I came across this article about how the modern (western) world is decadent. I am not necessarily convinced by the arguments that it puts forward, but I was wondering if there is an objective measure of 'decadence' that historians can employ in order to compare different cultures or epochs? Something like the Corruption Perceptions Index perhaps, but covering behaviours that are considered decadent. It is often claimed that ancient Rome became decadent and that this led to its downfall. It would be instructive to have a quantifiable measure of decadence to be able to evaluate this claim.

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    This appears to be a question about English, not History.
    – T.E.D.
    Apr 27 at 19:51
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    I think some societies (or at least their ruling classes) are quite consistently described as decadent by historians. E.g. in China late Qing, late Ming, most of Yuan etc. Or every ruling dynasty ever after the second ruler according to Ibn Khaldun. A measure might be how much time the ruler spends on his court vs. outside of his court.
    – Jan
    Apr 27 at 21:30
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    @GorttheRobot Merriam-Webster Decadent: Marked by decay or decline. So that could include, economic decline, moral decline, political decline, social decline. There could certainly be things in there that you could apply numbers to. I wonder if any historians actually have done.
    – DrMcCleod
    Apr 27 at 22:50
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    @rs.29 Note that homosexuality was prevalent in Sparta and infanticide was prevalent in Republican Rome. It's hard to argue either of those societies were "decadent". Ghengis Khan might say you're decadent for living in a house, and a Puritan might say you're decadent for dancing. It's a classic example of something culturally driven. May 1 at 0:02
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    @DJClayworth Yeah, I read that first bullet, then thought of the 3d printed toy sitting on my desk, the portable phone next to it, the led lamp next to that, the solar panels on the roof above it, the electric car on the other side of the wall, and wonder what the hell the author is smoking. May 1 at 0:19

Short Answer:

The only way to mesure decadence is fail. However a non-decadent society, so the two parameters are not entirely linked.

Long Answer:

No, because a decadent society is not well defined: it consists in two things:

  • A society getting less focused on the initial values that it followed earlier
  • A society that gets more and more problem (eg: corruption, etc...)

So a decadent society is a variety of criteria, and those criteria are not objective: having numerous feasts is usually considered as a sign of decadence for Roma. But is it really "bad" to have feast? Does feasts destroy societies?

Most of the time in history, a society is said to be "decadent" by historians that know that this society later failed and was destroyed or suppressed (war, pandemic, revolution...). But this is not a scientific approach of the phenomenon.

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