Principalities & Powers

Are We Decadent?

If there is one premise that serves to unite the Old Right, it is that the West—or America, or Christendom, or whatever label and identity they want to specify—is in trouble, has been in trouble for a long time, and is probably not going to get out of trouble for quite a while, if ever. In a famous but overdone synopsis of the course of modernity, Richard Weaver saw the decline beginning with the 13th century nominalism of William of Ockham and proceeding logically to the nihilistic existentialism of the current era. Friedrich Hayek believed the age was lurching merrily down the "road to serfdom"; Whittaker Chambers was convinced that the side he had joined when he deserted communism was the losing one; and James Burnham warned that the liberalism that dominates Western culture and politics would facilitate the "suicide of the West." From Oswald Spengler to Robert Bork, virtually everyone on "the right" has prophesied a steady descent into Avernus and a relentless disintegration of Western morals, religion, social institutions, cultural traditions, political freedom, economic affluence, and civil order. Only in the last few decades, with the electoral victory of Ronald Reagan and the collapse of the Soviet Union, have people calling themselves "conservatives" begun to chirp and coo about the "victory" of the right and the triumph of the "Conservative Revolution." But most...

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