Karl Mannheim

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Mannheim, Karl


Born Mar. 27, 1893, in Budapest; died Jan. 9, 1947, in London. German sociologist.

Mannheim became a professor at the University of Frankfurt in 1930. In 1933 he emigrated to Great Britain, where he became an assistant professor (1933) and later, a professor (1945) at the London School of Economics.

Mannheim strove to create a systematic concept that would explain the nature of social knowledge and the specific character of the reflection of social reality. From Marx he borrowed the idea that social consciousness is a product of social being, as well as the ideology of economic relations. However, he gave Marx’ ideas a distorted, idealist interpretation. Mannheim asserted that the views of different social groups are dictated only by their economic self-interest and other egoistic considerations. Rejecting all objective criteria of truth in the knowledge of social phenomena, he arrived at a position of historical relativism. He called his point of view “relationism” and described the history of social thought as a clash of class-subjective world views, each of which is a “particular ideology,”—that is, an inevitably distorted reflection of social reality. Taken together, particular ideologies form a “total ideology.” According to Mannheim, all ideologies are apologies for the existing structure and are, necessarily, expressions of the views of the class that has a material interest in the preservation of the status quo. Opposed to the prevailing ideology is an equally nonobjective, impassioned Utopia—that is, the views of the opposition, the dispossessed strata of the population. Should the latter come to power, their Utopia automatically becomes an ideology. In the final analysis, Mannheim replaces genuine class consciousness with the particular interests of such groups as occupational strata and generations, among whom he singles out the creative intelligentsia, which supposedly stands beyond classes and is alone capable of understanding society impartially. (At least, it alone has the potential for such an understanding.)

Mannheim placed his hopes on the intelligentsia for the preservation of bourgeois democracy in “mass society,” with its social demagogy and potential for becoming a totalitarian, fascist dictatorship. He considered social stratification and the existence of a “democratic elite” inevitable. In this regard, he focused on the problem of preparing men by upbringing and education to play their foreordained social roles, as well as on the problem of integrating them into the bourgeois democratic system of managing society. Because he believed that economic liberalism had outlived its usefulness, he called for greater involvement of the bourgeois state in the economy and in other aspects of public life. His views greatly influenced bourgeois sociology. In particular, they have provided grounds for the idea that the social sciences can be “deideologized.”


Ideologic und Utopie. London, 1929.
Diagnosis of Our Time: Wartime Essays of a Sociologist London, 1943.
Essays on Sociology and Social Psychology. London, 1953.
Essays on the Sociology of Knowledge. New York, 1952.
Freedom, Power and Democratic Planning. New York, 1950.
Essays on the Sociology of Culture. London, 1956.
Systematic Sociology. London, 1959.
Man and Society in an Age of Reconstruction. New York, 1967.


Shaff, A. “‘Sotsiologiia znaniia’ Mangeima i problema ob”ektivnoi istiny.” Voprosy filosofii, 1956, no. 4.
Grigor’ian, R. G. “Kritika ‘sotsiologii znaniia’ Karla Mangeima.” In Problemy poznaniia sotsial’nykh iavlenii. Moscow, 1968.
Moskvichev, L. N. Teoriia “deideologizatsii” illiuzii i deistvitel’nost’ Moscow, 1971.
Mills, C. W. Power, Politics and People: The Collected Essays. New York, 1963.
Merton, R. K. Social Theory and Social Structure. New York, 1968.
Friedrichs, R. W. A Sociology of Sociology. New York, 1970.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
K. Mannheim, Essays on Cultural Sociology, London, Routledge.