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
societies to avoid both thedangers of totalitarianism and the class system.
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
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 1968:46-47...).