Book Section: CHAPTER 2 — Ideology and Utopia in Karl Mannheim: Revisiting the Origins of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge for an Exploratory Framework — by Mohammad H. Tamdgidi




This is the second chapter of the first volume of the series, Liberating Sociology: From Newtonian to Quantum Imaginations, subtitled Unriddling the Quantum Enigma, by Mohammad H. Tamdgidi. The chapter is titled, “Ideology and Utopia in Karl Mannheim: Revisiting the Origins of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge for an Exploratory Framework.” It serves to offer a framework for the volume, based on a critique, conducted two decades earlier, of the sociology of knowledge of Karl Mannheim as presented in his Ideology and Utopia (1936). 

The study revisits the conceptual framework employed by Karl Mannheim in his Ideology and Utopia (1936), seeking (1) a new understanding of the self-defeating arguments which influenced the later developments in the scholarly field of sociology of knowledge, and (2) new avenues to address the vital issues originally raised by him. Despite Mannheim’s intent on founding a discipline to help overcome ideological and utopian biases in social science and praxis, a careful analysis of his text demonstrates that the very arguments he advanced to build such a discipline was itself biased, disclosing significant ideological and utopian elements in his own thinking. Although Mannheim advanced the field to the point where it became concerned with collective self-reflexivity in social science, he failed to confront the problem at the level of individual self-knowledge. Moreover, the Eurocentric framework of his conceptual framework prevented him from developing a world-historical appreciation of potential contributions by non-Western traditions to the science of self-knowledge and transformation. 

Tamdgidi argues that the sociology of knowledge needs to be recognized as a broader and more flexibly defined field than one defined narrowly in terms of “the social determination of knowledge” thesis, taking into consideration the reciprocal ways in which social existence and knowledge interact with one another in terms of the dialectics of part and whole. Alternatively he proposes a postdeterminist dialectical research practice which considers the specific nature of causality between thought and society to be determinable only as a result of concrete analysis of specific biographical and historical conditions, treating various causal modalities developed by various sociologists of knowledge as equally plausible and worthy of consideration.

Tamdgidi then proposes a sociology of self-knowledge as a sub-field of inquiry in the sociology of knowledge that extends the exercise of the sociological imagination in both directions in terms of the study of how the investigator’s own self-knowledge and world-historical social structures constitute one another. The purpose is to accomplish what Mannheim promised to be an important aim of his sociology of knowledge, namely, to bring together and synthesize comparative and competing approaches to the subject matter at hand in order to arrive at a more all-rounded perspective. 

Tamdgidi argues in a new epilogue that his appreciative critique of Mannheim was essentially a critique of the objectivist and predeterministic, Newtonian structures of thinking informing Mannheim’s work, implicitly offering an exploratory framework more corresponding to the findings of relativistic and quantum scientific revolutions. Besides offering a suitable exploratory framework, Tamdgidi’s critique offers evidence that sociological self-reflective analysis and critique can lead to conclusions that supports the basic epistemological and methodological findings of quantum science, in particular regarding the probabilistic nature of social phenomena and the relations between knowledge and social existence, as well as the need for inclusion of the observer as a part of the object of investigation. The study also illustrated the author’s recognition of the significance of transdisciplinarity and transculturalism in conducting reflective sociological and social scientific inquiries.

Recommended Citation

Tamdgidi, Mohammad H. 2020. “CHAPTER 2 — Ideology and Utopia in Karl Mannheim: Revisiting the Origins of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge for an Exploratory Framework.” Pp. 103-136 in Liberating Sociology: From Newtonian Toward Quantum Imaginations: Volume 1: Unriddling the Quantum Enigma. (Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge: Vol. XIII, Issue 1, 2020.) Belmont, MA: Okcir Press (an imprint of Ahead Publishing House).

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