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Towards the World Culture Society

Florian Znaniecki’s Culturalism


Elzbieta Halas

If the new cultural sociology is to gain firm grounds, it should rediscover the classic studies on cultural dynamics and cultural systems. This book contributes to a better understanding of Florian Znaniecki as an eminent culturologist and the lasting relevance of his theory of cultural becoming. Znaniecki opted for a humanistic approach that he called culturalism. Culturalism, founded on the principle of the humanistic coefficient, is applied also to the cultural person. The concept of social values makes this cultural approach an original one. The cultural logic and cultural ethos of Znaniecki’s thought is inherent in the very principle of a creative evolution of culture, augmenting his vision of a new civilization of the future and a world culture society.


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2 Classical Cultural Sociology: Florian Znaniecki’s Impact in a New Light / 27


27 New and Classical Cultural Sociology Half a century ago Robert K. Merton reverently described Znaniecki as the Dean of the world’s sociologists ( Merton 1950). Recently, Zygmunt Bauman ( Bauman 2000: 71) has noted Znaniecki’s permanent, but now barely recognizable presence in con- temporary sociology. An attempt will be made in the following to elucidate some of the circumstances surrounding this unnoticed absorption of Znaniecki’s concepts into sociology which has been accompanied by a blurring of the eminent scholar’s image ( Ha∏as 2005). Some arguments will be presented to encourage re-reading Znaniecki’s works, since many of his other ideas are still not yet sociologists’ daily bread. One might expect that such a renewed reception would be promoted by the contemporary ‘cultural turn’ ( Alexander, Smith 2001) in sociology as it returns to themes inherent in the very perspective Znaniecki laid out for researching the dynamics of culture, including culture’s relative autonomy from social systems, the primacy of meanings and their emergence through interactions. However, such expectations are faced with disappointment as the propagators of this new cultural sociology do not reach further back than the normative-functional sociology of Talcott Parsons, which they subject to criticism ( Smith 1998: 3). Parsons’s theory still casts a shadow, which is not to be con- fused with an eclipse, over classical cultural sociology, including the accomplishments of Znaniecki, who showed great mastery in forming the culturalistic orientation. With the new cultural sociology still reacting to the shortcomings in Parsons’s theory which discouraged sociologists from culturalistic thinking, it...

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