Sunday, 29 April 2007

A Study of History

My favourite historian, Arnold Toynbee, holds that civilizations are ruled by charm (of the 'creative minority') as the result of which the people 'suspend disbelief' in their government and allow themselves to be guided without rebellion. He argues that the breakdown of civilizations is not caused by attacks from outside. Rather, it comes from the deterioration of the 'creative minority', which eventually ceases to be creative and degenerates into merely a 'dominant minority' (who force the majority to obey without meriting obedience). He argues that creative minorities deteriorate due to a worship of their 'former selves' as the result of which they become proud - and lose their ability to 'charm'.

2016: I have come across this marvellous quote in the context of the Referendum disaster“As societies grow decadent, the language grows decadent, too,” he wrote. “Words are used to disguise, not to illuminate, action . . . Words are to confuse, so that at election time people will solemnly vote against their own interests.” Gore Vidal’s 1992 The Decline and Fall of the American Empire:

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1 comment:

  1. How refreshing to find someone else who has read the unfashionable Toynbee.

    I concur.