see MY WRITING for explanation of this document
a54 Imagine a third or fourth century Roman watching with horror the spread of Christianity, or a Russian gentleman of aristocratic sympathies in 1917. Admittedly at the end of something old there is something new, but sometimes the new represents such a hideous degeneration that it must be resisted and fought against if honesty and aspiration are to survive. As for those who know nothing but the new their task is different. They have to ascend from the nadir in their own terms. It will be long before they can do what we can do today. So how could we accept a culture moving rapidly in a direction of decline, towards something very primitive, something which greatly curtails the number of meanings to be discovered in life? Divorced from nature as we are, what gives our lives meaning is the richness of our culture.
a182-3 Modern technology, emancipation of the lower classes. History no longer means what it did. Despite prosperity, a limited potential for the exception to reach full stature, as Nietzsche argued. Exceptional men essential for the full flowering of any culture. This might be thought of as the basic Nietzschean proposition.
a42 Many who believe that our civilisation is flawed feel
they can do nothing to change it and decide to try to make the most of
what is here. Accepting in advance of our own limitations, making it
impossible that we shall ever get anything important done. Essential to
the will is the psychological backing it receives from external
sources, from suggestions implicit in the culture. In an age of slime
the great man must isolate himself and create his own world.
a81 Eliphas Lévi's form of Catholicism leading necessarily to decadent romanticism. What he makes forbidden is what is most exotically fascinating...Yet how is it to be enjoyed if it is inextricably bound up with the pangs of hell? By masochism decadence etc. That which is to be desired must not be forbidden, as the Buddhists knew. By making certain things forbidden, and these not things which threaten the survival of the race, not things we automatically shy from in revulsion, Levi as a decadent. He opens up an exciting new world then says we may not enter on pain of hell.
a93 Nietzsche's surprising remark in Beyond Good and Evil that freedom is a plebeian virtue and that this is shown by the aristocratic love cult, love as servitude, something to be desired for its own sake. Here an analogy with the conception of the two modes of decadence, good and bad. Desire to conquer, one of the most characteristic features of mankind. Desire to master and explore whatever it is possible to master and explore...what may appear to be a loss of freedom is sometimes perhaps better interpreted as an expansion of the universe in which the self can operate.
ab101 Gide and Wilde. Wilde's sub Nietzscheanism, the immorality. Immoralism presented as something worthy and deeply exciting. But there was something common about Wilde. Nietzsche on Wagner's heroines as recalling Emma Bovary. The pseudo aristocracy of certain decadent positions led into what has become rather commonplace modern behaviour. Abandoning your wife is nothing, the most respected people do it. Orgiasticism is become a commonplace of a gay lifestyle. Light thrown on application of Nietzscheanism to American democracy. Descent into banality of Gide's immoralism as soon as it becomes a social norm. Real secret of more intense life is in principle not something that could become a pattern for mass living. etc etc
ab117 Wilde as interesting case of one who from being a decadent in the Baudelairean sense became a criminal in the common sense. i.e. purely a corrupter, without even the suggestion of leading on to higher things. Point of Wilde's stand not simply freedom. .. a lot of the time he was not really serious. Bringing art into disrepute by pulling it down to a level the mob could understand. He became a criminal by lowering himself to the level of the mob. He put himself in their hands, he offended not in demanding freedom for his impulses, which was not something he actually seemed to do, but in recommending them as demanded by art, linking them with elitism and snobbery. .....to get this in perspective suppose that the crime were not buggery but theft....
ab217 Two concepts of decadence, the Viconian and the Catonian. Not to be confused.
ab220 Sophistry as leading not just to Catonistic decadence, the validity of which concept is dubious, but to the Viconistic, which is a clear enough concept. From this perspective Christianity itself is not only an expression of the Jewish imperialism but of the platonic civilising urge.
ab261 Could we say that our culture is no longer even decadent but posthumously existent? The decadent movement of the last century had a sound aesthetic response to experience. The necessary elect of sadism. Something the great egalitarian movement has swept into oblivion, depth of feeling swept away, the most appropriate aesthetic response to modern life, full contemplative understanding or enjoyment, placed under a most powerful moral prohibition. Some of the most essential feelings have become taboo. This not the plane of intellectual understanding. Fascism could be seen as an attempt to resist this, a clear alternative path to socialism and attempt to avoid the decadence implicit in it. For a time Europe's wisdom. .. the decent phase of a society is its egalitarian fully moralised phase. To seek salvation from a nation, that is a kind of socialism. As ignoring of the important fact that there are vital cultural issues which are in no sense settled.
ab309 Nietzsche quote (Will to Power 57) disintegration.. expresses the whole mode of consciousness of the late romantic decadent movement the fin de siecle feeling. This one may take as referring to the economic insecurity of his class. But that is a Marxist cliché. his 'class'. who identifies with 'his class' in this sense? Presumably what he is thinking of is not just an economic class but an intelligible culture. A culture made possible by a peculiar economic situation, of course.
ac173 Monarchy as symbolising many other things. It defies democratic egalitarianism, the chaos of values. ...The democratic republic exerts a symbolic influence of a most decadent kind. Potentially it undermines the whole concept of knowledge itself. Knowledge and taste. See what a glorious thing was considered to be the establishment of hierarchy in the Carloginian era. ...
ad100 Holbrook Jackson on the Catholicism in which most of the decadent writers either lived or lapsed, with the significant exception, he says, of Davidson who significantly ended his life by suicide.
ad13 Barrage of opinions and judgements to which one is subject, fragments of coherent ideological systems one picks up and which become part of ones currency, bits of second-hand Marxism, Freudianism or some or other sociological theory. The amount of intellectual energy expended on purely ephemeral stuff. Material of newspapers.
ad144 Decadence as search for new sensations subtly analysed. Boundaries of the sexual. Massage, no exercise of will except that of deciding to enter the experience. Therefore no sense of personal triumph.
ad188 See how a new religion is thought to be a means of overcoming decadence. Decadence considered as ossified thought forms. It depresses because it involves alien judgements that it seems impossible to escape. The intense force of frustrated desire finding expression in religious myth breaks though the floodgates.
ad317 Feeling of living in an atmosphere in which one's feelings and desires are hopelessly checked at every turn. Decadence as a feeling of impotence, powerlessness, one feels one is called upon to adapt to what is uncongenial. Perpetually called upon, impotent to influence or persuade. Feeling people have had of living in a mediocre age, this is a function of depression. Insofar as one accepts mediocrity one is depressed. To achieve greatness acquire the energy to repel those forces that depress.
ad323 1890s, to live a life that was at all satisfying necessary to rise above the common democratic socialist life that was spreading all around. Ideal of free spirit with aristocratic disdain for happiness, even life itself. Even suicide could become an aesthetic act. 'Decadence' offered a path of escape from the intolerable feeling of being submerged in the mass and a life subject to the value put on it by the mass. Avoidance of this is felt as the beginning of any emotionally satisfying culture. Motive less strong in England.
ad354 When not only is the fundamental human need not being met through the creation of beautiful things, architecture etc. but the very necessity for it is denied. More and more the whole social propaganda is directed at its denial. ... Most programmes for overcoming decadence partake of the nature of magic. i.e. there is an objective and an action that is supposed to procure it via the mediation of something supposedly resembling natural laws.
ad90 Say the decadent was concerned with preserving a civilised sensibility in a sea of modern vulgarity, the modern situation as worse. One resists clichés because they are a source of actual suffering. procrusteans. They are not experienced like that by everybody & there must be a reason for that. Partly because they are filled with magic.
ae136 Exhibition 'The Edwardian Era', predominance of images of women, the late popular reflection of the decadent image of the femme fatale, the belle dame sans merci, the masochists delight.. at one time this imagery expressed decadence, the imagery of an elite sensibility under threat, the multiplication of such imagery was peculiarly satisfying. Beardsley to Tissot. Images that cease to be art, woman of the most ordinary type is overvalued...it actually becomes a feminine art. From images of women as affecting men we get images of women as they would want to be seen. .. an actually feminine, therefore trivial, viewpoint is thrust forward as the central image of the era. ....the decadent image of the femme fatale expressed a defeatist attitude to the forces of mediocrity and decay. In the Edwardian era these images came to life, democracy itself takes them up crudely individualises them and interrelates them in a positive, crudely optimistic, manner.
ae176& Salvation through art, through philosophy and culture one escapes decadence. The people can do it through paganism, which means no more than the expression of their instincts. Pernicious effects of democratised femme fatale visible in Rupert Brooke, whose poetry expressed a peculiar degeneration of the love ideal. Unlike the decadents who made poetry out of the experience of this threat (as embodied in the Zeitgeist) Brooke surrendered his moral authority to women. Hence the death wish which comes out in his war poetry. Something sicker than anything the decadents produced.
ae221 Since the sixties, movements of feminism and gay liberation, the first of which has poisoned heterosexual love and the second of which has done the same for decadence.
ae29 Corruption of England. Thatcherite decadence. Americanisation. Rottenness of England question, one of Shakespeare's great themes. A society rotten when riddled with false consciousness, as with moralistic restraints on the freedom of the instincts.
ae290 The nineteenth century as ending effectively in 1914. Before that time a very good solution had been found, though only for a class of people. The threat to the way of life of this class explained the decadent quality of late nineteenth century literature. The objective fact was that the way of life could not last. The aesthetic perception of this fact is romantic agony. Baudelaire, Swinburne, Proust, Flaubert etc. Immense confusion brought about by technological change throwing all this into disarray.
ae376 Victorian society as decadent in the way T.S.Eliot said Dickens was decadent. Could we imagine that society organised in such a way that it would not be decadent? If not, perhaps that is something for our own future. Nietzsche believed that extreme decadence was coexistent with its antithesis. That may have been the case, but modern US?
af103 Democracy, morality of the weak putting ideas into circulation which appear to falsify reality. Our reversion to barbarism and magic. ..ideas in circulation whose fons et origio is the urge to maim and restrict the natural expression of strength. If such a broken system of thought is all one has, a new barbaric strength may still find its way among them... Pain and suffering of decadence coming from frustration of desire. This can only happen when the means to satisfy desire is visible. The oppression is on what you know. In those in whom such knowledge never existed it will not be felt in the same way.
af131 Praz. Aurevilly. Praz treats him as a decadent, one with a sadistic temperament. Similarity to Jacobeans and Elizabethans who were not decadent. What is ascribed to the 'decadent' temperament often seems to be simply art and truth. Perhaps Praz when he moralises is a little disingenuous. If he wishes to convey the spirit of the decadent consciousness a little moralism is quite in order as there is pleasure to be got from flouting it.
af138 Praz's Romantic Agony. Necessary and admirable but obtuse in its central thesis. The art of the decadent movement was most congenially suited to the philosophy of Schopenhauer which was essentially Buddhistic. (Catholicism was bastard Buddhism). Therefore the aesthetic theory behind it was very sound. Wagner's music would fit in with this. Art is release from the frustration of the will. How should it be that the will should continue to be frustrated? By reason of its ambition.
af170 Decadence of different classes. Feminisation. To a particular orientation of desire this society as such unsatisfactory.
af18 Measure of a decadent society might be that happiness is made to depend upon the acceptance of beliefs which we cannot accept. That our type of enlightenment finds it hard to survive. Frustrating because of the pressure to dampen the flow of energy, the irresistible impulse to believe what we believe we understand.
af204& Decadence of great cities, of megalopolis. Misery of decadence. What the conditions upon which men and women are to come together. The woman who desires the man but on conditions. Unacceptability of feminism, unsatisfactoriness of our democratic society… what is any doctrine of equal rights that leads you to give up what you believe, to abandon the necessity of your own conclusions?
af285 Possible for people to embrace values the effect of which is to destroy them. Instead of pursuing aims which further your own power and enjoyment, to do things which would tend to reduce it in most respects. How can anyone do this? Because they are under the influence of false magical theories. Schopenhauer's blasphemous praise of the will to extinction. Self mortification. Because they hope for something good from it in the end like the Indian ascetic....Marxist intellectuals...Decadence is possible. The successful, the masters may be corrupted by false ideals implanted in them by the ambitious and resentful weak. If these illusions were stripped from them they could not act as they do. They would be appalled, they would understand they were cutting off their own hands.
ah108 Spengler as charlatan. Spengler right or wrong. There is much in him that seems profoundly right. Any suggestion that he is wrong is in need of explanation and elucidation. How could it be that a creative idea actually could be effective? Oxbridge elite. The preoccupation with success, with effectiveness. Almost as if present society were in a satisfactory state, and not decadent at all. The natural effect of the decadence of society, its established institutions would tend to share in that decadence. Question:- Might decadence have been avoided if different steps had been taken in 1828? Is there something inevitable in the decline of a civilisation? Spengler's vision more compelling than Toynbee's.
ah121 People objected to socialism and modernism as doctrines. These were perceived as the official doctrines of society, based on what was taken to be a false view of human nature. As such they were highly objectionable, they were seen as signs of decadence. Insofar as society seemed to have a programme it was a decadent one. The overthrowing of this ugly consensus might therefore be experienced as a liberation...But it would be misleading to say that post modernism is a sign that the decadence of our culture is over...when people consider that the modern world is not decadent it is often because they identify with an idea which they believe to be triumphing. Has the decadence been overthrown or is the change something far more superficial, something like a change of fashion? Or was the underlying reality not even as decadent as might have been thought? What needs or needed to be changed if anything, what at all?
ah15* Burne Jones reducing preraphaelitism to an attractive style that very nicely conjures up a dream world of the early renaissance. ... his women are not portraits, they have a symbolic power...a lot of incredibly bad art was thrown up. By that I mean something worse than the point of not fancying them. I mean real decadence, a disturbing lack of virility...A virile artist responds to women in a directly sexual way. When it comes to representing individualised women as these untouchable goddess figures it is a sign of social unhealth. .. Burne Jones's symbolism was of the eternal female. In the hands of Evelyn De Morgan this became something more trite than ever. Flora, Woman as fashion model women as they see themselves when they make up their faces in the mirror. etc etc. .*
ah163 Socialism as a philosophy of living expressing the will and desire of the low and inferior. To be imposed upon everyone. Not content with taking money away from the rich. His sense of superiority is also a source of resentment, so that is to be taken away from him. Socialism an optimistic philosophy, it insists that life is good and to be enjoyed. From this point of view it is a fatuous facile solution to the problems of existence. Its doctrine of equality is a denial of the value of any creative achievement. A spoliation of all vision and truth in favour of the viewpoint of elated morons. All this is of course only a point of view. Other people see it as a positive thing... it resemblance to Christianity in its valuation of the viewpoint of the humble. Its loathing of pride.
ah185 Breakdown of traditional form involved in modernism springing from the need to escape the degradation of thought and feeling contained in traditional form. This obvious of course. Middlebrow culture was taking over the traditional forms, it had actually mastered them, yet as culture it was felt to be inadequate, blind to certain essential features of the age. This is not to say that there is anything wrong with the form as such. Free verse, atonal music, abstract painting are obviously all potential vehicles for complete rubbish. Disregarding content there is much to be said for form as distinct from no form. We get decadence when children are brought up to express themselves without form. The whole point of modernism gets lost when ignorant people and children catch on to modernist formlessness. The result is tweeness and collapse of all intellectual and emotional rigour.
ah246 Idea that society is not decadent. A strange idea to one who has absorbed Spengler and the like. Adam Smith is one alternative. But having seen the predominance of socialist and democratic ideas it just seemed always obvious that the general direction of the age is towards something depressing, to a predominance of ideologies one cannot accept. West Germany, USA, Holland. Not just a question of needs fulfilled or a few foolish ideas. I appreciate the wealth of the modern west. But a wholehearted approval of and loyalty to the modern is almost a definition of decadence........the green point that modern progress is killing the planet is not the point either. It is that how can I give wholehearted approval to a civilisation that is moving in a decadent, more confused and disorderly direction.
ah252 Question of whether society is or is not decadent Ways of looking at it by which it is not. Decadence, we say, in that certain aspirations are not satisfied. But what is decadence but the possible birth agony of art? Consider a self conscious decadence. Consider what is being frustrated, left unsatisfied and what could conceivably be done about it.
ah264* Society reaches a point where straightforward healthy competitive values merely prop up an objectionable or a decadent system. How much does even decadence matter? There is an ebb and flow. Ten years hence there will be new battles. But what understanding can we gain of it? No politics, including so called green, gets to the root of a persistent problem. Decadence is immediate, it is a threatened thought, a threatened valuation. What can be done about it, how much influence can one have in repelling that?
ah322 Decadence of our institutions. It may appear to be overwhelming fact or feature of society. Perhaps the fact about society. An inferiority resulting from factors other than ignorance. The difficulty of combating this decadence seems overwhelming. One does not have faith in democracy to accomplish it. Decadence of our institutions perceived as something very deep rooted and not to be changed by a mere shift in fashionable ideas (that is public opinion). Not everything decadent, judges not corrupt....Prince Charles on architecture. Influencing architecture by putting forward a monarchical ideal. Introduction of a new principle of authority. This is one method of combating decadence. Universities of the west pervaded by Marxism. Marxist philosophy is studied to be understood, much like Catholic orthodoxy. Decadence not inescapable but it is not an easy thing to escape.
ah338 Anti colonial movements, sometimes expressing themselves as decadent slave morality. This supposed moral imperative in the way that it is put. If there is a sincere belief that such moral ideas are more important than survival, that is decadent. Such ideas prevalent in society. Sometimes we may think it is possible to evade them. After all we do not have to accept them ourselves. To a certain extent we can live by our own ideas, our art, and so on, carve lives for ourselves.
ah41 If I say that society is decadent I mean that some particular aim of my own is frustrated. Decadence as the overcoming of some admirable and successful achievement by what is manifestly inferior. Decadence in art in literature, philosophy, politics, sexual relations. One may speak of a decadence of the life ideal in English, European, Western, Christian, Faustian culture.
ah51 In the past some degree of social compassion was valid art. ... the artist did not have to suggest any specific political solution. But what can he feel now? Some sort of rottenness or decadence. ...80 even 50 years ago art and literature had a serious purpose. Now art is subordinated to politics whether capitalist or socialist.
ah72 Say I live in a decadent society and yet the struggle persists. A society in which success seems to be predicated on accepting unacceptable ideas. One in which the triumphalism is of alien groups and viewpoints. A kind of sectional triumphalism taking charge of the morality. That monstrous weapon. Or decadence in a different sense, commercial vulgarisation, democratic proletarianisation or whatever. Whatever it is it is the triumph of particular ideas that can be formulated as such. Our idea is different and it remains. It cannot be completely destroyed, it persists. Let this throw light on the whole question of decadence, including Spenglerian decadence.
ai159 Cultural decline. Different ways one might write about the need for art. 'Higher needs' sounds precious. It is a crude attempt to express something. The point about cultural decline is that it carries consciousness with it. It misleads and constrains with the idea that it contains all possibilities within it. Weltschmerz, a sense of the incapacity of anything in life to satisfy. Reason being that all those values which should normally have the power to do so have acquired a different meaning, due to cultural decline. Art is scarcely even art, it is in constant danger of turning into mere amusement. Your acts are robbed of their meaning, forced into a moral framework supposedly universal. Everyone is expected to acquiesce in the new order. One might call it God. Either live with this meaning or none. The essential oppression is that of a totalitarian ideology, a Gnostic demiurge which aims to control all meaning. Think of the weltschmerz at the time of the birth of Buddhism. The point is not to act or to do, but to find the key to release the joy that should be there. St Augustine, same reasons for weltschmerz. Cultural decline a great coarsening of everything, so that normality itself comes to seem an oppression.
ai163 To degrade is to take a concept which has been developed for a highly specific purpose, and so alter it that it no longer serves that purpose. So a whole network of cultural forms become inadequate to satisfy important needs, which therefore seem unsatisfiable, and the result is weltschmerz. A cruder humanity, however, may not feel the lack, because it presupposes the complete adequacy of the concepts, and experiences a full range of emotions which it fits into those forms. Rather than taking them to the point where they repress energy and desire, it develops new concepts which presuppose these ones. The concepts are its natural world, within which the natural man finds himself. Thus the world negative structures of antiquity become something quite different in the minds of barbarian Germans. Vico's concept of decadence. Quite simple. Increasing civilisation brings over refinement, effeminacy, and foreign conquest. Other view. Cultural decline contaminates virtually everything, potentially the whole of life. Even a virtue like courage.
aj1 Concept of cultural decadence as springing from a concept of equal rights. The idea that any idea will do as a foundation. Root of bad taste. The true commitment being equal rights, folly and ignorance gain greatly in confidence. There is no important task that has to be performed. No seriousness left. Frivolity takes over. Republicanism, frivolity, different ways for foolish ides to dominate. Frivolity of Oxford, or the modern upper classes. What could that, one may ask, have to do with equal rights? But it does, a form of nihilism.
aj149 Decadence, mediocrity resulting from egalitarian pressures. View of this as the most significant fact about our civilisation. Most people don't think in this way. Different people have different intellectual backgrounds, what seems obvious to me may seem strange to other people. View of an oppressive quality to society as such, which puts in sympathy with ancient gnosticism. A prevailing tendency in society which has to be resisted, and of which resistance successful art is the expression. Thus a religious quality to successful art. Other people do not share this outlook.
ak306 Myth of Britain's decline. Britain supposed to have declined so far and to have kept sustaining herself upon dreams of the past. But how much is this a true picture? etc.
ak312 Of freedom. to be free is to live how you want to live be how you want to be. Success and happiness should come on the basis of that rather as the reward of conformity and obedience. Important issue is the extent to which one era may legitimately criticise another. Georgian values to Victorian values to modern feminist values. There is a tendency to present all this as just change. To make all talk about a decline effectively incomprehensible. This is nihilism. Objective values of freedom and enlightenment Whole idea of an objective standpoint....
al157 Decadence when a crude form of experience claims equality with the best. Like art that is less skilled, music that is less sophisticated, entertainment that is less refined. The age of mass culture has some clearly defined characteristics. One may speak on this level without degrading one's idea. A creative idea or an aesthetic satisfaction is an answer to a specific problem. Something other than that will not have the power to satisfy. So it can seem that something absolutely vital is lost when a culture goes decadent, the capacity to offer any satisfaction at all. It can be that the work of the past remains but the future offers nothing. But it may be liveable, even manipulable, if you can keep your distance. Rooting yourself in the discriminating culture of the past you do not allow yourself to be sucked into that of the present and future. Not deceived so far as to be depressed by it. Treat it on its own terms understanding it for what it is
al355 Gissing, Mme Bovary. Perhaps Eliot liked Sentimental Education because of a frankness rare in nineteenth century English lit. Now we have frankness and more. In some ways this is improvement but obviously not liberating as many expected. The modern world is not delightfully decadent in the way that might have been anticipated.
al72 Decadent school as the characteristic consciousness of the 19th century. Modern consciousness as the decadent consciousness influenced by de Sade. Superior to 'healthy' consciousness because it has a greater awareness of possibility. The danger of decadence lies not in individual works of art however well or badly made. The artist feels he does not have to think. The left as a feature of our society ought to be expressed in art. Feminism as the first rot. Galleries, R. Hamilton. Reactionary critics Auty & Sewell. Easy to think of art as decadence, to think in terms of sloppy ideas and shoddy teachings. That is a crude and easy way of thinking. The relation between art & society really much more complex.
al95 Pseudomorphism. Decadence prevents people from understanding their own state. All the old forms for the promoting of art and literature remain. The people controlling the institutions are as fully human as their predecessors they are as powerful and effective at putting down upstarts. If people get satisfaction from their values and ideas that is that. To argue simply that modern British culture is decadent is to begin from the wrong starting point. Certainly it is different from what went before, but it still seems to have colour and life. It is decadent in the light of certain demands that might be made of it. It might not seem to reflect reality adequately. It might seem uninteresting in a peculiar way, not addressing what seem to be the real problems in such a way as to offer emotional satisfaction.
am108 The nineteenth century culture I identify with and sympathise with. The element of De Sade I can relate to. The value of the romantic agony as an entry point to so much of this culture. It is a way of finding it liberating, of giving it all a liberating affirmative charge. It should be possible to see Wagner in this light, who was so much a part of this culture. It should be possible to enjoy him in a decadent way. Presumably this is how Baudelaire got into him.....but perhaps Wagner does not want to be seen like this. Different types of decadence. Conceptions of decadence, poisons for recreation. ...could it be that to get strongly into Wagner quite negates de Sade? That there is a close analogy with the communism that followed many of the visions of 67? Follow Wagner into Mallarme. That could be a harmless and healthy path... one that does not negate De Sade, does not negate the dissident tradition. How else can we deal with the Wagner problem? A new art is called for to incorporate what is most exciting and thrilling into the Sadeian affirmationist perspective.
am169 Ideas of decadence from De Tocqueville to Wyndham Lewis. Modern America and its world historical significance. Domination of crude stereotyped clichés, popular patterns of thought. Effects of the democratic movement. To remove is no immensely difficult matter, just requires clarification of concepts. Once as clear as possible in the new perspective it all seems obvious and easy. Able to deal with all the twists and turns of dialectic. Modern 'decadence' just promotes a general confusion of thinking.
am213 How the ideas that have been developed to serve some very clear purpose get changed, degraded, for some levelling motive, then become incapable of serving their original purpose. Philosophy is to get us out of this mess, devising of new appropriate concepts.
am217 A decadent civilisation like late antiquity. Idea that the concepts had become unworkable, that Christianity could restore what had become impossible. Shifting values of culture. A value seized at one particular time soon mutates out of all recognition.
am30 Symbolism and the decadence. Every decadent and degenerate idea has a potentially enjoyable quality which this movement explores in an experimental fashion. Wagner's dangerous Kundry becomes Crowley's Lady Babalon. Freud's decadent wank becomes transmuted into art by Dali. Crowley's concepts a fascinating and original art form.
am34 Why do we fear 'decadence'? That extreme voluptuousness exploration of all that appeals? because of nazism, holocaust, communism etc. Because there has been so much folly we come to doubt that there can be any protection against such folly, we drift like nihilists. 'Nazi' has become a word like 'murderer'. the disaster of such ideas people feel they lack the security to face.
am53 Not to be decadent is to be content with an open acceptance of self and sexuality. No will to deceive or will to be deceived.
bb138 Mediocrity of the age. Overpopulation among the most honourable classes, scholars, scientists, artists, writers. ...cheapened standards. Peoples of the west becoming teeming masses like those of the east... no lifestyle inherently incapable of resisting the shallow..
bb55 Why civilisations decline. While a civilisation is being constructed 'order out of chaos' is the guiding principle. Civilisation as the product of will, if the idea of order is not continually present, will will be as nothing and civilisation will go under....when a civilisation has long been presupposed the particular fabric of order seems less and less important. The arts and sciences have already been established bestowing their benefits.. ....individual in relation to his own life. Good things more and more presupposed and not need to be worked for. He will cease to will and unable to rise to any great height will become a slave.
cc111 Vaunted individualism of America as confusion. Individual not built up ideologically, simply exposed to an immense free for all of propaganda. The strong perchance survive or is it the stupid? and there is no general survey of the whole range of fortune. Values derive merely from own experience, the narrower the better. fortune is denied and despised in the face of utopian dreams, yet it is contrast alone which really makes life good etc. etc.
cc114 Ideological force in our civilisation operating with a very powerful motive against the individual and against art. Essential movement of the age is the rise of the masses and someone like Mcluhan only really expresses this overwhelming fact, the arrogance of the masses and of mediocrity. ... the age tries to deny the possibility of the pure spectator or to reserve such a position for the old and defeated...accelerating movement towards blindness...
cc141 Alleged decadence of France in the 30s 40s and 50s. Now presented as the least decadent of the west European countries, though one with a superfluity of police.
cc147 Curious double aspect of degenerative thought forms, their appeal both to the tired and old as the natural expression of decadence and also to the young and vigorous as a kind of taming discipline. ..an idea which comes from outside, one which expresses discipline and a form of unnatural constraint and idea when directive ideas are needed an impetus. Yet in its origins the idea might be the reverse of this, the expression of enervation and indolence i.e. of an civilised people, a doctrine of abandoning all effort, of an abject smugness, the pride of mediocrity. Was the history of Buddhism similar? Strange how a young people may derive vigour from the decaying thought forms of a doomed civilisation.
cc2 Problem of decadence. Rare and unusual indulgences the mark of exuberance and strength so long as one protects one's own right to survive. Anarchists often aimiable people in tune with instinct, lacking a true understanding of the conditions necessary for their own survival. Perhaps one could say they lack the replicative urge.
dd118 Leftist teachers, social workers...more dangerous perhaps than the obviously corrupt... actually representing a possible communist future.... They think they are more adult than I because they contribute to the community whereas I do not. But arguably they do more ultimate harm than good…. Chinese said never allowed to grow up to experience the true joys and responsibilities of adult freedom.
ee99 Writers of a tradition. De Quincey, Poe, Baudelaire, Flaubert, Rimbaud, Beardsley, Machen. Huysmans as first rate journalist. Swinburne outside the tradition, a true neo Hellene. Wilde a populariser, a sensationaliser who tends to vulgarise decadence by identifying it with common homosexuality. Besides the morality of Dorian Gray is insincere.
ff134 Consider the viewpoint that our decline is a decline of ideas. Taking Gibbon as high point. Clear articulated understanding. But once understanding has been clearly articulated, people come to depend on it and there is abundant room for misunderstanding. Civilisation declines as the ideas on which cultivated men have become dependant decline...however the very crudenesses of the new order provide scope for new ambitions on the part of those to whom the future belongs, those who are not repelled by the idiocy of newspapers but who use ideas as levers of power...
ff294 Hogarth. 18th C dissipation. Great deal of sex could be bought for money. Nowadays to have a great deal of sex tends to be a proof of virility, ie reverse of dissipation. The willingness of a woman to yield to one's advances an ego booster quite different from the avarice of a paid whore. Also having money itself is often seen as a mark of virility these days. Then there was the risk of the pox, today no more than a minor hazard. Nowadays the dissipation, apart from crime, with its risk of long imprisonment, is heroin.
ff30 Refusal to allow the sources of superior life to be concentrated absolutely in a capital, a centre like it is today. Where thought is supreme one may think anywhere where the 'media' determine culture pride and independence are undermined.
ff312 18th C, dangers. Moral qualities required to resist them. The dangers provided a moral lesson, a kind of training. And a dissipation that could be controlled and mastered to some extent would be an admirable thing. It then would not have the same demoralising effect of promiscuity in a setting of sex equality. Supposed demoralisation of the French this century. Lord Chesterfield condemned brutish English sexual habits. Compare with the French of that time, and today.
g138 Argument that the flood of decadent sadistic literature in 19th century France, Mirbeau, Flaubert's Salammbo, Sue, and a lot of other writers of far less literary merit, ensured that the average Frenchman was infused with these principles. This it has been said is the reason for the peculiar odiousness often to be found among the French, particularly the bourgeoisie and those in official posts. Free to indulge all their most offensive feelings etc..
gg29 Degenerative forces in western society seen as products of class hatred. The fine culture which had been built up with its classical roots and which was not out of tune with the instincts of the people as a whole was systematically denigrated by a newly risen class that hated the past for motives of class envy. It flaunted its power, in origin economic, by inventing a new high culture to replace what was current. Hence the atrocities of modern architecture, the falsification of instinct, sociological unnaturalness.
gg98 Danger of ambition in a decadent culture. One learns respect and loses discrimination, liable to be overwhelmed by those of one's elders who claim to be wiser and maturer. Take the criticism of Leavis. As much grey trash in highbrow culture as in popular.
hh157 The decadent ideal as misconceived, really it was a worthy creative ideal of egoistic enjoyment in a world that had grown vast. La Belle Dame sans Merci was but a new pagan goddess, and what is wrong with a pagan goddess? Since the decadent ideal collapsed with the first world war, there has been nothing strong and coherent enough to replace it. Surrealism futurism, expressionism, dadaism, abstract expressionism, etc etc., each possess much of very great interest and value, but the weakness of their premises makes each unstable a complete philosophy of life. Always there has been the lure of the orthodox religions of Marxism, heir of Hegel, the philosopher of orthodoxy. Letting others direct your mind.
ii184 Decadence not wicked sin, corrupting the individual, not even a debauched and hedonistic way of life. It is a kind of moral paralysis brought about by the triumph of stupidity. A form of social atomism. The reverse of a self conscious wickedness, it is a self conscious virtue. It is an evolution of morality, not a triumph of immorality.
ll83 A great era like that of the hundred schools does not last. Decadence decline sets in by a process of reaction. The background against which men of a later generation think is not longer so raw, but conditioned by all the ideas which have come before. One does not react so newly to the world, but always in the context of a received body of wisdom. Observe what Plato did to philosophy in the Greek world. Therefore people have, at various periods tried to keep alive classical ideals.
mm107 The late Romans kidded themselves that their culture was still flourishing at a high creative level, we do the same. There are all kinds of explanations for the decline and what to do about it, straightforward reaction is understandable but very inadequate, It is easy to become defensive and complaining, but that way is likely to lead to repressiveness rigidity and ossification.
nn144 Film 'Cabaret' which illustrated something of the famed decadence of Weimar Germany, so one can understand rise of nazism. Jewish culture of demoralisation as an inclination cured by an absolutely unscrupulous revolutionary party preaching virility.
nn150 Culture of the 1890s was one that presupposed abundance, attainable happiness. It set a gulf between he world of art and the world of matter. Material reality was becoming disagreeable with decline of aristocratic culture, crude ugly necessity invaded ever more shores of cultural life. Many of the great original figures of this century began with a strong backward looking attachment to the nineties, to aestheticism and decadence, cultivation of worlds of pure enjoyment remote from the harshness of industrialism. ...femme fatale an image of approaching death. How can this late blossom sustain itself for long with all he world opposing it? It is conscious of imminent death and yet every emotion consequent on its own position it is able to enjoy. ....this was not mere decadent hedonism like Weimar Germany, it was the pursuit of all kinds of highly refined values, renaissance values for example in resistance to the ever increasing predominance of the mass mind etc etc.
nn160 The 1890s merely continued the romantic current to the point of final death of a unified western culture, the last time when powerful images would well up from the unconscious of all sensitive spirits. The femme fatale was the image of the death of unified western culture, the aesthetic elitism expressed the consciousness of the rising sea of mass culture. Vulgarised ideas and the attempt to resist this brought out a flood of images. The meaning of the decadence was a consciousness of this death, expressing itself in rich imagery and shared by enough people to make the last real unified movement of western culture. The insensitive could not see that anything was dying. Afterwards the sensitive soul had to become an adventurer.
oo118 The sensual kind of decadence identified in Weimar Germany or the 3rd republic in France, soft sensuality. What is decadent about it is not so much the yielding to sensual pleasure, as the idea in the mind that this is all there is in life. Not pleasure itself that rots, so much as the philosophy that values immediate sensual pleasure above all things. Hedonism has its own special form of enervating moralism, the value placed on the immediate sensual pleasure means that certain emotional reactions against it are disvalued. i.e. hedonism enervates in precisely the same way that moralism and Christianity enervate. It induces its own form of guilt, i.e. self disvaluation. One has to suppress certain emotional reactions. To do that leads to self hatred. For the hedonist, to attack pleasure, to make use even of valuable moral criticisms to judge others falls under a kind of moral prohibition.
oo125 Is the fear of decadence, like the hatred of the US, merely the fear of the ugliness of the immediacy of will? The loathing for modern architecture. An important point. Whigs and Tories, conservative spirit etc. v progressivism.
pp328 Amsterdam in the 80s not really comparable to Berlin in the twenties. Berlin was decadent all right but it was a sophisticated decadence. Amsterdam a democratic socialistic decadence.
pp353 Orgiastic sex as decadence. Bloomsbury decadence, Weimar decadence, Feministic matriarchal, atomising decadence, where the values behind this are values opposed to mine I cannot feel affirmed. Sexuality without self affirmation embittering. Thelemite sexuality a different matter.
pp59 Decadence as not really meaning the pursuit of egoistic satisfaction, but being bought off the pursuit of that by means of sensual and material bribes which provide considerable short term relief. An art public which wants to know primarily about the kind of experience open to all as a decadent one. A decadent society that allows people to be bought off by means of sensual pleasure. If people strive directly for fulfilment there is inevitable conflict.
qq40& Strength, mediocrity, decadence. each of these positions has its own position as to what constitutes strength (or health) mediocrity and decadence. From the point of view of mediocrity, strength and decadence are the same. Mediocrity sets itself as the supreme value. It does not conceive anything better than itself, so it constructs a psychological science according to which deviation from the norm is 'sickness'. There are also decadent psychologies. The difference between a decadent idea and a 'strong' life affirming one depends, partially at any rate on the condition of the person who advocates it. The object of a decadent idea is to destroy strength. The desire to become strong felt by the deprived, a healthy idea, what is not healthy is the desire to overthrow the very idea of strength whether felt by those in power or those out of it. Thus mediocrity and decadence can have similar ideals.
qq79 Different interests, fostering heroic morality and enjoyment of life, promoting enlightenment ie true psychological knowledge, ideas may be decadent in respect of either of these & subdivided.
ss121 Philosophy as a lifeboat in an approaching decadence. Surrounded by decadence the individual of the future can still work out a consistent and coherent plan for living. Such a plan will presumably involve books. Books on their own are not sufficient to reconstruct civilisation. One may have access to all these old ideas, different ways of thought but what is one to do with them? If you view them with the outlook that they are irrelevant to the modern age they will not retain much transforming power. See how the church managed to ride out decadence. Think of the communities of Benedictines. It all depends on what you identify with, how you feel about the modern world. A class, a nation, a civilisation, a church, a standard of literate understanding.
tt13 A decadent culture where the path to recognised success almost invariably requires connivance in decadent ideas. Blame this on democracy or blame it on the work ethic or absence of a leisured class or... To counter it, a new kind of philosophic dictionary or mnemonic system. Proposition - we have a decadent culture.
tt199 Each generation as it grows up acquires a fresh sense of the national culture and fresh grounds for looking down on foreigners....with the passage of time the national culture shifts and those grounds largely cease to be applicable. Thus it seems that the national identity has been lost, that something of high value in the world has been smothered in shallow internationalism, but a new generation will find new grounds for its feeling of national superiority, grounds which will be largely incomprehensible to us. Where we see the victory of shallowness and superficiality they see important differences and distinctions. One's cause may be defeated in the world but what is one's cause? Perhaps one has chosen to embody one's cause in too grossly material a form? But one has to do battle.. Suppose the Trotskyites and feminists win? One may become disgusted and move to Tunbridge Wells, but is there not a better alternative? You are disgusted because what you have identified as the decadent elements have turned out victorious. Yet your behaviour would have been quite the same at any period in history.
vv4& What is it not to be decadent? Sorel and his idea of the forces that cure it. Ideas like Nietzsche's tend to lose ground. Articulate them and they immediately breed their antithesis, which is likely to win wide support. ..post imperial decadence. heroic morality in disarray, forces at large aiming to destroy that outlook. Like a defeated country, Germany or Japan. The nation has to unlearn the basis of its confidence. Collapse of a vision leaves a wholly negative vision triumphant. What is there to do but lament? Not just for the passing of the past but for the negative cast of the whole of society.
vv9& Michael Wharton's view of the world, an interesting example of the consciousness of decadence. One meets frustration and lapses into pessimism. Russell sees pessimism in terms of lack of political opportunities. Decadence, frustration, or being drawn into the promotion of ends one does not approve of, no available rule for effective action. Ugliness and vulgarity all around and no effective means of combating these, where all the values and ideologies on offer seem limited and oppressive, a nation, a class having to unlearn the basis of its confidence. Worst of all the pressure to deny what has happened. To regain confidence one seeks something that does not deny the truth, that is not coercive and repressive, that gives an outlet for energies and effective change. Wharton expresses truths (not simply a point of view) that is almost universally denied. What is at fault is his reactionary despair.
ww115 Pestilential moral evils bred from ideals of democracy and equality. Not between but within classes. Idea that people of approximately equal education or social standing are of equal worth, their opinions of equal standing. No idea could be more destructive of achievement, of any value other than the grossly obviously material and technical. However deeply you have thought, however urgently and feelingly you may have pondered the great issues of the time, however coherent and systematic your conclusions, they will be, thanks to the prejudices of democracy and equality, be set on precisely the same level as anyone else's opinions. Yet democracy and equality have good reasons behind them. They are the rules of a game, making it fair. For of course I resist a claim based on accident of birth or fortune.
ww38 Democracy, egalitarianism, modernisation. The evil of 'progress'. A society rooted in a destructive passion. Modernisation. attempt to 'rationalise' i.e. to saturate the whole of society with a single ideology, to root out and desanitise alternative perspectives wherever they may be found. At one time this seemed the inevitable effect of democracy and socialism. Worse in this respect than the anarchy of unrestricted capitalism. Detachment from politics is all very well but it can appear that it is democracy itself which creates the almost irresistible force opposed to any attempt to establish oneself in a radically different perspective. Pockets of difference persist from earlier ages as tradition. These are what is most worthwhile, the possibility of a different perspective is essential. If conformism could really be enforced as its leading advocates would envisage it, life would not be worth living.
xx1 Contempt for Joe Public and his repressive views. His views on drugs. Idiocies of democracy. Fascism as an anti democratic movement appealing to certain intellectuals as shutting up Joe Public. Idea of removing inhibition to the end of escaping from the power of Joe Public. Unfortunately the idea of uninhibitedness gets taken up by Joe Public himself who uses it to impose his own crass prejudices on everybody else. Thus fascism becomes a doctrine of extreme unfreedom, of busybodies and interference.
xx104 Democracy, middle class taste, Calvinism.
xx116 Whitman, Kerouac, if all are equal then all are good. It takes a manic vision like Kerouac or Whitman to penetrate to this innermost, not fantastically interesting, mystery of American democracy.
xx164 The fatuous idea that society here and now is specially enlightened, that the realisation of democracy (which is by no means the same as freedom) has introduced some kind of perfect regime, that because of democracy we should acquiesce in the present order of things, that is the present power structure.
xx324 Egalitarianism, feminism, demand for equality of respect. Feminist threat to degrade thought. At one time there was such a socialist threat, a democratic threat. One could say that some thought and culture has survived but argue that this is only so because some anti democratic and anti socialist tendencies, even within democratic and socialist ideology, have managed to survive and consolidate themselves. Think as an example how many of the greatest writers of the century were drawn to extreme right wing ideas...........It is when the drift to equality is perceived as inevitable that it is conceived that it is here that the evil lies & an exactly opposite idea is set up to oppose it in a militant fashion, as if from this opposite idea must flow all good.. Chaudhuri saw the decadence that overtook Indian culture, but he admits he was deracine. Virtue in popular Hinduism, even in caste..
xx327 Wittgenstein culturally supported what may be seen as a counter tradition of decadent forces. A kind of death wish culture. I see its value as a kind of asceticism with all that asceticism has to offer, but on the whole it represents a tradition which unless subjugated brought under control threatens to undermine and destroy all that I am trying to do.
yy174 Party conferences. Then it is that we see to the full the vulgarity of the mass mind. Morons of every party collectively seeking power. Degrading aspects of democracy, the mass minds that come out at party conferences.
yy190 Conservatism of democracy undermining intelligent criticism of underlying assumptions. Worth of an idea judged by its appeal to the public, this is an underlying assumption that deeply affects the nature of opinions held, especially among the intelligent classes. Undermines criticism of those assumptions, gives strength to whatever opinion may happen to be fashionable, reducing the felt need for them to be made logically cogent and coherent. Success in such a society, public the supreme arbitrator, the master, God even in the sense of the ultimate authority behind all values.
yy203 Millennial fantasies. Promising universal happiness and satisfaction only by limiting human scope, denying importance of desires for power. Capitalism defending itself likewise with references to universal happiness in some form or other. Millenarian or anarchist poetry often fails through excess of democracy. American poetry, too much trust in the ordinary the equal. It fails to transmute a state of elation into the universal. Lack of a common symbolism may be one factor, another is excessive trust in the possibility of communication. Kerouac's failure as excess of democracy. ... happiness felt without any ability to analyse it or communicate abiding images of it.
yy236 De Tocqueville, his fundamental pessimism. Ever since then various efforts have been made to overcome some of the unfortunate effects of democracy (throwing out baby with bathwater).
yy310 Toys in art. Infantile regression.
yy49 American democratic humanism. Sense of equal worth of everybody. Idea that every human being has a kind of equal heroic potential, cannot be ignored. That every man is as good as a king. Chomsky.. Attack on wasp culture. Ideological tools for that purpose.
yy63 Democracy, equality. something about destroying space, leaving no room for something essential, in a sense the crowning possibility of life. .. something hostile to genius that blasts the highest human endeavour.
zz101 Proust sees the writing of his book as redeeming life. Making a record to overcome a sense of the worthlessness and failure of his life. Perhaps one would have to be a neurotic to feel a need for this. For us reality is not as straightforward as it is to the more straightforward. We delight in 'decadence' ie the exploration of the strange and perverse, the interstices of things because that is the affirmation of our reality. In normal society our emotions and experiences are condemned as worthless.
zz175 Howard's End, denunciation of Bloomsbury culture, feminisation, snobbish self indulgent genteel decadence.
zz199& Decadence as a habit of accepting dogma, accepting the second rate in thought as well as everything else. Immunity to rational argument. From the right one fears something different, naked oppression, political imprisonment, the war against drugs. oppression as frustrating. As embodying an underlying principle which is against not just particular views of mine but my whole principle of life. Socialism does not value mental independence, that is subordinate to the strict value of 'serving society.'
zz2& Tendency of democratic age to collapse the distinction between the living and the dead. It is not that first rate thought does not take place today, rather that it is culturally ineffective. One answer is for an intellectual movement based on philosophy, for which there are innumerable precedents. Object to influence culture directly by disseminating ideas that are rooted in what we can regard as philosophical truth.
zz211 If our culture is decadent it is misleading to pretend that it is not. To pretend that decadent manifestations of today possess the emotionally satisfying power of equivalent manifestations in the past can be very oppressive.
zz318 A people can traditionally become too soft, unwilling to defend itself. This concept of decadence is Roman. It has been a strain of truism running throughout our civilisation. Too much sensuality is said to corrupt. Different attitudes of the Greeks. The image we have of Roman decadence has affected all our thinking, it affects the way we think of the West Germans.
zz364 Complacency. Time Out on the insights of LSD, so anti mystical so philistine. If one believed there was nothing better than these smug, bourgeois, fashionable clichés culled from some miscalled quality newspaper, one would despair. All my life my mind has contained a quantity of rubbish bred of this decadent culture. Complacency of English middle classes.
zz81 My thought not fantastically original by traditional standards, it is just that we are living in a dark age and that we need some perspective to reach an individual enlightenment.
zz9& Connection between decadence and socialism. Decadence, demoralisation. One law for the lion & ox is oppression, but if we are all oxen that does not apply. A decadent sensualistic existence, especially when disillusioned may find it hard to justify any demand for special privileges or treatment.
zz96 Vice and decadence. Ideal of the strong man who is capable of exploring any experience without allowing himself to be weakened by it. Suspicion that there is another kind of culture, which we may call the matriarchal, which offers to satisfy all your desires only on the condition that you make yourself weak and dependent. This is a programme for a kind of culture and there are those who find it attractive. She for whom the type of the independent male as defined is the real thing to be most resisted and repudiated. Dependence upon dogma for example.... Chagall. Colourful dream world inviting to the promiscuous race chaos. To the Sabbath.
an28 Decadence of the modern world. Like destruction of myth. Dominance of some form of shallow rationalism, which is the zeitgeist. This egalitarianism, this equal rights which has to be resisted. And which gives even the artefacts of the age a tendency to a bad meaning. All the inertia of the age, the energy of the age, put into the equality principle, like the way God was the premise of all mediaeval culture. Other meaning may of course be put on the present day. There is still the role for the artist tyrant, for some kind of romantic rebellion. But the inertia of the age is to promise all satisfaction through the equal rights doctrine. So the products of this assume a malevolent formlessness, until such time as they acquire historic curiosity. Then we see them just as manifestations of a will to power. That is no threat to our own perspective. Most of the creative energy of the time serves this horrible doctrine, which is especially destructive of beauty, or outstanding achievement. Decline in the arts automatically follows. The zeitgeist dominates even capitalists. For what even is the capitalist paradise aspired to? What is the concept of enjoyment?
an101 Themes of decadence that could be pursued, books that could be written. I have to justify a theme that is the central concern of all my work. Against, for example Carey. Derrida strikes me as an extreme form of decadence. What grandeur has this idea? Even Heidegger is decadent because of his horrible abuse of language.
an135 Benda. Another way of dealing with decadence. Influence of idle leisured women.
an 149 A society that is distributive rather than creative. Each of us thankful for what has been distributed. Symons on Dowson. At Oxford his chosen drug was hashish. Sounded exotic in those days. How could you be exotic now if that's what you want? Some philosophy widely distributed…
an 184 Exhibition of British watercolorists (at the V & A). Makes the point that water-colour was promoted as an English art form, against the decadence of the Catholic tradition. But the exhibition notes were themselves corrupted by the decadence of deconstruction. This absurd pedantry, this tedious destruction of clear and distinct ideas. So even art history now. Not to find out what people intended, but to go off on endless silly tangents, which mimic serious scholarship, but where the guru principle rules. Where the pretence of serious scholarship is really an insult. Because it demands that we pander to the vanity of an individual. Could any of this post modernist literature be beautifully written?
an 266 Job of art as to discover a modern reality that can be affirmed. Decadence all a question of interpretation. It is like the way in which one feels forced to think. The present, as it were, requires effort. Much interpretation of the past is already given.
ao110 'Trilby'. (Daniel Pick's introduction to the Penguin edition). In some respects it reads like a boy's book. These manly British characters. Britain's jingoistic view of itself that must have infuriated foreigners. This image of the healthy, wholesome & stupid. Ultimate incarnation being Bulldog Drummond. That offensive philistinism. Yet Du Maurier knew how to pull the popular strings. Svengali, the dirty in body & mind. The whole book reeks of prurience & hypocrisy. Svengali's dirty lust is quite sympathetic, quite pornographic. Says anticipates psychoanalysis. Does Pick see himself thus? Does he enjoy looking at himself in that way? Surely we can all feel it. Attraction for the girl who is disgusted by us. Fascination of the Svengali image. The mingled shame & triumph. Attitude of the Jew towards the Aryan woman. Psychoanalysis. The hidden joy, the forbidden desire. Finding expression in psychoanalysis. Would he admit to being what Freud calls a neurotic? Is he what N. would call a typical decadent? Idea of where the expression of this forbidden desire leads. Does it benefit the organism or harm it? Imagine a sexual relationship containing such a decadent motive. It might be sexually exciting if ultimately debilitating. Different kinds of decadence. Strength & weakness. Psychoanalysis does not present itself to itself as self indulgent depravity. Psychoanalysis however, not conceiving itself as decadent, self indulgence, but on a medical model. Virtuous, humourless. Rather as an urge towards understanding & liberation. Can be seen as very decadent form of self indulgence. Age of Beardsley. Consciously embracing the lure of decadence. Why it is so moralistic. Although it uncovers all the grossest egoism, which it claims to underlie all our actions, it regards this as a force itself opposed to society & the individual. It considers restraint to be very necessary, though it 'liberates' the most anti social instincts.
Twilight p 34. 'To have to combat one's instincts, that is the formula for decadence: as long as life is ascending, happiness & instinct are one. p32- 'His case was after all only the extreme case, only the most obvious instance of what had at that time begun to be the universal exigency: that no one was any longer master of himself, that the instincts were becoming mutually antagonistic'.
ao160 The perversity and decadence of fin de siecle, a way of having experience in one's particular way, of rejecting the tyrannical monolith of the expected, which expresses someone else's power. The single system. So much art, design, non political, expressing a one dimensional urge to satisfaction. People cannot understand it who do not see it. Mallarme and all the others. Schopenhauerianism, the Buddhistic spirit. Not just a perverse taste. A total emotion, expressing altogether a discontent. Nietzsche, Nordau, Wagner, all figures relevant to modern culture and our own future.
ao163 Pick, Trilby. What is shown here is the desire to inspire us all with a decadent value. Nietzschean decadence, Freudian restraint. Nietzsche's conception applied to the Freudian value would be that it is clearly decadent, for a very good reason. Freud's philosophy as underlying the principle of censorship. The instincts at war with each other.
ao19 Drieu. What he seems to do is to blame his own inadequacies on decadence in society. That is one way of putting what I do myself. What I consider to be the satisfying qualities of decadent culture, art of the romantic agony. Not I would say an individual sado-masochism on my part. Decadent culture, to remember that it is art, not sex or something of that order. Truth is revealed Drieu. Trouble is that he can at times sink to the very feminine level that he despises. The social conformism that he sees as something so strong, as overwhelming the power of the individual man over his woman. These values, bourgeois, materialist, feminine. Natural suggestion, just get rid of that class. A class defends itself by its superior sensibility. Praz would say there is a taste, like a sadism. Psychologists may try to explain the aetiology of sadism, perhaps in terms of some inadequacy of power achieved. The non psychological attitude, the each to his own, 'whatever turns you on', all tastes are equal. This idea that society can support those tastes, This reconciliation. ..Whatever the explanation for a certain discontent, the state of mind it expresses demands a sort of authority, recognition as truth. There is an objection to society which claims to represent more than a simple maladjustment. Imagery of the fatal woman, the bloodthirsty Sadian stories, that somehow satisfy emotionally. After the decadence, no high culture, why this? Think of the aetiology of sexual deviation. The distinction between the sexual and the aesthetic, though one may effect a merger. ..Swinburne's passion to be whipped, a sexual, not an aesthetic desire. But he emotional taste for the image of Dolores is fully aesthetic. It offers an emotional release which reflects something of the tensions in the culture,. Foucault, Forbidden pleasures. Of anti -semitism, of death camps. …
ao238 To welcome decadence and make it a badge of superiority. Significance in claiming the label decadent. Its relation to the free spirit, Comparison of the free spirit with the decadent. A way of rejecting conventional values which are felt as so oppressive. A way of overcoming them. What the two concepts have in common. Clear rejection by the conventional framework. In this way one avoids being sucked into its judgements with all the decadence that involves. Morel. This reinforcement of the values of normality. Think of San Francisco 1980, when the degenerate appeared to rediscover the joys of normality. That is not what one has in mind….The judgement 'decadent' or 'degenerate', not only accepted, but welcomed to some extent. It sets one apart, think of the old contemptibles. Names given in derision accepted as badges of pride. As for speculations on the precise material or medical cause of one's condition, that a labyrinth best side stepped. ..
ao360 Fetishism, S&M. How the moral force of a lot of this stuff can be nullified by reducing it to personal taste. Compare the material of the romantic agony with the modern fetish club. With something that expresses a new form of rationalism, an each to his own, a manifestation of equal rights. Foucault and the S & M club. Consider this value of sickness & health. The solution is not that of mere tolerance. That way is also anti art. The image of the fatal woman was not merely a question of taste, not a simple sexual penchant. It was part of the war against Ialdabaoth. Affirmation of sickness as better than health. In sickness power. Psychiatry. Health as envisaged. Etc etc. Health, fin de siecle art.
ap6 The decadents. Even though they accept they are sick, it cannot be said they completely accept society's valuations. They do not accept the value set upon their deviance, they do not accept that their work is valueless.
ap12 Decadence as a defining of individuality. Intensification of aliveness. Such values not really being decadent at all, but creative. What we see in Montherlant, this tendency for one kind of decadence to move into the other, ie for apostasy from elitism and individuality. Where any kind of cliché is accepted as a solution. Costa is only a crudely macho male. Yet the cynicism is decadent all right, this repudiation of socially desirable values. Decadence, as seemingly destructive impulse expressing a deeper freedom. Life, resistance, whenever this impulse collapses into a new sterility, that is the real decline. Such ambiguity in the word .,Decadence is exciting, to be decadent can seem to be superior. ..Will to power on this individual level, expressing itself through decadence, ie a will to repudiate normality, to find a different path…
ap118 Wagner, himself accused of decadence, has his own conception of decadence. To do with race chaos, the lure of corrupt civilisation, Judaism in music, Mendelssohn, the corruption of the Jew. Likewise the attraction of this. For Nietzsche, Wagner himself was decadent, This too has a lure. Immediate pleasure values. Questions of how much one should yield to pleasure. All this, when thinking what is of value in one's won culture.
ap132 Reading Argusty's The Nietzschean Roots of Stalinist Culture, was a revelation. Something obscurely divined. Stalinist purges, something exciting in the power struggle. The destruction of the old guard. But then think of all the things that attract, despite everything, in Russia and its people. The spirituality, the difference. The decadence, the persistence in error. The strength of an alternative. Just think of the possibility that this could be something that derives from Nietzscheanism. That soviet culture contains Nietzschean elements deliberately built in. As soon as one identifies something as decadent, it exerts a fascination. Even something as deplorable as collectivism. So much that is soviet one hates. But here is also a consciousness that attracts. This may be a perverse and decadent fascination, a separation. A sense of the exotic. Etc etc.
ap141 Significance of Solzhenitsyn, who I see as utterly Nietzschean, though he may have consciously rejected Nietzsche for all I know. Condemnation and need for repentance. Repenting what? Acceptance of a morality of the weak. Solzhenitsyn is not a Slavophil, and does not completely despise the west. Real moral corruption of communism, it was slavery, and acceptance of slavery. That is the central evil, whatever compromises one tried to make. The whole soviet culture decadent in this sense. Therefore in another way attractive. Decadent attraction of both immorality, and an extreme of morality.
aq63 The experience of living in a culture in some respects decadent. What one knows. All rewards, all worldly success, money and women, predicated on ceasing to know this. This decadence. The pressure to accept an alternative perspective which denies one's knowledge. Plato's solution to decadence, relativism etc, in the Theatetus. Relating it to Wittgenstein. Solution to all the different paths that may be taken. Language, logic, the fundamental underlying reality. Vicious regresses to which all such solutions are vulnerable. If we see it as Platonism, Christianity may even be seen as progress. Creation of a new heaven, a new mysticism.
aq363 Reading Axel. What to think of decadent fin de siecle literature? My tending to look for a philosophy behind it, like Schopenhauer, but then I am the sort of person who always looks for a philosophy. To see decadent literature as an exemplification of Schopenhauer's philosophy. Hubris. What God says to Satan. What the Archdeacon says to Sara.
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