In philosophy and sociology, culturalism (new humanism or Znaniecki's humanism) is the central importance of culture as an organizing force in human affairs.[1][2][3] It was originally coined by the Polish-American philosopher and sociologist Florian Znaniecki in his book Cultural Reality (1919) in English and later translated into Polish as kulturalizm. Znaniecki had introduced a similar concept in earlier Polish language publications which he described as humanism (humanizm).[3]


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).[4]

Znaniecki was critical of a number of then-prevalent philosophical viewpoints: intellectualism,[5] idealism[6] realism[6] naturalism[3][6][7] and rationalism.[3] He was also critical of irrationalism and intuitionism.[5]


In response to these criticisms, Znaniecki proposed a new theoretical framework.[6][7][8] His "culturalism" was an ontological and epistemological approach aiming to eliminate dualisms such as the belief that nature and culture are opposite realities.[7]

This approach allowed him to "define social phenomena in cultural terms".[1] Znaniecki was arguing for the importance of culture, noting that our culture shapes our view of the world and our thinking.[9] 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.[10]

Among the fundamental aspects of the philosophy of culturalism are two categories: value and action.[7] Elżbieta Hałas, who calls it an "antithesis to the intellectual dogmas of naturalism", identifies the following assumptions:[5]

  • "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 the foundation for his larger theoretical system, based around another concept of his, "humanistic coefficient."[11] Though originally a philosophical concept,[3] culturalism was further developed by Znaniecki to inform his sociological theories.[4]

Znaniecki's culturalism influenced modern sociological views of antipositivism and antinaturalism.[12]


  1. Hałas (2010), p. 12.
  2. Hałas (2010), p. 214.
  3. Dulczewski (1984), pp. 186–187.
  4. Hałas (2010), p. 51.
  5. Hałas (2010), p. 52.
  6. 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.
  7. Hałas (2010), p. 21.
  8. Sztompka (2002), pp. 52–53.
  9. Dulczewski (1984), pp. 187–188.
  10. Dulczewski (1984), p. 189.
  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.
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