Social Theory: The Multicultural and Classic Readings

By Charles Lemert | Go to book overview

the reply to the question: What must be done in order that the workers may acquire political knowledge? cannot be merely the one which, in the majority of cases, the practical workers, especially those who are inclined towards Economism, usually content themselves with, i.e., "go among the workers." To bring political knowledge to the workers the Social-Democrats must go among all classes of the population, must despatch units of their army in all directions. . . .

The Social-Democrat's ideal should not be a trade-union secretary, but a tribune of the people, able to react to every manifestation of tyranny and oppression, no matter where it takes place, no matter what stratum or class of the people it affects; he must be able to group all these manifestations into a single picture of police violence and capitalist exploitation; he must be able to take advantage of every petty event in order to explain his Socialistic convictions and his Social-Democratic demands to all, in order to explain to all and every one the world historical significance of the struggle for the emancipation of the proletariat.❖

Karl Mannheim ( 1893-1947), like Georg Lukács, was a Hungarian social philosopher who had benefited from contact with Weber and Simmel in Germany. Mannheim would become a younger member of Lukács's circle in Budapest. In 1917, he delivered a lecture to this group, the title of which suggests his broad intellectual perspective--"Soul and Culture". In 1925, Mannheim returned to a professorship in Heidelberg. Later, he taught at Frankfurt in the days of the Institute for Social Research. In 1933, Mannheim fled to England, where he led a productive, if more English, intellectual life until his death shortly after the end of World War II. The selection "The Sociology of Knowledge and Ideology" comprises portions of Mannheim's most famous book, Ideology and Utopia, which was first published in Germany in 1929. The opening part of the selection ( "The Sociology of Knowledge") is, however, from Mannheim's English period, during which he was drawn more toward sociology as a discipline; the latter part of the selection focuses on the theory of "ideology," stemming from Mannheim's earlier days as a general social theorist. Mannheim Ideology and Utopia is considered a classic text, equally for the sociology of knowledge and for the theory of ideology as a distortion of knowledge by social and political interests.


The Sociology of Knowledge and Ideology

Karl Mannheim( 1936, 1929)


The Sociology of Knowledge

Philosophers have too long concerned themselves with their own thinking. When they wrote of thought, they had in mind primarily their own history, the history of philosophy, or quite special fields of knowledge such as mathematics or physics. This type of thinking is applicable only under quite special circumstances, and what can be learned by analysing it is not directly transferable to other spheres of life. Even when it is ap

____________________
Excerpt from Louis Wirth and Edward Shils, trans., Ideology and Utopia: An Introduction to the Sociology of Knowledge ( New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers, 1936 [ 1929]), pp. 1-3, 55-59. Reprinted by permission of Harcourt Brace and Co.

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