On Britain’s intellectual decline

Stumbling & Bumbling:

The commemorations of Marx’s 200th birthday have done at least one thing: they’ve reminded me of Britain’s abject intellectual decline.

Listen, for example, to this debate about Marx (34 min in); Paul Mason’s interlocutor couldn’t tell the difference between Marx and a bucket of fish.

Contrast this with a few decades ago. Then, if you wanted a critical assessment of Marx, you might reasonably have asked Leszek Kolakowski, Samuel Hollander or Isaiah Berlin – men who, agree with them or not, knew what they were talking about. Today, his most high-profile critics are ignorant gobshites.

This, however, is but one example of the intellectual decline of public life. For me, the BBC’s recent series, Civilisations, contrasted horribly with Clark’s version. Most programmes seemed to be random observations with no narrative flow – and directors who lacked the courage to have the camera linger on the art as Clark’s did.

In the same vein, compare Jacob Bronowski’s The Ascent of Man to, say, Brian Cox.