a hardliner publisher (or maybe the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, I am not sure here) republished the book after years. What I wanted to say in Hitting the Walls was about the importance of certain Western philosophers in the formation of Shiite fundamentalist Islam as an anti-Western ideology, and how the ideas of thinkers such as Spengler was utilized in a completely different context to justify anti-democratic actions of a regime with a nature different from Nazi Germany. Spengler's theory about cultures passing through two different phases of 'Culture' and 'Civilization,' and their rise and fall perfectly serves the ideas of people like Samuel P. Huntington, Osama Bin Laden, or Iranian hard-liners.

Spengler's ideas can be very relevant to Iranian architecture: what he says about the cycles of civilization and the way it affects the creation of cities (the emergence of organized metropolis designed based on geometric grid format) can be easily applied to Islamic culture. Looking at civilizations as organisms that die and reborn can be used as a description of the decline of the Islamic civilization. Such an interpretation of history also can be redemptive for those who hope to revive Islam in a different way: a way in contrast with those who try to rebuild it based on 'civilized' ideas of democracy and equality.

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