A R N O L D T O Y N B E E
Arnold Toynbee was not one of these. In his multi-volume work, The Study of History, Toynbee explicitly rejected the formulation of human history as cyclical and, thus, inevitably leading to decay. (It should be noted that his work addressed considerably more than just the topic of whether history repeats. That history is not cyclical is one intermediate conclusion Toynbee drew; it is not the "point" of his work. It just happens to be the one part with which I'm concerned in this discussion.)
Similar Parts, Different Wholes
In his youth, Toynbee explains, he became interested in the question of why civilizations die. In trying to answer this question, he was led to ask the prefatory questions of why civilizations change, and why they emerge in the first place. Over a lifetime of study and thought, Toynbee developed the logical consequences of his realization that new things can come into existence that are not living organisms. Unchained from the restrictions of the old biological metaphor of civilization-as-life, he was free to perceive social transformation in a new way.
Toynbee's model was the loom. Even though a clothmaker uses repetitive motions in the production of fabric, changing the pattern laid out on the frame will result in a different kind or appearance of cloth being woven. Likewise, civilizations (according to Toynbee) may contain similar elements and yet be unique. They may all be composed of the same materials, acted upon by the same forces, but still turn out differently in the end.
"The West is not doomed," Toynbee seemed to be insisting. "It is not irrational to hope for the survival of our culture."