Karl Mannheim

Karl Mannheim

Karl Mannheim (March 27, 1893, BudapestJanuary 9, 1947, London), or Mannheim Károly in the original writing of his name, was a Jewish Hungarian-born sociologist, influential in the first half of the 20th century and one of the founding fathers of classical sociology. Mannheim rates as a founder of the sociology of knowledge.

Education and Academic Career

He studied in Budapest, Berlin—in 1914 he attended lectures by Georg Simmel—, Paris and Heidelberg. During the brief period of the Hungarian Soviet in 1919 he taught in a teacher training school thanks to the patronage of his friend and mentor György Lukács, whose political conversion to Communism he did not, however, share. After the emergence of the harsh counter-revolutionary regime in Hungary, Mannheim chose exile in Germany. From 1922 to 1925 in Heidelberg he worked under the German sociologist Alfred Weber, brother of the well-known sociologist Max Weber. In 1926 Mannheim satisfied the requirements to teach classes in sociology at Heidelberg. In 1930 he became professor of sociology at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University Frankfurt am Main. Norbert Elias and Hans Gerth worked as his assistants during this period (from spring 1930 until spring 1933), with Elias as the senior partner.

In 1933, after his ouster from his professorship, he fled the Nazi regime and settled in Britain, where he was appointed a lecturer in Sociology at the London School of Economics (LSE). In 1941 he was invited by Sir Fred Clarke, Director of the Institute of Education, University of London, to teach sociology on a part-time basis in conjunction with his role at LSE. In January 1946 he took up the full-time chair of education at the Institute of Education, which he held until his death a year later at the age of 53.

Mannheim’s biography, one of intellectual and geographical migration, falls into three main phases: Hungarian (to 1919), German (1919-1933), British (1933-1947). Among his valued intellectual resources were György Lukács, Oskar Jaszi, Georg Simmel,Martin Heidegger, Edmund Husserl, Karl Marx, Alfred and Max Weber, Max Scheler, and Wilhelm Dilthey. In his work, he sought variously to synthesize elements derived from German historicism, Marxism, phenomenology, sociology and Anglo-American pragmatism.


Hungarian phase Mannheim was a precocious scholar and an accepted member of two influential circles, one centered on Oszkár Jászi and interested above all in French and English sociological writings, and one centered on György Lukács, with interests focused on the enthusiasms of German diagnosticians of cultural crisis, notably the novels of Fyodor Dostoyevsky and the writings of the German mystics. Mannheim's Hungarian writings, notably his "Structural Analysis of Epistemology," anticipate his lifelong search for "synthesis" between these currents.

German phase This was Mannheim's most productive. In it he turned from philosophy to sociology, inquiring into the roots of culture. His essays on the sociology of knowledge have become classics. In 'Ideology and Utopia' he argued that the application of the term ideology ought to be broadened. He traced the history of the term from what he called a 'particular' view. This view saw ideology as the perhaps deliberate obscuring of facts. This view gave way to a 'total' conception (most notably in Marx) which argued that a whole social group's thought was formed by its social position (e.g. the proletariat's beliefs were conditioned by their relationship to the means of production). However, he called for a further step which he called a general total conception of ideology, in which it was recognised that everyone's beliefs—including the social scientist's—were a product of the context they were created in. He feared this could lead to relativism but proposed the idea of relationism as an antidote. To uphold the distinction, he maintained that the recognition of different perspectives according to differences in time and social location appears arbitrary only to an abstract and disembodied theory of knowledge.

The list of reviewers of the German "Ideology and Utopia" includes a remarkable roll call of individuals who became famous in exile, after the rise of Hitler: Hannah Arendt, Max Horkheimer, Herbert Marcuse, Paul Tillich, Hans Speier, Günther Stern (aka Günther Anders), Waldemar Gurian, Siegfried Kracauer, Otto Neurath, Karl August Wittfogel, Béla Fogarasi, and Leo Strauss.

Mannheim's ambitious attempt to promote a comprehensive sociological analysis of the structures of knowledge was treated with suspicion by Marxists and neo-Marxists of what was the grouping that was later recognized as an antecedent of the Frankfurt School. They saw the rising popularity of the sociology of knowledge as a neutralization and a betrayal of Marxist inspiration. Relations between Mannheim and Horkheimer were however correct, and there is no evidence that students were enlisted in the arguments between them, which played out in faculty forums, like the Kant Gesellschaft and Paul Tillich's Christian Socialist discussion group. Horkheimer's Institute at the time was best known for the empirical work it encouraged, and several of Mannheim's doctoral students used its resources. While this intramural contest looms large in retrospect, Mannheim's most active contemporary competitors were in fact other academic sociologists, notably the gifted proto-fascist Leipzig professor, Hans Freyer, and the proponent of formal sociology and leading figure in the profession, Leopold von Wiese.

In his British phase, Mannheim attempted a comprehensive analysis of the structure of modern society by way of democratic social planning and education. His work was admired more by educators, social workers, and religious thinkers than it was by the small community of British sociologists. His books on planning nevertheless played an important part in the political debates of the immediate post-war years, both in the United States and in several European countries.

Mannheim's book "Ideologie und Utopie" (1929) was the most widely debated book by a living sociologist in Germany during the Weimar Republic; the English version "Ideology and Utopia" (1936) has been a standard in American-style international academic sociology, carried by the interest it aroused in the United States. The quite different German and English versions of the book figure in reappraisals of Mannheim initiated by new textual discoveries and republications. Mannheim’s sociological theorizing has been the subject of numerous book-length studies, evidence of an international interest in his principal themes. Mannheim was not the author of any work he himself considered a finished book, but rather of some fifty major essays and treatises, most later published in book form. Curiously, German National Socialism (Nazism) was not mentioned as one of four "form [s] of the Utopian mentality," and there was no mention of Hitler or of Nazism in this work, even though Mannheim was shortly to flee Germany because of it. But then, Mannheim did not mention Catholic political ideology or nationalism either, although both were politically far more important than Nazism at the time he wrote the book. Nor did he distinguish between Social Democratic and Communist variants of Socialism, not to speak of democratic and anti-democratic variants of Liberalism. Fascism, while also not a "form of Utopian mentality," was discussed elsewhere in the volume, drawing on Italian explications of the ideology. His lecture notes in 1930 show clearly that, like Marxist analysts, he considered Nazism as a German form of Fascism. His typology of ideal types in "Ideologie und Utopie' ' is based on depth-structural similarities, not diverse political programs.

Works (selection)

* Mannheim, K. ( [1922-24] 1980) "Structures of Thinking." London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
* Mannheim, K. ( [1925] 1986) "Conservatism. A Contribution to the Sociology of Knowledge." London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
* Mannheim, K. (1929), "Ideologie und Utopie"
* Mannheim, K. (1936) "Ideology and Utopia". London: Routledge.
* Mannheim, K. (1940) "Man and Society in an Age of Reconstruction". London: Routledge.
* Mannheim, K. ( [1930] 2001) "Sociology as Political Education". New Brunswick, NJ. Transaction
* Mannheim, K. (1971. 1993) "From Karl Mannheim". New Brunswick, NJ. Transaction.


* Richard Aldrich, (2002) "The Institute of Education 1902-2002: A centenary history", London: Institute of Education.
* David Frisby, (1983) "The Alienated Mind", London: Heineman.
* David Kettler, Volker Meja, and Nico Stehr (1984), "Karl Mannheim", London: Tavistock.
* David Kettler and Volker Meja, (1995) "Karl Mannheim and the Crisis of Liberalism", New Brunswick and London: Transaction.
* Colin Loader, (1985) "The Intellectual Development of Karl Mannheim", Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
* Colin Loader and David Kettler (2001) "Karl Mannheim's Sociology as Political Education" New Brunswick and London: Transaction.
* Volker Meja and Nico Stehr (eds), (1982 [1990] ) "Knowledge and Politics. The Sociology of Knowledge Dispute", London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
* Eva Karadi and Erzsebet Vezer, (1985) "Georg Lukacs, Karl Mannheim und der Sonntagskreis", Frankfurt/M: Sendler.
* Reinhard Laube (2004) "Karl Mannheim und die Krise des Historismus", Goettingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.

External links

* [http://www.zeppelin-university.de/start.htm?/133.htm Karl-Mannheim Chair for Cultural Studies, Zeppelin University, Friedrichshafen, Germany]
* [http://www.bard.edu/contestedlegacies/kettler/works.shtml Studies of Karl Mannheim] .
* [http://www.npg.org.uk/live/search/person.asp?search=ss&sText=Mannheim&LinkID=mp77526 Likenesses of Mannheim in the National Portrait Gallery] .

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