The ultimate symbol of the Left Bank intellectual was the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, who took the role of the public intellectual to its highest prominence. The intellectuel engagé had a duty to dedicate himself to revolutionary activity, to question established orthodoxies, and to champion the interests of all oppressed groups. Integral to Sartre’s appeal was the sheer glamor he gave to French intellectualism — with his utopian promise of a radiant future; his sweeping, polemical tone, and his celebration of the purifying effects of conflict; his bohemian and insouciant lifestyle, which deliberately spurned the conventions of bourgeois life; and his undisguised contempt for the established institutions of his time — be they the republican State, the Communist party, the French colonial regime in Algeria, or the university system.Well, there might well be the problem. Sartre's Being and Nothingness is as bad a book as I have ever read, incomprehensible claptrap from beginning to end. It was Sartre, I believe, who gave us the phrase mauvaise foi. He would have known about that. He embodied it.
The decline started with the death of Camus.