The Decadent Society: How We Became the Victims of Our Own Success

Ross Douthat. Avid Reader, $27 (272p) ISBN 978-1-4767-8524-0
A comfortable but unoriginal, tired, and frustrated age has arrived, argues this scintillating diagnosis of social dysfunctions. New York Times columnist Douthat (To Change the Church) surveys a contemporary world where technological advance has subsided into the engineering of trivial digital apps; sclerotic, gridlocked governments dither; birth rates have fallen below replacement rate; young men lose themselves in video games and porn rather than start families or change history; the arts endlessly rehash boomer cultural touchstones and superhero franchises; and a managerial meritocracy entrenches itself in a soft authoritarianism of health and safety, while radicals playact at resurrecting communism and fascism in defanged social media tantrums and feckless street theater. Douthat’s elegy on the death of progress is unsparing and often pessimistic, but never alarmist; decadent modernity may muddle along without apocalyptic collapse, he contends, or perk up again with a religious revival or renewed space exploration. His analysis is full of shrewd insights couched in elegant, biting prose. (American political partisanship, he writes, is “an empty traditionalism championed by a heathen reality-television opportunist, set against a thin cosmopolitanism that’s really just the extremely Western ideology of liberal Protestantism plus ethnic food.”) The result is a trenchant and stimulating take on latter-day discontents. Agent: Rafe Sagalyn, ICM/Sagalyn. (Feb.)
Reviewed on : 01/06/2020
Release date: 02/25/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
Downloadable Audio - 978-1-7971-0317-4
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