Essays on the sociology of knowledge - PDF by Karl Mannheim

Essays on the sociology of knowledge

Karl Mannheim
Karl Mannheim


When Karl Mannheim died early in 1947 in his fifty-third year, he left a number of unpublished manuscripts in varying stages of completion. At the invitation of Dr Julia Mannheim, the author's widow and life-long collaborator, I assisted in setting up an editorial team selected from Mannheim's friends and former students, for the purpose of making at least part of that material available for publication. 

Furthermore, we felt that Mannheim's German writings had retained their full significance and ought to be reproduced in a form accessible to the English-speaking public. In all those decisions we were guided by the conviction that not only do the ideas laid down in these writings form an essential key to the full understanding of Mannheim's work, but they contain a most important and topical contribution to social theory as well as an impetus for social action. 

The present volume is the sequel to Freedom, Power, and Democratic Planning, which was published in 1950. It contains six essays that Mannheim wrote and published in German scientific magazines between 1923 and 1929: elaborations of one dominant theme, the Sociology of Knowledge, which at the same time represents one of Mannheim's main contributions to sociological theory. 

During the fifteen years since Mannheim's Ideology and Utopia were first published in this country, the Sociology of Knowledge has moved into the centre of discussion among sociologists and philosophers. 

The ideas laid down in this new volume should greatly help in clarifying the important issues. The task of translating and editing the German text was performed by Dr Paul Kecskemeti, Research Associate of the Rand Corporation, Santa Monica, California. He has also contributed an introduction on the history of the problem, and on the treatment, it received at successive stages of Mannheim's work. In the task of translation, he was mainly assisted by Mrs Jean Floud, of the London School of Economics, The Rockefeller Foundation awarded a grant to the Institute c World Affairs of the New School for Social Research towards the cost of preparing this manuscript for publication.


The present volume contains six essays written by Karl Mannheim during the early part of his academic career in Germany. These papers have not been available in English thus far; they have remained scattered in various German publications. Their publication in the present collection of Mannheim's writings serves the purpose of illuminating the genesis and formation of one of his most important contributions to sociology, the 'Sociology of Knowledge.

 For reasons of space, two essays of the same period, dealing with the same kind of topic, will be included in the second volume of essays, otherwise devoted to writings published after Mannheim's emigration from Germany in 1933. I have attempted to give a brief survey of the intellectual and political background of these writings, and of the stages through which Mannheim's ideas concerning the sociology of knowledge developed. Mannheim's sociology of knowledge was often misunderstood as a variant of scepticism and illusionism. 

I shall try to show that his purpose was not to demonstrate the inescapability of relativism and scepticism, but rather the thesis that in spite of the inescapability of certain relativist conclusions, genuine knowledge of historical and social phenomena was possible] According to him, participation in the social process, which renders one's perspective partial and biased, also enables one to discover the truth of deep human import. 

In Mannheim's approach, the productivity of ^^ social participation as a source of knowledge plays a more important role than the limitations that participation in the social process puts upon knowledge. The reader will see, once the Author's intention has become clear, the universal and vital import of the subject treated and of the author's approach.


the book details :
  • Author:  Karl  Mannheim
  • Publication date: 1952
  • Company:  London: Routledge & K. Paul

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