“Death in Venice”: The Problem of Romantic Reaction

"In Mann’s use, decadence seems to me to be a way of being dependent on one’s time; perhaps the very fact of dependence is itself the essential aspect. The dependence consists of this: There is a sickness of, and by reason of, the times which becomes a preoccupation and always amounts to this, that received goods have lost their savor, that there is irritability and boredom with the forms of life of the community, a feeling that time must be killed, and a consequent search for relief in the forms of excess or perversion—in short, a permanent sort of crisis. “Decadence” has, furthermore, the property that the attempt of those caught up in this condition to overcome it, which attempt might be called “reactionary decadence,” nearly always takes the form of a kind of brutality, be it exuberant or mean."