Decadence and Depravity as a Theme in Western Culture since the 19th Century

14 Sep 2004 10:46

A lot of European high culture in the early 20th century can be better understood once you realize that many people had a sense that the West was somehow succumbing to decadence, and needed to be regenerated. (This was a major theme of modernist architecture, for instance; also of Fascism, not that the modernists were Fascists.) A lot of it can also be understood as a fairly deliberate embrace of what was seen as decadence, as a kind of sophisticated kinkiness. (See, for instance, the works of Bataille, who was a better pornographer than philosopher.) Sometimes the two overlap.

My own interest in this theme is, of course, merely concerned with the aesthetic and sociological aspects, and not at all with an intellectual excuse for collecting naughty books and pictures.

See also: Artistic Modernism; the Dying Earth; Freud; Jung; Futurism; Modernist Architecture; Nietzsche; Romanticism