It hadn’t occurred to me before, but thinking more about Niall Ferguson’s article on “American Civilization”, I realized something. He writes:
“In my view, civilizations don’t rise, fall, and then gently decline, as inevitably and predictably as the four seasons or the seven ages of man.”
Here I think he might be making a reference to Oswald Spengler’s model of civilizations, which explicitly references the seasons. Ferguson’s computing analogy is, whether intentionally or not, is very much the opposite of Spengler’s organic, natural model. (Spengler was one of the prominent early predictors of the fall of Western civilization, or as Ferguson says, “declinist”.)
The other thing that occurred to me is that Ferguson seems, from the title onward, a little confused about whether he’s writing about “American” Civilization (the U.S.) or about “Western” Civilization in general. Indeed, I think this might be why the article seems so strange; he’s mixing up broad concepts with (relatively) narrow ones–i.e. the present recession.
I don’t mean to say his article is bad–it’s quite thought provoking, actually–but I think it’s a bit muddled.