Monday, February 1, 2016

Ross Douthat picks up the Decadence theme

So I quote Jacques Barzun on civilizational decadence on Friday, and Ross Douthat references the same idea in the New York Times on Sunday? Sadly, I think it's not flattery by imitation but rather that Decadence is becoming impossible to ignore.

"So what are Trumpistas and Bern-feelers rebelling against?
One answer might be that they’re fed up with exactly this — the politics of “it could be worse,” of stagnation and muddling through. They aren’t revolting against abject failure, or deep and swift decline. They’re rebelling against decadence.
Now it may sound absurd to cast a figure like Donald Trump, the much-married prince of tinsel and pasteboard, as a scourge of decadence rather than its embodiment.
But don’t just think about the word in moral or aesthetic terms. Think of it as a useful way of describing a society that’s wealthy, powerful, technologically proficient — and yet seemingly unable to advance in the way that its citizens once took for granted. A society where people have fewer children and hold diminished expectations for the future, where institutions don’t work particularly well but can’t seem to be effectively reformed, where growth is slow and technological progress disappoints. A society that fights to a stalemate in its foreign wars, even as domestic debates repeat themselves without any resolution. A society disillusioned with existing religions and ideologies, but lacking new sources of meaning to take their place.
This is how many Americans, many Westerners, experience their civilization in the early years of the 21st century. And both Trump and Bernie Sanders, in their very different ways, are telling us that we don’t have to settle for it anymore."

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