Meaning of Decadence

What is Decay:

As decay we call the beginning of the decline or collapse of something. The word, as such, derives from decadent, which is ‘that which declines, that goes to less’.

The concept of decay can be applied to people or things, as well as to socio-historical processes, such as the decline of a civilization or an empire.

Civilizations such as the Egyptian, Greek, Chinese, Roman or Spanish have gone through processes of decline.

Decadence is a phase of social collapse in which there is a breakdown of both culture and civil institutions and other characteristics of a society (values, customs), to change or transform into something new.

In general, we speak of decadence in reference to the deterioration or neglect of a thing, in which neglect or the passage of time is causing havoc. A place, for example, can be considered in decline when its best years have passed.

Decline in decadentism

The decadence found forms of expression at the artistic, literary and philosophical level in decadence. This current originated in France and from there it spread to Europe and America during the last decades of the 19th century.

It was characterized by its questioning of morals and bourgeois ways of life, by its constant evasion of reality, its interest in the exotic and its exaltation of individual heroism, as well as by exploring the most extreme regions of sensitivity and the unconscious. It was the opposite of Parnassianism, inspired by the classical ideal of art for art's sake.

Some of its most notable representatives were Paul Verlaine, Charles Baudelaire, Joris-Karl Huysmans, Gabriele D’Annunzio and Oscar Wilde.

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