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Middlemarch: An Authoritative Text, Backgrounds, Reviews and Criticism (A Norton Critical Edition)
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From Karl Mannheim

From Karl Mannheim - Karl Mannheim, Volker Meja, David Kettler Very effective collection of Mannheim’s writings. Lengthy introduction by editor. Intro covers the [b:Ideology and Utopia|330252|Ideology and Utopia An Introduction to the Sociology of Knowledge|Karl Mannheim|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1349037430s/330252.jpg|320827], but volume collects no part of it, recommending instead just reading the whole thing.

Mannheim might be generally familiar for what Cliff Geetrz identified as Mannheim’s Paradox--the problem that how one identifies something as “ideology” (in the marxist sense) is itself an ideological determination--or: how can one critique ideology when one’s critique is saturated therewith? It’s good stuff for marxist epistemology, though Mannheim is not really a marxist himself.

Individual essays that I found useful:

“The Problem of a Sociology of Knowledge” - starts of with a nice history of the idea of “constellation” as drawn from astrology and “incorporated in the new context of Weltanshauung“ (59). Sociology of knowledge as a problematic is found within the constellation of a) “self-transcendence and self-relativization” (62), b) the “unmasking turn of mind” (65), c) the “emergence of […] the social sphere, in respect to which thought could be conceived of as relative” (69), and d) “the aspiration to make this relativization total” (id.). Goes on to discuss the relation of this schema to positivism, neo-Kantianism, Hegel, Marx, phenomenology.

“The Ideological and the Sociological Interpretation of Intellectual Phenomena” - opens with a tidy note that “to experience an idea as ideology differs from negating or doubting it” (118). Develops a typology of interpretation, divided between intrinsic and extrinsic, rising from subjectively-intended, through objective interpretation to genetic, and so on. Perhaps a bit schematic, but it is a schema.

“Conservative Thought” - one of the keystones of the volume. Wants to place conservative thought in a typology of “styles of thought” (132) (cf. Foucault’s “figures of thought”). It is the assumption that “individuals do not create the patterns of thought in terms of which they conceive the world, but take it over from their groups” (133). Credits German conservatism to the scorecard of Burke, as the German rightwing adopted Britain’s reaction to the French Revolution (140). Kant is the philosopher of the French Revolution “not primarily because he was in full sympathy with its political aims, but because the form of his thought belief (as reflected for example in his concept of the ratio, in his belief in gradual progress, in his general optimism, and so on), is of the same brand as that which was a dynamic force behind the activities of the French revolutionaries” (142), as against the reactionaries, who are not rational Kantians. Shows its Weberian influence in “the characteristic quality of capitalist bourgeois consciousness is that it knows no bounds in the process of rationalization” (143). Notes that capitalist order drives irrationality to its periphery--that “the representatives of the new social order, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, which more and more immersed in the new modes of life and thought, and it is only at the periphery of the new society--among the nobility, the peasantry, and the petit bourgeois--that the old traditions are kept alive” (146). Romanticism is “the historical opponent of the intellectual tendencies of the Enlightenment,” “against the philosophical exponents of bourgeois capitalism,” developed from the Enlightenment as antithesis to thesis” (147). Romanticism was the “rescuing” of traditional ideas under the march of capitalism (147-48), representing the first criticism of capitalism, originating on the right, and eventually taken over by the left (148). This oddity is explained as part of the synthetic nature of proletarian thought (149 ff.). Thereafter, traditionalism (fear of the new) is distinguished from conservatism proper (153), which is defined more specifically in relation to specific policy preferences of the Enlightenment and French Revolution, which the essay elaborates for many pages. Suffice to say that romantic-conservatism reaches “back towards this feudal conservative concept of property” (162). A slick summation is made (175): German conservatism opposed the doctrines of the state of nature, the social contract, popular sovereignty, and inalienable rights, and refused the methodologies of rationalism, deductive reasoning, egalitarian universal validity of citizens, universal applicability of law, abstract collective persons, and static thinking. It really is incredibly good, and one might see spectres of fascism and teabaggers all over it.

“Competition as a Cultural Phenomenon” - all that is solid melts into air: “the process of atomistic competition among concrete groups, which resulted in an increasingly radical rejection of an externally given ordo (as recognized by the monopolistic type of thought), and in the aspiration to base thinking upon rational assumptions exclusively--this process in the end has led to the following results, which have only just become clearly visible to us, after being denied by many: once this genuinely modern stage is reached, there exists a) no universally accepted set of axioms, b) no universally recognized hierarchy of values, and c) nothing but radically different ontologies and epistemologies” (239). Discusses thereafter the polarization process in the competition of ideas, how, for example, “different types of ‘irrationalism’ merged and established a common front against ‘rationalism’” (id.). Revolutions of 1789, 1830, 1848 all are descended from polarization processes (241). Thoughtful analysis in these terms of how the German conservative party formed (my marginalia have a number of references to the teabaggers). Marxism, incidentally, has its own polarization process, as against Bakunin. Plenty of references to Sombart carries us plainly into fascism.

“The Democratization of Culture” - The second keystone. Useful commentary on the relation of dictatorship & democracy, preparatory to discussion of democratization of the arts. Basic principles of democracy are described as a) essential & ontological equality of human persons (not incidental & actual equality, which is the strawperson that the rightwing hangs on this doctrine) (276), b) the autonomy of the individual (277), and c) novel elite selection & management procedures (280). It’s all slick, and he works through it methodically in applying the schema to culture and the arts. Key concept in the analysis is distantiation, as “distance” and other spatial metaphors become the means by which elitism is produced and maintained (307). “Democratization means essentially a reduction of vertical distance, a de-distantiation” (310). Other points: “democratization entails a shift from the morphological to the analytical outlook” (314); “Democratization, in fact, means disillusionment” (316). And so on.