How Decadence Could Give Way to Revival

How Decadence Could Give Way to Revival by   for The Gospel Coalition

I don’t know what vision the term “decadence” conjures up for you. Some advertising campaign years ago implanted an association for me with chocolate cake. But Ross Douthat sees a rich and powerful society no longer going anywhere in particular. We’re stuck with economic stagnation, political stalemates, cultural exhaustion, and demographic decline.

He writes: “For the first time since 1491, we have found the distances too vast and the technology too limited to take us to somewhere genuinely undiscovered, somewhere truly new.”

That line comes from his new book, The Decadent Society: How We Became Victims of Our Own Success, published by Avid Reader Press. Douthat is a columnist for The New York Times and author of the book Bad Religion, for which I previously interviewed him. The last time we talked was spring of 2016. A few things have changed since then. But not Douthat’s abilities as a must-read writer. I could do an entire podcast just reading my favorite lines from this book. As a former Methodist, I especially liked how he described “thin cosmopolitanism that’s really just the extremely Western ideology of liberal Protestantism plus ethnic food.”

This is a serious book, though, and it deserves serious attention. What’s next when there are no more unexplored frontiers or fresh discoveries? What’s the point of life if there are no more worlds to conquer? Douthat says we see a world in turmoil, but it’s more like we’ve lulled ourselves to sleep.

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