Feliks Koneczny

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1. From the Wikipedia:

"His interests ranged from purely historical research to the philosophy of history, religion and philosophy. His pioneering works deal with the history of Russia. Koneczny authored extensive monographs on Byzantine and Jewish civilizations, which he considered to be less developed than the Latin civilization of Catholic western Europe. In 1948, after sixty years of research work, Koneczny calculated that his written scholarly output encompassed 26 volumes, each of them being 300 to 400 pages long, not to mention more than 300 articles, brochures and reprints. His theory of civilizations might have inspired those of Anton Hilckman, Samuel P. Huntington and others."


2. Google Books:

"Feliks Koneczny was a Polish Catholic historian, who lived between 1862 and 1949 and spent most of his life in Kraków, Poland. Koneczny was a prolific writer, producing his most important works towards the end of his life. Since he disagreed with the Marxist claim that the class struggle is the motor of history and instead, he saw the role of morality in history, he was condemned to oblivion in the communist period. In the 1970-1980s his major hitherto unpublished works appeared in Britain, to be reprinted again in Poland after the fall of communism, where they have gained some recognition among Catholic thinkers, although they are ignored by the mainstream academia. Koneczny worked out a theory of civilizations that is somewhat akin to the views of Samuel Huntington. He disagreed with cyclical theories of history that compared civilizations to biological organisms having a time of youth, growth, decline and death."


Key Ideas

Feliks Koneczny on the Types of Civilizations

From the Wikipedia:

"Feliks Koneczny divided civilizations into about twenty types, of which seven types still exist. Four are ancient: "Brahmin," "Jewish," "Chinese," and "Turanian". Three are medieval: "Latin," "Byzantine," and "Arab." The differences between civilizations are based on their attitude to law and ethics.

For example, Koneczny claimed that in the Latin civilization, ethics is the source of law. If some laws are not ethical, then they are changed. Government is judged on the basis of its adherence to ethics. The law is of dual nature, divided into public and private spheres. Religion is autonomous, independent and separated from the state. Individuality, self-rule and decentralization are highly valued. Knowledge is empirical.

In the Byzantine civilization, organized religion is dependent on the state. In this type of civilization all means are justified to achieve political goals. Politicians follow ethics in private life, but in public they are judged by their skills, not by ethics. The legal government has absolute authority and its orders are not doubted. Germany under Bismarck was an example of that type of civilization.

In the Turanian civilization, the government is the source of law and ethics and stands above the law and ethics. The ruler cannot be doubted. Koneczny considered Russia under the Tsars as an example of this type of civilization.

The Jewish civilization considers the law most important. The law is the source of ethics. The law cannot be changed. However, the same law can be differently interpreted, which leads to ethical relativism. Similarly to the Brahmin or Hindu civilization, it is sacral, with religion playing a central role. According to Koneczny, one of the elements of Jewish civilization is a belief in the superior role of one nation or race. Communist states, despite their atheism, are also products of Jewish civilization.

Koneczny claimed that civilizations cannot mix, and any "synthesis" of several civilizations leads to the victory of one over the other, lower moral standards, or to a state of "un-civilization."

Koneczny did not tie civilizational type to any particular race or nation. Hence, Poles could represent the Turanian type of civilization (as, according to Koneczny, did Józef Piłsudski's Poland) and Germans could represent the Jewish type. In his publication Hitleryzm zażydzony ('The Judaized Hitlerism') Koneczny claimed that Adolf Hitler was an example of the Jewish civilization type.[6] On the other hand, an ethnic Jew could represent the Latin type of civilization.

Koneczny considered racism something alien to Latin civilization, which he considered the highest type.

According to Koneczny, Europe in his time was a battlefield between three types of civilization: Latin, Turan and Jewish. He argued that the Byzantine type of civilization had already lost the battle and was in deep crisis."



The importance of the Polish, East European background of the author

Tomasz Raburski:

"Feliks Koneczny (1862-1949) was a Polish conservative historian and philosopher of history of the first half of the XXth century, who developed an original theory of civilizations. His writings are based on a local, Central European historical experience and Polish intellectual tradition, but with a claim to universality. He offered a diagnosis of a crisis of European culture, and proposed a program of cultural revival. In the interwar period, Koneczny’s theory gained some recognition among Polish nationalist conservatives. Under the communist rule it was consigned to oblivion. For the last two decades there has been a growing interest in Koneczny’s work, both academic and political (Bukowska 2007; Gawor 2002; Pucek 1990). Koneczny’s theory is becoming widely known, but remains highly controversial, esp. for its anti-Semitic elements and critique of multiculturalism. Koneczny was a prolific writer. During his life he wrote 26 books (some of them published posthumously) and more than a 300 articles and occasional papers (Skrzydlewski 2002). He started his career as an academic historian, interested in the history of Central and Eastern Europe (esp. Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine, Russia, Silesia). Starting from 1921 his interests moved to the philosophy of history. Over the thirty years, he wrote numerous publications on his political philosophy and theory of civilizations. His main book is translated into English with the title of „On the Plurality of Civilizations” (Koneczny 1962). Although it was acclaimed by Arnold Toynbee, who wrote the preface, it remained unnoticed. The only notable non-Polish follower of Koneczny’s ideas was a German folklorists and philosopher Anton Hilckman (Hilckman 2011). Koneczny developed a pluralistic theory of civilizations, which was intended as a general framework for the understanding of the human history. Like the other pluralistic theories of civilizations, it is based on an assumption that there exist many civilizations, which are complex forms of social organization. These civilizations are the basic structures of the history.

All other forms of social organization (e.g. cultures, nations, institutions, social movements) are derivative or secondary. One cannot understand the history or societies, without referring to the concept of civilization. Koneczny denied the unity of the humankind and believed that conflict between the civilizations is inevitable. Each civilization has its own value system and distinct form of institutions (Koneczny 1962). Koneczny’s theory is complex and significantly different from the other theories of civilizations (Gawor 2002; Skoczyński 2003). It is deeply rooted in the anti-positivist turn of the early XXth century, Christian philosophy (esp. Augustinianism, Thomism, personalism), Polish conservatism and messianism and the popular idea of the European declinism."


"Koneczny knew Spengler’s works, but his theory developed independently and has many distinct features. He criticized Spengler for pessimism, determinism, naturalism, and finally forthe glorification of the Prussianism (Koneczny 1935). His own theory was based on a Christian tradition and on the Polish historical experience (Raburski 2014). It was an intellectual project that aimed at building the Augustinian City of God. The project, in which Poland had an important role to play (Dworaczyk 2006).

Koneczny said: „One cannot be civilized intwo ways” (Koneczny 1962). Civilizations are complex, closed structures. One cannot choose which institutions or values are worth supporting, and which are not. One must take all of themas a whole. Elements of particular civilizations cannot be mixed together. Civilizational syntheses are destined to fall. The purity as an ideal and a necessity of avoiding the civilizational mixtures are common ideas among the theorists of civilizations (e.g. Spengler or Huntington) (Raburski2006). According to Koneczny, there is no single „European” or „Western” civilization but under the surface of the culture and public life, four civilizations compete for our souls. Thus, the contemporary crisis is not, as Spengler claimed, „the decline of the West”, but a symptom of coexistence of four civilizations. This is the real source of contemporary crisis and ethical and political chaos."


Feliks Koneczny As Predating the Clash of Civilizations

Tomasz Raburski:

"Koneczny tried not only to understand the historical process, but also to set a political agenda. His theory is a project for a moral revival in Europe. As well as most conservatives, he idealized the past. However, he did not claim that there was ever a golden age. The ideal political system is yet to be built. Europeans should abandon the dreams of multiculturalism, get rid of non-Latin institutions and return to their ethical origins. Thus Koneczny’s theory predated Samuel Huntington’s idea of the clash of civilizations (Gawor 2002).There are many parallels between these two theories, but there are also significant differences.

First of all, there is Augustinian spirit in Koneczny’s theory. The rivalry between the civilizations is continuously present within the societies and within the minds and hearts of the peoples. While Huntington created only a theory of international relations, The works of Koneczny include also a full-fledged ethical theory.

Secondly, Poland has a special status in Koneczny’s theory. He was a continuator of Polish messianism and the idea of Poland as a bulwark of western civilization and Christianity (Dworaczyk 2006). According to him Polish culture was born within the Latin civilization, but in the historical process, it was contaminated by the alien influences (e.g. the influence of Turanian civilization was the cause of Polish Sarmatism). In spite of these influences, Polish nation remained a repository of Latin values and possible savior of Latin Europe.

Thirdly, Koneczny described Europe from Central European (in particular Polish)perspective. At the core of all the theories of civilizations, there lies a basic opposition, which serves as a framework for the theory (Raburski 2014). The structure of theory is a consequence of the initial assumptions, such as what the analytical units are and what are the most important factors and variables.

Spengler built his theory contrasting ancient and western civilizations. Huntington focused on comparing western, Islamic and Chinese civilizations. Koneczny compared Poland, Germany and Russia. He looked for the differences between them and attributed them to separate civilizations. Latin Poland is placed between East and West: between Byzantine Germany, and Turanian Russia. It is a foremost line of defense of European Latinism, and its fate is a European fate. Czechs and Hungarians are other boundary countries between Latinism and German- Byzantinism. Hungarian origins were in Turanian civilization, but in the middle ages they became utterly Latinized. All Koneczny’s writings were focused on this part of Europe and were built on local historical examples. Since Koneczny’s theory was a normative project, he did not refrain from grading the civilizations. Civilizations are not equal in the ethical sense. Latin civilization holds the highest value, which means it harmonizes all the quincunx categories to the highest degree and it is the best for the fulfillment of an individual. Other civilizations are also harmonious and stable structures and they may be even more successful in the material sense. That is because the ethical excellence is not paired with power. Quite contrary: lower ethical standards prevail in the political institutions. Thus, according to Koneczny, the purity is a matter of survival for Latin civilization. Koneczny’s theory was a significant contribution to Polish conservative thought. He helped to modernize conservatism and to transform it into a modern ideology, not limited to certain social classes. His thought has little influence on liberals and the left, because of the explicit anti-Semitism, nationalism and anti-modernism. Koneczny’s concepts are used by some contemporary conservative parties (most notably by the League of Polish Families or Marek Jurek’s Right of the Republic), by some officials of the Polish catholic church or by the neo-Thomists (e.g. Mieczysław Krąpiec). The most prominent supporters of his theory are the members of Giertych family: Jędrzej Giertych (interwar politician), Maciej Giertych (former member of the European Parliament) and Roman Giertych (former deputy prime minister of Poland)(e.g. Giertych 2007). Koneczny’s thought became more popular, than it was before the war."



Available in English [2]:

  • O wielości cywilizacyj, Gebethner & Wolff, Kraków 1935. English translation (abridged) On the Plurality of Civilisations, Polonica Publications, London 1962, Antyk, Komorów, 2012 . English Translation: Web page, Word (1.2MB)
  • Cywilizacja bizantyjska, Towarzystwo im. Romana Dmowskiego, London 1973. English translation "The Byzantine Civilization", Antyk, Komorów, 2014.
  • Cywilizacja żydowska, Towarzystwo im. Romana Dmowskiego, London 1974. English translation "The Jewish Civilization", Antyk, Komorów, 2012.
  • O ład w historii, Towarzystwo im. Romana Dmowskiego, London 1977. English translation "On Order in History" Antyk, Komorów, 2014.
  • Państwo w cywilizacji łacińskiej. Zasady prawa w cywilizacji łacińskiej / State in Latin civilisation. Rules of law in Latin civilisation, Towarzystwo im.
  • Romana Dmowskiego, London 1981 (in Polish). English translation "The Latin Civilization" Antyk, Komorów,2016.
  • Prawa dziejowe (oraz dodatek) Bizantynizm niemiecki / History laws (and an addendum) German byzantinism, Towarzystwo im. Romana Dmowskiego, London 1982. English translation "The Laws of History" Antyk, Komorów, 2013.

A Critique

* Book: Feliks Koneczny and Civilizational Fundamentalism in Poland. Andrew Kier Wise

URL = https://digitalcommons.daemen.edu/faculty_books/40/

"In this first English-language monograph about the Polish historian Feliks Koneczny (1862–1949), Andrew Kier Wise explains Koneczny’s theories and the ongoing debate about their meaning and relevance for Poland in the twenty-first century. Koneczny believed in a “plurality of civilizations” rather than a universal path of historical development. Developed fully during the troubled interwar period, his “science of civilizations” prefigured the “clash of civilizations” theories of our own era. Koneczny was especially concerned with pressure from “the Orient” on Polish society by the so-called Byzantine, Turanian, and Jewish civilizations. He believed that Poland’s distinct cultural identity was grounded in Latin (Western) civilization and derived from the classical heritage of the Roman Republic and medieval Catholicism. Adherents to Koneczny’s worldview—which Wise defines as “Konecznian fundamentalism” or “civilizational fundamentalism”—embrace Koneczny’s “quincunx of existential values” as a way to understand the world. Koneczny’s theories and analytical framework thus provide a scholarly foundation for popular criticism of globalization, cosmopolitanism, immigration, feminism, the European Union, and other perceived threats to traditional Polish society."