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Barzun leaves us with a diagnosis of Western Civilization in Decline:

Dropped on:October 30, 2012
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N. Szajnberg, MD Managing Editor

Barzun once co-taught with Lionel Trilling at Columbia, a remarkable setting for twin-diamond brilliance that van Cleef and Arpel’s could almost duplicate.

His last book was a sweeping overview of the West’s rise, in particular, it’s strength in its mongrelism of cultures. But, he worried that we are seeing our civilzation in decline in part because of built-in dualism of how we envy what we renounce (what analysts would call ambivalence) and that we are lured by rebellion (sometimes the emptiest of rebellion, such as James Dean’s Rebel
without a Cause)

Here is more on Barzun and his concern about the West’s descent into decadence:

“He later argued that the “peoples of the West” had “offered the world
a set of ideas and institutions not found earlier or elsewhere.”

But at the same time, he said, Western civilization had also cultivated the seeds of its undoing by envying what it renounced and succumbing to the lure of rebellion. Its virtues and failings, he argued, were in some respects identical: the freedom to rebel could turn into sweeping nihilism, resulting in decadence.”

And more from the NYTimes:

Click Here to Read: Jacques Barzun Dies at 104; Cultural Critic Saw the Sun Setting on the West by Edward Rothstein in The New York Times on October 28, 2012.

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