Diagnosis of Our Time: Wartime Essays of a Sociologist

By Karl Mannheim | Go to book overview

V MASS EDUCATION AND GROUP ANALYSIS

I. THE SOCIOLOGICAL APPROACH TO EDUCATION

The recent crisis of Democracy and Liberalism should bring home to those countries which still enjoy freedom some of the deficiencies of their system in the changed conditions of the world. Democracy and freedom can only be saved if we study the gradual transformation of the totalitarian states, not for the sake of imitating their methods but to find out the causes of those structural changes which made dictatorship one of the possible responses to the situation of the modern world. We can only expect to find solutions which accord with our democratic and liberal ideals, if we know why those democratic societies which failed to cope with the new situation were driven to accept the dictatorial system. Although the causes leading to their collapse were very complex and the defects of the modern economic and political order were primarily to blame, no one can deny that the lack of mental resistance played a very large part in this break-down. Not only was the educational system in those countries still unfitted for mass education, but the psychological processes at work outside the school were left without any real social control, and so, of necessity, led to chaos and disintegration.

The great democracies of the West, which because of their greater economic security have not yet passed through an immediate crisis, should not let themselves be deceived by this momentary calm. The very same forces which are transforming the whole structure of society all over the world are at work in them, and we have to ask whether in fact they are better off as regards their educational system. The democratic Governments cannot pride themselves on discovering satisfactory forms of social control to replace a vanishing community culture, or new psychological techniques for dealing with the needs of mass society. A general psychological break-down can only be prevented if we are quick enough to realize the nature of the new situation,

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