'In the Shadow of Tomorrow: A Diagnosis of the Spiritual Ills of Our Time' by Johan Huizinga (1936)

A selection from In the Shadow of Tomorrow: A Diagnosis of the Spiritual Ills of Our Time by Johan Huizinga, 1936.

Note: Lewis Mumford wrote a review for this book, called In the Shadows of Yesterday, in The New Republic [which I can't get access to].

See also his writings on America published in English under the title A Dutch historian's vision, from afar and near (Man and Mass in America).

Note: I am not sure where in the text the following passage is from (quoting in secondary source):

"Delusion and misconception flourish everywhere. More than ever men seem to be slaves to a word, a motto, to kill one another with, to silence one another in the mind literal sense. The world is filled with hate and misunderstanding

The gods of our time, mechanization and organization, have brought life and death. They have wired up the whole world established contact throughout, created everywhere the possibility of cooperation, concentration of strength and mutual understanding. At the same time they have trapped the spirit, fettered it, stifled it. They have led man from individualism to collectivism, the negation of the deepest personal values, the slavery of the spirit. Will the future be one of ever greater mechanisation of society solely governed by the demands of utility and power? "

Chapter 1 Apprehensions of Doom

WE ARE living in a demented world. And we know it. It would not come as a surprise to anyone if tomorrow the madness gave way to a frenzy which would leave our poor Europe in a state of distracted stupor, with engines still turning and flags streaming in the breeze, but with the spirit gone.
Everywhere there are doubts as to the solidity of our social structure, vague fears of the imminent future, a feeling that our civilization is on the way to ruin. They are not merely the shapeless anxieties which beset us in the small hours of the night when the flame of life burns low. They are considered expectations founded on observation and judgment of an overwhelming multitude of facts. How to avoid the recognition that almost all things which once seemed sacred and immutable have now become unsettled, truth and humanity, justice and reason? We see forms of government no longer capable of functioning, production systems on the verge of collapse, social forces gone wild with power. The roaring engine of this tremendous time seems to be heading for a breakdown.
But immediately the antithesis forces itself on our minds. Never has there been a time when men were so clearly conscious of their commanding duty to co-operate in the task of preserving and improving the world's well-being and human civilization. At no time has work been as much honoured as it is to-day. Man was never so ready to apply his full courage and all his powers to a common cause. At least hope has not yet been lost.
If, then, this civilization is to be saved, if it is not to be submerged by centuries of barbarism but to secure the treasures of its inheritance on new and more stable foundations, there is indeed need for those now living fully to realise how far the decay has already progressed.
It is but a little while since the apprehension of impending doom and of a progressive deterioration of civilization has become general. For the majority of men it is the economic crisis with its direct material effects (most of us being more sensitive in body than in spirit), which has first prepared the soil for thoughts and sentiments of this nature. Obviously those whose occupation it is to deal systematically and critically with problems of human society and civilization, philosophers and sociologists, have long ago realised that all was not well with our vaunted modern civilization. They have recognised from the outset that the economic dislocation is only one aspect of a transformationprocess of much wider import.
The first ten years of this century have known little if anything in the way of fears and apprehensions regarding the future of our civilization. Friction and threats, shocks and dangers, there were then as ever. But except for the revolution menace which Marxism had hung over the world, they did not appear as evils threatening mankind with ruin, while revolution itself by its adversaries was taken as avoidable and for its advocates promised not destruction but salvation. The fin-de-siècle mood of decadence of the nineties had scarcely made itself felt outside the sphere of literary fashion. With the murder of McKinley the anarchism of the deed seemed to have run its course. Socialism appeared to develop into a reform movement. In spite of the Boer War and the Russo-Japanese War the first peace conference could still be thought to have heralded the coming of a new era of international order. The dominant note of political and cultural thought remained one of firm belief that under the supremacy of the white race the world was on the right way to concord and prosperity, safeguarded by a knowledge and power which might well seem to have reached a peak. Concord and prosperity -- provided politics marched with reason. But this they failed to do.
It is not to the War years that we must look to find the turning of the tide. Then all attention was absorbed in the immediate preoccupation. For many the first few years after the War were filled with optimistic expectations of a new redeeming internationalism. The swift rising but ill-founded trade boom which was to break in 1929 delayed the emergence of a widespread feeling of pessimism for a little longer.
To-day, however, the sense of living in the midst of a violent crisis of civilization, threatening complete collapse, has spread far and wide. Oswald Spengler's Untergang des Abendlandes [translated as 'Decline of the West' [see here]] has been the alarm signal for untold numbers the world over. This is not to say that all those who have read Spengler's famous work have become converts to his views. But it has jolted them out of their unreasoning faith in the providential nature of Progress and familiarised them with the idea of a decline of existing civilization and culture in our own time. Unperturbed optimism is at present only possible for those who through lack of insight fail to realise what is ailing civilization, having themselves been affected by the disease, and for those who in their social or political creed of salvation think to have the key to the hidden treasure room of earthly weal from which to scatter on humanity the blessings of the civilization to come.
Between the extremes of despairing pessimism and the belief in imminent deliverance stand all those who see the grave evils and shortcomings of our time, who do not know how they are to be remedied and overcome, but who hope and work, who strive to understand and are ready to bear.

Chapter II

Whatever our creed or belief, we all know that there is no way back, that we must fight our way through.

Chapter III

We know it only too well: if we are to preserve culture we must continue to create it.

Chapter IV

[not in order]

Culture requires in the first place a certain balance of material and spiritual values.

Culture means control over nature.

Physical nature lies at our feet shackled with a hundred chains. What of the control of human nature? Do not point to the triumphs of psychiatry, social services or the war against crime. Domination of human nature can only mean the domination of every man by himself. 

The second fundamental feature of culture is that all culture has an element of striving.

Culture must have its ultimate aim in the metaphysical or it will cease to be culture.

Chapter V The Problematic Nature of Progress

If we are in the habit of viewing past epochs, Hellas in the days of Pericles, the age of the cathedrals or the Renaissance, in the light of harmony and equilibrium while our own time appears full of friction and disturbance, this is no doubt partly because of the soothing effect of remoteness.

Without metaphor the handling of general concepts such as culture and civilization becomes impossible, and that of disease and disorder is the obvious one for the case in point. Is not crisis itself a concept we owe to Hippocrates? In the social and cultural domain no metaphor is more apt than the pathological one.

Chapter VII

The art of watching has become mere skill at rapid apperception and understanding of continuously changing visual images. The younger generation has acquired this cinematic perception to an amazing degree. 

Without claiming superiority of intellectual over visual understanding, one is nevertheless bound to admit that the cinema allows a number of æsthetic-intellectual means of perception to remain unexercised which cannot but lead to a weakening of judgment.

Chapter X

Systematic philosophical and practical anti-intellectualism such as we are witnessing appears to be something truly novel in the history of human culture.

A crude mind could easily think: something is valid, therefore it is true.

There are no instances known to me of cultures having forsaken Truth or renounced the understanding in its widest sense.

Chapter XIII

Injustice, cruelty, restraint of conscience, oppression, falsity, dishonour, deceit, violation of law and equity?—But look how they have cleaned up the cities and what wonderful roads they have built!

Chapter XX 

History can predict nothing except that great changes in human relationships will never come about in the form in which they have been anticipated.