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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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3 The Humanistic Approach of Florian Znaniecki / 49


chapter 3 The Humanistic Approach of Florian Znaniecki The Noble Intellectual Florian Znaniecki (1882–1958) enjoys the dubious privilege of remaining an exclusive author. He is known by relatively few connoisseurs of the theory and the history of soci- ology. The majority would associate his name as the collaborator of William I. Thomas on The Polish Peasant in Europe and America ( Thomas, Znaniecki, 1918–1920). The modest acclaim surrounding Znaniecki’s output, so incommensurate with the achievements of the thinker, was possible only due to the idealistic enthusiasm with which he assumed his calling of an investigator of culture. Under the influence of the Polish romanticism and the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche and Henri Bergson, Znaniecki was convinced of his higher vocation as a creator of spiritual values (Znaniecki 1920: 189). This conviction rendered possible a dignified distance from circumstances and hindered world-wide success. There is nothing of a safe academic career in Znaniecki’s adventurous biography. It is marked by the experiences of a rebel, an exile, a pioneer of social science in the reborn Poland of 1918, a repeated exile in 1939 and an immigrant since 1945.1 Three times he faced despotic powers: when the Tsar’s regime prevented a brilliant philoso- pher from taking an academic post, when Nazis put Znaniecki’s name on the ‘black list’ of intellectuals sentenced to extermination, and, finally, when he was doomed to 1 On Florian Znaniecki’s life and work see: H. Znaniecka Lopata 1965: XIII–XIX; Bierstedt 1969; Bierstedt 1987: 183–241....

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