Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Value of Mannheim

In preparing my lecture tomorrow on ideology, I've been dusting off, logically enough, Karl Mannheim. In the process I'm wondering why I have spent so many hours reading film and cultural studies arguments that act as if there's a simplistic false-consciousness Marxist model and a complex, nuanced, or what-have-you Althusserian model without ever once reckoning with Mannheim as an intermediary that, whatever you have to say about his work, is not simplistic. Clearly, many in the field are reading and have read Mannheim; it's not as if we're talking about an obscure figure.

2 comments:

R. Ak said...

Do you think Marxian model is simplistic?

Chris Cagle said...

OK, I walked right into that question. My thoughts:

The concept(s) of ideology that Marx formulated (at least what I've read in Marx... I've read a good bit but by no means am an expert on his writing) comprised a valuable, ground-shifting insight. In that sense, Marx is not simplistic.

But a lot has changed: the rise of competitive party democracy, the expansion of the middle classes, and the rise of several areas where technocratic knowledge complicate "the world as it really is." These are areas that Marxist thinkers (and others) have grappled with since and in the process have departed from the conception of ideology that Marx himself presented. To act as if these changes haven't happened and to continue with either "false consciousness" or what Mannheim calls a particular conception of ideology is on balance simplistic. And that's the reaction I have to an analysis like Thomas Frank's Kansas book. Or for that matter any of the media criticism you see on Frontline.