Reports of the death of the analytic/continental divide are highly premature, and the rampant claims that this division is "merely sociological" seem to imply (in rather un-Latourian fashion) that sociology deals only with figments of the imagination.--Harman on Latour, p. 11.
During my last visit to the pre-renovation-era Stedelijk, I attended a friend's wedding in 2002. As it happens it was also the last time I got really plastered at a party because I had falsely assumed dinner would be served at the event. The wedding was an artsy affair because the bride (an editor/writer) and groom (a journalist) had lots of friends and family who were musicians and (Protestant) clergy. At the time the museum was still controlled by the municipality and private parties were not permitted; but somebody close to the wedding-couple knew a curator. I vividly remember a solitary walk through the darkened, then-still-slightly-shabby museum with an extended meditation on Van Dongen's Anna de Noailles. (I had no idea then she was was a famous artist in her day.)
Yesterday, we went to see the 'Matisse and his friends' exhibit (as I call it) in Het Stedelijk with our son. I was surprised there were fewer crowds than its neighbors (Het Rijks and Het Van Gogh) attracts; we had no wait to enter the exhibit. The expanded building feels very clean.
When I was a kid, there had been obligatory, school-visits to local museums. At most of these, I was more fascinated by other visitors, especially the earnest art-students with their drawing pads who would patiently copy the paintings on the wall, than by the art works on display. But, at Het Stedelijk, I was mesmerized, even frightened, by Edward Kienholz's The Beanery. To this day, when I see a mechanical clock I recall -- by the magic of association -- that installation; and sometimes when I walk into a dive, I encounter clock-heads before my brain tells me I am wrong.
At the end of our visit, we went to the gift-shop to buy a Matisse-post-card. To my surprise, the fancy store had an excellent and broad selection of books in twentieth century (Continental) aesthetics, critical theory, and Continental philosophy more broadly--all attractively displayed in the gift-store. The only analytical philosopher in sight was Danto. I was bemused to see so much once-radical-chic assimilated to a tasteful, bourgeois environment.
But as I reflected on the book display, with my finger-tips sensually caressing the elegantly designed covers, I recognized that these densely argued, jargon-rich books were expected to sell. There is evidently a market for this kind of philosophical elitism--one associated with the twentieth century avant-garde and conceptual art. When I was an undergraduate, and even a PhD student, I was assured, always in passing, over and over again, that Continental philosophy is bullshit and rubbish; that its jargon masked the empty rhetoric of charlatans; of course, I was also repeatedly told that Heidegger was a Nazi (recall, and here). (Nobody ever seemed to notice that if Continental philosophy was fully implicated in Nazism it was the opposite of empty rhetoric.)
The gift-shop, which is managed, at least in part, by the up-market German artsy-chain, Buchhandlung Walther König, offers Lacan, Zizek, Sloterdijk, Butler, Arendt, Deleuze, Badiou, etc. (I even saw a book by Sylvère Lotringer for the first time.) Evidently, Continental philosophy is either status-enhancing and, thus value-added to the art-replicas, post-cards, and glossy catalogs on display in the store, or it is, by now, firmly associated with modern art and part of the same market. I looked around me. I saw several people picking up books and heading toward the cash register. (I bought Harman on Latour.) I scrutinized their faces; I didn't think they were buying these books to be displayed on coffee-tables alongside the heavy-glossy, Works of Brancussi. I wondered how large the public was that would seek out the challenge of grappling with continental philosophers during the holidays.
Whenever analytical philosophers make a public impact, I feel a kind of Humean pride, even when I know I ought to feel better. In Holland several of my former teachers -- Dennett, Nussbaum, etc. -- are TV personalities, and whenever they are featured this pleases me greatly (even if I disagree with their utterances). I don't feel the same emotion when I encounter media attention for Continental philosophers (except, of course, my NewAPPS buddies). In fact, in looking over the book-store display, I felt a soft-jealousy.
In practice, analytical philosophy is slowly displacing continental philosophy in the modern, grant-driven university research environment of the European Continent; the grant agencies focus on public utility, objective metrics, and embrace a veneer of scientism. We have become little cogs that push the scientific research frontier along. Carnap's bet was prescient.
In much of Europe we are now a generation or two removed from Christianity, and philosophy's role as a secular placeholder -- in the manner of 19th century aesthetic experience as a secular placeholder for religious experience -- of creative theology and public prophecy is fading; the last gasp of such theology can be found in the Stedelijk's rooms devoted to high conceptual or minimal art of the 1980s (e.g. Sol Lewitt). It is, thus, no surprise that the best Continental philosophy is not emanating from Paris anymore. It's Americans or those that lived Marxism that re-fuel it until, perhaps, our newer immigrant populations re-animate the tradition.
As we left the museum, I regret failing to introduce my son to Kienholz's The Beanery.