Essays on the Sociology of Knowledge

Essays on the Sociology of Knowledge

Essays on the Sociology of Knowledge

Essays on the Sociology of Knowledge

Excerpt

The present volume contains six essays written by Karl Mannheim during the early part of his academic career in Germany. These papers have not been available in English thus far; they have remained scattered in various German publications. Their publication in the present collection of Mannheim's writings serves the purpose of illuminating the genesis and formation of one of his most important contributions to sociology, the 'Sociology of Knowledge'.

For reasons of space, two essays of the same period, dealing with the same kind of topic, will be included in a second volume of essays, otherwise devoted to writings published after Mannheim's emigration from Germany in 1933.

I have attempted to give a brief survey of the intellectual and political background of these writings, and of the stages through which Mannheim's ideas concerning the sociology of knowledge developed.

Mannheim's sociology of knowledge was often misunderstood as a variant of scepticism and illusionism. I shall try to show that his purpose was not to demonstrate the inescapability of relativism and scepticism, but rather the thesis that in spite of the inescapability of certain relativist conclusions, genuine knowledge of historical and social phenomena was possible. According to him, participation in the social process, which renders one's perspective partial and biased, also enables one to discover truth of deep human import. In Mannheim's approach, the productivity of social participation as a source of knowledge plays a more important role than the limitations which participation in the social process puts upon knowledge. The reader will see, once the author's intention has become clear, the universal and vital import of the subject treated and of the author's approach.

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