Michael Löwy 

The lost heritage of heretical historicism

Karoly Mannheim and György Lukacs are two brilliant products of an (almost) disappeared species: the (assimilated) Jewish intelligentsia of Budapest. Whatever their differences in character and orientation, there is a sort of subtle affinity between them, a similar Denkstil (to use a typically Mannheimian expression), rooted in the German romantic culture and its Zivilisationskritik of modern society in the name of pre-capitalist values.

This paper deals with Mannheim's relationship to Lukacs from 1910 until 1933. It will examine more briefly the Hungarian period of their friendship (1910 - 1919) because this has already been done remarkably well by David Ketller and Eva Karadi, and pay more attention to the Weimarian years.    

If the main issue of Georg Lukacs early writings is, as György Markus has so perceptively shown, the protest against the impossibility of culture in modern bourgeois society, and the attempt to find some sort of solution for this "tragedy of culture", by overcoming the split between "Soul" and "Life", there is no doubt that the same problematic is at the center of Mannheim's own early reflections.1 On can consider him, until 1918, as a sort of disciple of Lukacs, or at least, as someone fascinated by his thought.

In one of his - rare -  mentions of Mannheim in his later years, Lukacs wrote in a letter to Frank Benseler (from 27.4.1961): "Ich stand mit Mannheim in nahen Beziehungen,  als er Student war, man könnte sagen, mein akademisch inoffizieller Schüler...".2  Although slightly condescending, the statement is quite accurate and is confirmed by Mannheim's early letters to Lukacs. For instance, on July 3, 1910, the young student, then only 18 years, writes to his mentor: "your guidance is invaluable to me at this stage of my development... Nothing shows the importance of your advice more than the fact that as of this summer my studies have acquired a definitive direction." He signs the letter with a formula that is more than mere politeness: "Your respectful follower, Karl Mannheim". A few years latter, Lukacs has sufficient confidence in his "respectful follower" to propose him the heavy task of translating the History of the development of the modern drama from the Hungarian into German.  Mannheim eagerly accepts the proposition (which failed to be implemented because of the irruption of the war) and adds, in his answer from July 25, 1914: "your writings and your personality played a much greater role in my own development than you can possibly imagine".3

One year later, when Lukacs returned from Heidelberg to Budapest, Mannheim joined the famous Sonntagskreis which met weekly around the author of Die Seele und die Formen, including people such as Bela Balazs, Arnold Hauser, Anna Lesznai, Bela Fogarasi, Friedrich Antal and Lajos Fülep. This strongly emotional (almost religious in their intensity) discussions among friends on litterary, mystical and philosophical issues had a lasting impact on young Mannheim. In 1930. he recollects nostalgically the Sonntagskreis in a letter to Béla Balasz: "life has granted me many unhoped-for gifts,  but what it has never been able to replace are the old kinds of friendships"4 A few years letter, he confessed to Lajos Füllep  that he  "nie und nirgends das Äquivalent dessen finden  konnte, was die 'Sonntage' waren".5 It is probable that this experience inspired the formulation of his own version of Alfred Weber's theory of the freischwebende Intelligenz: in any case, Lukacs, Mannheim and their friends (the so-called széllemkék, from the Hungarian "Széllem", Seele) were freischwebend enough during those years (l915-18), even if most of them would soon actively join the Hungarian revolution of 1918-19.6 One could consider the Sonntagskreis and its public extension, Budapest's Freien Schule der Geistwissenschaften as a peculiarly Hungarian version of the Romantic Zivilisationskritik dominant in Central Europe, In the struggle against the evolutionary scientism of Oscar Jaszi and his friends of the Social-Scientific Society,  they drew on the refined and subtle "German ideology" brought by Lukacs from the Max Weber Circle in Heidelberg, and by Mannheim from the Simmel seminar in Berlin. Like their German counterparts, the széllemkék did not reject all aspects of modern society, but sympathised nevertheless with the Romantic (in the broad sense of "Romantic anticapitalism") cultural critique of bourgeois civilisation - a critical tradition that goes from Rousseau to Schlegel, and from Kirkegaard to Dostoievsky (to quote some of the names mentioned by Mannheim in 1917).  However, unlike the German mandarins, they were not part of a privileged academic establishment and were not attracted by the nationalist dreams of an imperial power: belonging to the "pariah" (in Hanna Arendt's use of the term) Jewish intelligentsia, they admired democratic revolutionary ideas as embodied in Endre Ady's poetry, as well as Erwin Szabo's libertarian socialism.  The combination of this elements helps to explain the stark difference between their political choices in l918-19 and those of the German professors.

Mannheim was not just a follower of Lukacs: he soon became one of the leading figures of the Geisteswissenschaftler; as Arnold Hauser emphasized in an interview many years later, "Karl Mannheim war, neben Lukacs, zweifellos der bedeutendste Kopf, ein originel denkender, wenn auch,  wie mehr oder weniger alle,  unter dem einfluss von Lukacs stehender Mann." Bela Balasz,  describing one of his first lectures at the Freie Schule in  his Diary  (entry of May 28, 1917) is filled with wonder and admiration: "Mannheim (...) gab eine herrliche, erregende und reiche Erstvorstellung eines kommenden bedeutenden Philosophen" 7    

His programmatic conference of 1917, Seele und Kultur, reflects, as David Kettler has shown, both the consensus among the Geisteswissenschaftler and the strong influence of Lukacs on the whole group. Much of the topoï of the conference are taken from Die Seele und die Formen. There are two direct references to Lukacs in it: "In seinem Versuch über Ästhetik wird Lukacs darlegen, wie sich das Kunstschaffen zum inadequäten Kulturgeggenstand macht, und er wird dabei ein System der Ästhetik als die Erfüllung dieser Einstellungsmöglichkeit entwerfen".  Kurt H. Wolff, the editor of the German translation of this document in 1964, connects this passage, in an editorial footnote, to Lukacs Hungarian article "Ästhetische Kultur" from 1911, but this is incompatible with Mannheim's language about a future work. György Markus has shown that the whole conceptual apparatus of Mannheim's conference has its source in Simmel and in Lukacs early aesthetical manuscripts from Heidelberg (1912-14); obviously, it is to this texts, and in particular to the unfinished Philosophie der Kunst, that he is refering himself in Seele und Kultur.  However, it would be a mistake to consider this document as a mere reproduction of lukacsian ideas: the young Mannheim already began to formulate his own viewpoint. For instance, as Markus emphasizes, the Lebensphilosophische Tendenzen are much stronger in his conference than in Lukacs early manuscripts.8

The other reference has to do, curiously enough, not with Die Seele und die Formen, but with the sociological essay on the history of drama. This Hungarian work from 1909 (A modern drama fejlödésének története) was, as György Markus observed, the first attempt by Lukacs to relate the crisis of culture to the economic and class structure of modern bourgeois society.9 While rejecting die Theorie des Überbaus, Mannheim praises Erwin Szabo's conference on Marxism, and presents Lukacs Entwicklungsgeschichte des modernen Dramas as the proof that "solch ein Ausgangspunkt mit seinem Fragen nach dem Hineinspielen von Gesellschaftsformen in die Kunst fruchtbar sein kann". Until 1917 Mannheim and Lukacs (probably under the influence of Simmel) seem to share a - rather narrow - understanding of Marxism not as a Weltanschauung or a political praxis, but mainly as a sociological method for understanding culture.10

As we all know, this will radically change in l918-19, when Lukacs decided to join the Communist Party in an act of almost religious conversion ("Saul became Paul" in Anna Lesznai's words) and became "Peoples Commissar for Education and Culture" during the short-lived Hungarian Council's Republic. In fact, as G. Markus has convincingly argued, this is not so much a break with his early reflections, nor an "irrational hiatus" in his development, but  rather the attempt to find a theoretical answer and a practical solution to the issue that had been at the center of his first writings: how to transform the social conditions in order to create once again the possibility for an authentic culture, embracing all the spheres of life and overcoming alienation.11

Mannheim was much less involved in the political events, but he also sympathised with the revolution and was nominated by Lukacs professor for Kulturphilosophie at the University of Budapest. Thanks to Eva Karadi and Erszebet Vezer, we have now at our disposition the main content of his lectures on "Die Grundprobleme der Kulturphilosophie" during the months of Mai-June 1919. This is a quite suprising document:  curiously detached from the political events unfolding in the streets during these fateful days, he deals with  Nature and Culture,  Culture and Civilization,  and even with... etiquette as a social-cultural phenomena.  However,  at one of the last conferences (on 6.6.1919), we find  a sort of revolutionary credo  - or at least the nearest thing to such  that was  ever produced by Mannheim. While expressing his support for the revolutionary process taking place in Hungary, the young Kulturphilosoph nevertheless points, with astonishing insight, to the key contradiction of such a movement: "Es muss eine Revolution vorbereitet werden für den Fall, dass sich die Einrichtungen, für welche heute gekämpft wird, zum Selbstzweck entwickeln wollen. (...)  Solange wir nicht in den paradiesischen Zustand gelangen,  in dem es keine Institutionen mehr gibt,  wird es immer Revolution geben - zur Zerstörung nicht der Menschen, sondern der zum Selbstzweck gewordenen Institutionen, um neue zu schaffen". In fact,  this formulation is directly inspired by Lukacs conference on conservative and progressive idealism (1918),  where he insisted that "jede zum Selbstwert gewordene Einrichtung ist konservativ; aus diesem Zusammenhang lässt sich nicht nur die reaktionäre Politik der Kirchen erklären (...) sondern auch die Stagnation ursprünglich starker progressiver Bewegungen,  sobald die von ihnen als  Mittel geschaffen Einrichtungen solche Selbstzwecklichkeit gewinnen".12

In any case, there is no indication in the content of Mannheim's lectures, that he changed his basic philosophical ideas, inspired, as he emphasizes in his first lecture, by Rousseau, Goethe, Schiller, Tolstoï, Nietzsche and the Heidelberg School around the journal Logos ("Internationale Zeitschrift für Philosophie der Kultur", published, among others, by Edmund Husserl, Friedrich Meinecke, Heinrich Rickert, Georg Simmel, Ernst Troeltsh, Max Weber and Heinrich Wölflin) or that he adopted the Marxist method, like his friend and mentor now promoted People's Commissar.

A few weeks later (August 1919) the revolution was defeated and the authoritarian (and anti-semitic) Admiral Horthy became head of the State. Like hundred thousand other Hungarians, Karl Mannheim fled the country and went into exile. at first in Vienna, where he lived for several weeks in the barracks of a refugee camp. Anna Seghers describes him (under the name of "Doktor Steiner") in her novel Die Gefährte (1932) as a sceptical figure, unwilling to share the revolutionary commitment of his fellow exilees, and decided to leave Vienna as soon as possible to establish himself "in einer kleinen deutschen Universitätstadt".13

In fact, after a short stay in Freiburg and Berlin, Mannheim decided to remain in "einer kleinen deutschen Universitätstadt": Heidelberg. It is not irrelevant to note that his first publication in German language is a review of Lukacs' Die Theorie des Romans, which appeared in the Journal Logos in 1921. In a typically Romantic way, Mannheim celebrates the book as a welcome return to the true method of cultural interpretation, the pre-cartesian spiritualist holism: "Das Mittelalter trachtete stets ein Weg von Höhern zum Niedrigen einzuschlagen, erst Descartes stellt das verhängnisvolle Prinzip auf, dass das Ganze aus den Teilen, das Höhere aus den Niedrigern abzuleiten sei. (...) Lukacs' Buch,  den richtigen Weg einschlagend,  ist ein Versuch, die ästhetischen Gebilde, im Besonderen die Romanform, von einem höhern Standorte, von dem der Geschichtsphilosophie aus zu deuten".14 There is however an ironic moment in this article, probably unconscious to its author, insofar as its sharp critique of any "sociology of culture" which would attempt to explain cultural forms "von unten nach oben", is implicitly contradictory with the new (i.e. Marxist) methodological options of his friend.

In the Viennese exile, most of Lukacs friends continued to meet around their mentor, continuing the tradition of the Sonntagskreis; a notice in Bela Balasz's Diary from 1921 offers a glimpse on the first disagreements with Mannheim: "Über Mannheim und Hauser müsste ich schreiben. Sie zogen sich vom Sonntag zurück, als sich dieser der kommunistischen Revolution verpflichtete."And a few paragraphs later: "Mannheim konnte wieder zu uns zurück kehren, aber Hauser wird von niemand gebraucht".15 In any case Mannheim, already living in Heidelberg, did not take part anymore in the activities of the Sonntagskreis, although he kept friendly contacts and correspondence with several of its members.

Mannheim's metaphysical idealism had definite Romantic roots, in its adamant opposition to the Cartesian and Naturwissenschaftlich world-view, and its nostalgia for pre-modern styles of thought; it was however pôles apart from the historicism that will characterise his later writings. If one examines the Seele und Kultur conference (1917), or his doctoral thesis Strukturanalyse der Erkenntnis (written in 1918), or the Lukacs Besprechung of 1921, one is struck by the frequent references to "zeitloses Thema", "absolute Situation", "ewig menschliches Problem", "aristotelische Gattung", "statischen Logik", "das Übergsichichtlichen", and so on.16  In an hommage to the recently deceased Georg Simmel, published in l9l8 in Hungary, Mannheim, while recognizing the remarkable sensitivity of his former teacher, sharply criticizes him for his scepticism, his relativism, his unableness to proclaim a metaphysical truth. 17

The turning point seems to have been the period 1923-24, when Mannheim writes the brilliant essay Historismus, under the direct impact of Troeltsch's book (Der Historismus und seine Probleme, Tübingen, JCB Mohr, 1922) as well as of Georg Lukacs opus major, Geschichte und Klassenbewusstsein (Berlin, Malik Verlag, 1923). Is it an internal evolution of his thought, a progressive ripening, or a sudden illumination thanks to this two books? In any case, from that moment on and during the following ten years, Mannheim will radically break with his metaphysical and a-historical quest for the "absolute" to resolutely embrace historicism and even, to a certain extent, relativism. 

Considering the extraordinary impact of Geschichte und Klassenbewusstsein on a whole generation of Central European intellectuals, it is not surprising that Mannheim would be among those who significantly re-oriented their way of thinking after the publication of the book. There exists a curious document of his first reaction to it: I found in his personal copy of Troeltsch's work (conserved by the Library of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, to whom he donated all his books) an interesting marginal note. Protesting against Troeltsch's argument (p. 360)  that there exists no serious work dealing with Marxist dialectics from a philosophical standpoint,  Mannheim wrote a name  in the margins: "Lukacs"...

Although the Historismus essay deals mainly with Troeltsch - which is understandable, considering that it was written for the Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik (the Academic journal founded by Max Weber) - Lukacs' ideas are very much present in it. In a footnote, Mannheim explains that he could as well have written the essay around Geschichte und Klassenbewusstsein; emphasizing that "in der Gegenwart, die aktivistisch-progressiven Tendenzen die rationale Dialektik ausbauen und absolutieren" he refers to Lukacs's book as "der Tiefere und bedeutendste aller dieser Versuche". He then adds a brief comparison of both works: "Wie der Historismus unser Gegenwartsdenken beherrscht und Probleme, wie wir sie an Hand von Troeltsch herausgearbeitet haben, erzeugt, könnte auch ein Verlgleich mit diesem Buche bestätigen. Wir hätten die Grundprobleme des Historismus, die wir insbesondere in der erstein beiden Kapiteln herausgestellt haven, genau so gut durch die Zugrundelegung des Lukacsschen Buches aufweisen können.  Es wäre ein lohnender Versuch und ein Beitrag zur 'Soziologie des Denkens', durch eine Vergleichung dieser beiden Bücher (das Troeltschschen und das Lukacsschen) der soziologischen Differenzierung derselben Probleme bei sozial und politisch verschiedenen orientierten Autoren nachzugehen. Die verschiedene Stellungnahme zum Irrationalen, die mehr oder weniger grosse Positivität und Entscheidenheit in der Geschichtsdialektik usw. würden sich als vom sozialen und politischen Standt determiniert erweisen, wobei die bedeutsame Verwandtschaft in den letzten Ausgangspunkten nich übersehen werden dürfte".18

It is not difficult to guess that in this parallel it is Lukacs that represents the greater "Entscheidenheit in der Geschichtsdialektik". Moreover, Mannheim goes beyond the Troeltschian historicism in so far as he insists (following the Marxist approach) that knowledge is linked (Verbunden) with "bestimmten sozialen Schichten und dern Bewegungstendenzen." However, it is obvious that Mannheim is following his own way, and that his relativist historicism is pôles apart from Lukacs dialectical/revolutionary option for the proletarian standpoint.

His next writing, a manuscript from 1924 that will remain unpublished (until many years after his death,), Eine Soziologische Theorie der Kultur und ihrer Erkennbarkeit, is even more explicit, by linking, through "soziologische Zurechenbarkeit" the "naturwissenschaftlichen Rationalismus" of the modern society to the "kapitalistischen Geiste" and even to the "Geiste des aufstrebenden Bürgertums". A footnote at this passage refers clearly to the Marxist tradition: "Dies ist bereits bei Marx gesehen worden, und dies hat Lukacs in seinem Aufsatz "Die Verdinglichung und das Bewusstsein des Proletariats" (Geschichte und Klassenbewusstsein) herausgearbeitet". The Lukacsian concept of Verdinglichung is often used in this work to explain the relationship between the quantifying ethos of the capitalist way of life and a certain form of Rationalismus.  Romanticism, identified (in a too one-sided way) to conservativism, and the proletarian new rationality are presented as the main historical oponents of the bourgeois/rationalist Denkform. Mannheim insists on the common ground between this two politically hostile forms of thought: "Das proletarische Denken hat in vielen Dingen eine bedeutende Affinität zum konservativen Denken, eine Affinität die, wenn sie auch aus polar entgegensetzten Positionen fliesst, dennoch gemeinsam mit dem Konservativismus und der Reaktion eine Opposition gegen das bürgerlich-kapitalistische Weltwollen und dessen Abstraktheit darstellt". In fact, this argument is much more relevant to the Lukacsian version of the "proletarian thinking" (which is already a subtle combination between Marxism and the German Romantic Zivilisationskritik) than to the official doctrine of the Marxist labour movement at that time.19

This parallel between the Romantic/conservative and the Marxist Denkstyl appears again in Mannheim's Habilitationschrift from 1925, which is probably one of his most brilliant works: Altkonservatismus: Ein Beitrag zur Soziologie des Wissens. But this time the comparison refers directly to Lukacs: "Auch hier weitgehende Übereinstimmung zwischen 'Rechts' und 'Linksopposition' der bürgerlich rationalistischen Welt. So z. B. die tadelnde Hervorhebung des kalkulierenden und kontemplativen Charakters des kapitalistischen Subjektverhaltens u.a. auch im Recht bei Lukacs (Geschichte und Klassenbewusstsein, S. 109)".20

This argument is not used here, as it is so often the case, in order to denounce the "complicity of the extremes" (right and left) against the moderate and reasonable liberal worldview.  On the contrary, it is obvious from the text - whatever its carefully Wertfrei language, as required for an Habilitationsschrift - that the author has strong affinities with the Romantic/historicist critique of the reified, quantifying and calculating Denkform of bourgeois rationality. This does not mean that he agrees either with the conservative or with the revolutionary perspectives: he is only interested in "rescuing" the powerful cultural and methodological insights shared by them.21 What is strange is that Mannheim insists in characterising this sort of Denkstyl as "conservative", although he notices that it is also shared by Marxists, as well as, to a certain extent, by historicist sociologists like himself.   In fact, the phenomena analysed, and subtly "rehabilitated", in this remarkable piece of creative Kultursoziologie is the Romantic worldview - which can take several political forms, conservative or revolutionary, utopian or resigned (among others).22

What were the personal and intellectual relations between Mannheim and Lukacs during the Weimar years? There is no doubt that there existed a growing estrangement  ;  according to Arnold Hauser's recollections, "Am Anfang war die Beziehung (zwischen Mannheim und Lukacs)  sehr innig.  Mann entdeckte in Mannheim ein neues, grosses Talent, schätzte in hoch, vielleicht überschätzte man ihn... Im Laufe der Zeit, später in Deutschland und besonders in London,  schwächte sich dieses Prestige ab... Das das Verhältnis sich abgekült hat und am Ende sich Fast in eine Animosität verwandelte, ist Tatsache".23  However, as far as 1927, the two still met, at the house of their common friend Anna Lesznai, to discuss and exchange ideas. Thanks to her diary, we have the summary of a fascinating debate between them on the most controversial issue of all: Communism! "Mannheim und Lukacs debattieren über den Kommunismus; darüber, dass der zu Ende geführte Rationalismus im K./omunismus/ eigentlich im Gegensatz steht zu jenen organischen und dynamischen Werten, welche die romantische Kritik verlangt und verteidigt.  L./ukacs/ verneint das, bzw. behauptet, dass seine Wünsche (der Arbeit Sinn zu geben) nicht romantisch seien. (...) Wenn das Ganze rationalisiert ist, dann hat die ratio einen anderen Wert und Sinn als heute. (...) Sie reden über die Hypertrophie der Bürokratie, über die Mechanisierung des Lebens." Anna Lesznai seems to hesitate between both arguments: she grants Lukacs  that once the worker participate in the organisation of the whole process of production,  even a partial work has a different meaning, but she nevertheless regrets " die Einheit der bäuerlichen und handwerklichen Arbeit". And she agrees with Mannheim that "durch diese tayloristischen Tendenzen des K./omunismus" the "Einheit des Werkes" is lost.24 What is particularly striking in this debate is that Mannheim's critique of Communism is not formulated in liberal-democratic terms, but in reference to the "organic" ideals of the Romantic Zivilisationskritik which he and Lukacs shared in their youthful years. Lukacs' answer however is couched in a strict rationalist language,  rejecting the Romantic criteria (he was begining at that moment his anti-Romantic turn):  the dialogue is almost impossible...

In any case, whatever their political or philosophical disagreements, Mannheim still considered Lukacs as a key thinker; after his appointment as Privatdozent in Heidelberg, he dedicated his first year as a lecturer (1926-27) to a course on Lukacs' writings and particularly to Geschichte und Klassenbewusstsein - a quite corageous act, considering the rather conservative atmosphere of the German Academia.25

In fact, Karl Mannheim's major work, Ideologie und Utopie (1929), owes much more to Lukacs, in its conceptual and methodological apparatus, than the few direct references to him would suggest. For instance, the central sociological question of the book is a typically "Lukacsian" one: "Hat man diese Umkehrung einmal vollzogen,  indem man davon ausgeht, dass historisches Wissen wesensmässig relational,  nur standortgebunden formulierbar ist,  so taucht das Problem der Wahrheitsentscheidung zwar wieder auf,  denn man wird sich doch fragen,  welcher Standort die grössten Chancen für ein Optimum an Wahrheit hat...". His answer to the question seems also, at certain moments, very near to the one presented in Geschichte und Klassenbewusstsein.  First of all in his critical assessment of the bourgeois standpoint: "Das bürgerliche Bewusstsein hatte ein sozial-vitales Interesse daran, durch diesen Intellektualismus vor sich selbst die Grenzen seiner eigenen Rationalisierung zu verdecken und so zu tun, als ob durch Diskussion reale Auseinandersetzungen restlos auszutragen wären".   But also in his argument for the superiority of the socialist/Marxist standpoint: "hier kommt es wieder zum Vorschein, wie das sozialistische Denken gerade da einsetzte, wo das bürgerlich-demokratische seine Grenze hatte, und wie es von neuem gerade jenen Phänomenen gegenüber hellsichtig wurde, die das vorangehende Denken aus einer vitalen Gebundenheit heraus im Dunkeln liesst."26

However, as we know, Mannheim did not follow the Lukacsian Marxist option, but struck a new, original and brilliant solution: the best chances for knowledge are those that result from a dynamic synthesis of the various standpoints and perspectives, whose Träger would be the freischwebende Intelligenz. This is not the place to discuss the problemas raised by this theory27,  but it would be relevant to find out how it relates to the Lukacsian viewpoint.  Mannheim's main argument against Marxism is borrowed from Max Weber's famous image of the Fiaker:"Die materialistische Geschichtsdeutung ist kein beliebig zu besteigender Fiaker und macht auch vor den Trägern der Revolution nicht Halt. Das Ideologie problem ist ein viel zu allgemeines und viel su prinzipielles Problem, als dass es auf die Dauer das Privileg einer Partei bleiben könnte, und niemand konnte es dem Gegner verbieten, auch den Marxismus auf seine Ideologiefähigkeit hin zu analysieren. (...) Der Soziologe hat keine Veranlassung,  die durch den Marxismus gewonnene Einsicht nicht auch auf den Marxismus selbst anzuwenden und auch hier von Fall zu Fall den ideologischen Charakter zu beleuchten".28

There is no doubt that this argument is  quite relevant in relation to the dominant tendencies in the "orthodox" Marxism both of the Second and the Third Internationals, which , under the strong influence of positivism, presented historical materialism as a pure "science",  free from any ideological (or utopian) elements. There exists however at least one  exemple of a Marxist philosopher who takes a historicist stand and does  not refuse to apply Marxism to itself,  therefore presenting it as the zugerechnetes Bewusstsein des Proletariats: Georg Lukacs... Curiously enough, Mannheim does not discuss, in Ideologie und Utopie, this historicist, non-positivist variant of Marxism, which is in fact beyond the reach of Weber's Fiaker metaphor. 

Lukacs's name appears also in another context in Ideologie und Utopie: after describing the parallel decline of Utopia and of the total view-point in contemporary times, Mannheim points to two exceptions: "Nur der linke und der rechte Flügel glauben in der Gesamtentwicklung ontisch an eine Totalität.  Auf der einen Seite der Neomarxismus eines Lukacs mit seinem grundlegenden Werk, auf der anderen Seite der Universalismus eines Spann". Lukacs probably did not appreciate the parallel, since at the same moment (1928) he had written a sharply critical review of Othmar Spann's Kategorienlehre, which he denounced not only for his conservative/catholic "ständische Weltanschauung" but also for being apologetic of capitalism.29

In any case, Mannheim is still so interested, even fascinated, by Lukacs' major work that in February 1929, in his capacity as lecturer at the University of Heidelberg, he held a seminar, together with Alfred Weber, on Geschichte und Klassenbewusstsein. Interestingly, this lecture (perserved in the notes of a student, Heinrich Taut) deals at least as much with what he had in common with Lukacs and with the Marxist standpoint than with his disagreements.  He even goes as far as criticising Lukacs for limiting the validity of historical materialism only to the capitalist era! "Dr. Mannheim seinerseits spricht der marxistischen Geschichtsauffassung für die kapitalistische Epoche die Präferenz der Gültigkeit zu und möchte dem Ökonomismus für die vorkapitalistischen Epochen ebenfalls einen präferentiellent heuristischen Wert  zubilligen...". Moreover, he thinks that Marxism, as "aktivistisches Denken", has "die Maximale Wahrheitschancen... für die Erkenntnis alles Rationalisierbaren und Beherrschbaren in der Geschichte". Surely, the world is not only struggle, as the Marxist's claim, nor only Gestalt as the bourgeois thinking would have it; "aber sie sei sogar vorwiegend Klassenkampf, mehr als man zuerst glaube".  

His main difference with Lukacs has to do, of course, with the proletarian option of the Marxist philosopher: "Der Denkstrom habe sich faktisch gespalten, aber nicht das Proletariat allein habe, wie Lukacs behauptet, die Wahrheitschance, sondern jeder Denkstandort habe eine solche für sein Teil." The solution lies in the overcoming of the "vermittlungslose Getrenntheit der Denkstandpunkte" through the sociology of knowledge.30

 The last significant reference to Lukacs in Mannheim's Weimarian writings is to be found in the article from 1931, Wissensoziologie, later included in the English version of his book.   In a rather ellyptic formulation Mannheim criticizes the Lukacsian conception but does not really develop his argument: "Verfeinert wurde die wissensoziologische Methode aber erst in zwei andere Strömungen, einmal bei Lukacs, der auf Marx zurückgreift und in ihm fruchtbaren Hegelschen Ansätze herauskalkulliert und auf dieser Weise zu einer sehr tragkräftigen, aber mit dem Risiko einer bestimmten Geschichtsphilosophischen Konzeption belasteten einseitigen, konstruktive und dogmatisierten Lösung der Problematik gelangt." Why is Lukacs's position a one sided "construction"?  Why does his philosophical conception prevent a solution of the problem?   Mannheim's only answer is that Lukacs "bleibt insofern noch völlig im Marxschen Entwurf stehen, als die Ideologie-enthüllungsproblematik sich bei ihm von der Wissensoziologie nicht loslösst ". This is or course the main argument of Ideology and Utopia, but Mannheim does not attempt to discuss its relevance for Lukacs own historicist brand of Marxism.31

It is usually said that after his emigration to England, Mannheim progressively abandoned his former views, to embrace a more "anglo-saxon" pattern of social sciences. It should be stressed, however, that in 1932, while still in Germany, Mannheim had already distanced himself from his former historicist standpoint.  In the large essay Die Gegenwartsaufgaben der Soziologie he indulges in a thorough self-criticism, rejecting what he calls "der übertonten Historismus" of his former writings, as well as the sharp opposition between Naturwissenschaften and Geisteswissenschaften, and the historicist critique of positivism.  What could be the reasons for such a radical turn? Mannheim only says that this change of mind resulted from "langen Überlegungen". According to David Kettler and his colleagues, this essay was "clearly written in the light of the political situation in 1932 and his sense of his responsability to sociology as a disciplin still in search of legitimacy, especially in the judgement of the educators to whom the overview was delivered".32 I'm not really satisfied by this explanation - why did the political situation at that moment (crisis of the Weimar Republic, growth of the Nazi movement) require giving up historicism? And why should Mannheim feel more responsible for the legitimacy of sociology in 1932 than in 1929? - but for the moment I do not have a better one to propose...

In 1933, Mannheim, as many other Jewish or anti-fascist intellectuals, left Nazi Germany.   His writings in England (l933 - 1947) belong to a different chapter of his intellectual evolution, which is beyond the scope of this paper. From that moment on, the name of Lukacs hardly ever appears in his books; he does not refer to it neither in Mensch und Gesellschaft im Zeitalter der Umbaus (1935), nor in the introduction to the English edition of Ideologie und Utopie (1936).  If Geschichte und Klassenbewusstsein is mentioned in his posthumous volume Freedom, Power and Democratic Planning, it is only in a footnote, in order to illustrate the logic of communist dictatorship.33

A few years later, Lukacs publishes his Zerstörung der Vernunft, which dedicates a few pages to criticize his former student and friend, dealing mainly with Ideologie und Utopie.  To say that his arguments are dogmatic would be an understatement... He first sees in Mannheim an exemple of how bourgeois sociology had to accept the social determination of consciousness, and was therefore "gezwungen, in dieser Frage, vor dem historischen Materialismus zu kapitulieren" - a strange way of aknowledging the importance of Marxism in Mannheim's book! He then proceeds to accuse him of "ein Hineinprojezieren des Irrationalismus in den historischen Materialismus",  of having "die im Marxismus so konkrete Dialektik... kierkegaardisiert", and finally of representing "eine soziologisierte Existentialphilosophie à la Jaspers-Heidegger" (sic). In fact, his critique of Mannheim's Wissensoziologie is not based on his own former historicist position in Geschichte und Klassenbewusstsein, but on a much more "orthodox" (according to the official "Marxism-Leninism") view of the "Objektive Wahrheit" as "richtige Wiederspiegelung der objektiven Wirklichkeit". He rejects Mannheim's relativism or relationism - whose difference is not greater as the one between "dem gelben und dem grünen Teufel" - as agnosticism and "lebesphilosophisch-irrationalistisch". And of course he rejects Mannheim's claim for a cognitive privilege of the freischwebende Intelligenz - but without really discussing the arguments presented in Ideologie und Utopie to ground this claim.34


The distinctive methodological quality of Lukacs and Mannheim's writings during the Weimarian period is their attempt to articulate Historicism and Marxism - obviously in different ways, since the philosopher privileged the second method, and the sociologist the first. Almost at the same time - Mannheim in 1932, Lukacs in 1934 - both will go through the purifying ritual of "self-criticism", rejecting, to a greater (Lukacs) or lesser (Mannheim) extent their former writings, and taking a new, much more orthodox orientation, in conformity with the established cannons of Soviet Marxism (Lukacs) and Anglo-saxon science (Mannheim).35 Of course, they never succeeded in entirely adpating themselves to the environment and their later writings still retained something of the former spirit. Moreover, they were never really accepted by the leading lights of their respective "camps", which always held them in suspicion for various dangerous deviations (idealism, revisionism, relativism).

In any case, if there is still interest, in this begining of the 21th century, for Lukacs and Mannheim, this happens mainly thanks to their unorthodox, historicist and heretical writings from the 1920's.  


1G. Markus, "Die Seele und das Leben.  Der junge Lukacs und das Problem der 'Kultur' ", in Die Seele und das Lebe. Studien zum frühen Lukacs, Frankfurt, Suhrkamp, 1977, pp.  101-128.

2 Quoted by Jörg Kammler, Politische Theorie von Georg Lukacs, Darmstadt und Neuwied, Luchterhand, 1974, p. 105.

3Georg Lukacs, Selected Correspondence1902-1920, edited by Judith Marcus and Zoltan Tar, Budapest, Corvina, 1986, pp. 122, 239 (based on the volume published by Eva Fekete and Eva Karadi, Georg Lukacs, Briefwechsel 1902-1917, Budapest, Corvina, 1982).

4Quoted in Mary Gluck, Georg Lukacs and his generation 1900-1918, Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1985, p.16.

5 Quoted in Eva Karadi und Erzsebet Vezer, Georg Lukacs, Karl Mannheim und der Sontntagskreis, Frankfurt am Main, Sendler Verlag, 1985, p.10.

6On the Hungarian background of Mannheim, see Joseph Gabel, Mannheim et le marxisme hongrois, Paris, Klincksieck, 1987.  According to Nia Perivolaropoulou, the experience of the Sonntagskreis also served as a model for his theory of the generations: see Nia Perivolaropoulou, "Karl Mannheim et sa génération", Mil neuf cent.  Revue d'histoire intellectuelle, n° 10, 1992.

7Arnold Hauser, "Erinnerungen" (l975) and Bela Balasz, "Tagebuch", in Sonntagskreis, pp. 101 and 114.

8David Kettler, "Culture and Revolution: Lukacs in the Hungarian Revolution of 1918", Telos, n° 10, Winter 1971, p. 63; Karl Mannheim, "Seele und Kultur", in Wissensoziologie hrsg. von Kurt H. Wolff,  Neuwied,  Luchterhand,  1964,  p. 79;  György  Markus,  "Lukacs  'erste' ¨Asthetik :  Zur Entwicklungsgeschichte der Philosophie des jungen Lukacs",  in  A.Heller, F.Feher, G.Markus and S.Radnoti, Die Seele und das Leben.  Studien zum frühen Lukacs, Frankfurt am Main, Suhrkamp, 1977, p. 230.

9G. Markus, "Die Seele und das Leben...",  p. 118.

10Karl Mannheim, "Seele und Kultur", Wissensoziologie p. 81.

11G. Markus, "Die Seele und das Leben...",  pp.  117-125.

12Karl Mannheim, "Grundprobleme der Kulturphilosophie" in E. Karadi und E. Vezér, Sonntagskreis, p. 226 and Georg Lukacs, "Diskussionsbeitrag über konservativen und progressiven Idealismus", Ibidem, p. 253.

13Anna Seghers presents the following speach as typical of "Steiner", in dialogue with a Communist friend ("Bato") - probably a member of the Sonntagskreis: "Auf was warte ich eigentlich?  Was ist das eigentlih für ein Ding, Weltrevolution?  Abgesehn von dem Brot, das wir alle genug haben werden - wird der Weg zwischen Leben und Sterben gangbarer sein (...),  wird der Tod geringfügiger sein und werde ich weniger allein sein ?".   Anna Seghers, Die Gefährten, Berlin, Aufbau Verlag, l979, p. 34.     The identification of "Steiner" as Mannheim is suggested by Henk Woldring, Karl Mannheim.  The Development of his Thought, Assen/Maastricht, Van Gorcum, l986, p. l7.

14Karl Mannheim, "Besprechung von Georg Lukacs, 'Die Theorie des Romans'", in Wissensoziologie, p.88.

15Bela Balasz, "Tagebuch", l2 Juli 1921,  in Sonntagskreis, p. 126-127. 

16Karl Mannheim, Wissensoziologie, pp. 69, 70, 90, 200. The are several explicit or implicit references to Lukacs early aesthetical writings both in Strukturanalyse der Erkenntnis (1918) and in Beiträge zur Theorie der Weltanschauungs-Interpretation (1921).  As G. Markus emphasizes, the questions raised by Mannheim are similar to those already present in Lukacs, but the answers he provides are different.  See G. Markus, "Lukacs 'erste' Aesthetik...",  pp. 230-231.

17Karl Mannheim, "Georg Simmel als Philosoph", Sonntagskreis, pp. 150-153. 

18Karl Mannheim, "Historismus", 1924, in Wissensoziologie, p. 296.

19Karl Mannheim, Strukturen des Denkens, (herausgegeben von David Kettler, Volker Meja und Nico Stehr), Frankfurt am Main, Suhrkamp Verlag, 1980, pp. 171, 179, 193, 313.

20Karl Mannheim, Konservatismus: Ein Beitrag zur Soziologie des Wissens, (hrsg. von David Kettler, Volker Meja und Nico Stehr), Frankfurt am Main, Suhrkamp Verlag, 1984, p. 262. See also the parallel between the critique of Verdinglichung in the bourgeois rationalisation by the Lebensphilosophie and by Lukacs on pages l83 and 263.  Only one chapter of this thesis had appeared in 1927 until D. Kettler and his friends discovered the original manuscript at the University Library of Heidelberg and published it.

21A similar argument is made by D. Kettler and his friends: "Read from within a conservative 'style of thought', his findings concerning the genealogy of historicist thinking appear as a legimitation of that thinking, including its appearance, in a dramatic change of function, as the method of modern revolutionary thought".  See D. Kettler, Volker Meja, Nico Stehr, Karl Mannheim, London, Tavistock Publications, 1984, p. 44. 

22I permit myself to refer, in this precise context, to my own work (with Robert Sayre), Revolte et Melancolie.  Le romantisme à contre-courant de la modernité, Paris, Payot, 1992.

23In Sonntagskreis, p. 102.

24Anna Lesznai, "Tagebücher", September 1927, Sonntagskreis, p. 139-140.

25See Henk E.S. Woldring, Karl Mannheim: The Development of his Thought, Assen-Maastricht, Van Gorcum, l986, p.35 and D. Kettler, V. Meja und N. Stehr, "Mannheim und der Konservatismus.  Über die Ürsprünge des Historismus", in K. Mannheim, Konservatismus, Ein Beitrag zur Soziologie des Wissens, Frankfurt am Main, Suhrkamp Verlag, 1984, p.19.

26Karl Mannheim, Ideologie und Utopie, Frankfurt am Main, Verlag Schulte-Bulmke, 1967, pp. 72, 130-131.

27I've tried to do this in my book Paysages de la Verité.  Introduction à une sociologie critique de la connaissance, Paris, Ed. Anthropos, 1985.

28Karl Manneim, Ideologie und Utopie, pp. 68-69, 108.

29Karl Mannheim Ibid.,  p. 217  and G. Lukacs, "Othmar Spann: Kategorienlehre", in Werke, Band 2, Neuwied, Luchterhand, 1968, pp. 689-674.

30Karl Mannheim, "Über Geschichte und Klassenbewusstsein", Sonntagskreis, pp. 298-303.

31Ibid.  pp. 266-267.

32Karl Mannheim, Die Gegenwartsaufgaben der Soziologie, Tübingen, J. C. B. Mohr, 1932, pp.  11-13 and D. Kettler et al.,  Karl Mannheim, p.79.

33Karl Mannheim, Freedom, Power and Democratic Planning, London, Routledge, 1950, note 11 of chapter 2.

34Georg Lukacs, Die Zerstörung der Vernunft, Berlin, Aufbau Verlag, 1955, pp. 500-507.

35We have seen above Mannheim's self-criticism in the essay Die Gegenwartsaufgaben der Soziologie (1932); Lukacs categorically rejected Geschichte und Klassenbewusstsein as a dangerously "idealist" work at a conference in Moscow in 1934 (see G. Lukacs, "Die Bedeutung von Materialismus und Empriokritizismus für die Bolchewisierung der kommunistischen Parteien", Pod Znamenem Marxisma, Moscow, 1934).   As it is well known Lukacs refused to have his opus from 1923 re-edited or translated.   Mannheim accepted to translate Ideologie und Utopie into English (1936) but he modified its terminology (to make it more "understandable" to the anglo-saxon public) and added an introduction developping a different position.