Student Question

Why was Mannheim highly critical of positivism? According to Mannheim, what was the task of the sociology of knowledge?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Karl Mannheim (1893-1947) was very critical of positivism because he thought it provided no room for theory and ignored the role of interpretation and understanding by concentrating only on material reality. The task of the sociology of knowledge was to understand how people think--not in textbooks or according to rules of logic--but how they really think in public life by understanding the social origins of these modes of thought.

He wrote in Ideology And Utopia: An Introduction To The Sociology Of Knowledge: "The principal thesis of the sociology of knowledge is that there are modes of thought which cannot be adequately understood as long as their social origins are obscure" (2). In other words, he sought to understand where people's ways of thinking came from, and he believed individuals use an "inherited situation of thought" and then adapt this way of thinking to the situation at hand. This means that cultures create different types of frameworks by which people can organize their realities and make sense of their perceptions of the world. Therefore, people's knowledge of the world is affected by their socio-cultural context.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial