Karl Mannheim: Introduction, Sociology of Knowledge and Historical Relativism

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  • German thinker
  • 1893 - 1947
  • Hermeneutics School
  • Influenced by Marx ′ s idea on Ideology but critical of him
  • Far from being a Marxist
  • Worked on Systems of Knowledge especially Sociology of Knowledge
  • Provided foundation for the subject

Sociology of Knowledge

  • Coined by Max Scheler
  • Mannheim՚s book- ‘Ideology and Utopia: An Introduction to Sociology of knowledge’
  • Study of relationship between human thoughts and social context
  • Systematic study of knowledge, ideas
  • Knowledge determined by social existence
Sociology of Knowledge

Historical Relativism

Social conflict is caused by the diversity in thoughts and beliefs (ideologies) among major segments of society that derive from differences in social location.

Essays on Sociology of Knowledge

Relationship between thought and society and is concerned with the social or existential conditions of knowledge - Lewis Closer


ideas and believes are rooted in larger systems of thought like Time, space, class, generation, region, geography et cetera


How can we prove scientific knowledge with this as there are only facts.

Ideology and Utopia


  • Systems of thought held by societies, ruling groups, preserves the status quo
  • Emerged from political conflict
  • Representations of the workings of the social world.


  • Systems of thoughts by oppressed groups interested in the transformation of society,
  • Futuristic
  • Destruction and transformation of a given condition of society

Total Ideology

  • combining ideologies
  • Unified
  • How actors see the world around them

Particular Ideology

  • narrow or local
  • specific interests or points of view
  • fallacy of Marx
  • dominant vocalist
  • like grand theory


  • Posthumously published book: “Freedom, Power and Demographic Planning” , 1950
  • Social planning of the society
  • One ideology does not fit all
  • Creative intelligentsia- Bring about changes
  • “The intellectual activity of” unmasking “is an antidote for both of these frames of thought: a revealing of the distortions associated with a certain framework and a revealing of the interests that make these distortions understandable.”


Q. 1. With reference to Karl Mannheim՚s understanding of ideology, consider the following:

a) He favours class consciousness

b) He criticizes class consciousness

c) He neither favours nor criticizes

d) None of the above

Ans: b)

Q. 2. In this sociology of knowledge proper Mannheim refers to a plurality of groups to which knowledge can be related and which make up the structure of the social. What are the groups that he has emphasized about?

a) Class and generation

b) Ideology and society

c) Society and dynamics

d) Location and society

Ans: a)