From the New York Times columnist and bestselling author of Bad Religion, a powerful portrait of how our wealthy, successful society has passed into an age of gridlock, stalemate, public failure and private despair. The era of the coronavirus has tested America, and our leaders and institutions have conspicuously failed. That failure shouldn't be surprising: Beneath social-media frenzy and reality-television politics, our era's deep truths are elite incompetence, cultural exhaustion, and the flight from reality into fantasy. Casting a cold eye on these trends, The Decadent Society explains what happens when a powerful society ceases advancing—how the combination of wealth and technological proficiency with economic stagnation, political stalemate, and demographic decline creates a unique civilizational crisis.
Ranging from the futility of our ideological debates to the repetitions of our pop culture, from the decline of sex and childbearing to the escapism of drug use, Ross Douthat argues that our age is defined by disappointment—by the feeling that all the frontiers are closed, that the paths forward lead only to the grave. Correcting both optimism and despair, Douthat provides an enlightening explanation of how we got here, how long our frustrations might last, and how, in renaissance or catastrophe, our decadence might ultimately end.