John Gardner looks at what appears to be a universal progression for both individuals and societies: birth -> growth -> decay -> death. While granting that no one and no society exist forever, he explores what is it that makes some people and groups seem to decay at a much slower rate than others. Is there anything that can be done to slow or reverse decay?
Renewal is the reverse of decay. It is the bringing about of new and more vibrant life. Gardner systematically looks at habits, customs, societal structures and beliefs that contribute to renewal or decay.
While none of the individual aspects of renewal that Gardner explores are particularly earth-shaking in and of themselves, there is a powerful synthesis generated by looking at them in a systematic manner. I find that I have never really given much explicit thought to renewal itself.
Gardner is very good at providing a nuanced and balanced look at his topic. I felt the last chapters dealing with attitude towards the future and moral decay and renewal to be particularly insightful and inspiring.