Author(s): Ross Douthat
From the New York Times columnist and bestselling author of Bad Religion, a "clever and stimulating" (The New York Times Book Review) portrait of how our turbulent age is defined by dark forces seemingly beyond our control.
Today the Western world seems to be in crisis. But beneath our social media frenzy and reality TV politics, the deeper reality is one of drift, repetition, and dead ends. The Decadent Society explains what happens when a rich and powerful society ceases advancing--how the combination of wealth and technological proficiency with economic stagnation, political stalemates, cultural exhaustion, and demographic decline creates a strange kind of "sustainable decadence," a civilizational languor that could endure for longer than we think.
Ranging from our grounded space shuttles to our Silicon Valley villains, from our blandly recycled film and television--a new Star Wars saga, another Star Trek series, the fifth Terminator sequel--to the escapism we're furiously chasing through drug use and virtual reality, Ross Douthat argues that many of today's discontents and derangements reflect a sense of futility and disappointment--a feeling that the future was not what was promised and that the paths forward lead only to the grave.
In this environment we fear catastrophe, but in a certain way we also pine for it--because the alternative is to accept that we are permanently decadent: aging, comfortable, and stuck, cut off from the past and no longer confident in the future, spurning both memory and ambition while we wait for some saving innovation or revelations, growing old unhappily together in the glowing light of tiny screens.
"Full of shrewd insights couched in elegant, biting prose...[this] is a trenchant and stimulating take on latter-day discontents" (Publishers Weekly, starred review) and an enlightening diagnosis of the modern condition--how we got here, how long our frustration might last, and how, whether in renaissance or catastrophe, our decadence might ultimately end.