In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

SHORTER NOTICES 215 Civilization on Trial. By ARNoLnj. ToYNBEE. New York and Toronto: Oxford University Press. 1948. Pp. vili, 263. ($3.50) It is a compliment to the ·clarity and persuasiveness of Toynbee,s A Study of History to say that, in theory, a sympathetic and intelligent reader of' that work could have produced a group· of ·essays substantially the same as those here presented. It is no less a compfunent to· suggest that, in fact, few would have had the hardihood to vie with Toynbee on ground where he has displayed such skill and grace. Although the ideas put fmward in these essays t;nay be found, expressed .or implied, in the larger Study,, the value of this volume lies in the fact that the wisdom and insight gained by the author through his vast historical experience are being employed to illuminate the dangers and opportunities which face the world today~ Toynbee believes -that his knowledge of the whole sweep of human history has brought him -major advantages in the understanding of current his:. t.Orical movements, and he emphasizes his belief by frequent exhortations to students of history to look beyond the hedges and fences of their own carefully cultivated special fields and obtain "mental perspective." The present book itself exhibits some of the benefits ·of "mental perspective," and as the product of a mind with some claim to wisdom should attract · the attention of all who are concerned with current and future events. The 'subject-matter of the essays ranges from the -Graeco-Roman civilization to the international outloo~ of today, from an autobiographical account .of the process whereby Toynbee's theory of history took forni in his mind to a discussion of the nature and destiny of man; but the stress is always on the present. It may be unfair and misleading to boil down a varied and lively mixture to a dull residue. Nevertheless Toynbee's major thesis appears to be that Western society, if it is to be saved, must accomplish three great tasks.- First, it must find a mean between the extremes of. rigid socialism and unrestricted private enterprise; second, it must erect a political framework witllln which its national states shall be members of a whole; third, and most important, it must transfer itself from its present materialistic foundations to a spiritual basis. The first two of these specifics are likely to win a large measure of agreement; the third will, no doubt, be ·repugnant to all who are tinctured by the prevalent materialism and who may be bemused by our recent amazing technological advances. Toynbee attempts to meet the critics in the two final essays of the book which deal with the concept of progress. His knowledge of history leads him to believe that progress is comprehensible only in spiritual tenns, that true advance, in human- history, is to be seen only in the development of "higher" religions. The difficulty here is, of course, to find a reliable criterion. Western nian with his scientific propensity for measurement and statistics is at a loss to apply his methods ·to development of this type and is in danger of denying the reality of such progress because he cannot measure it. Yet it is at least possible that Toynbee is right and that the method of science is not universally applicable. 216 THE UNIVERSITY OF TQRONTO QUARTERLY "Since the essays are .largely. based on lectures, they are somewhat exoteric in character. However the absence of foot-notes and the ease of the exposition :must .not deceive _ the reader into assuming that the work is quick or superficial. If documentation is sought, it may be found in the increasing .series of the annutil Survey of International Affairs and .in the six volumes of A Study of History. .M. ST. A. WOODSIDE ...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 215-216
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.