Karl Mannheim (1893-1947) was born in Budapest, Hungary, into a middleclass Jewish family. He graduated with a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Budapest in 1919. Mannheim also studied in Berlin, Paris and Freiburg.
He was offered a position by his friend and teacher, the Marxist literary critic, Georg Luká cs during the brief Hungarian Soviet period. Although he never joined the Communist party his association with Luká cs meant that he fell foul of Hungary’s counter-revolutionary government. As a result of this he left Budapest for Vienna in 1919. It was during this time that he developed his interest in the human sciences and became influenced by the ideas of Weber and Marx. In 1925 he took a post as an unsalaried lecturer at the University of Hiedelburg, Germany. He left Heidelburg in 1929 for the University in Frankfurt. He became professor of Sociology and the first head of the College of Sociology at the Goethe University, Frankfurt in 1930. With the rising of the German National Socialist party he was dismissed from the chair in 1933. He then fled to England via Amsterdam on the invitation of Harold Laski, professor of Political Science at the London School of Economics.
On his arrival in England Mannheim became a temporary lecturer of sociology at the London School of Economics. He also undertook part time work at the Institute of Education between 1941 and 1945. On 1 January 1946 Mannheim was appointed to the new professorship of Sociology and Education at the Institute of Education, a position he only held for one year. He died on 9 January 1947 at the age of 53.
Mannheim has been credited with pioneering, with systematic efforts, in the sociology of knowledge during his professional life. He is thought to have contributed to the growth and respectability of sociology in England through his editorship of the International Library of Sociology and Social Reconstruction. Manheim became an exponent of the spirit of post-war reconstruction. He believed that post-war reconstruction could offer a new role for democratic and social planning and a more central role for sociology and education.