DU SOL BA 3rd Year History of Social Thought Notes Chapter 13 Karl Mannheim (1893—1947)

DU SOL BA 3rd Year History of Social Thought Notes Chapter 13 Karl Mannheim (1893—1947)

Question 1.
Examine Mannheim’s ideas of functions of Sociology.
What problems were suggested by Kari Mannheim in the analysis of social phenomena ? Explain.
Karl Mannheim divided sociology on the basis of functions into following three categories :

  1. Systematic or General Sociology,
  2. Comparative Sociology.
  3. Structural Sociology.

These are being discussed below :

1. Systematic or General Sociology. Karl Mannheim stressed that for initiating useful casual enquiries in sociology, one must not be held up by the ad hoc concepts but one should go beyond these concepts, as these serve the purpose of ‘first approximation’ and help in discovering ‘common causal factors in the maze of intermittent historical phenomena’. It has been cited as an example, that “from the point of view of historian and the political scientist, a secret society of the so called primitives, a ‘guild’ in the middle ages or a modern social club may be totally dissimilar or non-comparable, but the moment the sociologist introduces the general concept ‘closed group’, a common factor emerges and the whole analysis, and comparison become meaningful”.

2. Comparative Sociology. Comparitive analysis of the general concepts in systematic sociology is essential to make them fruitful and this can happen only if they (i.e. general concepts) “are based on the widest possible expansion of the field of observation, when alone it will tye possible to see the various phenomena in their proper proportions and to reduce them to their basic und simplified characteristics. Therefore, the concepts of systematic sociological must grow out of the results arrived at in comparative sociological inquiry”.

3. Structural Sociology. The idea of structure was a dominent element in Karl Mannheim’s approach to sociology. Structural sociology explains, “the general features of human behaviour patterns and the universally possible, ultimate elements of society not only in abstracts, but also the specific separate constellations which from time to time they assume in different societies in history.”

Karl Mannheim divides structural sociology into two segments : (i) Statics and (») Dynamics. According to Mannheim, “The theory of statics deals with the problem of equilibrium of all the social factors (not only in the economic ones) in a- given social structure. It tries to show what makes different societies work….In Dynamic Sociology, we concentrate on those factors which are antagonistic in their v respective tendencies. Here we stress the working of those principles which in the long run tend to a disequilibrium and thus bring abopt changes which transform the social structure.”

Highlighting the importance of structural sociology, Mannheim points out that only structural sociology is capable of a comprehensive synthesis of bulk of the facts collected by different social sciences because ‘it is its function to elaborate and compare social structure as wholes’. He writes. “It is only the structural view of society which enables us to transcend the stage of a mere cumulative synthesis, by relating the data of the special sciences to our hypothetical conception, which views the functioning of societies as a continuous adjustment of all their parts to one another”.

However, this function can be discharged by structural sociology only by using the analytical work done by systematic and comparative sociology and also by keeping in constant touch with various specialised branches of knowledge. Thus sociology “is on the one hand a clearing house for the results arrived as by the specialised social sciences and, on the other hand, a new elaboration of the materials on which they are based.”

It has already been pointed out that the idea of structure always, dominated Karl Mannheim’s approach to sociology. Paul Kacskemeti, points out following characteristics of structure :

(a) Structure is the most comprehensive feature of reality. No component part of society may be said to have structure, and any partial phenomena is to be understood only in terms of the comprehensive structure of the whole.

(b) Structure is a dynamic entity. It did not consist of a network of static relationships to which any social conflict was extraneous. Structure, as conceived by Mannheim always implied plasticity and consisted of the configuration of antagonistic forces.

(c) Structure is an intelligible principle. Although a configuration of antagonistic forces, structure involves not a blind dynamism but goal-directedness because it had a discoverable meaning. “The highest and greatest happiness of the individual consisted in being in tune with the creative process which was going on in the depths of the structure.

Question 2.
Discuss Karl Mannheim’s methodology.
What methodology was pointed out by Karl Mannheim for the analysis and study of the social problem ? Discuss.
Ans. Karl Mannheim’s Methodology. Mannheim in his approach to the study of sociology, through appropriate modifications, conceded the utility of the ideas of Hegel and Karl Marx. Karl Marx indicated that bis works were an in equiry into the connection of philosophy with reality. Karl Mannheim set up to generalise this programme and to analyse the ways in which systems of ideas depend on the social position – particularly; the class position of their proponents.

Karl Maanheim’s methodology contains the flints of Hegel’s historicism and the Marxist ideas. He began with the thinking with the position of the probability that all ideas, even truths “were related to, and hence influenced by the social and historical situation from which they emerged”. He opined that the statement – ideas emerge within human situation showed form the core of any serious study of human knowledge. Mannheim at the very beginning insisted upon this point as the basic premise.

He writes, “Men do not confront the objects of the world from the abstract levels of a contemplating mind as such, nor do they do so exclusively as solitary beings. On the contrary, they act with and against one another in diversely ’ organised groups, and while doing so they think with and against each other.” He pointed out that unless a careful analysis of the situation within which ideas emerge, the ideas themselves can not rightly be understood.

Karl Mannheim, with great determination demonstrated that human thought is “situationally relative”. In his Sociology of Knowledge, he contended that not only do fundamental orientations, evolutions, aud the content of ideas differ but that the manner of stating a problem, the sort of approach made, and even the categories in which the experiences are subsumed, collected, and ordered vary according to the social position of the observer.” Uustrating this point he further writes, “when, in the early years of nineteenth century, an old-style German conservative spoke of ‘freedom’ he meant thereby the right of each estate to live according to its privileges (liberties).

If he belonged to the romantic – Conservative and Protestant movement he understood by it “inner freedom”, i.e. the right of each individual to live according to his own individual personality…When a liberal of the same period used the term ‘freedom’ he was kinking of freedom from precisely those privileges which to the old-style conservative appeared to be the very basis of all freedom….In brief, even in the formulation of concepts, the angle of vision is guided by the observer’s interests. Thought is directed in accordance with what a particular social group expects”.

Karl Mannheim’s knowledge methodology was criticised because of being a part of relativism. A question was posed when his system did claim that all socio-hislorical knowledge was socially determined in both form and content, then what comes of ‘truth’and why is the system not ‘relativistic’? This question has been answered by the supporters of his theory by saying that, relativism leads to nihilism – to the position that nothing can be truly known. To avoid this problem he developed the concept of relationism, which, in contrast to relativism, analyzes the social perspective of a body of knowledge, not in order to discredit it, but rather to understand it better.

Question 3.
Discuss Karl Mannheim’s theory of sociology of knowledge.
Karl Mannheim’s sociology of knowledge. Mannheim has discussed at length the role of ideas in relation to structures in which they are embedded. The notion of structure guides him in all his ideas. He rejected isolated approach to ideas and has stressed that thinking is an activity that must be related to other social activities within a structural framework. Every individual activity in all spheres should be interpreted within the context of group experienced. Thinking cannot be free from group life and as such must be interpreted within group context.

He has also said that knowledge is a cooperative process of group life in which everyone unfolds it within a framework of common activity. He believes that all ideas and even truths are related to an influence by social and historical situations from which these have emerged. The very fact that each thinker is affiliated with some particular groups in society and holds some status and plays some social roles establishes that his intellectual outlook is coloured.

The people neither confront objects of world from the abstract levels of a contemplating mind nor do they do so exclusively as solitary beings but they act against one another in diversely organised groups.

According to him, sociology of knowledge is a theory of social conditioning of thought. All knowledge is bound to a location within the social structure and historical process. According to Coser, he believes that the “Ideas are rooted in differential location in historical time and social structure of their proponents so that thought is inevitably perspectivistic”.

The cornerstone of Mannheim’s doctrine of knowledge is existential determination. The process of knowledge does not actually develop historically in accoidance with well established laws but that is influenced by extra theoretical or external factors. These factors, he has said, determine the scope and intensity of our experience and observation.

Mannheim is of the view that not only fundamental orientations and the content of the ideas differ but the manner of stating a problem and one sort of approach aUp varies according to social position of the observer.

He has also said that social forces are cause of intellectual products. At times he has also said that social forces are necessary and sufficient conditions for the odetijWtions are external factors which determine ideas.

All thoughts nave necessarily an ideological character.

Under the influence of Karl Marx, he has said that means of production determine the intellectual life of an individual. .For him, structure of mind is always influenced by the structure of society. Thus there is close relationship between structure, society and that of man. He is of the view that all thoughts are born out of mind and get greatly influenced by society. Each period has its own style of thought. He has also said that for proper understanding of an ideology its social origin must be clearly understood. Our thoughts are based on our experiences and these are very much influenced by society.

He has also said that sociology of knowledge is not the study of individual thought but thoughts of a particular period. It is the study of men in groups who have developed a particular style of thought. He has opined that it studies the modes of thoughts of individuals in relation to pattern of thoughts established by traditions.
He is firmly convinced that social thoughts are outcome of Collective activity.

Functions of sociology of knowledge, according to him, is to find out the relationship between structural and historical positions of knowledge in relevance to social process.

While assessing his contribution to the sociology of knowledge it has been said that, “He was a pioneer who ventured out on frontiers of knowledge that more cautious thinkers would avoid… He transferred what to Marx had been mainly a tool of polemical attack against his bourgeois adversaries into a general instrument of analysis that could be used as effectively for the study of Marxism as for any other system of thought”.

DU SOL BA 3rd Year History of Social Thought Notes

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