Contemporary Migrations in the Humanistic Coefficient Perspective

Florian Znaniecki’s Thought in Today’s Social Science Research

by Jacek Kubera (Volume editor) Łukasz Skoczylas (Volume editor)
©2017 Edited Collection 250 Pages


This book presents contributions from migration sociologists inspired by Florian Znaniecki’s theory and the results of his studies to conduct their own research in countries like Austria, China, Greece and Poland. The authors evaluate today’s migration phenomena with reference to a coherent theoretical system. The book can be used as a manual presenting the tools for examining the migration experience from many angles: a sense of national identity (ethnic and civic), family ties, the importance of the social environment in the process of an individual’s integration with the society or an evolution of entire social systems within which the migrants operate.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction
  • Part I Znaniecki’s Theoretical and Methodological Bases of Research into Migration
  • Researching Migration with the Humanistic Coefficient: The Founding Premises, Types of Questions Asked and Proposed Generalizations (Ewa Morawska)
  • Beyond The Polish Peasant: Znaniecki’s Scientific Ideal and its Potential Influence on the Contemporary Field of Transnational Studies (Marcin Grodzki)
  • Part II Materials Used in the Research into Migration with the Humanistic Coefficient
  • Social Remittances into Family Lives in The Polish Peasant in Europe and America (Marta Buler / Izabela Grabowska)
  • The “Transnational” Polish Peasant (Eveline Reisenauer)
  • Beijing Migrant Workers’ Parental Attitudes toward Children (Tim F. Liao / Hua Qin)
  • Pioneers, Migrants, Looters Social Context of Settlement in the Polish Regained Territories (Jakub Isański)
  • Part III Migration as an Experience of Being “In Between”
  • Theory on Disorganisation in Migrant Families in Contemporary Migration Research in Athens and Vienna (Krystyna Romaniszyn)
  • Transnationalism in the Lives of Migrants: The Relevance of Thomas and Znaniecki’s Work to Understand Migration (Ernesto Castañeda)
  • “Don’t Call Us ‘Polonia’”: Attitudes towards Migration, Migrants and Diaspora among Poles in South China (Izabela Kujawa)
  • Part IV Present and Future of Znanieckian Theory
  • The Polish Peasant in Europe and America in the Context of Contemporary Migration Studies (Elżbieta Smolarkiewicz)
  • Towards a Revival of Znaniecki’s Achievements? Florian Znaniecki’s Theory and Methodology: Their Presence in Citation Databases and Possible Applications in Contemporary Migration Studies (Jacek Kubera / Łukasz Skoczylas / Żaneta Szerksznis)
  • Series index

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Nearly a hundred years ago, William I. Thomas and Florian Znaniecki published The Polish Peasant in Europe and America (1918–1920), a book of cardinal importance to the sociology of migration. It was also a milestone in the development of the Chicago School in sociology because the authors had collected qualitative empirical material among migrants on an unprecedented scale (personal documents, letters, autobiographies) and suggested innovative solutions in the realm of social theory (a scheme of the course of international migrations).

The main goal of publishing Contemporary Migrations in the Humanistic Coefficient Perspective is to present the potential of The Polish Peasant and other works of F. Znaniecki for contemporary research into migration processes.

More than ever before international migrations pose a challenge to social research not only because as a political subject they give rise to ongoing controversy in the United States, France, Poland or China. As scholars we are looking for new theoretical and methodological tools which help us to identify the experience of migration in a specific cultural and religious, social and economic as well as legal and political contexts. At the same time we want our research to allow for generalizations and to contribute to the development of social theory. On the one hand, we are aware of the diversity of migration experiences. On the other hand, we realize the need of building models and schemes that would allow for comparing various types of migrations and, in consequence, their better management. As sociologists, we also try to maintain a balance between qualitative and quantitative research, between describing what is singular in the social context and what results in macro-systems, as well as between the researcher’s objectivity and involvement.

The authors of the chapters included in this book are of the opinion that Florian Znaniecki (who was also a migrant) provided in his works direct solutions to these theoretical and methodological dilemmas in the research into migration phenomena. Znaniecki – a sociologist and a philosopher, a professor at the Poznań and Chicago Universities, offered a great advantage in the form of his own, original and extended sociological theory. It was not isolated; rather, it was accompanied by his empirical studies on migration, identity, civilization, nation and ethnicity. The Polish Peasant is an important yet not the only work of Znaniecki in which he presented the elements of his sociological theory. The most famous element of this theory – the rule of humanistic coefficient – is a flagship in Znaniecki’s entire methodology. The relation between the research theory and practice is reflected ← 7 | 8 → most clearly in The Polish Peasant and Miasto w świadomości jego obywateli [The City in the Consciousness of Its Citizens] where he resorted to personal documents, i.e. materials produced directly by the surveyed individuals and related to their biographies. Recognised as one of the founders of the biographic method in sociology, Znaniecki showed how these materials could be obtained and used to draw conclusions about social reality. Znaniecki’s theory, methodology and experience in empirical studies offer, in an extremely cohesive way, solutions sought by contemporary researchers of migration processes.

The book Contemporary Migrations in the Humanistic Coefficient Perspective has been written by migration sociologists inspired by both Znaniecki’s theory and the results of his studies to conduct their own surveys. The articles show that Znaniecki’s achievements are tangible and their potential allows for placing him among the most important classics of the world sociology. The authors focus predominantly on the present; this is a significantly new approach with respect to the former books published on the initiative of the Florian Znaniecki Scientific Foundation. His scholarly achievements, his substantial contribution to The Polish Peasant and to the development of sociology as a science are only a starting point to discussing possible applications of his theory and methodology in contemporary migration studies.

For the above reasons, this book is an important part of a discussion of contemporary migrations and the ways of scrutinizing them. The readers will find out how to interpret today’s migration phenomena with reference to a coherent theoretical system. The book can be treated like a manual presenting the tools for examining the migration experience from many angles: a sense of national identity (ethnic and civic), family ties, the importance of the social environment in the process of an individual’s integration with the society or an evolution of entire social systems within which the migrants operate.

The authors’ ambition is to reach the readers who know Znaniecki only as the co-author of The Polish Peasant and who expect interpretations that allow for a creative application of his achievements. The book’s task is to contribute to a revival of Znaniecki’s theory.

The book consists of four mutually supplementary parts:

Part one presents the sociology programme of the co-author of The Polish Peasant from the point of view of research issues related to migration. The relevant ← 8 | 9 → utility of Znaniecki’s theory and methodology is illustrated also in the context of solutions suggested by Durkheim, Bourdieu, Mills, Giddens and Wallerstein, to name a few. In the first chapter, Ewa Morawska presents the assumptions behind Znaniecki’s interpretative sociology and the methodological implications of the humanistic coefficient. In her opinion Znaniecki can be referred to as a qualified interpretivist and his theory as one abolishing many seeming paradigmatic contradictions. Znaniecki, who conceptualized a social and cultural person and his/her social and cultural environment, is called a forerunner of the contemporary theory of structuration. In the context of Znaniecki’s theory, which explains the relations between a social system and social action, Morawska demonstrates what can be deducted from an analysis of life stories told by the migrants themselves. In the second chapter, Marcin Grodzki shows how much contemporary transnational studies would gain from discovering of the interpretational potential of Znaniecki’s work. He shows the relations between Znaniecki’s philosophical and sociological works without which it is difficult to fully comprehend the theoretical and methodological issues touched upon in The Polish Peasant. Special importance is ascribed here to the way in which Znaniecki defined society – as a dynamic cultural system where the ideas and values are real objects created by active agents and used by them.

The letters, biographies and diaries are at the centre of part two of the book. According to Znaniecki, these materials provide the best insight into the collective awareness of social groups and allow for observations of the changes to these groups’ attitudes to various values – in the case of migrants values present both in the receiving society and the sending society. The letters collected by Thomas and Znaniecki do not cease to fascinate and allow to view The Polish Peasant, the first sociological work where letters were used as research material, in the light of the contemporary migration theories. Marta Buler and Izabela Grabowska again resort to the letters presented in The Polish Peasant to reconstruct the past course of the migrants’ passing down new social behaviour acquired as a result of migration (transfer of social remittances to the families left behind in Poland). On the other hand, Eveline Reisenauer draws attention to the fact that bowing letters and analyses thereof included in The Polish Peasant clearly indicate that the phenomenon of transnational practices – associated with contemporary migrations – is not new. On the one hand, the letters are evidence of the physical separation of family members affected by migration. On the other hand, the letters are proof of the existence and maintenance of family ties despite the separation. The authors of the subsequent chapter, Tim F. Liao and Hua Qin, used letters to examine contemporary experiences of migration from Chinese villages to the cities. By ← 9 | 10 → adopting the perspective of the humanistic coefficient, they analysed letters written by migrants as well as their parental attitudes to their left-behind children. The last chapter of this part of the book is dedicated to a different type of personal documents, i.e. diaries collected as part of contests organized by sociologists. This technique of obtaining autobiographic material was applied for the first time by Znaniecki back in 1921 in Poznań and later on by the subsequent generations of sociologists. An article by Jakub Isański presents the results of analyses of diary contests written by migrants who, after 1945, were forced to leave the eastern outskirts of pre-war Poland and relocate to new areas in the west of the country.

The third part of the book provides examples of contemporary references in migration studies to Znaniecki’s theoretical and empirical works. Krystyna Romaniszyn refers to the migration scheme from The Polish Peasant in order to explain the disorganization and reorganization of Polish migrant families in Athens and Vienna during the political transformation in Poland in the 1990s. She demonstrates a similarity between the attitudes towards the family, marriage and sexual behaviour observed in the early 20th century in the migrants described by Znaniecki and Thomas and the attitudes of Polish migrants whom she met in the course of her own research. Secondly, her survey shows that the attitudes adopted by individuals stem from the social values accepted by them, whether they are maintained or not. Ernesto Castañeda focuses on the fact that a migrant operates between the sending and the receiving communities. He refers the theoretical and methodological frameworks of The Polish Peasant to the contemporary migrations between Mexico and the United States and between Algeria and France. On the other hand, Izabela Kujawa applied Znaniecki’s theory to the results of her survey conducted on Polish people in China.

The authors of the fourth and last part of the book ponder Znaniecki’s achievements in the context of selected subjects of contemporary research into migration. Elżbieta Smolarkiewicz draws attention to the research issues referred to in The Polish Peasant and discussed later on within a new thematic framework. In her opinion the themes included in the work by Thomas and Znaniecki and which may inspire the future generations of researchers include issues related to social and cultural advancement as the result and foundation of migration, the importance of migration networks or the relation between the environment of the origin and the environment of migration. Jacek Kubera, Łukasz Skoczylas and Żaneta Szerksznis focus on the global reception of Znaniecki’s social theory. Relying on the analysis of citation databases they indicate which social researchers are predominantly interested in Znaniecki’s achievement and which themes of his works should be pursued to make them available to an even bigger audience. ← 10 | 11 →

By offering this book to the readers we hope that it will make, even if a modest, contribution to further theoretical and methodological research and the subsequent surveys concerned with migrations referring to Florian Znaniecki’s works.

Jacek Kubera, Łukasz Skoczylas

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Part I
Znaniecki’s Theoretical and Methodological Bases of Research into Migration


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2018 (May)
Transnationalism Polish Migrants Chinese Migrants Sociological Theory Polish Peasant
Frankfurt am Main, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2017. 250 pp. 13 b/w Ill., 2 b/w tab.

Biographical notes

Jacek Kubera (Volume editor) Łukasz Skoczylas (Volume editor)

Jacek Kubera is a sociologist and a French philologist. He works as a researcher at the Institute for Western Affairs (Poland). His main research interests are migration, French politics and integration processes in the European Union. Łukasz Skoczylas is a sociologist and psychologist. He is Assistant Professor at the Institute of Sociology, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań (Poland). His main research interests are migration, sociology of culture and social memory.


Title: Contemporary Migrations in the Humanistic Coefficient Perspective
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254 pages