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Thoroughly modern Mannheim and the postmodern Weltanschauung.

By Tim Dant


There are a number of features of Mannheim’s method for the interpretation of weltanschauung that laid the foundations for his later sociology of knowledge and that could be considered as prefiguring the methodological principles of a postmodern world-view. Like postmodernists he stresses the significance of culture, and addresses the role of ideas and meaning in the form of society. His tripartite theory of meaning moves away from a determination of meaning by authorial intentions and towards the indeterminacy of documentary meaning. His theory of ‘relationism’ follows a similar pattern to the postmodernist concept of ‘difference’ and ultimately relies on immanent criteria of validity. Despite these continuities with postmodern perspectives I argue that Mannheim cannot be turned into a postmodernist because he seeks a foundation for meaning and its interpretation in historicism. Moreover, while his method analyses material objects and social subjects in the same way, he nonetheless maintains an ontological distinction between objects and subjects that distinguishes his approach from the hyperrealist perspective of postmodernism. If Mannheim cannot be claimed as a postmodernist before its time, his approach to analysing world-views reveals the modernist pretensions of theories that describe a postmodern weltanschauung as if the current epoch could be characterised in a unitary and coherent way

Year: 1997
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Provided by: Lancaster E-Prints

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