Karl Mannheim Essays On The Sociology Of Knowledge 1952 Presidential Election

The sociology of knowledge is the study of the relationship between human thought and the social context within which it arises, and of the effects prevailing ideas have on societies. It is not a specialized area of sociology but instead deals with broad fundamental questions about the extent and limits of social influences on individuals' lives and the social-cultural basics of our knowledge about the world.[1] Complementary to the sociology of knowledge is the sociology of ignorance,[2] including the study of nescience, ignorance, knowledge gaps, or non-knowledge as inherent features of knowledge making.[3][4][5]

The sociology of knowledge was pioneered primarily by the sociologist Émile Durkheim at beginning of the 20th century. His work deals directly with how conceptual thought, language, and logic could be influenced by the sociological milieu out of which they arise. In an early work co-written with Marcel Mauss, Primitive Classification, Durkheim and Mauss take a study of "primitive" group mythology to argue that systems of classification are collectively based and that the divisions with these systems are derived from social categories.[6] Later, Durkheim in The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life would elaborate his theory of knowledge, examining how language and the concepts and categories (such as space and time) used in logical thought have a sociological origin. While neither Durkheim, nor Mauss, specifically coined nor used the term 'sociology of knowledge', their work is an important first contribution to the field.

The specific term 'sociology of knowledge' is said to have been in widespread use since the 1920s, when a number of German-speaking sociologists, most notably Max Scheler and Karl Mannheim, wrote extensively on sociological aspects of knowledge.[7] With the dominance of functionalism through the middle years of the 20th century, the sociology of knowledge tended to remain on the periphery of mainstream sociological thought. It was largely reinvented and applied much more closely to everyday life in the 1960s, particularly by Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann in The Social Construction of Reality (1966) and is still central for methods dealing with qualitative understanding of human society (compare socially constructed reality). The 'genealogical' and 'archaeological' studies of Michel Foucault are of considerable contemporary influence.


The Enlightenment[edit]

The Enlightenment movement ought not to be underestimated in its influence upon the social sciences. When these philosophers worked towards a scientific analysis of society, they were engaged in a sociology of ideas and values, albeit their own commitment was to critical rationalism. The Enlightenment strove for progress, change, secularism, but above all, to freedom, the freedom for individuals to decide their own fate. There was a commitment to practical science with humankind at the centre (as opposed to God or gods) and this is the real source of social science. This new science was not interested in revealed knowledge or a priori knowledge but in the workings of humanity: human practices, and social variety and regularities. Western thought, therefore, received a significant movement towards cultural relativism, where cross-cultural comparison became the dominant methodology. Importantly, social science was created by philosophers who sought to turn ideas into actions and to unite theory and practice in an attempt to restructure society as a whole.

Earlier viewpoints[edit]

Sociology of knowledge requires a certain viewpoint which was first expounded by Giambattista Vico in his New Science, written in the early 18th Century, a great deal before the first sociologists study the relationship between knowledge and society. In this book, a justification for a new historical and sociological methodology, the main point is that the natural world and the social world are known in different ways. The former is known through external or empirical methods, whilst the latter can be known internally as well as externally. In other words, human history is a construct. This creates a key epistemological distinction between the natural world and the social world which is a central concept in the social sciences. Primarily focused on historical methodology, Vico asserts that in order to study a society's history it is necessary to move beyond a chronicle of events by examining the cultural elements of the society, what was termed the "civil world". This "civil world", made up of actions, thoughts, ideas, myths, norms, religious beliefs, and institutions, is the product of the human mind. Since these elements are socially constructed, they can be better understood than the physical world, understood as it is in abstraction. Vico highlights that human nature and its products are not fixed entities and therefore necessitate a historical perspective which emphasizes the changes and developments implicit in individuals and societies. He also emphasizes the dialectical relationship between society and culture as key in this new historical perspective.

Vico's ideas, whilst permeated by his own penchant for etymology, and a theory of cyclical history (corsi e ricorsi), are significant nonetheless for the underlying premise that our understanding and knowledge of social structure is dependent upon the ideas and concepts we employ and the language used. Vico, mostly unknown in his own time, was the first to establish the foundations of a sociology of knowledge even if his concepts were not necessarily picked up by later writers. There is some evidence that Montesquieu and Karl Marx had read Vico's work.[8] However the similarities in their works are superficial, limited mainly to the overall conception of their projects, characterised by cultural relativisim and historicism.


Émile Durkheim[edit]

Main article: Émile Durkheim

Émile Durkheim (1858–1917) is credited as having been the first professor to successfully establish the field of sociology, institutionalizing a department of sociology at the Université de Bordeaux in the 1890s.[9] While his works deal with a number of subjects, including suicide, the family, social structures, and social institutions, a large part of his work deals with the sociology of knowledge.

While publishing short articles on the subject earlier in his career (for example the essay De quelques formes primitives de classification written in 1902 with Marcel Mauss), Durkheim's definitive statement concerning the sociology of knowledge comes in his 1912 magnum opus The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. This book has as its goal not only the elucidation of the social origins and function of religion, but also the social origins and impact of society on language and logical thought. Durkheim worked largely out of a Kantian framework and sought to understand how the concepts and categories of logical thought could arise out of social life. He argued, for example, that the categories of space and time were not a priori. Rather, the category of space depends on a society's social grouping and geographical use of space, and a group's social rhythm that determines our understanding of time.[10] In this Durkheim sought to combine elements of rationalism and empiricism, arguing that certain aspects of logical thought common to all humans did exist, but that they were products of collective life (thus contradicting the tabula rasa empiricist understanding whereby categories are acquired by individual experience alone), and that they were not universal a priori truths (as Kant argued) since the content of the categories differed from society to society.[11]

Another key elements to Durkheim's theory of knowledge is his concept of représentations collectives (collective representations), which is outlined in The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life. Représentations collectives are the symbols and images that come to represent the ideas, beliefs, and values elaborated by a collectivity and are not reducible to individual constituents. They can include words, slogans, ideas, or any number of material items that can serve as a symbol, such as a cross, a rock, a temple, a feather etc. As Durkheim elaborates, représentations collectives are created through intense social interaction and are products of collective activity. As such these representations have the particular, and somewhat contradictory, aspect that they exist externally to the individual (since they are created and controlled not by the individual but by society as a whole), and yet simultaneously within each individual of the society (by virtue of that individual's participation within society).[12]

Arguably the most important "représentation collective" is language, which according to Durkheim is a product of collective action. And because language is a collective action, language contains within it a history of accumulated knowledge and experience that no individual would be capable of creating on their own. As Durkheim says, 'représentations collectives', and language in particular:

"add to that which we can learn by our own personal experience all that wisdom and science which the group has accumulated in the course of centuries. Thinking by concepts, is not merely seeing reality on its most general side, but it is projecting a light upon the sensation which illuminates it, penetrates it and transforms it."[13]

As such, language, as a social product, literally structures and shapes our experience of reality, an idea developed by later French philosophers, such as Michel Foucault.

Karl Mannheim[edit]

Main article: Karl Mannheim

The German political philosophers Karl Marx (1818–1883) and Friedrich Engels (1820–1895) argued in Die deutsche Ideologie (1846, German Ideology) and elsewhere that people's ideologies, including their social and political beliefs and opinions, are rooted in their class interests, and more broadly in the social and economic circumstances in which they live:

"It is men, who in developing their material inter-course, change, along with this their real existence, their thinking and the products of their thinking. Being is not determined by consciousness, but consciousness by being" (Marx-Engels Gesamtausgabe 1/5).

Under the influence of this doctrine, and of Phenomenology, the Hungarian-born German sociologist Karl Mannheim (1893–1947) gave impetus to the growth of the sociology of knowledge with his Ideologie und Utopie (1929, translated and extended in 1936 as Ideology and Utopia), although the term had been introduced five years earlier by the co-founder of the movement, the German philosopher, phenomenologist and social theorist Max Scheler (1874–1928), in Versuche zu einer Soziologie des Wissens (1924, Attempts at a Sociology of Knowledge).

Mannheim feared that this interpretation could be seen to claim that all knowledge and beliefs are the products of socio-political forces since this form of relativism is self-defeating (if it is true, then it too is merely a product of socio-political forces and has no claim to truth and no persuasive force). Mannheim believed that relativism was a strange mixture of modern and ancient beliefs in that it contained within itself a belief in an absolute truth which was true for all times and places (the ancient view most often associated with Plato) and condemned other truth claims because they could not achieve this level of objectivity (an idea gleaned from Marx). Mannheim sought to escape this problem with the idea of 'relationism'. This is the idea that certain things are true only in certain times and places (a view influenced by pragmatism) however, this does not make them less true. Mannheim felt that a stratum of free-floating intellectuals (who he claimed were only loosely anchored to the class structure of society) could most perfectly realize this form of truth by creating a "dynamic synthesis" of the ideologies of other groups.

Phenomenological sociology[edit]

Phenomenological sociology is the study of the formal structures of concrete social existence as made available in and through the analytical description of acts of intentional consciousness. The "object" of such an analysis is the meaningful lived world of everyday life: the "Lebenswelt", or life-world (Husserl:1889). The task, like that of every other phenomenological investigation, is to describe the formal structures of this object of investigation in subjective terms, as an object-constituted-in-and-for-consciousness (Gurwitsch:1964). That which makes such a description different from the "naive" subjective descriptions of the man in the street, or those of the traditional, positivist social scientist, is the utilization of phenomenological methods.

The leading proponent of phenomenological sociology was Alfred Schütz (1899–1959). Schütz sought to provide a critical philosophical foundation for Max Weber's interpretive sociology through the use of phenomenological methods derived from the transcendental phenomenological investigations of Edmund Husserl (1859–1938). Husserl's work was directed at establishing the formal structures of intentional consciousness. Schütz's work was directed at establishing the formal structures of the Life-world (Schütz:1980). Husserl's work was conducted as a transcendental phenomenology of consciousness. Schütz's work was conducted as a mundane phenomenology of the Life-world (Natanson:1974). The difference in their research projects lies at the level of analysis, the objects taken as topics of study, and the type of phenomenological reduction that is employed for the purposes of analysis.

Ultimately, the two projects should be seen as complementary, with the structures of the latter dependent on the structures of the former. That is, valid phenomenological descriptions of the formal structures of the Life-world should be wholly consistent with the descriptions of the formal structures of intentional consciousness. It is from the latter that the former derives its validity and truth value (Sokolowski:2000).

The phenomenological tie-in with the sociology of knowledge stems from two key historical sources for Mannheim's analysis: [1] Mannheim was dependent on insights derived from Husserl's phenomenological investigations, especially the theory of meaning as found in Husserl's Logical Investigations of 1900/1901 (Husserl:2000), in the formulation of his central methodological work: "On The Interpretation of Weltanschauung" (Mannheim:1993:see fn41 & fn43) – this essay forms the centerpiece for Mannheim's method of historical understanding and is central to his conception of the sociology of knowledge as a research program; and [2] The concept of "Weltanschauung" employed by Mannheim has its origins in the hermeneutic philosophy of Wilhelm Dilthey, who relied on Husserl's theory of meaning (above) for his methodological specification of the interpretive act (Mannheim: 1993: see fn38).

It is also noteworthy that Husserl's analysis of the formal structures of consciousness, and Schütz's analysis of the formal structures of the Life-world are specifically intended to establish the foundations, in consciousness, for the understanding and interpretation of a social world which is subject to cultural and historical change. The phenomenological position is that although the facticity of the social world may be culturally and historically relative, the formal structures of consciousness, and the processes by which we come to know and understand this facticity, are not. That is, the understanding of any actual social world is unavoidably dependent on understanding the structures and processes of consciousness that found, and constitute, any possible social world.

Alternatively, if the facticity of the social world and the structures of consciousness prove to be culturally and historically relative, then we are at an impasse in regard to any meaningful scientific understanding of the social world which is not subjective (as opposed to being objective and grounded in nature [positivism], or inter subjective and grounded in the structures of consciousness [phenomenology]), and relative to the cultural and idealization formations of particular concrete individuals living in a particular socio-historical group.

Michel Foucault[edit]

Main article: Michel Foucault

A particularly important contemporary contribution to the sociology of knowledge is found in the work of Michel Foucault. Madness and Civilization (1961) postulated that conceptions of madness and what was considered "reason" or "knowledge" was itself subject to major culture bias – in this respect mirroring similar criticisms by Thomas Szasz, at the time the foremost critic of psychiatry, and himself now an eminent psychiatrist. A point where Foucault and Szasz agreed was that sociological processes played the major role in defining "madness" as an "illness" and prescribing "cures". In The Birth of the Clinic: An Archeology of Medical Perception (1963), Foucault extended his critique to institutional clinical medicine, arguing for the central conceptual metaphor of "The Gaze", which had implications for medical education, prison design, and the carceral state as understood today. Concepts of criminal justice and its intersection with medicine were better developed in this work than in Szasz and others, who confined their critique to current psychiatric practice. The Order of Things (1966) and The Archeology of Knowledge (1969) introduced abstract notions of mathesis and taxonomia to explain the subjective 'ordering' of the human sciences. These, he claimed, had transformed 17th and 18th century studies of "general grammar" into modern "linguistics", "natural history" into modern "biology", and "analysis of wealth" into modern "economics"; though not, claimed Foucault, without loss of meaning. According to Foucault, the 19th century transformed what knowledge was.[citation needed]

Perhaps Foucault's best-known claim[according to whom?] was that "Man did not exist" before the 18th century. Foucault regarded notions of humanity and of humanism as inventions of modernity. Accordingly, a cognitive bias had been introduced unwittingly into science, by over-trusting the individual doctor or scientist's ability to see and state things objectively. Foucault roots this argument in the rediscovery of Kant, though his thought is significantly influenced by Nietzsche – that philosopher declaring the "death of God" in the 19th century, and the anti-humanists proposing the "death of Man" in the 20th.

In Discipline and Punish: the Birth of the Prison, Foucault concentrates on the correlation between knowledge and power. According to him, knowledge is a form of power and can conversely be used against individuals as a form of power.[14] As a result, knowledge is socially constructed.[15] He argues that knowledge forms discourses and discourses form the dominant ideological ways of thinking which govern our lives.[16] For him, social control is maintained in 'the disciplinary society', through codes of control over sexuality and the ideas/knowledge perpetuated through social institutions.[17] In other words, discourses and ideologies subject us to authority and turn people into 'subjected beings', who are in turn afraid of being punished if they sway from social norms.[17] Foucault believes that institutions overtly regulate and control our lives. Institutions such as schools reinforce the dominant ideological forms of thinking onto the populace and force us into becoming obedient and docile beings.[17] Hence, the dominant ideology that serves the interests of the ruling class, all the while appearing as 'neutral', needs to be questioned and must not go unchallenged.[16]

Knowledge ecology[edit]

Main article: Knowledge ecology

Knowledge ecology is a concept originating from knowledge management and that aimed at "bridging the gap between the static data repositories of knowledge management and the dynamic, adaptive behavior of natural systems",[18] and in particular relying on the concept of interaction and emergence. Knowledge ecology, and its related concept information ecology has been elaborated by different academics and practitioners such as Thomas H. Davenport,[19]Bonnie Nardi,[20] or Swidler.

New Sociology of Knowledge[edit]

The New Sociology of Knowledge (a postmodern approach considering knowledge as culture by drawing upon Marxist, French structuralist, and American pragmatist traditions)[21] introduces new concepts that dictate how knowledge is socialized in the modern era by new kinds of social organizations and structures.[22][23]

Robert K. Merton[edit]

Main article: Robert K. Merton

American sociologist Robert K. Merton (1910–2003) dedicates a section of Social Theory and Social Structure (1949; revised and expanded, 1957 and 1968) to the study of the sociology of knowledge in Part III, titled The Sociology of Knowledge and Mass Communications.[24]

Legitimation Code Theory[edit]

Legitimation Code Theory (LCT) emerged as a framework for the study of knowledge and education and is now being used to analyse a growing range of social and cultural practices across increasingly different institutional and national contexts, both within and beyond education.[25] It is an approach that builds primary on the work of Basil Bernstein and Pierre Bourdieu. It also integrates insights from sociology (including Durkheim, Marx, Weber and Foucault), systemic functional linguistics, philosophy (such as Karl Popper and critical realism), early cultural studies, anthropology (especially Mary Douglas and Ernest Gellner), and other approaches.[26][27]

See also[edit]

Sociologists of knowledge[edit]



  1. ^"Sociology 3523: Sociology of Knowledge". St. Thomas University. 
  2. ^The Sociology of Ignorance
  3. ^Beck, Ulrich; Wehling, Peter (2012). Rubio, F.D.; Baert, P., eds. The politics of non-knowing: An emerging area of social and political conflict in reflexive modernity. New York: Routledge. pp. 33–57. ISBN 0415497108. 
  4. ^Gross, Matthias (2010). Ignorance and Surprise: Science, Society, and Ecological Design. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. ISBN 9780262013482. 
  5. ^Moore, Wilbert; Tumin, Melvin (1949). "Some social functions of ignorance". American Sociological Review. 14 (6): 787–796. doi:10.2307/2086681. JSTOR 2086681. 
  6. ^Durkheim, Emile, and Marcel Mauss. (1963). Primitive classification. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  7. ^Max Scheler (ed.). Versuche zu einer Soziologie des Wissens. München und Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot, 1924. Karl Mannheim. Ideology and utopia: an introduction to the sociology of knowledge. Translated by Louis Wirth and Edward Shils. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company; London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., 1936.
  8. ^Marx, Karl. Capital, Book 1 part IV. pp. Chapter 13, note 89 (footnote mentions Vico). 
  9. ^Calhoun, Craig, Joseph Gerteis, James Moody, Steven Pfaff, Kathryn Schmidt, and Intermohan Virk. (2002). Classical sociological theory. Malden, Mass: Blackwell
  10. ^Durkheim, 'Conclusion,' Les formes élémentaires de la vie religieuse, Presses Universitaires de France, 5e édition, 2003 p. 628
  11. ^Durkheim, 'Introduction,' Les Formes, p. 14-17, and p. 19-22.
  12. ^Durkheim, Emile. (1964). The elementary forms of the religious life. London: Allen & Unwin.
  13. ^Emile Durkheim, Conclusion, Section III, "Elementary Forms of Religious Life" trans. Joseph Ward Swain, p. 435 (accessed: https://web.archive.org/web/20130312023652/http://www.gutenberg.org/files/41360/41360-h/41360-h.htm#Page_427)
  14. ^Foucault, Michel (1975). Discipline and Punish. New York: Random House. p. 27. 
  15. ^Foucault, Michel (1975). Discipline and Punish. New York: Random House. p. 28. 
  16. ^ abFoucault, Michel (1975). Discipline and Punish. New York: Random House. p. 187. 
  17. ^ abcFoucault, Michel (1975). Discipline and Punish. New York: Random House. p. 138. 
  18. ^Pór, G. (2000). "Nurturing Systemic Wisdom through Knowledge Ecology". The Systems Thinker. 11 (8): 1–5. 
  19. ^Davenport, Thomas H.; Prusak, Laurence (1997). Information Ecology. Oxford University Press. p. 288. ISBN 0-19-511168-0. 
  20. ^Nardi, Bonnie; O’Day, V. (1999). Information Ecology: Using Technology with Heart. Cambridge: MIT Press. p. 288. 
  21. ^Doyle McCarthy, Knowledge as Culture: The New Sociology of Knowledge, Routledge, published October 23, 1996, ISBN 978-0415064972
  22. ^Swidler, A., Arditi, J. 1994. The New Sociology of Knowledge. Annual Review of Sociology , 20, pp. 205-329
  23. ^McCarthy, E. Doyle. 1996. Knowledge as Culture: The New Sociology of Knowledge . New York: Routledge.
  24. ^Merton, Robert K. (1957). Social Theory and Social Structure. Glencoe, IL: Free Press. 
  25. ^Legitimation Code Theory, bibliography
  26. ^Maton, K. (2014), Knowledge and Knowers: Towards a realist sociology of education, London, Routledge.
  27. ^Maton, K., Hood, S. & Shay, S. (eds) (2016) Knowledge-building: Educational studies in Legitimation Code Theory. London, Routledge.

Further reading[edit]

  • Michael D. Barber, The Participating Citizen: A Biography of Alfred Schutz, SUNY UP. 2004. The standard biography of Alfred Schutz.
  • Berger, Peter and Thomas Luckmann. The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge. New York: Doubleday, 1966.
  • Foucault, Michel (1994). The Birth of the Clinic: An Archeology of Medical Perception. Vintage. 
  • Aron Gurwitsch, The Field of Consciousness, Duquesne UP, 1964. The most direct and detailed presentation of the phenomenological theory of perception available in the English language.
  • Peter Hamilton, Knowledge and Social Structure: an introduction to the classical argument in the sociology of knowledge. 1974. Routledge and Kegan Paul. London and Boston. A fantastic source that covers the origins of social science (Vico and Montesquieu), through Hegel and Marx to the main schools of thought in this area: Durkheim, Mannheim, phenomenological-sociological approaches.
  • Edmund Husserl, The Crisis of the European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology(1954), Northwestern UP. 1970. The classic introduction to phenomenology by the father of transcendental phenomenology.
  • Edmund Husserl, Logical Investigations [1900/1901], Humanities Press, 2000.
  • Karl Mannheim, "On the Interpretation of Weltanschauung", in, From Karl Mannheim, Kurt Heinrich Wolff (ed.) Transaction Press, 1993. An important collection of essays including this key text.
  • Maurice Natanson, Edmund Husserl: Philosopher of Infinite Tasks, Northwestern UP. 1974. Quality commentary on Husserlian phenomenology and its relation to the phenomenology of Alfred Schutz.
  • Alfred Schutz, Collected Papers V.I, Kluwer Academic. 1982. Classic essays in phenomenological theory as applied to the social sciences.
  • Kurt Heinrich Wolff, Versuch zu einer Wissenssoziologie, Berlin, 1968
  • Alfred Schutz, The Phenomenology of the Social World, Northwestern UP. 1967. Schutz's initial attempt to bridge the gap between phenomenology and Weberian sociology.
  • Alfred Schutz, The Structures of the Life-World, Northwestern UP. 1980. Schutz's final programmatic statement of a phenomenology of the Life-world.
  • Robert Sokolowski, Introduction to Phenomenology, Cambridge UP. 2000. The most accessible of the quality introductions to phenomenology currently available.
  • Vico, Giambattista. "The New Science of Giambattista Vico", (1744). The first exposition of key ideas that are fundamental to the social sciences and sociology of knowledge.

External links[edit]


The Sociology of Karl Mannheim

K.Mannheim (1935) Ideology and Utopia: an Introduction to the Sociology of Knowledge. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul (new edition 1991). K.Mannheim (1940) Man and Society in an Age of Reconstruction. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner. K.Mannheim (1943) Diagnosis of our Time: Wartime Essays of a Sociologist. Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner. K.Mannheim (1951) Freedom, Power and Democratic Planning. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. K.Mannheim (1952) Essays on the Sociology of Knowledge. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. K.Mannheim (1953) Essays on Sociology and Social Psychology. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. K.Mannheim (1956) Essays on the Sociology of Culture. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul (new edition 1992). K.Mannheim (1957) Systematic Sociology. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. K.Mannheim and W.A.C.Stewart (1962) An Introduction to the Sociology of Education. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. K.Mannheim (1982) Structures of Thinking. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. K.Mannheim (1986) Conservatism: A Contribution to the Sociology of Knowledge. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.


Karl Mannheim

First published 1956 by Routledge & Kegan Paul Simultaneously published in the USA and Canada by Routledge 29 West 35th Street, New York, NY 10001 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group This edition published in the Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2003. © 1956 Karl Mannheim All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilized in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Publisher’s Note These reprints are taken from original copies of each book. In many cases the condition of these originals is not perfect, the paper, often handmade, having suffered over time, and the copy from such factors as inconsistent printing pressure resulting in faint text, show-through from one side of a leaf to the other, the filling in of some characters, and the breakup of type. The publisher has gone to great lengths to ensure the quality of these reprints, but wishes to point out that certain characteristics of the original copies will, of necessity, be apparent in reprints thereof. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book has been requested ISBN 0-203-20559-6 Master e-book ISBN

ISBN 0-203-20562-6 (Adobe eReader Format) ISBN 0-415-07553-X (Print Edition)



1 PA R T O N E

TOWARDS THE SOCIOLOGY OF THE MIND; AN INTRODUCTION I. First Approach to the Subject 1 Hegel Reconsidered. From the Phenomenology to the Sociology of the Mind 2 The Science of Society and the Sociology of the Mind. Difficulties of a Synthesis 3 Tentative Nature of the Inquiry. Its Initial Objective: A Critique of the False Concepts of Society and Mind

II. The False and the Proper Concepts of History and Society 1 The Theory of an Immanent History of Thought, and Why it Emerged Digression on Art History 2 False Polarization of the Attributes ‘Material’ and ‘Ideal’ 3 The False Concepts of History, Dialectics, and Mediacy 4 The Mediate Character of Roles. The Social Circulation of Perceptions and Complementary Situations 5 Towards an Adequate Concept of Society 6 A Preliminary Outline of the Steps towards the Sociology of the Mind 7 The Three Types of Sociology and the Corresponding Levels of the Sociology of the Mind. Structure and Causality v

15 15 17 23


25 32 33 36 44 51 53



III. The Proper and Improper Concept of the Mind 1 A Second Review of its Hegelian Version 2 The Genesis of the Mind Concept 3 The Subjective and Objective Manifestations of the Mind. The Social Genesis of Meaning 4 The Suprapersonal Character of Meaning 5 Critique of the Entelechy as a Conceptual Model 6 The Explanatory and the Expository Procedure. The Structure of Events 7 The Question whether the World Has Structure 8 The Causal Account and the Expository Explanation Re-examined 9 The Structural and the Random Concept of Causation. The Problem of Multiple Causation 10 Historiography and the Structural View 11 The Matrix of Works and of Action 12 The Discovery of the Structural Relationship Between Action and Works

IV. An Outline of the Sociology of the Mind 1 The Sociology of the Mind on the Axiomatic Level. The Ontology of the Social and its Bearing on the Historical Character of Thought 2 The Sociology of the Mind on the Level of Comparative Typology 3 The Sociology of the Mind on the Level of Historical Individuation V.

Recapitulation: the Sociology of the Mind as an Area of Inquiry

59 59 60 64 68 69 71 74 75 77 79 80 81


83 86 87


PA R T T W O THE PROBLEM OF THE INTELLIGENTSIA. AN INQUIRY INTO ITS PAST AND PRESENT ROLE 1 The Self-Discovery of Social Groups 2 Outlines of a Sociological Theory of the Intelligentsia vi

91 101

CONTENTS 3 4 5 6

How Social Groups are Identified Types of Intelligentsia The Contemporary Intellectual The Historical Roles of the Intelligentsia (a) The Social Background of Intellectuals (b) The Affiliations of Intellectuals and Artists (c) The Intelligentsia and the Classes (d) The Social Habitat of Intellectuals 7 The Natural History of the Intellectual 8 The Contemporary Situation of the Intelligentsia

106 111 115 121

159 166

PA R T T H R E E THE DEMOCRATIZATION OF CULTURE I. Some Problems of Political Democracy at the Stage of its Full Development


II. The Problem of Democratization as a General Cultural Phenomenon



The Three Fundamental Principles of Democracy 174 The Principle of the Ontological Equality of All Men 180 The Autonomy of the Social Units 188 Democratic Elites and their Mode of Selection 200 (a) Elite Selection and Democracy. (b) Group Structure and Relation to Other Groups. (c) The Self-Evaluation of Aristocratic and Democratic Elites. (d) Social Distance and the Democratization of Culture. (e) The Cultural Ideals of Aristocratic and Democratic Groups E The Problem of Ecstasy 239 INDEX





he three essays contained in this volume were written largely during the last years of Mannheim’s stay in Germany. They are, in a sense, a sequel to Ideology and Utopia, his principal study in the field of the sociology of knowledge, for the three essays, too, are concerned with the social derivation of meaning. The present volume, however, constitutes not only an extension and elaboration of the principal thesis of Ideology and Utopia, but also a new departure. I am inclined to regard Ideology and Utopia as an attempt to translate a disillusionment with the excessive claims of German idealism into a sociological theory of thought. Mannheim’s critique aimed at two aspects of German idealism: the overestimation of the role of ideas in human affairs and the consequent tendency to assume that concepts which emerge in various periods of history inherently evolve from one another in something like a logical continuum. Mannheim’s sociology of knowledge sought to outline a method for the study of ideas as functions of social involvements. Once the image of an autonomous evolution of ideas was abandoned it was feasible to explore the relationship between thought and its social milieu. It is easy to exaggerate the scope of this endeavour, and equally easy to oversimplify its aim. Some critics have felt, for example, that the sociology of knowledge lays claim to a canon of truth and assumes the authority of an umpire between partisans, an authority which sociologists engaged in other areas do not possess. Others have feared that the effort is designed to question the cognitive functions of socially conditioned thinking: for if the sociologist seeks to construe ideas as responses to



particular situations he assumes the role of a specialist in the business of deflating all claims to knowledge. Still other writers have found the intrusion of sociologists into the realm of ideation a disconcerting expression of indifference to basic values and truths. Students of the social sciences and the humanities in Englishspeaking countries have not generally shared this alarm over the implications of Ideology and Utopia. The drift of its argument is more germane to the trend of English and American historiography and literary criticism, a large part of which shows an intuitive sense for social realities. The spectre of relativism as a scientific tool—disclaimed by Mannheim but actually implied in his criticial treatment of varied subjects—holds little terror for generations brought up on Durkheim’s ‘collective representations’, functional anthropology, Sumner’s relativity of the mores, James’s and Dewey’s pragmatism, W.I.Thomas’s situational method, and Korzybski’s semantics. Quite the contrary, part of the dissent voiced in the United States has been directed at certain vestiges of intellectualism which the reader may be able to detect in some of Mannheim’s writings, including the present volume. What are the basic categories of the sociology of knowledge? Concepts represent interpretative responses to given situations. We are actually dealing with four variables: (1) the situation, such as a community, a nation, a revolution, or a class, which we attempt to interpret when we respond to it; (2) the individual who is peculiarly involved in the situation and accordingly forms his image of it. Such involvements may include occupational aims, political aspirations, kinship ties, economic rivalries and alliances, in short, a multitude of overlapping group attachments; (3) the imagery which individuals or groups adopt; (4) finally, the audience to which the image is conveyed, including its peculiar understandings, symbols to which it attaches meaning, and a vocabulary to which it responds. The four factors of ideation must be considered as interdependent variables. The same object is differently conceptualized in different situations. Persons involved in the same situation in different ways will offer different accounts of it and will tend to alter the situation accordingly. Finally, the 2


individual conceives a subject in accordance with the audience which he actually addresses or tacitly anticipates, and both the form and substance of a message vary with the audience with which the writer or speaker seeks to establish rapport. The sociologist must assume the interdependence of these four factors, for the treatment of any one as an independent variable introduces into the study of ideation an uncritical and unwarranted type of determinism, be it behaviouristic, idealistic, or evolutionary. To assume, for example, that a common economic position necessarily results in an identical conception of society is as unwarranted as the converse supposition that the established currency of certain ideas in itself prescribes the views which individuals or groups adopt of their situation. Nevertheless, an inquiry may confine itself to the relationship between only two or three of the four variables. This is what Mannheim does in the essay on the intelligentsia, in which he correlates certain types of ideation with the social habitat of their authors. His observations on the social origin of scepticism show how far one can get with the help of two variables only. In this work Mannheim deliberately avoids making extended use of the third variable, the historical situation, for reasons I shall indicate subsequently. One may assume that he was aware of the fourth factor, the audience, in the formation of concepts. His remarks on the democratic process and such phenomena as formalism and the operational criteria of truth, contained in the last essay, can be taken as an indication of such an awareness. Once the inquiry is so delimited the objective is to outline typical relationships between thought and social habitat. The particular involvement of an individual in his society opens to him a certain perspective, an area of social experience, which has its scope and its limitations. The scope of social experience is defined by the insights which the person may gain through his participation in the social process; while the limitations of his vista are set by the blockages which he imposes on himself when he assumes a role and is forced accordingly to make characteristic choices. To trace the limits within which individuals interpret their experience is not the same as to refute their interpretation. An image of society which grows out 3


of a wide range of experience is not invariably more valid than a segmental view. Whether a synthetic conception of the whole contains more ‘truth’ in some sense than does a particular perspective is a question which the sociologist may not decide without overreaching himself. At any rate, the pragmatic test, by which the resulting action proves a proposition, does not always favour the broad, synthetic view of things. The present essays show in several regards a notable advance beyond Mannheim’s earlier treatment of ideation. In his previous publications ideologies appeared as by-products and reflections of social situations. The frequent use of optical expressions was quite significant: ideologies appeared as particular modes of either seeing or obscuring things, and each position in the social structure entailed a particular perspective. To be sure, the use of optical terms for ideologies constituted a gain over the treatment of social bias as mere distortions of truth. But the proposition that each vista corresponds to a certain role does not offer a clue to the nature of the relationship between ‘thinking’ and social ‘location’. Why, one may ask, does an individual who is identified with several groups adopt the conceptions of one rather than of another? What Mannheim proposed in Ideology and Utopia was a sociological theory of ideation as an introduction to a systematic attempt to discover typical relationships between ideologies and social situations. One may designate the aim of such a pursuit as the natural history of ideas. The natural history of a social phenomenon outlines its typical features without necessarily explaining why they are recurrent. Mannheim’s monograph on conservative thinking (‘Conservative Thought’, in Essays on Sociology and Social Psychology, London, Routledge & Kegan Paul; New York, Oxford University Press, 1953) offers a typical illustration. In this study Mannheim described a characteristic relationship between the declining position of landowners and their tendency to perceive the social process in organismic and morphological terms. Attempts of this type can be constructive provided that the established relationships are derived from reliable samples whose scope and representativeness are ascertained. Since, however, historical case studies offer but weak support for generalizations the question of how and why certain roles coincide with particular ideologies becomes 4


inescapable; for without demonstration of the dynamics of concept formation the road toward a progressive verification and elaboration of such hypotheses remains blocked. To accept such blockages is tantamount to admitting that the sociology of knowledge is an area of episodic insights and no field for cumulative inquiry. Although Mannheim did not ignore in Ideology and Utopia the question of how ideas emerge from action he did not attempt to offer an explicit answer. The present work, however, reveals a preoccupation with the social mechanism which intervenes between the roles individuals play and the ideas they espouse. This is where Mannheim’s recourse to social psychology is rooted. The reader will notice the frequent use of psychological constructs designed to furnish the missing link. These constructs are offered as tools for uncovering the common roots of ideation and role-playing. These constructs are, moreover, open to verification and empirical elaboration in the contemporary scene, for reasons suggested below. The reader is referred to such chapters as ‘The Circulation of Perceptions’, ‘The Theory of an Immanent History of Thought and Why it Emerged’, ‘Digression on the Social Roots of Scepticism’, ‘The Natural History of the Intellectual’, and ‘Social and Mental Distance’. These and several other examples show a persistent concern with the motivation of ideas. This increased attention to the dynamics of ideation is inherent in Mannheim’s adoption of the nominalist theory of groups, the view that groups have no reality of their own beyond the existence of their individual members. Compare with this the ‘realist’ undercurrent in Ideology and Utopia, that is, the treatment of groups and collective situations as the seats of ultimate reality. The ‘realist’ seeks to construe the behaviour of individuals from the group or a complex situation which he assumes as given. It is only when the individual becomes the ultimate term of reference of sociological constructs that questions of motivation can have meaning for the analysis of social action. Sociological concepts formed on the level of the group are impervious to psychology. Mannheim’s increasing orientation towards a social nominalism explains another departure from his earlier point of view: the abandonment of the doctrine which asserts the primacy of the historical frame of reference. This historical emphasis is 5


characteristicof a large area of the German social sciences, from the followers of Hegel, including Marx, to the historical school of jurisprudence and economics. The historical point of view in the German social sciences entails more than a special interest in historical subjects; it rests on the thesis that institutions may be understood only in the context of their development. Once the inquiry proceeds from complex things and the historical continuum becomes the frame of reference, the study of human relations resolves itself into an exploration of how consecutive changes in the major designs of society relate themselves to the involvements of concrete individuals. Such a procedure favours the ‘realistic’ hypostasis, for the primary concern of the historian is with the larger collectivities or, at any rate, with those actions with which he identifies the destiny of society. The historical point of view was not confined to the German social sciences. It made its entry—via the evolutionary hypothesis—into British and American sociology as well, but with the decline of Darwinism English-speaking sociologists abandoned the historical frame of analysis. History continued to furnish subjects for sociological studies but not their axis. Not so with a significant section of German scholars. Two assumptions constitute the common denominator of the historical point of view as it is understood in Germany, (1) Customs are parts of a historical Gestalt, hence their proper study requires an understanding of their particular configuration in a given period. (2) Historical configurations are, by definition, unique and subject to change. The student of customs seeks to reconstruct their dynamics, the modifications which customs undergo when they pass from one temporal configuration into another. To interpret an event is to fix its place in the total scheme of development. The focus of analysis is the inclusive whole which in the historical perspective is ‘prior’ to its parts. Once the uniqueness, the Einmaligkeit of a situation becomes the frame of interpretation, the ‘realistic’ conception of collective processes is axiomatic. Since inclusive structures form the subject of history, its student is understandably prone to view such collectivities as the nations as being more concrete and real than simple structures such as the neighbourhood or the family. This is not the place to discuss the merits and limitations of the ‘realistic’ approach to history. We may grant the legitimacy of the 6


macrocosmic interest, and we may appreciate the quest for synopses in preference to the minutiae of analytical generalizations. The policy maker and the military planner, for example, cannot avoid dwelling in the larger perspective of things. But the student who assumes the primacy of inclusive structures and the derivative character of simple phenomena is not in a strategic position to develop hypotheses for the controlled study of motivation. Indeed, questions of motivation entered the fringe and not the centre of Mannheim’s inquiry in Ideology and Utopia. This was consistent with the book’s leaning toward the configurational aspects of the social process: ‘Just as modern psychology shows that the whole (Gestalt) is prior to the parts and that our first understanding of the parts comes through the whole, so it is with historical understanding. Here, too, we have the sense of historical time as a meaningful totality which orders events “prior” to the parts and through this totality we first truly understand the total course of events and our place in it.’ (Ideology and Utopia, p. 189, London and New York, 1936.) In the essays here presented Mannheim does not make use of this realistic paradigm. More than that, in his methodological sketch, which the reader will find in the first essay, he reverses the order of procedure. In place of the earlier recommended approach from the whole towards its parts he advocates an analytical course which advances from the abstract to the concrete, from simple to complex phenomena. Although Mannheim does not abandon the aim of understanding concrete historical subjects, he rejects the direct and unpremeditated attack on them. Instead he introduces two prior levels of articulation. General sociology marks the most abstract level of analysis which is concerned with elementary and universal forms of ‘sociation’. Simmel, Park, and others have given attention to these forms, such as cooperation, competition, conflict, accommodation, distance, isolation, communication, in-group, and so forth. Such forms are universal and elementary because they are not confined to particular situations and they involve a minimum of sociological assumptions. B—E.S.C.



Comparative sociology signifies the next level in order of concretion. It deals with relations which, though not ubiquitous, can be construed from elementary forms, for instance bureaucracy, castes, and classes. Historical sociology constitutes the most concrete level on which involved phenomena may be articulated, such as the British Conservative Party, the French Academy, or the American New Deal. Although such subjects are of a high order of complexity they can be construed analytically, from the categories of general and comparative sociology. What is new in this methodological model, as compared with Mannheim’s previous views, is the deliberate abandonment of the ad hoc approach to complex historical subjects, past or contemporary. Such ad hoc attempts cannot help being episodical, lacking the essentials of scientific continuity: a common frame of reference and mutual relevance. In the procedure which Mannheim outlines complex structures are not just assumed but are derived from simple ones. It is in this sense that the study of subjects of a high order of concretion may become a cumulative pursuit requiring no improvisation. The present essays, particularly the second and third, in a sense exemplify the recommended plan. Their subjects, the intelligentsia and the democratic process, are not approached on the historical level. Historical references are interspersed, but they are peripheral to the aim of constructing types and suggesting typical relationships which are capable of empirical verification and refinement. The observer who deals with single phenomena on the level of historical processes can propose only interpretive hypotheses whose scope is limited to a single constellation, whether it is the Renaissance, a Mclanesian island, or a middle-sized town in the United States. The reverse procedure which advances from elementary to inclusive structures may, however, yield constructs of more general application. Mannheim’s attempt to construe the social genesis of epistemology is a case in point. His construct, which the reader will find in the second essay, lends itself to an understanding of scepticism in 17th-century Europe, contemporary France, and ancient Greece. The hypothesis, moreover, may be tested and further developed in the laboratory of contemporary society.This 8


analytical plan has the added advantage that it is free of the temptation to interpret the expressions of individual writers as the unitary traits of a period or a whole culture. The foregoing discussion was concerned with Mannheim’s qualified abandonment of the historical point of view and his consequent adoption of analytical and constructive procedures. This trend is new with Mannheim, although one may find traces of this leaning in his previous works, for example in the essays ‘Competition as a Cultural Phenomenon’ and ‘The Problem of Generations’. (Essays on the Sociology of Knowledge, London, Routledge & Kegan Paul; New York, Oxford University Press, 1952.) As mentioned before, this departure gives Mannheim access to the intricate mechanisms which govern the actions and thoughts of the individual. That is why he no longer treats ideas as mere optical phenomena, as socially available vistas, but as motivated responses to given situations. Although he does not discard his previous question of what segment of the social process becomes visible to given groups, his present concern is how and why individuals adopt typical views. To understand Mannheim’s scheme for the interpretation of motives it will be necessary to comment on two terms which are basic to his point of view, namely structure and function. Since he has not made his understanding of these concepts explicit I hazard a tentative exegesis of the meaning which he gave to these terms in the first essay. To avoid an unnecessary expansion of this preface I shall abstain from cross-references to the current literature on the subject. An object of a certain complexity is viewed as a structure if it is not taken for granted but construed analytically, that is, derived from items of lesser complexity. Social phenomena in particular are construed from the actions of individuals and groups. A profession for example is structured by the particular methods of selecting members, their training and indoctrination, the control of competition, the enforcement of standards, and so forth. Each of these activities discharges a function in so far as it sustains the profession as a viable organ of society. Function is an attribute of a condition which is indispensable for a given performance or a state of affairs. The sum total of interrelated functions on which a stated process depends constitutes its structure. It is well to 9


remember at this point that the term function in itself does not imply a value. An act which performs a function is not necessarily desirable, nor is the process which requires the performance of the function necessarily desirable. Once a social process is so articulated three conclusions follow automatically: (a) certain actions are required for the existence of a structure; (b) some actions are not required but are compatible with it; while (c) some are incompatible with a given structure and tend to disrupt it. Professions, for example, require some measure of control over the qualifications and conduct of their members, but most professions permit within their ranks a variety of religious and political affiliations. Again, the family as an institution depends on the effectiveness of taboos on incest, desertion, child-neglect, but it is compatible with nearly all vocational pursuits, unemployment, various consumption habits, and so forth. André Maurois, I believe, cites the story of a Parisian who was seen fishing on the bank of the Seine, practically within sight of the public executions, during the climactic days of the Revolutionary Terror. The sociologist is concerned with structurally relevant actions, namely those which are either required or incompatible, while random activities which neither sustain nor disrupt a given structure do not provide data for the analysis. To be sure, an act is irrelevant not in itself but only with reference to a particular structure. By the same token, every act has some bearing on some structure. Motives are significant data of sociology in so far as they prompt structurally relevant behaviour. To persist a structure must perpetuate motivations of one type and inhibit others. How and whether certain inducements are engendered or repressed is of basic importance for the understanding of action systems. Random motives as such are of little interest to the sociologist; it is only within defined structures that the question of why individuals act as they do becomes fruitful. The last two essays provide copious examples for Mannheim’s application of this principle of structural relevance to motivations. The essay on the intelligentsia, the second in this volume, grew out of an earlier interest of the author. His aphorism that the study of the intelligentsia furnishes a clue to the sociology 10


of the mind may serve as its motto. Its governing question is: what conditions permitted the unique development of critical and self-critical inquiry and its culmination in the late 18th and early 19th century, and what circumstances account for its gradual decline? The intelligentsia became the protagonist of critical thinking when it constituted itself as a fluid and open stratum which became accessible to individuals of varied social orientations. What makes this intelligentsia unique among its historical variants is its multipolarity, its mobility, its exposure to a variety of viewpoints, its capacity to choose and change affiliations, and an expanding radius of empathy. By historical standards the periods of a relatively detached and fluid intelligentsia constituted brief episodes between the epochs of institutionally controlled thinking in which closed groups monopolized the public interpretation of things. That Mannheim does not conceal his own preferences and that the uncommitted intelligentsia provides not only the subject matter of this paper but also its point of view adds spice to this original study. The last paper is the most topical of the three. Its subject bears more closely on the title of the book than does the second essay. The sociology of culture is an extension of the sociology of knowledge, to encompass not only discursive thought but the whole gamut of symbolic expression, including art and religion. It is in this sense that Mannheim attempts to trace the growth of democratic attitudes in epistemology, the modern emphasis on the public and formal criteria of truth, and the growing concern with the genesis of things rather than their intrinsic nature. The broad interpretation of democratic attitudes is indicated by the use of such illustrative materials as pictorial styles, church design, and educational trends. Mannheim introduces the concept of distance as a key category for the analysis of authoritarian attitudes in politics, social etiquette, scientific procedure, language, and aesthetics. ‘Distance’ is conceived by Mannheim both as a general sociological category, and as a key by means of which the modern trend toward integral democracy can be elucidated. In the progressive elimination of authoritarian ‘distance’ between élites and masses he sees both a promise and a danger: the promise of a full realization of human potentialities, and the 11


danger of creative freedom being stifled where the masses submit to regimentation. The resources of sociological analysis are mobilized by him in the search for a favourable resolution of this conflict in contemporary civilization. Some readers may ask themselves what bearing these ‘Essays on the Sociology of Culture’ have on the agenda of American and English sociology. Certain components of Mannheim’s thinking are traceable to the German preoccupation with broad historical perspectives. The latent conflicts and unresolved problems of 20th-century Germany may partly account for the gravitation of German thinking toward epochal issues. American sociologists have, except for the Darwinian interlude, increasingly devoted themselves to the methodical study of simple structures and, whenever possible, left the bird’s-eye view of society as a whole to historians and anthropologists. The German concern with epochal questions has often been the source of insightful but loose thinking for which the American research mind with its predilection for controlled procedures has not developed a marked taste. American sociologists have seen more promise in restricted and progressively refined studies than in an intellectual agitation which penetrates wide territories without an adequate equipment for their mastery. Sociologists in the United States have grown accustomed to feel that timeliness and urgency in themselves do not qualify a subject for sociological inquiry. Still, one may ask, should the social scientist abstain from dealing with contemporary issues because they are too involved for the working tools he has? Or should he try to bring to bear on these matters his scanty equipment and hope for the best? This is not solely an academic question, nor merely one of scientific procedure. The German concern with historical synopses sprang from an insecure position in a world which was not altogether congenial to the German political heritage, while the American success at home, a secure international position, and the long habituation to close teamwork have favoured attention to subjects which respond to more stringent scientific procedures. Yet, certain changes are taking place on the American scene. The Cold War and the prospect of world tension for some time to come have brought nearer to the 12


United States and England some of the concerns which explain the German preoccupation with historical dynamics. Historians and political scientists have responded to the Altered situation for some time; social anthropologists and sociologists are following suit. It is in this changing atmosphere that Mannheim’s middle position between the German and the Anglo-American run of attention has related itself to the thinking of Americans and Englishmen. It appears to me that as these papers reach the American and English reader they do not cross a cultural frontier. They pose questions which have been raised already in America, and the suggested answers seem more germane to its climate of thought than those which Mannheim advanced in his earlier writings. *





I take this opportunity to express my indebtedness to Miss Janet Coon and to Dr. Hyatt Howe Waggoner, Chairman of the English Department at the University of Kansas City, for their critical reading of the manuscript and for numerous editorial suggestions. Dr. Paul Kecskemeti has not only contributed the translation and editorial revision of the third essay, but his notes and comments on the other parts of the manuscript have been of material benefit to my own work. ERNEST MANHEIM Easter, 1955





EGEL’S Phenomenology of the Mind was one of the most remarkable documents of early 19th-ccntury thought. In this provocative tour de force Hegel set out to do nothing less than explore the complete hierarchy of meanings which successively emerged from the history of our world. Nearly a century and a half has passed since this speculative experiment cast its spell over German academic thinking. Hegel’s magic has worn off, and the historical situation in which the Phenomenology could strike a resonant chord is long past. Yet elements of the work still draw and merit attention. We may still find a living message in the claim that meanings cannot be fully captured by frontal attack, but only through the grasp of their social and historical setting. Today one need not be a Hegelian or a sociologist to accept this thesis; but in Hegel’s Germany it was not so. The thesis was part and parcel of a bold attempt to construe history as a goal-directed and all-embracing evolution. The end of the Hegelian climate of thinking came with the entrenchment of positivistic and empirical habits of thought. Yet the subject of the Phenomenology is still with us. It brings some of the problems of epistemology to a common denominator: ideas have a social meaning which their frontal—that is their immanent—analysis does not reveal. Thus, ideas can be studied in the social context in which they are conceived and expressed 15


and it is in this semantic setting that their meaning becomes concrete. In short, the sociology of the mind has fallen heir to the subject of Hegel’s speculation. Hegel’s work could not have taken hold in its time had it only reflected a single person’s thought. The Phenomenology is more than that. It is a timely attempt to synthesize the problems of revolution, restoration, enlightenment, and romanticism. Hegel’s system was not mere philosophy, but a climactic expression of the insights of preceding epochs. That is why the Phenomenology was able for some time to dominate scholarship in the humanities and the social sciences. The organized study of culture in Germany owed its very impulse to this bold philosophical inventory of the realities of its time. This philosophy was able to relate itself to the most intricate details of departmental research. Never again has philosophy succeeded in reestablishing such a close nexus with reality, nor been able to reassert its supremacy over the departmental concerns with human affairs. With the decay of Hegelianism the integrated study of culture lapsed into a multitude of specialized and selfcontained pursuits, and philosophy itself resumed its earlier position within the departmental scheme of learning. Periodic efforts to reintegrate the humanistic disciplines under the never-redeemed promise of a new philosophical synthesis have alternated with attempts on the part of the specialists to recover the lost connection through a philosophical orientation within each discipline. The failure of these trials is apt to demonstrate the fact that compartmentalized experience will merely yield the type of philosophy which has originally been invested in its conceptual scheme. Neither has philosophy as an academic subject succeeded again in transcending its traditional limitations. There is, after all, nothing to be gained by the restoration of a lifeless tradition of admitted previous merit. We must learn to face each situation as it arises, unencumbered by venerable habits of thought. Each period poses its own questions. Quite often in our time the experimental scientist and the organizer turn up more relevant material for the understanding of the problems of our age than the strained atmosphere of philosophical self-scrutiny. What is still alive in Hegel’s philosophy is his keen situational 16


awareness rather than the sectarian tradition which followed in its wake. Hegel simply voiced in his own grammar the conscience and available knowledge of his period. Kant and Aristotle merely furnished him with a vocabulary of established currency, but his vision and categories which articulate it were as contemporary as the impact of the revolution on the Prussian monarchy. Nothing, however, was farther from the spirit of the historic Hegel than the Neo-Hegelian necropsy performed a century later. The object lesson which Hegel and his late renaissance entail for us holds also true for Marx and his school. A critical study which holds aloof from the wrangle over the true meaning of Marxist orthodoxy may yet unfreeze those elements of the Marxist system which still have a diagnostic meaning. Once freed of their dogmatic involvements these components should be of concern to anyone whose preoccupation is with the realities of the present time. A fundamentally new approach to the study of culture may eventually emerge from such beginnings. What is needed is open-minded observation and students whose sensitivity to the pulse beats of the time is not impaired by doctrinal commitments. It was this open-minded approach which allowed genuine sociologists in Germany such as Max Weber, Alfred Weber, Troeltsch, Sombart, and Scheler, to derive significant leads from Marx. Their polemic encounters with Marxism bear the marks of all true controversies which penetrate, rather than bypass, the opponent’s position.


The type of sociology here advocated is unlike that which ended the French alliance of historic philosophy with ethnology and moral philosophy. Nor do we propose at present to follow the lead of that phase of American sociology which operates primarily in the field of social disorganization to provide a diagnostic guide for remedial practices in the community. None the less, there are unmistakable signs that the trend I wish to advance is in the ascendant in the United States. We can well dispense with preliminary inquiries into the 17


academic delimitations of the field, its key concepts, and the methods which other students employ. The questions which give sociology its focus are basically extensions of the problems which a given collectivity faces in a given epoch. Nor do we have to bid for the accreditation of sociology in Germany, with the plea that it is a going concern in all civilized countries. Often ignored, sociology germinated in the ferment of German philosophy and the stir of politics and economics during the early growth of industrialism. It was not the expansion of academic specialization which gave it its early momentum. It had detached itself from philosophy before the decline of the latter became apparent, and had also disengaged itself from the historical sciences before their earlier synthesis got lost in the minutiae of a plodding routine which positivism stimulated during the second half of the 19th century. The decisive impulse of sociology came from the challenge of public affairs. This fact should be remembered by those who feel tempted by the apparition of a haphazardly delimited and prematurely specialized science of society. What then is the position of sociology in the prevailing scheme of scientific specialization? It cannot be gainsaid that sociology, like any scientific endeavour, is a specialized pursuit of circumscribed scope. There is no need, at present, to fear the loss of its departmental character, for it operates comfortably within the limitations first defined by Simmel and implicitly confirmed by the American research practice. It is still safe and feasible to outline with Simmel the scope of the field as the ‘forms of sociation’. Dissenting formulations, such as those of Leopold von Wiese, Vierkandt, I.W.Thomas, and Park and Burgess, are part and parcel of the healthy expansion of a young discipline. But these delineations mark only one, the first, theme of sociology. Its actual subject, society, exists not only in acts of sociation and the coalescence of men into structured groups. We encounter society also in meanings which likewise join or divide men. As there exists no sociation without particular understandings, so there are no shared meanings unless they are derived from and defined by given social situations. The dichotomy of the two academic realms of analysis, namely Simmel’s science of the forms of sociation and the sociology of ideas, does not bespeak 18


two such separate entities in the real world, although the necessities of academic specialization may make their thematic isolation temporarily expedient. There is no harm in such an abstraction so long as it is treated as an artifice. Ultimately, however, the duality of the ideational versus the social realm of things must resolve itself into a single view of the original subject of human reality from which the two aspects of sociology were originally abstracted. The one major risk of specialization in a derivative field lies precisely in the failure of the specialist to remember the genesis of his particular frame of reference. It is not only the historians of literature, economics, and law who have sometimes succumbed to the temptation of reifying their adopted framework of constructs. Sociologists likewise tend to forget that literature, language, and art in themselves are mere abstractions. ‘Society’, too, is a construct, for the acts of sociation which constitute society are inseparably fused with those acts in which ideas are conceived and reinterpreted.1 While sociology conceived as the science of sociation is a legitimate discipline, its key concept, that of sociation, is a mere facet of human reality. Schemes of specialization which isolate certain aspects of reality for the purpose of topical analysis must, at their very inception, bear some sort of a design of the ultimate syntheses which reestablishes and articulates the context of the original subject. Some interpreters of sociology have, deliberately or unconsciously, tried to make their discipline academically acceptable by following the hallowed principle of specialization at any price, even at the risk of losing sight of the pivotal question inherent in the subject. While the practice has saved some sociologists the censure of colleagues labouring under an acute phase of departmental chauvinism of one or another colour, sociology has come dangerously near to discarding its identity and its primary objective, which is the rational mastery of the universe of human relations. This universe is not tailored to the designs of a compartmentalized academic tradition. Nor will stop signs planted along the borders of a properly accredited field of specialization check the interdependence of men. Those 1 See for example Bart Landheer, Mind and Society: Epistemological Essays in Sociology, The Hague, 1952, p. 22: ‘In the first place, it is necessary that society as such is a concept, an abstraction.’



who mean to gain an insight into its problems will not shy away from following a given clue into contiguous areas. The needs of our time may well bypass the implicit methodology of those who urge departmental self-sufficiency. This is not to say that the contextual type of inquiry will supersede specialization in the realm of science. Quite the contrary: the division of labour has become an elementary condition of learning. This admission, however, does not warrant by any means the fatalistic acceptance of the thesis that the sociology of the mind is too large a subject for any legitimate attack. The necessity of defining the focus of inquiry cannot everlastingly condemn the social sciences in their entirety to voluntary blindness to problems which straddle the agreed borders of two or more disciplines. There must be, and indeed there is, a growing sensitivity to those configurations of reality which the segmental view conceals. We are faced then with the question of how to develop within, or if necessary from, our present state of fragmented knowledge an integrated view of human relations. We must learn to see discrete facts in their relationships, and to fit segmental vistas into a concrete perspective. The question points to the problem of the sociology of the mind as the counterpart of the science of society. Inasmuch as society is the common frame of interaction, ideation, and communication, the sociology of the mind is the study of mental functions in the context of action. It is from this approach that we must expect one of the possible answers to the needed synthesis. To concede the necessity of such an approach is, however, not the same as to admit its feasibility. Will not, after all, the proposed scheme open the door to unmitigated dilettantism and a spurious type of catholicity? Will not sheer opinion and guesswork take the place of scientific method? Such misgivings cannot be lightly dismissed, for they are shared by many who are prepared to realize that ultimately every scientific method must transcend its self-imposed sectional limitations. These qualms can be met in so far as they stem not from a principled rejection of the needed synthesis, but from fear of its consequences. It is only the sworn partisans of a departmental fetish who cannot be persuaded, for there is no hope for those whose preoccupation with matters of procedure as such has made them blind to concrete objectives. 20


No discipline can successfully make the rules of procedure for another one. The method of inquiry in a wider and differently defined area will have to grow out of effective practice in it. Eating is the proof of the pudding, not its preparation.1 Let it be said, however, for the sake of those who are troubled by the spectre of improvisations, that the proposed type of inquiry has a manageable and limited compass. The sociology of the mind is conceived as an integrated view of social action and of mental processes, and not as a new philosophy of history. Nothing like an all-embracing historical teleology is advanced, nor is a closed system of disguised dialectical sequences advocated, still less a morphological scheme of culture cycles. Such attempts at synthesis have had their day. The business of the social scientist is to follow or devise communicable rules of cooperative procedure rather than to play the lone hand of the visionary. Integration is no less an occasion for team work than analysis, although the division of labour of the first type will have to differ from the latter. Synthesis may be expected to grow only from observations made with a view to integration. To argue that the business of integration must be adjourned until the pertinent facts are assembled in the respective fields is to misjudge the nature of the synthetic procedure. Integration does not begin with the completed accumulation of facts, but rather with each elementary act of observation. The problem is not one of psychology; the question is not how one person may absorb the wisdom and experience of many. Nor is polyhistory the objective. What is needed is continued experimentation with the procedures of cooperative research, with methods of condensing knowledge around new foci of interest. To condense a bewildering volume of information to manageable proportions is to make available, sift, and refine pertinent data for successive operations. The present neglect of these intermediate steps accounts for much of the waste of effort sanctioned by our parochial organization of research. Potentially fruitful research ventures terminate somewhere in no-man’s-land 1 The universal norms of scientific inquiry, such as the communicability of procedures, the minimization of assumptions, and the avoidance of covert assumptions pertain to the public and cooperative functions of scientific procedure in general, while methods are specific in as much as they are distilled from actual operations in particular areas.



for want of coordination. A vast portion of the sociological output has no cumulative character because it lacks the design for relevance to subsequent use and because of the timehonoured reluctance to put together what the specialist has taken apart. To repeat, integration is not merely a final adjunct to the fact-gathering routine; it embraces the whole process, beginning with the research design for relevance and proceeding to the condensation of the pertinent material assembled regardless of its departmental pedigree. The prerequisite of a cumulative core of generalizations in the social sciences is a growing body of negotiable knowledge, that which has meaning in diverse fields of inquiry and is amenable to use in new and subsequent frames of reference. Continuity and advancement in such fields as economics, anthropology, political science, communications, art, and literature are not assured as long as their subjects are treated as independent and mutually impermeable entities. The growing interdependence of life demands of the student of human affairs an increasing facility in seeing things in their relationships. This will not be the fruit of intuition, but of a thematically focused division of labour. If the still dominant order of specialization may be termed vertical, the needed type will have to be horizontal. It must centre around concrete subjects, rather than one single aspect of many, loosely aggregated items of information. For example, the horizontally specialized student of a certain literary current will have to come to grips with the careers and mobility of the literati who espouse it, the incentive system under which they work, the nature of the public to which they address themselves, the channels of communication available to them, the social orientation of their patrons, and the social and political divisions in which they make characteristic choices. In short, while the vertical division of labour relieves the specialist of a full account of his subject, the alternative method of specialization converges on given topics from a multitude of directions in which pertinent relationships may be located. This is not to undertake the impossible, namely to reconstruct the infinite detail which makes up a concrete phenomenon. The aim is a condensed account of those relationships which are relevant to the generalizing approach to a chosen subject. The adoption of this type of procedure does not end specialization of the departmental type; it merely 22


superimposes on it a plane of operation of a different tilt. Basically this is also the plane of operation of the policy maker, the party leader, and the industrial executive. They, too, have learned how to reach decisions on the basis of a condensed view of a complex situation and they know how to use and guide the specialist for a given purpose. We shall not pass the preliminary stage of the social sciences, the stage of elemental analysis and segmentation, unless we learn to work with the findings of others, regardless of their field of accreditation. Short of that we shall continue the unwholesome practice of having to derive the elements of a concrete perspective of things from those specialists who are unconcerned with relationships and having to leave the synthesis to the extemporizations of the philosophers of history. The business of keeping en rapport with an increasingly complex reality necessitates experimentation with legitimate methods of interdepartmental research. Unquestionably, the use of secondary sources, however critical, entails a wider margin for error in the social than in the older natural sciences, mainly because of the greater interpretive involvement of the data of the former. Some correctives may be obtained through the identification of the particular viewpoint which has governed the interpretation of given data. Only experience can disclose additional ways of minimizing the factor of inexactitude. No blueprints or prefabricated rules of procedure are at hand to guide such an undertaking. Closed systems are mostly the upshot of a retrospective view of an achieved order of things, while the present state of the social sciences offers no semblance of a field of consolidated research procedures.


The following essays do not constitute chapters of a compact system. An attempt at the sociology of the mind can hardly hope at present to advance beyond the initial stage, and no prospect of a unitary grasp of the subject looms on the immediate horizon. C—E.S.C.



All that seems practicable today are single tentative steps towards a sociological illumination of history and a better understanding of our own actualities. The subject of these inquiries will not reward an impetuous attack, for this can promise no more than a set of haphazardly conceptualized observations or, worse still, the enshrinement of a bygone imagery. There is no substitute for the piecemeal advance towards our objective and for the gradual refinement of the tools of inquiry. Montaigne called his essays ‘Attempts’. The sociologist in particular will appreciate this expression of a prudent and frank acceptance of the fragmentary view of things. In situations such as Montaigne’s, one does not gain a new insight without first clearing the ground to remove the obstructions to a wider vista. Critical analyses must provide the initial steps which may free the elements of a new perspective from their entanglements with older, untenable habits of thought. Only continuing self-scrutiny and the periodical review of what appears to be newly gained ground may guard against the temptation of forcing new experience into the mould of outworn systems. Students who place the search for genuine answers above the ‘ques for certainty’ will not accept panaceas and summary formulas in lieu of the piecemeal grasp of a problematic situation. This is the reason for the fragmentary character of the works of Max Weber, Dilthey, Sumner, and W.I.Thomas, and it should also hold true for the present efforts. This is not to disclaim their ultimate orientation towards a sociology of the mind which should eventually provide the wider frame of reference for our earlier inquiries in the sociology of knowledge. It was from these earlier studies, including Ideology and Utopia, that the thesis of the existential involvement of knowledge emerged, that is the proposition that the relationship between particular conceptions of reality and given modes of involvement in it is capable of scientific articulation. The following inquiries are undertaken in the hope that the previous arguments may eventually develop into the wider proposition of the existential involvement of the mind, as the frame of reference for the sociology of the mind.1 At present only scattered pieces of this larger framework are visible, 1

The reader will find a preliminary outline at the end of this introductory chapter.



mainly on occasions when it collides with earlier points of view and whenever further progress in the historical inquiry depends on a renewed methodological introspection. Even though today empirical studies are far more important than methodological reflections, one need not make a fetish of facts. For raw facts yield no answers unless relevant questions are directed towards them. To repeat, the aim of the following considerations is not to construct an inclusive system. The advance towards the stated objective can only proceed step by step, from the elementary to the complex. A preliminary clarification of the principal concept of this essay, however, will have to precede the subsequent phases of the study. The main argument of this introductory chapter, therefore, will be concerned with the appropriate uses of the concepts of history, society, and mind, and with the critical review of their interpretations in earlier periods of German sociology and philosophy.


It is common observation that, in spite of the free flow of ideas across political frontiers, certain themes are recurrent in the organized thinking of each country. These limitations of intellectual diffusion not only illustrate the social footing of thought, but also furnish a cogent reason for paying distinct attention to the initial milieu of a research endeavour. To present a proposition merely in the affirmative and without its antithetical import is to bypass its point of departure. Close scrutiny might reveal the polemical origin of all affirmations, including those which are formulated without overt regard to their antitheses. Since the sociological interest in the mind originated in Germany, the present argument will be advanced with reference to the prevailing German controversy about the subject at hand. Attention will be focused not so much on individuals as on current modes of thought, particularly on certain habitual misconceptions which still encumber the terms 25


‘society’ and ‘intellect’. The priority given here to thecontroversial aspects of these categories should not imply a purely negative estimate of the German preconditions for the sociological exploration of mental phenomena. Quite the contrary. German humanists from Hegel to Dilthey not only uncovered a wealth of material, but also provided a fruitful frame of inquiry. The frames of reference of Dilthey’s History of Human Consciousness, his Critique of Historical Reason, and Scheler’s Philosophical Anthropology need no excuse for their existence. The fact that the German approach bears the stamp of its philosophical origin can well stand up to criticism, whether it comes from abroad or from a misunderstood positivism of the German variety. And yet, German humanistic learning has partly lost and partly never really possessed an essential view of things which Americans and Europeans elsewhere were able to capture: the realization of the social character of man’s thought and action, the familiarity with social history, and, most important, the capacity to see action and thought, trivial or sublime, in their proper perspectives. The exaggerated emphasis which certain historians and philosophers placed on the ‘great personality’ and his ‘solitary destiny’ is a case in point. We do not mean to disparage a grand gesture or a sincere pathos which such epithets express, but we question the standards of comparison from which these appraisals stem. Men who are not conversant with the social dimensions of individual achievement, who see only the finished products of mental processes and do not know how they come about, are not really in a position to distinguish the individual component of creative achievement from the social. One cannot gain a true historical perspective without an awareness of the social setting of historical events. The crux of the problem, however, is not how to sight the social dimension of events, but rather how succeeding generations were able to ignore it. One cannot blame the sociological inhibitions of German humanism on Hegel, for he was a keen observer of the social actuality of his time. The shocks of the French revolution, the decline of the old German empire, and Napoleon’s interlude did not fail to make their imprint on Hegel’s understanding of history and his share in the political and intellectual 26


reconstitution of Prussia. Hegel’s concept of the ‘objective mind’ tells the story of his appreciation of the social, notwithstanding the spiritualistic and supra-rationalistic construction of his system. But what successors distilled from his work is a mirage of self-propelling ideas and a sublimated version of history narrated in a social vacuum. And yet, no critique of the unfortunate doctrine of the immanence of thought history can ignore Hegel’s own role in the genesis of that perennial leitmotiv of German historical thinking. The thesis of the immanent evolution of ideas is predicated on the assumption of a self-contained intellect which evolves by and from itself through pre-ordained sequences. In the following pages this conception will be analyzed in four steps. The first two should uncover the rather trivial circumstances which condition the metaphysics of the doctrine. At this point the author accepts the risk of making light of matters sublime, but for once the attempt will have to be made to review that inflated conception of mental phenomena. The genesis of this distortion will be traced back to certain attributes of scholarly existence. The third and fourth phases of the analysis will deal with the religious premises of the subject. The first step. A mere glance should be sufficient to locate the long list of devotees of the doctrine in the teaching profession. The protagonists were mostly philologists, historians, and philosophers who formed their convictions, as almost everybody else does, within that particular segment of the universe in which their daily lives took their habitual course. It stands to reason that an existence which is some steps removed from the theatre of events tends to be contemplative and therefore subject to certain delusions about the nature of reality. The clash of parties, interests, and opinions in the larger arena may in the perspective of contemplative aloofness easily become transfigured to a mere controversy of alternative schools of thought. While the men who daily face the rough and tumble of life employ thought as a tool for coping with situations that arise, the denizens of the academic sanctuary invoke thinking as a medium in which to reconstruct and visualize accomplished facts. While the mental functions of the practitioner both originate and terminate with his problems, the cogitative processes of the scholar are sparked and nourished by the thoughts of others. And while the 27


functionary and operator directly encounter social situations, the scholar faces the appearance of an intellectual continuum of mutually productive ideas. It is the generalization of this intramural illusion which evokes the notion of an all-inherent and self-begotten intellect. We might expect to be told at this point that surely scholars also have a private life which must check their professional delusions, that surely they, too, would employ thought in their daily affairs as a problem-solving function. Indeed, that must be the case in the extracurricular moments of life; but it is in the nature of such detached and yet highly interdependent existences that their traditional esprit de corps may effectively inhibit the interpenetration of the private and the professional view of the world. The academic enclave is, however, not the only one to occasion self-perpetuating delusions. The ‘rentiers’ of the pre-war period—the recipients of fixed incomes from independent sources—likewise entertained views in which accepted ideals of a ‘good life’ co-existed with the contrary facts of this tainted world. The depression made a revision of that bifocal outlook inevitable, and gradually daily and private experiences overruled the axiomatic conception of the world order as it should have been. We continue to witness the decomposition and transformation of these social strata and we may study the concomitant shift in their mentality. But the lesson will be lost on those scholars whose sense of security rests on the tradition of scholastic self-sufficiency. The open view demands periodical reorientation and self-scrutiny, and it offers little reassurance to the cloistered individual. An apprenticeship with the ‘makers’ of history might well serve its philosophers. Whatever the intellectual compass of the men at the helm may be, they can ill afford to follow a deceptive chart. Action exposes an illusion quicker than contemplation. Thus, the position of the scholar entails a potential source of bias. No doubt, leisure and detachment are prerequisites of learning; but the bias of thinking in a lifelong state of aloofness must become cumulative if the derived solutions need not ever pass the pragmatic test of reality. An intellectual production which does not have to meet the demands of concrete situations can hardly fail to escape the pitfalls of incestuous reasoning, that is, the tendency to idealize its subject. The antidote for such 28


bias will be found neither in a refined methodology nor in a more copious use of source material. The corrective must come from the consistent effort to understand thought in its situational setting. In short, the solution lies in the open perspective of sociology rather than in the closure of hermeneutics. Thus far the German approach to historical matters has alternated between tracing political events and tracing sequences of thought. The middle ground between these two interests has seemed either impervious to analysis or not rewarding as a field of research. Lame attempts at ‘cultural history’ have fallen wide of the mark. While Burckhardt’s portrayals were of an artistic genre, his successors sank into the mire of anecdotal detail. Lamprecht’s intuitive grip did not reach down to the real nexus of things. The materials which these studies brought to light are significant, but they have only limited bearing on the essentials of history. The intermediate realm of history has, on the whole, remained unexplored, chiefly because access to it has continued to be blocked by the predominance of political history and the preoccupation with the evolution of ideas. The observer whose sole concern is with the grand sweep of political occurrences will hardly appreciate that the things which take shape in daily routine may be of equal significance and, more important, that they also have structure. But as German state lore barred the approach to sociology, so the refined scholasticism which was invested in the history of ideas also proved a stumbling-block for the rise of a concrete psychology. A sense of man’s changing attitudes and circumstances, well understood in France ever since Montaigne, has not really evolved in Germany, perhaps with the notable exception of Nietzsche. German idealism has remained immune to insights into man’s motivations. They have been deemed trivial by comparison and peripheral to the maelstrom of events on the level of the state and in the realm of ideas. The reverberations of Hegel’s philosophy and Ranke’s historiography bypassed the intervening field in which concrete individuals interact and try to make the best of their circumstances. Marx and Lorenz von Stein might have proved suggestive of the missing dimension of German historicism if it had not been for a sanctioned tradition of the scholastic disregard of things real. 29


The second step. The illusion of the immanent flow of ideas receives additional support from the manner in which the humanist encounters his source material. The works of the past appear to the scholar as pictures in a gallery—an array of discrete entities. The temptation to construe this array as an organic and continuous growth is well-nigh irresistible to those who confine their interest to the historical records of creative expression. What is ignored in this imagery are the intervening areas in which men act and react as social beings. Thus, the idealistic delusion is rooted in nothing more profound than the conceptualization of the two-dimensional scheme in which the library and the museum present their exhibits. The missing third dimension, the social, will hardly be discovered in this perspective. Actually there are no such things as artistic evolution or literary history as such; real are only those singular situations which generate an urge to represent an aspect of life. Expression of thought and perception are in themselves mere fragments of reality and their complete chronology is, by the same token, not history, although there is no harm in such constructs as art history, so long as they are used as classificatory devices created for convenience. It is their reification which is the ultimate hazard of all book learning. Third step. While the argument of the preceding steps dwelt on the trivial aspects of scholarly existence, the present phase of the analysis must concern itself with a subject more sublime: the religious origin of the German concept of ‘Geist’. It was Luther, in particular, who transmuted the religious conception of the spirit into secular philosophy. Earlier the medieval Church enunciated the antagonism of the spirit and the flesh, but the void between the realm of the spirit and human life became absolute only in Luther’s radical dualism: ‘For that which is not of the Spirit or Grace liveth not’ (Luther On the freedom of the Christian. 1520). The oversublimation of the spirit and related concepts in German humanistic literature is attributable to the continuing influence of Luther’s dualism. Fourth step. The immanence theory has still another root in German religious teaching, namely in the doctrine of spiritual freedom. This idea, too, was elaborated by Luther: ‘It is then plain that no external thing of whatever description can give him’ (viz.



man) ‘freedom or faith. For faith and freedom, as opposed to rancour and subjection, are not corporeal and external.’ A secular version of this doctrine became the cardinal thesis of German idealism. Luther’s ‘freedom’ (from temptation) came to mean indetermination; his conception of spirituality (man’s communion with God through faith) developed into the doctrine of the self-evolving, sovereign intellect, while, on the negative side, Luther’s moral conception of bondage evolved into the philosophical thesis of determination in the physical realm. ‘Thought or knowledge possess themselves in absolute freedom.’ ‘…freedom as such is the ultimate basis of all consciousness.’ (Fichte, Bestimmung des Gelehrten, 1794). Understandably, this dualistic conception has effectively inhibited the rise of any milieu theory and the deterministic and the sociological approach to intellectual subjects. For such ‘externalisms’ cannot gain a rationale from a philosophy which is predicated upon the absolute freedom and indeterminateness of the mind. It may seem, at this point, that our last two steps followed the idealistic precept of explaining one idea from the currency of another. Indeed, the affinity between Luther and the immanence theory cannot be properly understood apart from the social setting in which the over-extended concept of freedom evolved and found acceptance in Germany. This process was motivated by the thwarted aspirations of the German peasantry and the middle classes of the 18th and 19th centuries. The contrast to the Puritan mentality is striking. The social outlet which the Calvinistic sects found and their opportunity to act upon their religious convictions with tangible success reconciled the Puritan with the real world as a proving ground: the sober pragmatic view of life did not clash with the Puritan motivation. The rise of a parallel development in Germany was, on the other hand, inhibited by the rigid structure of the territorial states and the early identification of the Lutheran church with them. Lacking a concrete socio-political focus for their thought and action, the educated German middle classes made their accommodation to the bureaucratic state and spiritualized the idea of freedom to mean intellectual indeterminism. This introverted concept of freedom has become the keystone of the immanence theory and one of the main academic barriers to a sociological approach to history, thought, and politics. 31


Digression on Art History The immanence theory did not remain confined to the major and minor systems of German philosophy. The theory has attained far greater importance through its application to nearly all branches of historical inquiry. But in no area of research has the full sweep of the doctrine been put to a more thorough test than in the history of art. It was here, therefore, that the untenable position of the theory became first evident. Inherent continuities were first sought and construed in the media of style and form. In a way, stylistic evolution and art for art’s sake rest on analogous conceptions. Both affirm the autonomy of form and its primacy over the contents of art. The application of these principles to the concrete material of art history eventually had to expose those aspects of art which the stylistic approach left out of consideration, for example the religious objectives of the early painters and sculptors. It became evident, moreover, that the works of art of later periods also manifest essential elements of their author’s Weltanschauung, and that this Weltanschauung has some bearing on the historical placement of the art object. Dvorak’s work marks the transition from the stylistic interpretation of art to the wider conception of art history as an aspect of the religious and philosophical modulations of ideas.1 Since Dvorak it has become current parlance that the stylistic approach must be broadened to a cultural analysis of art. The diminishing promise of an overspecialized view of the subject has, quite naturally, encouraged attempts to overcome the limitations of one specialism—alas, by the addition of others. Art historians now began to look for analogies between contemporary works of art and expressions of thought. While this departure from the lineal construct of a stylistic evolution did open a novel perspective of research, the new crossreferential use of additional historical material did not escape the limitations of the earlier procedure. The works of the past were still envisaged as they must appear in the libraries and museums, as discrete entities, although presently they were spoken of in one breath, and assembled in a single universe of discourse. It 1

Compare Max Dvorak, Kunstgeschichte als Geistesgeschichte, Munich, 1924.



was now assumed that there must be discoverable relationships between contemporary works of sculpture, painting, literature, and philosophy, but their demonstration was left to nothing more concrete than an intuitive morphology. That the various constituents of a matured culture possess a certain cohesiveness was well understood, but their synopsis was left to interpolation. Hamann’s and Hausenstein’s studies show a tentative expansion of the synoptic view into the social realm.1 Dehio’s great work does not lack references to the social situation in which the artists performed. 2 Yet, these insights furnished only incidental background material and have not matured into principles of articulation. The tacit abandonment of the immanence theory undoubtedly widened the scope of these studies. Still, they had not advanced to the cardinal questions of art history: whose mentality is recorded by given art objects? What is their social identity? What action, situations and what tacit choices furnish the perspectives in which artists perceive and represent some aspect of reality? If works of art reflect points of view, beliefs, affirmations, who are the protagonists and who are the antagonists? Whose reorientation is reflected in the changes of style? Such questions do not arise within the fragmentary view of art objects. The conceptual vacuum between them will be only concealed, not bridged, by such traditional constructs as ‘the spirit of the time’. Only society as a structured variable has a a history and only in this social continuum can art be properly understood as a historical entity.


A second fallacy which, much like the immanence doctrine, has encumbered German reflections on history, is expressed by the polarized conception of the ideal and the material realm of things. Once again one cannot help asking why a basically simple 1 Compare Richard Hamann, Der Impressionismus in Leben und Kunst, 1923, and Deutsche Malerei im neunzehnten Jahrhundert, 1914; Wilhelm Hausenstein, Vom Geist des Barock, 1920, and Barbaren und Klassiker, 1923. 2 Compare Georg Dehio, Geschichte der deutschen Kunst, 3 volumes, 1919–24.



subject could be so persistently misconstrued. How was it possible to doubt the social character of the mind and to ignore the mental involvements of social behaviour? To cogitate an abstract intellect without concrete persons who act in given social situations is as absurd as to assume the opposite, a society without such functions as communication, ideation, and evaluation. It is in this strained dichotomy that the term ‘material’ was conceived as the reverse of a disembodied spirit. What does the term ‘material’ actually mean? There was among Hegel’s philosophical successors a so-called ‘left wing’ which applied to itself the epithet ‘materialistic’, to express their opposition to the idealistic trend of thought. Strauss, Feuerbach, and Marx, each in his own way, voiced the common creed of this antithetical school. Their opposition had little to do with Büchner’s much better known scientific materialism. Their confusion is responsible for much of the muddle which beset the controversy of idealism versus materialism. The materialism of the left-Hegelians injected into the political literature of the mid-century the conundrum of who are the makers of history—outstanding individuals, or the masses. To have meaning, and to be answerable, the question should be rephrased to mean: Are isolated individuals the authors of history, or socialized and interdependent persons? Individual stature and collectivities are neither incommensurable nor are they antipodes. Personal eminence is attributed to an individual who shows an unusual grasp and mastery of an unusual situation. While the ‘great men of history’ do not transcend the social realm of things, no sociologist can reasonably doubt or ignore their existence. When events are, however, viewed in retrospect or from a distance the temptation grows stronger to attribute the known results of an unrecorded chain of actions to a known person who formed the last link, in other words, to ascribe the unknown to the known. Much of the historical hero worship gains support by the haze which covers the relevant detail. Vierkandt’s early study, Die Stetigkeit im Kulturwandel, 1908 (continuity in cultural change) offers an insight into the 1

Compare also W.F.Ogburn, Social Change, 1923.



cumulative character of most great inventions.1 They are, for the most part, the sum total of less well-known inventions which eventually become synthetized by a final step. To know the antecedent steps is not to belittle the last, synthetic feat, but only the whole process will furnish a yardstick for the appraisal of the concluding act. To conceive an act in complete isolation from any other act is about as extreme as to assume that anyone may speak a language which had no previous currency in any human group. To speak at all is to alter and develop an existing language. The difference between the street-corner conversation in the local slang and the linguistic innovations of poets is one of degree. It makes, therefore, little sense to attribute ideas only to great individuals and to reserve the epithet ‘material’ for multitudes. Nor does, for that matter, the thesis of the material determination of ideas convey a proposition capable of an empirical test. The hypothesis of the so-called historical materialism is, however, of an entirely different character. While the expression bears the imprint of its polemic origin, it is but another name for the economic interpretation of history. Whatever its merit may be, the insistence on the primacy of the economic ‘substructure’ over the ideological ‘superstructure’ does not posit the primacy of matter over ideas, but the priority of one type of social interaction (the economic) over others. Both species of action involve ideation, communication, as well as biological needs and a material apparatus. The materialistic interpretation of history, so understood, may mean one or all of these three things. It may first imply the claim that the functions which meet the basic, biological wants of man have a greater urgency and are less amenable to postponement and sublimation than are those which meet the so-called secondary needs. Second, economic activities have a more limited scope of variability than others, and, therefore, it is the latter which are subject to the ‘strain of consistency’ with the former. Finally, economic activities have an absolute continuity and in that sense they form the primary basis of social integration. These propositions can be intelligibly discussed without recourse to the unrewarding antinomy of mind and matter.



History has become increasingly identified with a comprehensive and dynamic view of reality. What makes a narrative historical is not its past tense, for the historian may be at work already before the dust has settled. Nor is historiography achieved through a mere chronicle of dramatic events. The growing interdependence of society and its accelerated shift have given us new criteria for reporting and interpreting change. History will be considered for the present purpose an explicit account of change narrated comprehensively as a continuous process. The following annotation should shed some light on the meaning of these terms. Change is made explicit if sufficient account is taken of the operative forces to make the course and outcome of the process cogent. There is a certain parallel between the historical and the dramatic presentation. The resolution of a genuine drama must be compelling once the dramatic situation is fully exposed. The action must inherently follow from the exposition and no deus ex machina may decide the outcome. The historian must likewise unravel the train of events from a stated configuration of factors which constitute the historical situation. He must, in other words, advance the deterministic approach as far as the facts will warrant. The measure of explicitness is, of course, relative to the scale and format of the report; a miniature sketch may present a sharper and more convincing outline of a given subject than a wealth of unstructured detail painted on a large canvas. The Mesopotamian annals of court events and the Polynesian genealogies of chiefs do not constitute history, for they lack continuity. The substance of history—whether we call it life or reality—does not occur intermittently but as an unbroken stream of actions. Some of these are discrete, such as rebellions, discoveries, battles, legislative acts, and literary events, while others are continuous, such as activities which provide for food, shelter, health, education, safety, the maintenance of order, and so forth. The whole complex of these functions constitutes a structure because their relationships show a recurrent pattern which is characteristic of a given society. It is only through the articulation of these permanent functions that the continuity of 36


life becomes manifest and that the discrete events may be understood as elements in the historical continuum. What makes an account of change continuous, then, is not a ‘complete’ record of events—if such is at all possible—but the narration of events in the particular context of continuing functions. Historical reality can be understood only as an inclusive framework of interrelated activities. Inasmuch as reality is the substance and subject of history, comprehensiveness is one of the criteria of the recount. The historian may, however, view his subject in any particular perspective he chooses. He may restrict his focus to any single aspect of life, such as law, administration, literature, or economics. He will then select for presentation those facts which bear on his specialized interest, but he will place them in the comprehensive framework of those continuous functions which give life duration. The subject remains the same—life—although the focus of selective attention may vary. In short, any array of discrete events such as successive inventions or conquests may furnish the descriptive material for the report, but what makes it historical is the comprehensive framework within which the selected material is presented. History is then not a substantive, but an attribute of an evolving collectivity; it is not only a record of change, but also an account of that which changes. History conceived without its social medium is like motion perceived without that which is moving. Dilthey still used the expression ‘socio-historical reality’. Before him Hegel likewise spoke of evolving collectivities which he construed as the ‘Volksgeister’ (literally: folk spirits). Whatever the weakness of such a flatulent concept may be, at least it offered a frame of reference of some sort for Hegel’s evolutionary deductions. His successors abandoned the attempt to centre history around the ‘Volksgeister’, partly because of the volatility of the term, and partly because of the apparently shrinking scope of national histories in an era of mounting class conflicts. It was thus that the concept of history pure and simple, as an entity sui generis, and used without reference to any collectivity, began to assume a substantive meaning. The ‘historicity’ of things has even become the subject of a special ontology developed without regard to the social subjects of change. German philosophical literature abounds in 37


personifications of history as a productive force, as a catalytic agent or as an inexorable power. Here again we encounter the notion of a preordained course of events of which society is the passive object and scene rather than the author and performer. This reluctance to face social reality as the matrix of change also explains the overworked dichotomy of nature and history or the natural versus the historical sciences. The more realistic Western practice of contrasting the natural with the social sciences has, on the whole, not gained acceptance in German literature. The same disembodied notion of history has also bedevilled the ‘dialectics’ of the post-Hegelian reflections on history. Dialectic in Hegel’s version is the course in which the mind creates and resolves contradictions through its successive phases of self-realization. Since thought is identified with reality, and the evolution of the mind with the historical process, dialectics govern both emergent thought and the tangible course of universal history. Now Hegel’s dialectic is wholly consistent with his system, nebulous as it may be in much of its architectonic detail; since the evolving mind is the spark and substance of history, the historical process must also reflect the dialectical development of the mind and the antithetical emergence of all its concepts. Since the abandonment of Hegel’s system, however, it has become customary to speak of the dialectics of history per se, without any thought of what it is that moves or evolves in the stated antithetical forms. Actually what is dialectical is not history but given social situations which reveal inconsistencies or contradictions in the social structure. This author, for instance, has attempted to analyse antithetical impulses in group competition and in the conflict of generations.1 (To recognize actual antagonisms is, however, not the same as to postulate their dominance and continuous evolution throughout history. We shall soon return to a fuller discussion of Marx’ class conflict theory of history.) The seat of contradictions is not the mind, nor the foreordained rhythm of history, but concrete social situations which give rise to conflicting aspirations and, hence, to antagonistic interpretations of reality: the persistent 1 Reprinted as chapters 5 and 7 in Karl Mannheim’s Essays on the Sociology of Knowledge, London and New York, 1952.



evasion of its analysis once again proves to be the source of mystification. What then does sociological analysis mean? The initial problem of sociological analysis—as, indeed, of most branches of scientific inquiry—is how to bring to bear single observations on a structured field which exceeds the scope of individual experience. There are, of course, simple structures which are amenable to direct experience. The pecking order in a chicken yard or the rivalries in a play group may be identified in a single exposure. Now, knowledge of a subject which cannot be encompassed in one act evidently requires a series of acts chosen not at random, but according to a scheme which fits the structure of the field. The problem is one of strategy. It is a question of selecting vantage points of consecutive observations so that they will bear on one another and ultimately disclose the design of the field. Now, all analyses take their departure from certain random encounters, that is, from some immediately apparent aspect of the subject. Subsequent considerations derived from additional exposures to the subject will, however, modify the interpretation of what was first perceived. Its new meaning is no longer based on direct, ad hoc experience, but is ‘mediated’ by subsequent phases of the analysis. Thus, the inquiry progresses from the direct and immediately given view of the field to its derivative aspect or, to use Hegel’s classical term, to ‘mediate knowledge’. ‘…to understand an object is…to grasp it in its determinate or mediate character….’ (Hegel, Encyclopädie der Philosophischen Wissenschaften, 2nd Edition, § 62). Even day-to-day encounters with people often enough necessitate progressive reinterpretations of previous experience. I meet a stranger in the dentist’s parlour. He inquires about my age, marital status, income, posi ion, training, and he makes unfavourable comments on my qualifications for my position and on my social manners. At this point I am ready to demand his credentials, when a third person intimates by gesture that my partner is intoxicated. That changes my first diagnosis of the man. My earlier observations were not altogether incorrect, but in the new context their meaning has changed. Such is the typical course of sociological analysis of complex structures. Now, D—E.S.C.



ESSAYS ON THE SOCIOLOGY OF CULTURE The Sociology of Karl Mannheim K.Mannheim (1935) Ideology and Utopia: an Introduc...

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