Florian Znaniecki on Fluid Civilization and World Culture Society

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* Article: Crisis or Fluidity? Florian Znaniecki’s Theory of Civilization. Elzbieta Halas. Historical Sociology. A Journal of Historical Social Sciences, 2016

URL = https://www.academia.edu/41442600/Crisis_or_Fluidity_Florian_Znaniecki_s_Theory_of_Civilization


""The article analyzes Znaniecki’s idea of a fluid civilization and the conditions which are necessary for its existence, in the shape of reflexive cultural knowledge as the answer to a cultural crisis. The new type of cultural crisis stems from cultural innovations. The article shows the differences between Znaniecki's concept of fluidity and Bauman’s liquid modernity. It presents the concept of “civilization of the future” as a pan-human civilization, which requires the formation of a new type of cultural community – the world culture society.


The issue of civilization is also a significant topic in Znaniecki’s works and he gave civilization a new meaning in his theory of social and cultural systems. He views civilization as processual, defining it as the processes of social integration of culture. Two of Znaniecki’s books dealt exclusively with the issue of civilization. However, since they were written in Polish, they went largely unnoticed around the world. Furthermore, the popularity of new paradigms after World War II, including the structural functionalism of Talcott Par-sons, was not conducive to making Znaniecki’s works widely known [Hałas 2006].

In this article, I will discuss the above-mentioned two books about civilizational processes, focusing on key questions associated with the crisis of civilization and Znaniecki’s idea of a fluid civilization, in order to show that these works remain pertinent today.

The first book, Upadek cywilizacji zachodniej [The Fall of Western Civilization], was published in 1921, and the second one, Ludzie teraź niejsi a cywilizacja przysz ł oś ci [Contemporary People and the Civilization of the Future], appeared in 1934. While an analysis of the content and structure of cultural systems in order to present their duration and their changes over time does not focus on specific social collectivities, the concept of civilization introduced by Znaniecki allowed him to include spatiality in the relations between groups. As he wrote in Cultural Reality , “each group with its total civilization becomes geographically localized” [Znaniecki1919: 293].

The geographical environment is endowed with a humanistic coefficient, since it is meaningful and valued in human historical experience. It must be emphasized that, unlike Arnold Toynbee, Znaniecki did not attempt to determine a specific number of civilizations – he took the radical stance that there is an unspecifed multitude of them, while his theory regarding the civilizational process precluded treating civilizations as closed entities, inevitably doomed to clash [Huntington 1996]."