Karl Mannheim / Ideology and Utopia

“ The concept ‘ideology’ reflects the one discovery which emerged from political conflict, namely, that ruling groups can in their thinking be come so intensively interest-bound to a situation that they are simply no longer able to see certain facts which would undermine their sense of domination. There is implicit in the word ‘ideology’ the insight that in certain situations the collective unconscious of certain groups obscures the real condition of society both to itself and to others and thereby stabilizes it.

The concept of Utopian thinking reflects the opposite discovery of the political struggle, namely that certain oppressed groups are intellectually so strongly interested in the destruction and transformation of a given condition of society that they unwittingly see only those elements in the situation which tend to negate it. Their thinking is incapable of correctly diagnosing an existing condition of society. They are not at all concerned with what really exists; rather in their thinking they already seek to change the situation that exists. Their thought is never a diagnosis of the situation; it can be used only as a direction for action. In the Utopian mentality, the collective unconscious, guided by wishful representation and the will to action, hides certain aspects of reality. It turns its back on everything which would shake its belief or paralyses its desire to change things…

A state of mind is Utopian when it is incongruous with the state of reality within which it occurs.

This incongruence is always evident in the fact that such a state of mind in experience, in thought and in practice, is oriented towards objects which do not exist in the actual situation. However, we should not regard as Utopian every state of mind which is incongruous with and transcends the immediate situation (and in this sense, ‘departs from reality”). Only those orientations transcending reality will be referred to by us as Utopian which, when they pass over into conduct, tend to shatter, either partially or wholly, the order of things prevailing at the time.”

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