Abailart's Reviews > Ideology and Utopia: An Introduction to the Sociology of Knowledge

Ideology and Utopia by Karl Mannheim
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Apr 03, 10

bookshelves: psychology, philosophy, sociology
Read from March 24 to April 03, 2010

I wish I’d picked up another strand in my review of The Last Gentleman. In it, the engineer, accompanied by a telescope, maps, a firkin and an knowledge of air conditioning represents to some degree measurement, exactitude, reasoning itself; in the novel this is contrasted against the fleshy immanences of existence, the messy viscera of humanity, and also the limits of abstract reasoning. Yet there’s a dissolution (not a compromise, not a resolution) of the dialectic or contrast – perhaps because they are, as Wittgenstein may have claimed, not really ‘problems’ at all. There is, demonstrated rather than ‘argued for’, in the novel (and demonstration is an entirely different kind of thing that writers and artists do where philosophers cannot) an unproblematical living with reason, body, feeling as a possibility.
Mannheim’s Ideology and Utopia is an Introduction to the Sociology of Knowledge which is not philosophy nor art but deals with the same issues: that between the abstract, transcendental world views of metaphysical and logical positivisms, and the actual lived experience of an individual or group (for the latter include cultural history of an idea, a nation etc) a lived history of experience involving a dialectic of oppression and resistance, inheritance by osmosis of values and their modifications, and ultimately an epistemology which must eschew philosophy but concentrate upon psychology, sociology and an intellectual near-pragmatism which is aware of its own perspectives and constructions as much as it is aware of current histories and the possibilities of change.
Written in 1936 within shooting range of Hitler, this book is extremely pertinent today when aside from the obvious ‘fundamentalisms’, the return to dogma and unacknowledged dredging of the irrational to produce modern progressive myths to live by are startlingly apparent to the analysis Mannheim suggests. That the irrational is the foundation of the rational Mannheim emphasises, but the implications of this for self knowledge and understandings of group cohesion are crucial.
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Quotes Abailart Liked

Karl Mannheim
“In our contemporary social and intellectual plight, it is nothing less than shocking to discover that those persons who claim to have discovered an absolute are usually the same people who also pretend to be superior to the rest. To find people in our day attempting to pass off to the world and recommending to others some nostrum of the absolute which they claim to have discovered is merely a sign of the loss of and the need for intellectual and moral certainty, felt by broad sections of the population who are unable to look life in the face.”
Karl Mannheim, Ideology and Utopia: An Introduction to the Sociology of Knowledge


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