Barzun—From Dawn To Decadence
“Let us face a pluralistic world in which there are no universal churches, no single remedy for all diseases, no one way to teach or write or sing, no magic diet, no world poets, and no chosen races, but only the wretched and wonderfully diversified human race.”
― Jacques Barzun, From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life, 1500 to the Present
Several years before the eminently brilliant historian Jacques Barzun passed away (2012), he published his magnum opus—From Dawn to Decadence, 1500 to the Present: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life. And unlike Mishima, he hung out for a few years to chat about it. (arigato!)
I was introduced to Barzun by the awesome and now sadly defunct Laissez-Faire Books selection. (a demise connected to the great Peikoff x Kelley Objecti-Bash-Battle-Royale).
Barzun's overview of the last 500 years of the The West is a tremendous accomplishment—a great asset for those itching to understand why we should be defending Civilization against our new barbarian friends, from the Left & Right. It also includes a clear warning, evident in the title and accompanying painting—"Les Romains de la décadence" by Thomas Couture, 1847.
In fact, I can't think of a better actual protest than by way of handing out copies of this book at the next AntiFa vs AltRight free-speech street fight (maybe the Kochs would sponsor?)...or perhaps just lodging Barzun-flambe at their heads from the sidelines. How French that would be. After all, our children are one step away from book burnings (already banning), we might as well get them started. Plus, Voltaire used to hang out at his own book-burnings so this would be a great way to learn about The Enlightenment by re-enacting its destruction, non?
The biggest problem that our students have today is that they've been denied the opportunity for exposure to History qua History. Instead, they're being taught pseudo-historical political revisionism flavored by a healthy dose of Karl (not Lagerfeld). Facts and actual history—out the bloody window. Instead, history is taught through the "Kritische Theorie" lens of skin, gender, race, ethnicity and any other form of collectivist sophistry our new intellectual elite can muster. All the result of a no-longer-liberal "Liberal" elite controlling our educational establishments not to mention our media and politicians. (with old-school Conservatives and Liberals asleep...or drugged on opioids...at the wheel)
So our schools have broken-up with Barzun (it's you, not me) and replaced him with the likes of Andrea Dworkin, Shannon Portillo and Johnny Eric Williams. Of course, they're not quite as bright as their various Godfathers, from Du Bois to Herbert Marcuse. But then asking someone to think in more than 144 characters is a little unfair (and Racist!).
If we're going to pull ourselves out of the current mess, we need to bring Barzun and other advocates of Western Values, back and fast. (#MakeLiberalismGreatAgain eh?) Otherwise the vacuum will be filled by those who believe that The West along with its entire history of achievement, wonder and majesty is simply a sad, sordid tale of "White-Skin"—for and against.
Barzun said it best: "Political correctness does not legislate tolerance; it only organizes hatred."
From William R. Everdell on behalf of The (failing?) New York Times:
"The Great Books are back, according to a report in The New York Times on Jan. 18; but thanks in part to Jacques Barzun they never did leave the curriculum at Columbia. Now, making timelessness timely, Barzun presents his account of all the great works of the Western mind in the last five centuries.
If ''From Dawn to Decadence'' is not a Great Book itself, it is certainly a great achievement. Encyclopedic without being discontinuous, the book hardly seems as long, as carefully constructed or as densely packed as it is. Though the ideas it explains are often complicated, the explanations it offers are limpidly clear, sparkling with biographical anecdote and counter-canonical observations, entirely free of those deserts of abstraction unrelieved by example often found in works of cultural theory.
This is the American style, and Barzun owns it. Arriving from France as a teenager in the 1920's, he became one of the leading lights of an exceptional generation of immigrant intellectuals. Now 92 and retired from teaching, he is no less the ''veritable Pic,'' as French students call those classmates who remind them of Pico della Mirandola -- that young man of the Renaissance who knew everything."