Positivism in Poland

From Infogalactic: the planetary knowledge core
Jump to: navigation, search

Positivism in Poland was a socio-cultural movement that defined progressive thought in literature and social sciences of partitioned Poland, following the suppression of the 1863 January Uprising against the occupying army of Imperial Russia. The Positivist period lasted until the turn of the 20th century, and the advent of the modernist Young Poland movement.[1]


In the aftermath of the 1863 Uprising, many Poles began to voice an opinion that further attempts at regaining independence from the Russian Empire, the Kingdom of Prussia and Austria-Hungary, by force of arms, should be abandoned. Along with polemics which questioned the wisdom of resistance, published between 1868–1873 in the Weekly Review (Przegląd tygodniowy) and Truth (Prawda), they – often reluctantly and only partially – set aside the style of the languishing Polish Romantic period.[1]

Polish "Positivism" drew its name from the philosophy of Auguste Comte. Much of its ideology was inspired by the works of British scholars and scientists including Herbert Spencer and John Stuart Mill. The Polish Positivists advocated the exercise of reason before emotion. They believed that independence, if it is to be regained, must be won gradually, by "building from the foundations" (creating a material infrastructure and educating the public) and through organic work that would enable Polish society to function as a fully integrated social organism (a concept borrowed from Herbert Spencer).[2]

The Positivist objectives

One of the leading Polish philosophers of Positivism; novelist and short-story writer, Bolesław Prus (The Outpost, The Doll, The New Woman), advised his compatriots that Poland's place in the world would be determined by the sum of her contributions made to the world's scientific, technological, economic and cultural progress.[3]

Specific societal questions addressed by the Polish Positivists included the establishment of equal rights for all members of society, including peasants and women; the assimilation of Poland's Jewish minority; the illiteracy rates among ordinary citizens resulting from the closure of Polish schools by the occupying powers, and the defense of Polish population in the German-ruled part of Poland against Kulturkampf and their violent displacement by German government.[1][4]

The Positivists viewed work, not the popular uprisings, as the true way to maintain a Polish national identity and demonstrate a constructive patriotism. Writer Aleksander Świętochowski (the editor of Prawda), maintained that virtually all "great problems hidden in the womb of mankind can be solved by education alone, and this education must be compulsory."[5]

Leading authors

Writers and novelists



Philosophers and critics

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Czesław Miłosz, The History of Polish Literature, pp. 281–321. "Positivism." University of California Press, 1983. ISBN 0-520-04477-0. Retrieved October 10, 2011.
  2. Czesław Miłosz, The History of Polish Literature, pp. 283–84.
  3. Edward Pieścikowski, Bolesław Prus, p. 49.
  4. Zygmunt Szweykowski, Twórczość Bolesława Prusa (The Art of Bolesław Prus), 2nd ed., Warsaw, Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy, 1972, pp. 130–51.
  5. Czesław Miłosz, The History of Polish Literature, pp. 285–286.


pl:Literatura polska - pozytywizm