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The word decadence refers to a decline in a society's standards or morals, especially when the pursuit of pleasure replaces other social goals.


  • I fear that in a few years there may be a kind of 'panic', in this form: 'since Millet' we have sunk very low — the word decadence, now whispered or pronounced in veiled terms (see Herkomer), will then sound like an alarm bell. Many, like I myself, now keep quiet, because they already have the reputation of being awkward customers, and talking about it doesn't help. That — namely, talking — isn't what one needs to do — one must work, though with sorrow in the heart. Those who later cry out the loudest about decadence will themselves belong to it the most. I repeat: by this shall ye know them, [from: Matt. 7:16.] by their work, and it won't be the most eloquent who say the truest things. See Millet himself, see Herkomer, they're certainly not orators, and speak almost reluctantly.
    • Vincent van Gogh his letter to Theo, from The Hague, 5 Nov. 1882 - original manuscript of letter no. 280 - at Van Gogh Museum, location Amsterdam - inv. b263 a-b V/1962, [1]
  • As societies grow decadent, the language grows decadent, too. Words are used to disguise, not to illuminate, action: you liberate a city by destroying it. Words are to confuse, so that at election time people will solemnly vote against their own interests.
    • Gore Vidal, The Decline and Fall of the American Empire (1992)
  • In popular imagination, at least, the 1970s was the golden age of excess in Hollywood. This was the decade when the studios were taken over by a new generation of maverick, mostly male, artists and film-makers, whose creative brilliance was matched by their wild feats of self-indulgent hedonism when they were off duty.
    • Decade of decadence: Nicholson, Polanski and Hollywood in the Seventies Independent UK, (23 October 2011)

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