Academic journal article Italian Sociological Review

Open Weltanschauung to Build a Democratic Behavior: The Actuality of Mannheim's Thought

Academic journal article Italian Sociological Review

Open Weltanschauung to Build a Democratic Behavior: The Actuality of Mannheim's Thought

Article excerpt


We often talk about individualized society and the crisis of democracy, which lead to populist drifts. With this paper, according to Karl Mannheim's concepts, I would like to point out that both issues can be influenced by a cultural process. In particular, it will be clarified that the change of Weltanschauung leads both to a crisis of society and to the development of possible solutions such as democratic behavior or authoritarian behavior. Indeed, Weltanschauung influences cultural patterns as well as individual behavior and social processes including democratization1.

First of all, in the essay it is noted that a Weltanschauung - a prerequisite to shaping a worldview - is always open: we can infer it both when Mannheim outlines the partial nature of the knowledge which is implementable, and when he describes the concept of relationism with which he seeks a relationship between individual points of view and the search for a shared truth (Mannheim, 2000). It is this condition of openness which allows the flow of cultural processes, and hence the prevailing of different behaviors: democratic or subservient, for instance. Later on, the paper describes the process of democratization of society with a presentation of Mannheim's 'constellation' that revolves around equality, individual autonomy and characteristics of leadership (Santambrogio, 1998). Finally, the concept of democratic behavior will be introduced in order to draw the attention to its function of promotion of participation in the model of democratic society: its characteristics will be analyzed and, after a description of the peculiarities of social disintegration (Mannheim, 1950) in the past and present society, its validity as a tool will be highlighted to promote the idea of homo civicus.

The open Weltanschauung, a precondition for the shaping of worldviews and for a democratic behavior

According to Mannheim, a democratic society is formed in a specific cultural context, based on the Weltanschauung of the time, which provides a basis of meaning for the development of individual and collective knowledge. Weltanschauung could be conceived as a primordial soup, from which both the specific theoretical views (such as science) and the a-theoretical views (such as art and religion) are shaped; it provides an existential guideline to the thinking activity, by intertwining knowledge and interpretation of experience; it gives practical meaning to people's lives; it gives them existential directions - of which they could be more or less aware - which can be found in the social and historical environment they live in; it becomes a starting point and a fil rouge. According to Loredana Sciolla (2000: VIII) "we are acknowledging the fact that the individual often inherits a situation in which there are already thinking patterns that they have retrieved and further processed"2.

The Weltanschauung is the background and a precondition for the shaping of ideologies and utopias, which implies a choice of direction in a vision of the society in which individuals live. As noted by Tamas Demeter (2012: 50): "Ideology can thus be understood as a rationalized formulation of some pre-theoretical and non-conceptual worldview "3. The essay on generations offers an example of what is meant here: generational bond - which indicates everything that the same generation expresses, feels, understands and knows on the basis of its 'generational location'- is placed at a Weltanschauung level, while the 'generational units' opt for different choices of field, therefore placing themselves at ideology and utopia levels4.

Weltanschauung is located in the pre-scientific and pre-cultural realm, if with culture we mean processing experiences, values or theories within a socio-historical structure. To Mannheim, it is the spirit of the time and it penetrates the depth of individual and collective consciousness, but it is not understandable with logical or philosophical thinking and not even religions and the arts can express it completely, whereas they are all inspired by it. …

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