Karl Mannheim 1893-1947
Mannheim is credited as one of the founders of sociology as a systematic, coherent, and unified science. He firmly believed that as a scientific discipline sociology could help resolve the conflicts of modern society through a "sociology of knowledge." Mannheim differentiated between two different areas of knowledge: the knowledge that derives from scientific data and class-based knowledge, such as religious, philosophical, and traditional forms of knowledge. Both his predecessor Max Weber and his contemporary Georg Lukacs exerted strong influence on Mannheim's work. His contributions also advanced the sociology of education, political sociology, and modern social structure.
Mannheim was born in Budapest, Hungary, on March 27, 1893, the only child of a German mother and Hungarian father. After the fall of the Hungarian Republic of Councils in 1919, Mannheim left Hungary for Germany. His academic career included studies at the universities of Budapest, Freiburg, Paris, and Berlin. In the early 1920s he moved to Heidelberg, where he earned his doctorate at the University of Heidelberg. By 1930 he was a lecturer at the University of Frankfurt. After Hitler came to power in 1933, Mannheim took a position at the London School of Economics, and in 1945 he was appointed to the chair of sociology of education at the University of London. He was a popular lecturer and public figure in his adopted country. Mannheim died on January 9, 1947.
From 1910 to 1916 Mannheim corresponded with Hungarian philosopher and literary historian Georg Lukacs, an influence evident in Mannheim's key work, Ideologie und Utopie (Ideology and Utopia). In it he argued that although knowledge is integral to humankind's adaptation and survival in the world, it is the environment that determines the kind of knowledge people have. He labeled ideas that serve to protect the established élite "ideologies," and descibed as "utopias" those ideas that aim to better the lot of the less fortunate. Mannheim's decision to leave Germany for England prompted his collection of essays Mensch und Gesellschaft im Zeitalter des Umbaus (Man and Society in an Age of Reconstruction), in which he argued against National Socialism as exploitative of a global crisis in the institutions that comprise liberal civilization. Diagnosis of Our Time, his subsequent collection of lectures and essays, expanded on the concepts of social planning introduced in his previous work while also arguing for a reevaluation of Christianity and the creation of a new system of values. In Freedom, Power, and Democratic Planning, Mannheim expanded on the ideas of his two previous books and added an analysis of power, which he viewed as the most pressing problem of the postwar period. Although he was a strong advocate of social planning, he believed in a "fundamental democratization" that would produce an informed public capable of demanding the dissolution of government when necessary.
Lelek es Kultura (nonfiction) 1918
Die Strukturanalyse der Erkenntnistheorie (nonfiction) 1922
Ideologie und Utopie [Ideology and Utopia] (nonfiction) 1929
Die Gegenwartsaufgaben der Soziologie: Ihre Lehrgestalt (nonfiction) 1932
Rational and Irrational Elements in Contemporary Society (nonfiction) 1934
Mensch und Gesellschaft im Zeitalter des Umbaus [Man and Society in an Age of Reconstruction] (essays) 1935
Diagnosis of Our Time (essays) 1943
Freedom, Power, and Democratic Planning (essays) 1950
Essays on the Sociology of Knowledge (essays) 1952
Essays on Sociology and Social Psychology (essays) 1953
Essays on the Sociology of Culture (essays) 1956
Systematic Sociology: An Introduction to the Study of Society (essays) 1957
An Introduction to the Sociology of Education [with W. A. C. Stewart] (essays) 1962
From Karl Mannheim (essays) 1971
Strukturen des Denkens [Structures of Thinking] (nonfiction) 1980
Konservatismos: Ein Betrag zur Soziologie des Wissens [Conservatism: A Contribution to the Sociology of Knowledge] (nonfiction) 1984
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SOURCE: "The Constants of Social Relativity," in The Philosophy of Literary Form: Studies in Symbolic Action, third edition, University of California Press, 1973, pp. 404-6.
[In the following essay, which was originally published as a review of Ideology and Utopia in 1936, Burke examines Mannheim's concept of a "sociology of knowledge. "]
Discouraged by the ways in which the perspectives of different people, classes, eras, cancel one another, you may decide that all philosophies are nonsense. Or you may establish order by fiat, as you bluntly adhere to one faction among the many, determined to abide by its assertions regardless of other people's assertions. Or you may become a kind of referee for other men's contests, content to observe that every view has some measure of truth and some measure of falsity. If they had asserted nothing, you could assert nothing. But in so far as they assert and counterassert, you can draw an assertion from the comparison of their assertions.
Professor Karl Mannheim's "sociology of knowledge" is a variant of the third of these attitudes. He would begin with the fact of difference rather than with a choice among the differences. But in erecting a new perspective atop the rivalries of the old perspectives, he would subtly change the rules of the game. For the new perspective he offered would not be simply a rival perspective; it...
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SOURCE: Preface to Ideology and Utopia: An Introduction to the Sociology of Knowledge, by Karl Mannheim, translated by Louis Wirth and Edward Shils, Harcourt Brace & Company, 1936, pp. viii-xxx.
[In the following essay, Wirth outlines the central ideas in Ideology and Utopia in the context of modern sociological thought.]
The original German edition of Ideology and Utopia appeared in an atmosphere of acute intellectual tension marked by widespread discussion which subsided only with the exile or enforced silence of those thinkers who sought an honest and tenable solution to the problems raised. Since then the conflicts which in Germany led to the destruction of the liberal Weimar Republic have been felt in various countries all over the world, especially in Western Europe and the United States. The intellectual problems which at one time were considered the peculiar preoccupation of German writers have enveloped virtually the whole world. What was once regarded as the esoteric concern of a few intellectuals in a single country has become the common plight of the modern man.
In response to this situation there has arisen an extensive literature which speaks of the "end," the "decline," the "crisis," the "decay," or the "death" of Western civilization. But despite the alarm which is heralded in such titles, one looks in vain in most of this literature for an analysis of...
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SOURCE: "Man and Society," in The Spectator, Vol. 164, No. 5841, June 7, 1940, p. 782.
[In the following review of Man and Society in an Age of Reconstruction, Eliot praises Mannheim's insight and intellectual honesty.]
Dr. Karl Mannheim is a sociologist, indeed, one of the most distinguished of living sociologists; and this massive work [Man and Society in an Age of Reconstruction] has the inexorable formality and complete apparatus (with seventy-three pages of bibliography) that one expects of continental scholarship. It is also difficult reading; though the difficulty of Dr. Mannheim's style is not due to any imperfection of English, and not, as with much American writing in this field, to the employment of a technical jargon. The vocabulary is that of any educated person. The difficulty of reading is due rather to a conscientious thoroughness, which prevents the author from passing any point until he has considered it from every aspect, and keeps the impatient reader marching at his own slow pace; it is also due to a judicial and remarkably impartial temper of mind, which refuses to present the difficult as if it were simple, or to allow prejudice or emotion to usurp the province of thinking.
It would seem at first, therefore, that this book is one which should be reviewed only by a professional sociologist for the benefit of other sociologists. If that were so, it...
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SOURCE: "Karl Mannheim," in Katherine Mansfield and Other Literary Studies, Constable, 1959, pp. 152-62.
[In the following essay, Murry evaluates Mannheim's contribution to modern social thought.]
One thing was certain to those who had the privilege of direct contact with Karl Mannheim: that his was an eminent mind. It stood above others; it comprehended more; saw the great issues of our time in a wider perspective. More than this, he was pervaded with the sense of their urgency. The degree of his detachment was balanced by the degree of his identification. If he had stood aloof in order to understand, it was only in order that he might participate in the struggle with a full consciousness of what was, and was not possible: he was a master-strategist—the wisest I have known of the forces of light. And he was heroic. One felt that he was profoundly tired, his heart as it were soaked through with the weariness of bitter disappointment; yet he was indefatigable, determined to spend himself to the uttermost, in his mission of spreading awareness of the human predicament and creating the capacity of response to its demands.
It is beyond my competence to attempt an objective appraisal of his obviously great contribution to sociological thought. I can do no more than elucidate some of the constant stimulus he applied to my own mind. And here I must premise that I found myself, from the...
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SOURCE: "Mannheim's Historicism," in Social Research, Vol. 19, No. 3, September, 1952, pp. 300-24.
[In the following essay, Wagner analyzes the concept of a "sociology of knowledge" as developed in Ideology and Utopia.]
With increasing recognition of the need for broader theoretical orientations, American sociologists have become increasingly interested in the problems of a sociology of knowledge. In pursuing this interest they have not fallen back on earlier American "armchair" traditions—on such heritages, for example, as Summer's theory of ethnocentricity, Keller's evolutionary extensions of it, Veblen's combination of class interpretation with a theory of social-evolutionary stages, Robinson's critique of social conceptions and thought control. Rather, attention has been fixed on a series of European theoreticians, among them such positivistic thinkers as Pareto and Durkheim and such "idealistic" philosophers as Scheler. The dominant influence, however, has been that of karl Mannheim.
Actually, this influence stems from but one publication, the three essays combined in the English edition of Ideology and Utopia. This book represents Mannheim's most persistent effort toward an all-inclusive sociology of knowledge. Ontology, epistemology, and logic are here subsumed under a theory of the social conditioning of thought—a theory that serves both as a basis for a general...
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SOURCE: "The Sociology of Knowledge and Its Consciousness," in Prisms, translated by Samuel Weber and Sherry Weber, The Mit Press, 1981, pp. 35-49.
[In the following essay, Adorno focuses his discussion on Man and Society in an Age of Reconstruction.]
The sociology of knowledge expounded by Karl Mannheim has begun to take hold in Germany again. For this it can thank its gesture of innocuous skepticism. Like its existentialist counterparts it calls everything into question and criticizes nothing. Intellectuals who feel repelled by 'dogma', real or presumed, find relief in a climate which seems free of bias and assumptions and which offers them in addition something of the pathos of Max Weber's self-conscious and lonely yet undaunted rationality as compensation for their faltering consciousness of their own autonomy. In Mannheim as in his polar opposite, Jaspers, many impulses of Weber's school which were once deeply embedded in the polyhistoric edifice come to light. Most important of these is the tendency to suppress the theory of ideologies in its authentic form. These considerations may justify returning to one of Mannheim's older books, Man and Society in an Age of Reconstruction. The work addresses itself to a broader public than does the book on ideology. It cannot be held to each of its formulations. All the greater, however, is the insight it offers into the influence of the sociology of...
(The entire section is 5388 words.)
SOURCE: Review of Ideology and Utopia, in Daedalus: Journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Vol. 103, No. 1, Winter, 1973, pp. 83-9.
[In the following essay, Shils discusses the social and historical circumstances under which Mannheim wrote Ideology and Utopia.]
Karl Mannheim was extraordinarily sensitive to his national and continental environment and to his own time. He read widely; he had a lively curiosity and a quickly moving imagination which enabled him to respond to many kinds of events. From 1914 until his death in 1947 at the age of fifty-four he had only about a decade of relative calm: 1925 to 1929 in Germany and 1933 to 1939 in Great Britain. The rest of his adult life was spent in the midst of war, revolution, and uncivil commotion. A sociologist of such a sensitive imagination could not have avoided perceiving these unrelenting and pitiless conflicts and making them into a theme of central importance in his thought.
Ideologie und Utopie was published in 1929 when disorder began once more in the Weimar republic. In 1931, when disorder was at its height, he published an article entitled "Wissenssoziologie" in a German encyclopedia of sociology. In 1935, very shortly after his settlement in England, he wrote a long essay which attempted to place the two former writings in the wider setting of the plurality of intellectual outlooks which had...
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SOURCE: "Social and Political Thought and the Problem of Ideology," in Knowledge and Belief in Politics: The Problem of Ideology, Robert Benewick, R. N. Berki, Bhikhu Parekh, eds., George Allen & Unwin Ltd, 1973, pp. 57-87.
[In the following essay, Parekh provides an outline of the place of rationalism in the history of philosophy and examines Mannheim's approach to the "crisis of rationality" that is often identified with the modern era.]
The most influential conception of rationality in Western thought, a conception that is prima facie highly plausible and has a good deal of attraction for intellectuals, goes back to the pre-Socratics and finds its noblest expression in the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle. On this, what for convenience I shall call the traditional view of rationality, thinking was essentially a contemplative activity in which the human mind soared above the contingencies of human existence and comprehended its subject matter without being influenced by any extra-rational factors issuing from the thinker's psychological or social background. Thinking, in other words, was regarded as a direct and unmediated encounter between the thinking mind and its objects of thought. The traditional view of rationality also drew a fairly neat distinction between theory and practice. Unlike the world of practice which arose from human wants and desires and thus from a lack of human...
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SOURCE: "Politics as a Science," in Karl Mannheim, Ellis Horwood Limited, 1984, pp. 14-32.
[In the following excerpt, Kettler, Meja, and Stehr focus on the political aspects and implications of Mannheim's sociological writings.]
MANNHEIM AND LIBERAL POLITICAL THOUGHT
Karl Mannheim often commented on the social condition of the outsider, who stands on the margin of an integrated social field, or on the boundary between two or more. No condition could have been more familiar to him. While the position of a Jewish student and young intellectual in the Budapest of 1910 may have been 'marginal' only when viewed from the nationalist perspective easy enough for this circle to dismiss, he twice in his life underwent the experience of exile and twice had to find a voice and a language appropriate to a newcomer. He left Hungary in 1919, after the failures of the progressive liberal and Soviet regimes; and he fled Germany for England in 1933, after the National Socialist decree deprived him of the Frankfurt professorship which he had only recently gained.
But it was not only the force of circumstances which brought him repeatedly to the boundary. Already as a young man in Budapest he had chosen an intellectual place for himself between proponents of reform based on social science, led by Oscar Jaszi, and advocates of cultural renovation grounded on an essentially aesthetic...
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Baum, Gregory. Truth Beyond Relativism: Karl Mannheim's Sociology of Knowledge. Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 1977, 83 p.
Argues for applying Mannheim's theory of the sociology of knowledge to theological method and ecclesiology.
Bauman, Zygmunt. "Understanding as the Work of History: Karl Mannheim." In his Hermeneutics and Social Science, pp. 89-110. New York: Columbia University Press, 1978.
Views Mannheim's work as an outgrowth of Max Weber's. Bauman concludes that unlike Weber and Karl Marx, Mannheim sought objective truth outside the "logic of history."
Bogardus, Emory S. "Mannheim and the Sociology of Knowledge." In his The Development of Social Thought, pp. 605-19. Westport, Conn.:Greenwood Press Publishers, 1960.
Discussion of the sociology of knowledge as a basis for "social reconstruction" and Mannheim's "major" role in the development of this branch of sociology.
Carr, Edward H. "Karl Mannheim." In his From Napoleon to Stalin and Other Essays, pp. 177-83. London: The MacMillan Press, Ltd., 1980.
Contends that Mannheim's importance to British sociology is linked to his "immense talent for synthesis."
Congdon, Lee. "Karl Mannheim as Philosopher." The Journal of European Studies 7, No. 25 (March 1977): 1-18.
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