14 Apr 2016

Diagnosing Decadence


Eric Fischl, The Old Man’s Boat and the Old Man’s Dog, 1982. –Our time’s version of The Raft of the Medusa.

Dan Greenfield contrasts the barbarous, vigorous, and decadent stages of civilization in another of his superb must-read essays.

The decadent civilization has a million laws which it applies selectively. Its universal laws, inherited from a vigorous civilization, are buried between equivocation. Decadents don’t believe in objective truths and so they cannot have universal laws. Instead they mire them in so many legalisms as to be meaningless. The laws must be interpreted by a specialized caste. Everyone is always in violation of some obscure law. Life depends on a lawless dispensation from the law. Justice is impossible. Corruption is mandatory. The only way for the decadent civilization to function is to bypass its own safeguards through corruption, black markets and lobbying. This is true in all things.

The crucial task of the law is interpretation that keeps everyone from constantly being punished. This task is accomplished by lawyers, lobbyists and the politicians who are constantly adding more laws to fix the interpretations in the old laws creating a complex mass of contradictory information.

This holds true in every other area of decadent life.

Read the whole thing.

Right now, a lot of people are eager to embrace the barbarian (Donald Trump) precisely because at an instinctive level they perceive him, with all his faults, representing an alternative to the decadence of our current elite culture, and they are ready to jump over the cliff to escape the latter.

4 Feedbacks on "Diagnosing Decadence"

T. Shaw

I also think of Winslow Homer’s “The Gulf Stream” (1899) when I mentally picture the decadence.


I enjoyed the essay. Not a big Trump fan myself, but…

I would prefer to think of Trump’s popularity as a desired return to honest vigor, not our own barbarism.

I certainly feel that America has lost much of it’s vigor during my lifetime (almost 50 years).

sound awake

um no its because were tired of voting for career politicians only because they have an r behind their name only to have them betray us like paul ryan did

no more career politicians for anything

they got us in this mess

theyre not likely to get us out

Steve Gregg

I kinda feel like every day the establishment hands another fishing weight on me. Each weight is negligible but it all adds up, slowing me down more and more.


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