Karl Mannheim on democratic interaction: Revisiting mass society theory

Ryusaku Yamada
  • Human Affairs, January 2016, De Gruyter
  • DOI: 10.1515/humaff-2016-0011

What is it about?

This essay re-considers Karl Mannheim’s notion of democratic behaviour in the context of mass society. Although the term ‘mass society’ seems archaic, it is still the precondition of democracy today. Mannheim conceptualized mass society as irrational, disintegrating Great Society and presented the remedy of Planning for Freedom to counter the crisis of mass democracy. In his remedy Mannheim advocated social education that fosters citizens’ democratic interaction, and the keywords of his education were ‘integrative behaviour’ and ‘creative tolerance’. The similar orientation of his remedy can be found in much more contemporary critiques of deliberative democracy. Iris Marion Young’s ‘communicative democracy’ was a version of her democratic interaction in a complex, large-scale mass society. Young’s notion of ‘reasonableness’ has substantial affinity with Mannheim’s integrative behaviour, both of which require the democratic attitude of hearing the other side and the readiness to self-transform. Mass society theory has relevance for contemporary democratic theory.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1515/humaff-2016-0011

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