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The Law of Civilization and Decay: An Essay…

The Law of Civilization and Decay: An Essay on History (1896)

by Brooks Adams

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Interesting book. Some things to keep in mind: 1) written in 1896 by an Adams, its comments on the value of gold must be taken as a critique of McKinley policy; 2) the conception of energy as manifested solely in Fear and Greed, two baser human motives, shows the old Puritan that still lived within the Adams breast; 3) the use of Tacitus' depiction of the credit crunch is exceptional, the passage itself caught my eye and attention (as those who spoke with me at the time can attest) when I first read The Annals a year and a half ago. Additionally, twenty years before Weber's famous The Protestant Ethic and The Spirit of Capitalism, Adams was remarking the essentially economic reasons for the Reformation dating as far back as Henry VIII.

In some ways, though the book is clearly flawed and, in the Adams fashion, overwrought in its use of language (Henry was the most confused of the bunch, but they were all a tad confused), it retains a uniqueness which should be noted. Taken out of context it could be completely dull, but within context...Fascinating stuff. ( )
1 vote jrgoetziii | Nov 2, 2010 |
Describes a "dynamic" view of civilization and the triggers of decline. Commences with the Romans and comes to the contemporary Victorian Era. Originally published in 1895 in an intellectual collaboration with his brother Henry, the analysis is an example of the radical "scientific history" which was being made popular by Henry. The idea of "phases" in history suffered to explain the financial Panic of 1893 --Brooks' readership no doubt appreciated the insight into their pain, which was shared -- Adams' family fortunes suffered and Brooks wrote this work in the face of personal losses.
1 vote keylawk | Feb 16, 2008 |
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A younger brother of Henry Adams
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In The Law of Civilization and Decay (1895), Adams presents his theory that historical events are determined by economic conditions. While believing that economic concerns trade and the accumulation of wealth, for example provided a primary impetus for civilization, he also believed that, unchecked, they invariably led to collapse.… (more)

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