Decadence & Stagnation


Decadence: when things are just too good and easy that no one bothers to push forward anymore, bringing about stagnation

But there is also another kind of stagnation: one which comes about because there just isn’t enough time to go forward; when all time is taken up with something that is essentially futile when considered from the point of view of the bigger picture. Like making money. Even the seemingly dynamic world of business, if it is dedicated only to business and not to authentically meaningful human progress (things associated with knowledge and discovery), it is essentially stagnating. Any society that is a simulacra society, hell-bent on reproducing copies rather than on developing its creativity, is a decadent, stagnating society. We are stagnant not because of what we are doing, our anthill society is always busy, but because what we are driven by, in all this anthill activity, is not creative. When production is synonymous with reproduction, then we know we have fallen into the stagnant pool of decadence.

Nietzsche talked about the residual nature of decadence[1]. That decadence is a cumulative thing. Certainly, it is nurtured both by dogma and nihilism. Only a sceptical meaningfulness can push forward in a creative way.

Sceptical meaningfulness? How can such a thing be? Surely it is a contradiction in terms.

To understand how this oxymoron combination can work, we need to see meaningfulness as a forward pushing phenomenon. Once it stops pushing forward, meaningfulness slips into dogma. Meaning is fuelled by truth, but it does not swim in truth as if truth were a lake. Truth, in order to be lasting, has to be a river.

The meanings we discover have to be like the discoveries of science. Science declares things as truths only as long as it takes for new realities to be revealed under the surface of those once-truthful things. Truth therefore is an accumulative thing, although it accumulates by stripping away at the surfaces of reality. This is the onion-nature of reality that science must always continually peel away at. Reality is just another thin surface layer that can, and must, be stripped off if we are to make headways with truth.

“Decadence has gained predominance in our value judgements,” said Nietzsche[2]. There is decadence in everything cyclical. In this way, Nietzsche’s own Eternal Return is essentially a decadent concept, for there is decadence in every complete simulacra and copy.

To get another perspective, let’s consider Nike’s famous advertising slogan “Just Do It”. This statement is also a propagation of decadence, because it incites a spirit of pure, thoughtless action. Of course Nike sells trainers, shoes for sportsmen and women, but what this statement proclaims reveals the price society must pay for the sporting culture. For sporting-culture concepts drill deep into the fabric of the civilisation that promotes them. Decadence through mechanics; through the repetition of all exercises and games. The match, and all its essential repetitiveness (in whatever sport — matches are always basically the same game) as the desired repetition; that which we are waiting for; longing to experience just once again; over and over again. Despite all its analyses, which are always trivial, empty statements and clichéd observations, to explain the binary sporting condition of win or lose; despite these attempts to enrich something which has no depth at all – sport remains the cyclical emblem of all decadent, simulacra, Sisyphus souls. The mechanical life needs a mechanical pleasure: how could we expect the brain-dead worker to stomach anything that could challenge him or her intellectually?

Whether the participation is passive or active, the result is the same: the mechanisation of society in a decadent, cyclical rhythm that goes nowhere; that is never thought out; that we just do it.

[1] Nietzsche, Will To Power, #39

[2] Ibid


2 thoughts on “Decadence & Stagnation

    • Thank you Benjamin. I’ve been reading your posts as well. As you yourself say in one of your articles: “We need entirely different thinking made possible through a paradigm shift, a revolution of the mind.” My sentiments are exactly the same, and it’s nice to see we are not alone with paradigm shifting thinking … but we are certainly a struggling minority.

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