Much is said of scholars losing touch with the people. But it is important to recognize that people are also losing touch with their scholars. There is a symbiotic relationship between the two, and it must be realized for Muslim society to function 'Islamically'.
The deterioration of this symbiosis is a sign of a dying civilization. When a culture or society no longer honors it's intellectuals, or it's intellectuals no longer care for the common folk, it's time is done, and the red carpet is rolled out for foreign intellectual influence to take over and dismantle it from the inside.
Whether we'd like to believe it or not, there is a trickle-down effect from intellectuals in society to the public. Philosophies and theologies are not just spoken about in a lecture hall or a sermon, they become part of more everyday experiences such as entertainment, architecture, city planning, employment and family life. This influences how we think. You don't have to sit in a classroom, read a book or watch a YouTube video to be subject to foreign influence. Given how endemic 'foreign' influences are because of industrialization, globalization and the internet, the challenge is significant.
Once Muslim scholars lose touch with and respect for the experiences and reality of the people in both the ideas they express and the theoretical constructions they employ in their work, they are unable to replace a trickle-down effect from another source of influence. What happens then is that their teachings become further disconnected from reality, deepening their irrelevancy to the people.
Once Muslims stop trusting their scholars (or even knowing how to identity them) for guidance or scholarship as a construct, they will replace an Islamic worldview for a foreign one, or at least confuse them both. This denial of trust can happen in a positive way, where Muslims recognize that scholars still have a defined level of expertise in their subject matter and they need to work with them to make scholarship relevant again, or in a negative way when Muslims see the foreign influence as superior and ultimately more relevant as guidance or dismiss Islamic epistemic authority altogether.
And this foreign influence is not always as explicit as some hotly contested, blatantly blasphemous idea. It can be something very subtle that disconnects Muslims from tawakkul because of a dependence on the means, the lack of dependence on dhikr because of the demands of a 'modern' lifestyle, or a lack of religious and spiritual introspection because of being busy with entertainment in their free time. And of course, all these things result in either confusion and disconnect, or in greater problems later down the road.