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Culturalism is a term used in anthropology (see anthropological culturalism) to denote a theory that all societies are trying to create different cultural identities philosophical, a political ideology opposing multiculturalism[1] and also a concept studied by Polish-American philosopher and sociologist, Florian Znaniecki.[2] This term was introduced in his book Cultural Reality (1919) in the English language and would be translated into Polish as kulturalizm; previously Znaniecki discussed this concept in Polish works as humanism (humanizm)[2] and the term is occasionally referred to as new humanism[3] or Znaniecki's humanism.[4]


Znaniecki's culturalism was based on philosophies and theories of Matthew Arnold (Culture and Anarchy), Friedrich Nietzsche (voluntarism), Henri Bergson (creative evolutionism), Wilhelm Dilthey (philosophy of life), William James, John Dewey (pragmatism) and Ferdinand C. Schiller (humanism).[5] It was based on his earlier Polish-language works from the early 1910s and introduced to the English audience in his Cultural Reality (1919).[2][6]

Florian Znaniecki criticized some principal philosophical viewpoints: intellectualism,[7] idealism[8] realism[8] naturalism[2][8][1] and rationalism.[2] He also avoided irrationalism and intuitionism.[7]


Znaniecki proposed a new way, which he labeled culturalism.[8][1][9] It was an ontological and epistemological approach aiming to eliminate dualisms such as seeing nature and culture as opposite realities.[1]

This approach allowed him to "define social phenomena in cultural terms".[3] Znaniecki was arguing for the importance of culture, noting that our culture shapes our view of the world and our thinking.[10] Znaniecki notes that while the world is composed of physical artifacts, we are not really capable of studying the physical world other than through the lenses of culture.[6]

Among the fundamental aspects of the philosophy of culturalism are two categories: value and action.[1] Elżbieta Hałas who calls it an "antithesis to the intellectual dogmas of naturalism", identifies the following assumptions:[7]

  • "the subject-object dualism must be overcome and thought should be united with reality"
  • "reality is not an absolute order but changes in a creative evolution"
  • "all images of the world are relative"
  • "it is false to oppose nature and culture or to subordinate culture to nature"
  • "value is the most general category of the description of reality"

Znaniecki's philosophy of culturalism laid foundation for his larger theoretical system, based around another concept of his, "humanistic coefficient."[11] Through originally a philosophical concept,[2] Znaniecki adapted it for his sociological theories.[5]

Znaniecki's culturalism is one of the ideas that founded modern sociological views of antipositivism and antinaturalism.[12]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Hałas (2010), p. 21.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Dulczewski (1984), pp. 186–187.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Hałas (2010), p. 12.
  4. Hałas (2010), p. 214.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Hałas (2010), p. 51.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Dulczewski (1984), p. 189.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Hałas (2010), p. 52.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Piotr Kawecki (1999). "Heroism and Intimacy of Post-modern Morality". In Bo Stråth; Nina Witoszek (eds.). The Postmodern Challenge: Perspectives East and West. Rodopi. pp. 129–130. ISBN 978-90-420-0755-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Sztompka (2002), pp. 52–53.
  10. Dulczewski (1984), pp. 187–188.
  11. Hałas (2010), pp. 55, 172.
  12. Sztompka (2002), p. 2425.


Further reading

  • Halas, E. (1 November 2006). "Classical Cultural Sociology: Florian Znaniecki's Impact in a New Light". Journal of Classical Sociology. 6 (3): 257–282. doi:10.1177/1468795X06069678.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>