Mannheim’s Schema of Ideologies

November 6, 2010

I’ve been reading Mannheim’s Ideology and Utopia, and I’ve found his schematisation of different political ideologies in the third essay, Prospects of Scientific Politics, to be extremely helpful. Basically Mannheim categorises ideologies by their understanding of the relation between political practice and history. Here are his categories:

1. Bureaucratic conservatism

Reduces political problems to problems of administration, and thereby obscures the political construction and function of the socially specific organisational framework bureaucratic decision-making requires. Order is the highest political value; the organisation of a specific bureaucracy is equated with order in general; challenges to the bureaucratic framework are understood as deviations from order, and quashed.

2. Conservative historicism

Understands politics in terms of the dichotomy between deliberate planned construction (bad), and natural organic development (good). That which is not deliberately politically planned is understood and valued, romantically, as natural and organic. (Classic example: Burke.)

3. Liberal-democratic bourgeois thought

Sees public-sphere political debate as the medium by which the correct ends of politics can be a) decided upon and b) achieved. Democratically elected parliament is the enabling institution in which competing social interests can mediate their conflicts via debate. This can presumably come in a stronger form, oriented towards unified rational consensus, and a weaker form, oriented towards ongoing pluralistic negotiation.

4. The socialist-communist conception

Sees contests between conflicting political viewpoints and communal interests as unresolvable via public-sphere discourse. The appropriate sphere of political action is therefore not, or not just, parliamentary democracy, but also mass activism and organisation, ultimately oriented towards revolution. (Mannheim understands revolution as aimed at realising a rational organisation of society that cannot be achieved by rational persuasion.)

5. Fascism

The central concept of political action is the ungrounded or self-grounding deed; the central political actors are an elite of superior individuals. Those who are not members of the elite should be unconditionally subordinate to their elite leader(s). Unlike vanguardist communism, where revolutionary leaders are understood as channelling the will of the masses, in fascism the masses are understood as channelling / subordinate to the will of the leader. Political programmes are unimportant – what matters is self-realising action (of the elite).


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