Cyclic Theory of Oswald Spengler and Toynbee

Theory of Oswald Spengler and Toynbee, Pareto’s Theory of Circulation of Elites and Sorokin’s Theory of Cultural Dynamics are eminent among the cyclic theorist. Here we will discuss cyclic theories of Oswald Spengler and Toynbee

In the view of cyclical theorist, only one cycle takes place for change in society. To confirm this they described many civilisations and said history is the witness. Today the civilisations which are flourishing and are at top most point of progress, they were sometime at primordial and backward stage. The civilisations that seem to be derelict today, in the past they seem to be the world’s superior civilizations. In this way, cyclic theorist see the social change in the form of life cycle.

Theory of Oswald Spengler

About the social change ,the German scholar Oswald Spengler in 1918, presented his cyclical theory in his book “The Decline of the West”. In this book he has criticised the Evolutionary theories of social change and said that change never happens in a straight line. In his view social change occurs in a cycle. where we started. We see in nature, one cycle of season takes place. Winter, summer and rainy season comes one by one after each other. In the same way, cycle of day and night and night after day goes on. Similarly living beings also goes through the phase of life and death. We take birth gets young, then old and then we die and take birth again.This cycle is also found in human society and civilisations.

Human civilization and culture also undergo through rise and fall, formation and destruction. To prove this, they described eight civilisations of the world( Arab, Egypt, Megan, Maya, Russia and western culture etc). And also presented their rise and fall. Spengler said about western culture that it has reached its uppermost position of development. In the field of trade and Science it has done unprecedented progress. But slowly and slowly it is reaching its stage of attenuation and stability. Hence its destruction is for sure. Similarly he has given his views about German culture and said that it has reached its uppermost position and its declination is nearby.

According to Spengler, the grandeur of western society will diminish and their power and affluence will be destroyed. Whereas on the other hand the countries of Asia which are not developed, weak and lethargic with their economic and military power will move forward on the roads of progress and production. Thereby become a challenge for western countries.


Although the theory of Spengler attracted many people for a long time. But cannot be accepted completely. Spengler has compared culture and civilisation with trading, which nobody accepts today. He confirmed his side by modifying the historical facts. He announced the destruction of western societies by wars on fictional basis.

His views on development of western societies, that it has reached its uppermost form is also defective. As the work of its development is still going on. Hence we cannot consider the theory of Spangler as completely Scientific. His theory signifies his pessimism.

Theory of Toynbee

Arnold J. Toynbee was an English historian.  He studied 21 civilisations of the world and presented his theory of social change in his book “A Study of History “. After studying the development of different civilisations, he found a simple example and created his theory. His theory is also called “Challenge and Response Theory of Social Change”. According to Toynbee, every civilization is given a challenge by nature and man. To face this challenge, man requires adaptation. Also to respond to the challenge he forms civilization and culture.

After this, in place of geographical challenges, social challenges are given. These are in the form of internal problems or are given by external societies. The society which is able to face these challenges remains intact and those who are unable to do this are destroyed. Thus, in this way a society goes through the phase of formation and destruction and coalition and disruption.

According to Toynbee, In Sindhu and Nile Valleys, same thing has occurred.  Natural environment has given challenge to the people living at those places. To which people answered by formation. The civilisations of Egypt and Sindhu has developed the same way.


The theory of Toynbee was far from scientific rationale. It seemed to be a philosophical theory. But Toynbee is more optimistic as compared to Spengler. He tried to give a Sociological explanation to social change.


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