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Acknowledged as one of the greatest achievements of modern scholarship, this consists of a ten-volume analysis of the rise and fall of human civilization.
Posted January 27, 2011
Posted May 10, 2005
This book has everything that you need to know about the stability of the civilization we live in today. It provides in depth analysis of the developments of western Christendom, Islamic, and Eastern Orthodox. I recommend this to any scholar trying to understand globalization. Most importantly Toybnee makes vivid predictions of the current coarse taken by our civilization and the parallels between other civilizations that have failed.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 2, 2003
Toynbee's work is a masterful effort at understanding all of human history. It is also much beyond most great efforts of this kind in that he seeks out underlying laws of the historical process itself.I have read all twelve volumes, some more than once and can attest to the hypnotic power of a work which promises to give total understanding of all human development. Unfortunately as happens with the work of most generalists the work tends to become much more suspect as one focuses in on the area of one's own specialization. This is especially true here, and in this case for it relates to one of the most controversial and problematic subjects in Toynbee's work his treatment of the Jews. In most standard histories of Western civilization the Jews are seen along with the Greeks as having provided the foundation. The Greeks give the scientific- aesthetic basis and the Jews, the moral- religious. Toynbee does not respect this traditional distinction, and makes a concerted effort to downplay the role of the Jews, and to diminish their significance. One can say that this happens because of his broad way of seeing things, his using the concept of ' civilization' as basis for analysis. But that becomes very suspect when one considers Toynbee's treatment of Jews in the modern era, and especially in relation to the conflict over the Holy Land. The feeling is that Toynbee suffered from a kind of resentment and envy of the Jews which led him to talk about their ' fossil civilization' at the very time the Jews were reviving themselves, and their ancient language and culture in the Holy Land. Anyone who in fact studies the intellectual life of mankind over the past two centuries cannot help but being amazed by the part this very small minority of all mankind played in the transformation( for good, or for bad) of its intellectual life. Toynbee wants to ignore this.He too ignores what other philosophers of history like Alfred North Whitehead, and Kurt Lowith pointed to as the Jewish contribution to the very conception of ' linear progressive development' to our own historical sense.For Whitehead this Jewish way of seeing the world taken over by the Protestant world was absolutely essential to the making of a scientific revolution. Toynbee instead saw the Jews ( and this was another way of attack on his part) as bringing into the world the kind of ' exclusivist monotheism' he implied Christianity and Islam were guilty of. No doubt were Toynbee alive today he would find the Jews responsible for the Taliban, and for Al Quaeda. This may seem an incidental matter, but it is not. It is necessary to remember that Toynbee wrote in years in which the background was being laid to, and the action taken for what is arguably the greatest crime in human history, the destruction of the Jews of Europe. He sat in his study making snide remarks and being above the fray, but the tone of his work contributed to the bonfire. Therefore all his intelligence, and all his vast scheme of understanding seem for me anyway, tiny pebbles which the great sea of time will wash far away. One cannot hope to see the world whole if one takes one of its central parts and distorts it to lower existence.
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Posted April 25, 2002
Every student of world history should read both abridged volumes of this work. More interested readers can try all 10 volumes. Most interesting points are his descriptions of the rise of civilizations due to what he calls 'etherealization' and their eventual decline. Toynbee wrote that the Islamic and Western civilizations are the only ones which have not gone through all the stages. Too bad he's not alive anymore. He could have entered into the debate about whether modern history is being defined by dialogue among civilizations or clash of civilizations or a combination of both.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.