What is the reason for the degeneration of the European intelligentsia?
After all, several centuries earlier, the earth bore great philosophers, musicians, etc. What is the reason why such people don't meet now? All modern "intelligent" individuals are not much different from the marginal ones (modern actors, writers, philosophers involved in drug use, promiscuous sexual relations, etc.). If in Russia this can be explained by the times of Bolshevism, under which most of the Russian intelligentsia was destroyed by repression and revolution, then what happened to the intellectuals of Western Europe, where socialists were not in power?
No degeneration occurred.
I mean not only a certain general post-war Europe, but also modern Europe, where I managed to live a little, helped put up exhibitions and publish books, did a couple of big projects, and generally quite closely found out the features of artistic office work in several countries, and the people who do it.
I'm afraid Europe is fine. Art receives significant support in Europe, and thus is more independent of the market; the academy as a whole is diverse, local chauvinism here and there does not interfere with adequate cultural exchange without excesses. The art history conferences I attend in New York are always full of European experts who have exactly what to say.
And besides, it all happens in the same macrocultural context. That is, when I suddenly found myself at the same table with some Swedes, English, Germans and a random American (option: in the States with a set of different European guests), we never had any problems with what to talk about.
I don't need to explain who Mandelstam is. An Englishman doesn't need to be told who Eliot is. The Swede doesn't need to be told who a Transtroemer is. No one needs to explain who Celan is. Etc.
This does not mean that everyone has always read everyone, or that everyone always agrees in the assessment of a particular figure. Or that we don't run into any purely national prongs in some places. But we are clearly speaking the same cultural history, whether it is the history of literature, philosophy, painting, or political thought.
This is not a national culture, not an ideological one — this is the culture of readers.
One of its consequences is that I would rather talk about contemporary Russian poetry with a Swedish artist than with a random Russian tourist. Regardless of who sleeps with whom and what they consume, since it seems so important to the author of the question.
The degeneration of the intelligentsia occurred because of the way it was formed, by virtue of which it could not but degenerate. The fact is that in the 19th century there was an increased demand for professional knowledge workers and public administration (first of all), which could not be satisfied purely quantitatively by representatives of the noble class (first of all in Russia, where this phenomenon appeared, and the term denoting it, spread conditionally to Europe, but in fact in Europe there was no intelligentsia in the typical sense). This led to the replenishment of elites from different classes (raznochintsy), scientifically this method of replenishment is called co-optation: existing members of the elite recruit their own replenishment at their own discretion (as opposed to democratic selection from below). Historically, elites were homogeneous (representatives of the same class) and order in them was maintained naturally on the basis of a certain code of honor based on the continuity of generations, where descendants draw their authority from the greatness of their ancestors and conduct self-control in such a way that, roughly speaking, these ancestors are not disgraced. This method was not suitable for the new elites due to the lack of such a pedigree, so they came up with their own code of honor, based on the opinion of the raznochintsy themselves about each other. Therefore, at the moment we have among the degenerates of this intelligentsia (both creative and political, since already by the XX century. just doing intellectual work in the concept of the intelligentsia faded into the background, and some concern with the fate of their fatherland came to the fore: all these things like how to equip Russia, and all that) a complete rejection of an opinion that differs from their opinion, and a complete agreement of themselves with each other, valued by them as a kind of strength and argument. The mechanism of such degeneration was studied in detail by mathematicians in the twentieth century, who proved mathematically (just a theorem) that the elite replenished by co-optation inevitably turns out to be worse than the initial mass of people from which it is replenished. As a result, modern representatives of the degenerate intelligentsia must meet only two requirements of their environment: