Wednesday, March 4

Harvard Book Store Presents (Past Events)Special Events Archive

Harvard Book Store presents Ross Douthat

Ross Douthat

presents

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

Tickets on sale now

This event includes a book signing

Harvard Book Store welcomes ROSS DOUTHAT—New York Times op-ed columnist and author of Bad Religion—for a discussion of his latest book, The Decadent Society: How We Became the Victims of Our Own Success.

About The Decadent Society

Today the Western world seems to be in crisis. But beneath our social media frenzy and reality television politics, the deeper reality is one of drift, repetition, and dead ends. The Decadent Society explains what happens when a rich and powerful society ceases advancing—how the combination of wealth and technological proficiency with economic stagnation, political stalemates, cultural exhaustion, and demographic decline creates a strange kind of “sustainable decadence,” a civilizational languor that could endure for longer than we think.

Ranging from our grounded space shuttles to our Silicon Valley villains, from our blandly recycled film and television—a new Star Wars saga, another Star Trek series, the fifth Terminator sequel—to the escapism we’re furiously chasing through drug use and virtual reality, Ross Douthat argues that many of today’s discontents and derangements reflect a sense of futility and disappointment—a feeling that the future was not what was promised, that the frontiers have all been closed, and that the paths forward lead only to the grave.

In this environment we fear catastrophe, but in a certain way we also pine for it—because the alternative is to accept that we are permanently decadent: aging, comfortable and stuck, cut off from the past and no longer confident in the future, spurning both memory and ambition while we wait for some saving innovation or revelations, growing old unhappily together in the glowing light of tiny screens.

Correcting both optimists who insist that we’re just growing richer and happier with every passing year and pessimists who expect collapse any moment, Douthat provides an enlightening diagnosis of the modern condition—how we got here, how long our age of frustration might last, and how, whether in renaissance or catastrophe, our decadence might ultimately end.

Praise for The Decadent Society

“A scintillating diagnosis of social dysfunctions . . . His analysis is full of shrewd insights couched in elegant, biting prose. . . . The result is a trenchant and stimulating take on latter-day discontents.” —Publishers Weekly


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Ross Douthat

Ross Douthat is a columnist for the New York Timesop-ed page. He is the author of To Change the Church, Bad Religion, and Privilege, and coauthor of Grand New Party. Before joining the New York Times, he was a senior editor for the Atlantic. He is the film critic for National Review, and he cohosts the New York Times’s weekly op-ed podcast, The Argument. He lives in New Haven with his wife and three children.

Photo Credit: Josh Haner/New York Times