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Karl Mannheim

Karl Mannheim

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Published by: Emmanuel S. Caliwan on Jun 06, 2010
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Karl Mannheim1893-1947
Read each of the following items.(Perdue 1986:388-393)Perdue, William D. 1986.
Sociological Theory: Explanation,Paradigm, and Ideology 
. Palo Alto, CA: Mayfield PublishingCompany.
 
Karl Mannheim (1883-1947)Ideology and Utopia
 
...Karl Mannheim was born in Budapest. He was the only child of a Hungarianfather and a German mother. After graduation from the humanistic gymnasium inBudapest, he studied in Berlin, Budapest, Paris, and Freiburg. His professorsincluded Lukacs and Edmund Husserl... Despite an early interest in philosophy,Mannheim turned to the human sciences, coming to be influenced by the thoughtof Weber and Marx. In 1925 he came to the major intellectual center in Germany,the University of Heidelberg, where he habilitated as an unsalaried lecturer.
 
Karl Mannheim left Heidelberg for the University of Frankfurt in 1929, where hewas a professor of sociology and economics. With the rise to power of the Nazis,he was dismissed in 1933 and fled to Great Britain, where he became a lecturer in sociology at the London School of Economics. Twelve years later, he becamea professor in the university's Institute of Education. During his tenure atHeidelberg, Frankfurt, and the London School of Economics, Mannheimpioneered with systematic efforts in the sociology of knowledge. While in GreatBritain, he was also editor of the International Library of Sociology and SocialReconstruction. This contributed to the growth and respectability of sociology inEngland.Early in his career, Mannheim centered his analysis first in problems of interpretation, then in epistemology (the study of the origin, nature, methods, andlimits of knowledge), and finally in particular kinds of knowledge. As hissociological interpretation matured, he made systematic inquiry into the socialforces contributing to the emergence and shaping of certain forms of knowledge.These included (but were not limited to) the impact of generations, intellectualtraditions, and class interests on the differing conceptions of truth.The modern classic
Ideology and Utopia: An Introduction to the Sociology of Knowledge
was published before Mannheim fled the Nazis. After thedevelopment of this masterpiece (1929-1931), he moved from a study of ideas tothe study of social structure. Here the focus was on such issues as thebureaucratization of society, the structural formation of personality, the positionand role of intelligentsia, and the relationship between sociology and socialpolicy. His work on the nature of democracy foresaw a coming elite disintegrationand irrationality. Thus, before Mannheim's premature death in 1947, he hadconceptualized sociology as a means for 
 planning 
societies to avoid both thedangers of totalitarianism and the class system.
Assumptions
The conception of human nature that prevails in
Ideology and Utopia
is one of reason, mediation, and self-reflection. Indeed, "scientific critical self-awareness"on the part of those who work in the social sciences presupposes a certainattribute of the mind, an awareness of the relationship between social structureand systems of thought. This is not to argue that all those participating in socialprocesses are doomed to falsify reality. Nor must they somehow suspend their value judgments and will to action. Instead, Mannheim held that to
 participateknowingly 
in social life presupposes that one can understand the often hiddennature of thought about society.Human beings have the potential for self-examination and contextual awareness.And only when these are understoodcan one have a comprehension of the formal object under study (Mannheim[1936] 1968:46-47...).
 
Simply put, there is a point in time, a moment of truth, when "the inner connectionbetween our role, our motivations, and our type and manner of experiencing theworld suddenly dawns upon us" ([1936] 1968:47). To be sure, some level of social determinism is real, for sociologists and all those who seek to unravel thepuzzles of social life (including the puzzle of knowledge itself). None of us is freeto exercise some metaphysical power of will. However, to the extent that oneuses the power of reason to gain insight into the sources of such determinism, tothat extent a
relative freedom from determinism
is possible.It follows that thispotential for simultaneously comprehending self, the socio-historical context, andthe object to be analyzed must be realized (especially by sociologists).Certain assumptions concerning the nature of society remain constantthroughout Mannheim's work. He returned again and again to the themes of conflict: of classes (and their systems of thought), of political movements, and of the necessary dissenting role of the intelligentsia. He addressed, as well shallsee, the wider ground of the sociology of knowledge, but within that generality,he considered the specific question of ideological structure.However, for Mannheim the "ideological structure does not change independently of the classstructure and the class structure does not change independently of the economicstructure"([1936] 1968:130).This sense of the "structural totality of society" Mannheim attributed to Marx. Hebuilt his theoretical system on the threefold structural tendencies of Marx's earlier body of thought: first of all, that the mode of material production shapes thepolitical sphere (and the rest of the "superstructure"); second, that change in thematerial base is closely connected with "transformations in class relations" andcorresponding shifts in power; and third, that idea structures may dominatepeople at any historical period, but that these ideologies may be understood andtheir change predicted theoretically.Nevertheless, unlike Marx, who emphasized that the ideas of the ruling classprevailed, Mannheim held that class-divided societies contain a special stratumfor "those individuals whose only capital consisted in their education" ([1936]1968:156). As this stratum comes to draw from different classes, it will containcontradictory points of view. Hence, the social position of intellectuals is notmerely a question of their class origin. Its "multiformity" provides the "potentialenergy" for members of the intellectual stratum to develop a social sensibility andto grasp the dynamic and conflicting forces of society ([1936] 1968:156-157).Mannheim's conception of human science reflects a synthesis of idealism andmaterialism, spirit, and society (Wolff 1971:xiv). Kurt Wolff has identifiedMannheim's fundamental question: How can social conditioning be reconciledwith the "inexhaustibility and unforeseeability" of ideas and spirit? And as acorollary, how can spirit and society be saved? Mannheim believed that asociology of knowledge would resolve this question and advance the discipline

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