Decadent societies are often prosperous but usually have severe social and economic inequality, to such a degree that the upper class becomes either complacent or greedy, while the lower classes become hopeless and apathetic. The middle class may exhibit either or both patterns, or it may vanish entirely. Poor leadership is generally held to be both a cause and a symptom of decadence, as the lifestyle of a decadent individual is usually considered to be incompatible with responsibility. Applied to the arts, decadence implies an elevation of self-indulgence and pretension over effort and talent; when applied to science and the professions, it describes an erosion of professional ethics. Individual or collective greed is generally disliked in societies with strong moral beliefs, and for this reason, societies that nurture it are sometimes accused of decadence.
Societies that persist in a state of decadence may become unable or unwilling to commit to their own upkeep and fall into decline. One historical perspective on ancient Rome is that it became decadent due to a succession of unstable emperors like Nero and Commodus. While they ruled centuries before the fall of Rome, their leadership may have played a role in its decline. This point of view may also be biased by later interpretation; beyond his unpredictability Nero was also viewed as a generous ruler and was popular with the lower class during his reign. Caligula only reigned a few years. Machiavelli attributed Roman decadence to the rise of Christianity. See also: Roman decadence.
Contemporary post-industrial societies such as the United States and Western Europe are sometimes accused of decadence, the argument being that consumerism, materialism, and selfishness have eroded traditional moral values of community, democracy, and the work ethic. Some critics, like James Howard Kunstler, have alleged that American decadence has reached such a degree that the society is or will be unable to solve its own environmental and ecological problems. In America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It, writer Mark Steyn argues that decadent lifestyles in the developed world (with the sole exception of the United States) have led to demographic and social decay.
In literature, the Decadent movement—late nineteenth century fin de siècle writers who were associated with Symbolism or the Aesthetic movement—was first given its name by hostile critics, and then the name was triumphantly adopted by some writers themselves. These "decadents" relished artifice over the earlier Romantics' naive view of nature (see Jean-Jacques Rousseau). Some of these writers were influenced by the tradition of the Gothic novel and by the poetry and fiction of Edgar Allan Poe.
Oscar Wilde gave a curious definition: "Classicism is the subordination of the parts to the whole; decadence is the subordination of the whole to the parts." By this definition, Charles Dickens would qualify as decadent, because his "minor" characters often obscure the "major" ones—or at least are more interesting than them. For example, consider Mrs Sarah Gamp in Martin Chuzzlewitt.
Followers of Trotsky have split over the extent to which to uphold Lenin as against Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution. However, followers of Stalin have generally defended the "decadence" thesis of Lenin's theory of imperialism against Trotskyists. Trotskyists tend to stress that capitalism in the West is still progressive and marching forward technologically with the steady accumulation of capital. Followers of Lenin such as Mao and Stalin have argued that there is nothing left for imperialism to do but die, because it has nothing progressive to contribute anymore.
One who directly opposed the idea of decadence as expressed by Lenin was José Ortega y Gasset in The Revolt of the Masses (1930). He argued that the "mass man" had the notion of material progress and scientific advance deeply inculcated to the extent that it was an expectation. He also argued that contemporary progress was opposite the true decadence of the Roman Empire.
Drug agents uproot Mass. man's pot plot in Limerick ; Police charge Jay Dandreo, 50, of Lynn, Mass. with aggravated marijuana cultivation.
Sep 06, 2012; David Hench dhench@mainetodaycom Staff Writer Portland Press Herald (Maine) 09-06-2012 Drug agents uproot Mass. man's pot plot in...