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Karl Mannheim. Mikayla Trenary Anthony Shepard. Biography. Born on March 27, 1893 Grew up during the first World War and a period of unrest and the chaos of revolutions and counterrevolutions. Met Georg Lukas at the University of Budapest

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karl mannheim

Karl Mannheim

Mikayla Trenary

Anthony Shepard

  • Born on March 27, 1893
  • Grew up during the first World War and a period of unrest and the chaos of revolutions and counterrevolutions.
  • Met Georg Lukas at the University of Budapest
  • Attended University of Berlin and studied under Georg Simmel
  • Mannheim received his doctorate in philosophy in 1918
    • His dissertation was entitled “The Structural Analysis of Epistemology”
  • Due to further unrest in Hungary, and his life being endangered he stayed in Hungary until 1920 but later ended up at the University of Heidelberg.
    • It was here were he began to focus on Sociology
  • He later appointed as a professor at the University of Frankfurt in 1927 and taught sociology and economics
    • During this time he wrote his best known work “Ideology and Utopia”(1929)
  • Hitler and Nazi party forced him out of the University of Frankfurt and he later arrived in London and had a teaching position at the London School of Economics
  • He taught for 12 years here and passed away on January 9, 1947 due to a heart attack
intellectual influences
Intellectual Influences
  • Georg Lukacs
    • He demonstrated the general value of the sociological method in all fields of history
    • He showed that Marx was the only one who truly grasped Hegel’s idea of self-alienation
  • G.W.F Hegel
    • His influence made Mannheim view history as a structure and dynamic process
  • Georg Simmel
    • Mannheim was influenced by Simmel’s use of the distinction between objective and subjective culture, especially in terms of how culture is transmitted to each historical actor
intellectual influences5
Intellectual Influences
  • Max Weber
    • Utilized the historic method to study behavior must be accompanied by some explanation and understanding as to why humans acts always seem to involve specific purposes, motives, and values of the actors concerned
    • Mannheim used this approach to explain how knowledge was spread “sociology of knowledge”
  • Karl Marx
    • Marx directly influenced Mannheim’s utopian views
    • Mannheim’s view on historicism are tied to Marx’s idea that ways of thinking are tied to ways of doing
  • Positivism
    • The positivist technique is the truest approach in sociology
    • Mannheim wanted his “sociology of knowledge” to be scientific, however he was also committed to understanding the meaning of behavior. This strayed him from the positivist view.
    • He embraced a more methodological pluralism
concepts and contributions
Concepts and Contributions

The Sociology of Knowledge:

  • Definition- “as theory it seeks to analyze the relationship between knowledge and existence”
  • Manheim argued that ideas come from multiple sources but concluded that the most significant source of cultural ideas lies with social class
  • Mannheim’s primary goals was to determine the link between thought and action
    • In other words the way one thinks is dependent on more than just that person, it is also dependent on the society in which one grew up as well as the thought processes as those that came prior
concepts and contributions7
Concepts and Contributions


  • Reflects both German idealism in general, and German historiography. (society is what it is because of it’s history)
  • The goal of a historicism researcher is to remain value free when conducting social research and not to introduce their predefined ideas and categories in studies
concepts and contributions8
Concepts and Contributions

Ideology and Utopia:

  • Mannheim is concerned with “how one actually thinks”
  • In general one’s social position impacts their behavior and if one is in an advantageous position they will want to maintain the status quo; if one is in a less fortunate social position it would be in their best interest to support social change
  • Ideology is a set of ideas, doctrines, and opinions that justifies a social structure (Mannheim used the term ideology to characterize the ideas that support the status quo)
  • Mannheim used the word utopia to describe the complex web of ideas that favored social change
concepts and contributions9
Concepts and Contributions

Ideology and Utopia:

  • Two types of Ideology:
    • Particular ideologies involve systems of knowledge that hide and distort the truth
    • Total ideologies are systems of knowledge tied to the social/historic place in time that one resides in
concepts and contributions10
Concepts and Contributions
  • Utopian Mentality- described by Mannheim as a state of mind that “is incongruous with the state of reality within which it occurs.”
    • Utopian Mentality went through four stages:
      • Orgiastic chiliasm of the Anabaptitists: lower classes of the post medieval period gradually become aware of their own social and political significance; but still far removed from proletarian self-consciousness
      • Liberal-Humanitarian Idea: characterized by the conception of utilizing rational thought to offset evil. (represents the importance of the idea in human mental development
      • The Conservative Idea: has no real utopian value, comes about in reaction to the previous liberal stage of development, maintaining the status quo, and embracing those things found in the past
      • Socialist-Communist Utopia: the goal is overthrow the existing social structure and the creation of a classless society
concepts and contributions11
Concepts and Contributions

Diagnosis of Our Time:

  • A collection of essays that were written in war time, Mannheim presented a sociological analysis
  • He believed that society was “taken ill” by war and power struggles and he questioned “how do we cure this disease”
concepts and contributions12
Concepts and Contributions

Planned Social Reconstruction:

  • He was careful to point out that a planned society must not suppress individuals’ criticism of society, for complete suppression would produce far more negative results
  • A specific example of Mannheim’s planned reconstruction of society involved the economic policy of laissez-fare.
    • He did not view it as a viable alternative in the modern world because this type of system invites chaos
    • He argued that large modern societies must have economic controls in planning
    • It was now a choice between rational and irrational forms of planning
concepts and contributions13
Concepts and Contributions

Rationalism and Irrationalism:

  • Mannheim argues that a society in which the rational habits of thought are unevenly distributed is bound to unstable and subject to chaos.
  • The trick in proper rational leadership is to provide stability while simultaneously allowing for acceptable levels of irrational behavior
    • Substantial Rationality- a thought which reveals intelligent insight into the inter-relations of events in a given situation.
      • Example- a normal thought
    • Substantial Irrationality- everything else that is false or not an act of thought at all
      • Example- a drive, impulses, wishes, and feelings
    • Functionally Rational-must be organized in such a way that they lead to a pre-determined goal or calculable and efficient
      • Example- a common soldier is someone who abides by a system where he does not think but follows orders
    • Functionally Irrational- everything which breaks through and disrupts functional ordering
      • Example- non-productive behavior such as committing acts of violence
concepts and contributions14
Concepts and Contributions

The Intelligentsia:

  • Elites within the planned society framework
  • Mannheim claims they are not a class, they are ideologues. They are a classless aggregation that are not superior to others but are more capable of action that members of other strata cannot
  • The intelligentsia can assist in the reconstruction of society. They can help modify and create new social policies designed to assist the rational transformation of society.
  • They also posses the unique ability to attach themselves to the various levels of the social strata.
concepts and contributions15
Concepts and Contributions

Sociology of Education:

  • Mannheim felt strongly about the role of education as a way of dealing with the crisis of transformation.
  • Education serves as primary role of assimilating the next generation to the culture norms of society
  • To overcome overspecialization, Mannheim argues that both teachers and students must become more knowledgeable about sociology, because only sociology offers the comprehensive perspective of social events and issues
  • He is generally credited with creating a major subfield of sociology named the “sociology of knowledge.”
  • With his work on historicism he demonstrated how ideologies originate from many sources all of which are products of past and present behavior.
  • His ideas on ideology and utopia are really contemporary versions of the study of social stability and social change
  • The fact is, all societies, democratic or authoritarian, utilize planned social reconstruction; it is the primary function of government
  • Mannheim’s “sociology of knowledge” was at times inconsistent and contradictory
    • Believed that the sociology of knowledge could emerge only during an historical period characterized by social instability and lack of agreement over worldviews. Yet, it is argued that we could find sociology of knowledge during times of peace.
  • His whole view of society changed a lot due to the world wars and unrest that he lived through.