"Can we master the global tensions or must we suffer shipwreck on our own history?"
As the title suggests, this paper places Mannheim's 1930 "General Sociology" lectures in two contexts: the vicissitudes of Mannheim's personal history and the theoretical problem constellation of the most recent time. Mannheim conjured up the specter of shipwreck at a time when political and social conditions were doubtless threatening, but when his personal career was in fact at its most promising — and indeed at its highest — point. He did not expect to founder. He had good reason, rather, to believe that the tensions of the times could be mastered, and that he was in a position to make a major contribution. The publication of Ideology and Utopia had made him a representative figure among the younger intellectuals and the call to the Sociology chair in Frankfurt had put him in a strategic place. The prominent scholar and republican official, Carl Becker, who won him the appointment against faculty opposition, shared Mannheim's deepest conviction that sociology embodied the cultivation appropriated to the modern age and that teaching sociology, in consequence, was itself a decisive intervention in public life (Becker 1919, Loader/Kettler 2000). Mannheim's introductory course was anything but a routine chore for him, and the lectures represent an exceptionally important statement of his overall design. That Mannheim designates the tensions to be mastered as "global" implies a special challenge to present-day advanced social thought, when earlier designs are so often relegated to a comparatively closed "modern" epoch when "mastery" belonged to nation-states (Albrow 1997). Mannheim offers an impressive model of thinking courageously under conditions when advanced thought is accused of responsibility for moral and political confusion, if not outright treachery to the nation. He lets the attacks, as he says, come unbearably close, but he persists in the project of openness.
Kettler, D. (2000)., "Can we master the global tensions or must we suffer shipwreck on our own history?", in M. Endreß & I. Srubar (eds.), Karl Mannheims Analyse der Moderne, Wiesbaden, Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, pp. 293-309.
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