On the Plurality of Civilisations

by Feliks Koneczny

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Preface by Arnold Toynbee


Publishers Preface by J drzej Giertych                   


Introduction by Anton Hilckman 


Feliks Koneczny and the Comparative Science of Civilisation by Anton Hilckman 


The Modern Road of Philosophy of History              


On What is Civilisation Based? — The Quincunx of Existencial Values


The Central Problem of the Philosophy of History: Where does the difference of civilisations corne from?


Negative Answers                          


Civilisations and Religions. Are the Civilisations Products of Religions?


Christianity and Civilisation 


The Positive Answer: The Principal Factors of Differentiation of Civilisations 


Laws of History


The only law of History: Causality and Finality


East, West, Rome and Byzantium. Turan. The Pressure of the East upon the West. Germany.


On the Plurality of Civilisations by Feliks Koneczny 




Chapter    I. From Bacon to Majewski;  


I. Introduction 


II. A note on KoBB taj




Chapter II.   Nuclei of All Culture.


I  Fire


II. Domestic Animals


III. The Oldest Associations 


IV. Nuclei of Tradition 


V. Prehistoric Economy




Chapter III. The Triple Law.


I. Nomenclature


II. The Five Types of Clan 


III. Family Law 


IV. Property Law


V. Clan Law and the Triple Law




Chapter IV. Associations and Systems 


I. System in the Quincunx of Society


II. Natural Ethics 


III. The Condition of Commensurability 


IV. What is Civilisation?                           


V. Homo






Chapter   V. Civilisation and Race


I. Racial Mixture 


II. What Races Are There?


III. The So-Called Sociological Races


IV. Psychological Results of Crossing


V. The So-Called Hierarchy of Races


VI. Rsults




Chapter VI. Civilisation and Language


I. Nomenclature


II. Multiplicity and Disappearance of Languages


III. Wealth and Poverty


IV. Unequal Capacity


V. Relationship to Communal Mentality


VI. Conclusions




Chapter VII. Civilisation and Religion


I. Introductory Remarks


II. Judaism


III. Brahminism


IV. Buddhism


V. Islam


VI. Oriental Christianity


VII. Catholicism


VIII. Summary




Chapter VIII. Attempted Systematization


I. Proviso


II. Control of Time 


III. Private and Public Law


IV. Ethics and Law


V. National Consciousness


VI. Tentative Systematization


VII. Changes and Syntheses


VIII. Conclusion  






Feliks Koneczny


The Works of Feliks Koneczny dealing with the Problem of Civilisation










PREFACE by Arnold Toynbee


            Polonica Publications have done a service to the study of human affairs in publishing the present English translation of Feliks Koneczny's greatest work. It is one of several mutually independent studies of the structure of human affairs on the largest scale that have appeared in different parts of the Western World within the last two generations. Koneczny published the original Polish edition of this book after he had turned seventy, and he had the leisure to write it because he had been compulsorily retired from his chair as a penalty for having been outspoken in the cause of civic freedom. In short compass, Koneczny has discussed the fundamental questions raised by the study of civilizations, and he arrives at definite and valuable conclusions. After sketching the structure of society, he considers and rejects the thesis that differences in civilization are byproducts of differences in physical race. Indeed, he rejects the suggestion that these physical differences are in any way correlated with the spiritual ones. Turning to language, he does conclude that different languages are of un-equal value for serving as vehicles for civilisations, but he refrains from taking these qualitative differences between different languages as being the explanation of the differences that he finds in the spiritual value of different civilizations. Turning to religion, he insists on the mutual independence of the "higher" religions and the civilizations.

            Koneczny believed in the possibility, and value, of a general study of human affairs. His own important contribution to this was the crown of his life-work as an historian. He approached his generalisations from the four standpoints of a student of East European and Central Asian history, a Pole, a Roman Catholic Christian, and a Westerner. Since the tenth century, Poland has been one of the eastern marches of the Western World. Koneczny's specialist studies as an historian worked together with his national heritage as a Pole to make him sensitive to the differences between civilizations, and this inspired him to study the sum of human history from the standpoint of the plurality of civilizations. It also made him an ardent patriot of the Western World. This did not prevent Koneczny from being also a patriotic Pole and a devout Roman Catholic Christian. But, for him, Poland's national culture has value as one of a number of national versions of a common Western or, as he prefers to call it, Latin culture; and Roman Catholic Christianity has value as being the Western form of Christianity par excellence.

       This has made Koneczny generous-minded towards Protestants. He sees in them, not dissenters from the Catholic fold but Western Christians who, in ceasing to be Catholics, have continued to be Western, fortunately for the West and for themselves. The same standpoint has made it difficult for Koneczny to appreciate Eastern Orthodox, Monophysite, and Nestorian Christianity and the non-Christian higher religions. He appreciates Ancient Rome perhaps excessively, to the detriment of Ancient Greece. And he is hard on both the Byzantine and the Turanian (i.e. the Eurasian nomad) civilization. He classifies the civilization of Muscovite Russia as being Turanian; but, if Russia had been classified by him as being Byzantine, she probably would not have fared much better.

            Every student of human affairs, however eminent, is a child of his own social and cultural environment, besides being a unique personality with his own individual outlook on the Universe. He is limited, besides being stimulated, by his own particular historical standing-ground, which has been imposed on him by the accident that he has been born at a particular date in a particular place. Naturally, Koneczny's highly individual approach to his work is partly conditioned — like, for instance, Danilevsky's and Spengler's and Vico's — by his cultural environment. It is fortunate that there should have been a number of thinkers wrestling with the same problem from different standing-grounds in time and space. It is also fortunate that one of these voices should have been a Polish voice, since Poland has a word to say to the present-day West, as Mr. Giertych points out in the Publisher's Preface to the present English translation of Koneczny's major work.

            Koneczny achieved all that he did achieve in a life that was stormy and tragic yet 1ong. This Polish thinker’s personal history is an epitome of the Polish nation's history. 'Indomitable' is the adjective that the name 'Poland' calls up in non-Polish minds.

        This foreword can, and should, be brief, because the Publisher’s Preface, together with the illuminating introduction by my friend and colleague Professor Anton Hilckman, are all that is required for introducing Koneczny's work to the English-reading public.




by Anton Hilckman Ph.D. (Milan), Rerum Pol.D. (Freiburg in Br.) Professor at the University of Mainz (Germany).


            One of the great spiritual aims of our time is the endeavour to understand history as a whole; several attempts have been made to achieve a universal historical synthesis, a general survey of universal history. This did not seem so pressing and urgent a task to the people of previous centuries as it does to us, of today. (This "today" we may understand as the period from the beginning of the present century [the XXth].)

            Oswald Spengler's theory of history and culture was an attempt of this kind: planned on the grand scale and in parts splendid, even if in detail it was vulnerable to criticism and if as a whole it was a miscarriage. There was no humanity for Spengler: humanity was for him only an abstract notion, something non-existent, void of reality; and in consequence, neither was there any history of humanity. Not only had there been no such history in the past, but there could not possibly be such a history in the future. All that is historically relevant, says Spengler, has taken place within the compass of eight high civilisations, of which our own, the Western, is the latest; everything else is “non-historical being” and superlatively irrelevant. Spengler, whose historical thought is orientated by the biological sciences, considers the civilisations themselves as a sort of great mysterious organisms. They come to life, they blossom like flowers of the field; they are indeed a species of blossom, great. mysterious and wonderful; they bring their fruits to ripeness, and they wither and die because these miraculous organisms of the highest existing rank, like everything alive, also are subject to the laws of life which are in their final aim laws of death. An air of pessimism breathes through Spengler’s learning. This is undeniable, although Spengler repeatedly and most energetically defends himself against the charge of pessimism.

            Today it is the historical doctrine of Toynbee which stands in the forefront of discussion. Interest has been evoked among the educated public of the whole world by the extensive and deeply solid work of this author: a proof that the effort to understand history as a whole – to seize, one is almost inclined to say, its innermost laws – has become one of the great longings, perhaps even the greatest longing of our day.

            We believe that the doctrine of a Polish thinker of our times, on history and on civilisation, can be of great importance to the general historical thought of the Western European nations as well as in the practical political shaping of their fates: provided, of course that this doctrine becomes known. This statement of ours should not cause astonishment: Poland is the most easterly  portion of western Europe, the outpost of the West so to speak. For a thousand years the Poles were to the West a protecting wall against the East: against all that swelling flood which threatened Europe from an alien world that was arrayed more than once against our own world in hostility. A sentinel on a wall, a guard on an outpost, acquires an acute perception and recognition of what is foreign, what is alien, menacing and dangerous. It may therefore be of quite particular interest to make the doctrine of a Polish historical thinker accessible to the public of Western Europe.

            To the English-speaking public we present in this volume a translation of one of the major works of the Polish historical thinker, Feliks Koneczny...


On the Plurality of Civilisations by Feliks Koneczny





            History grows increasingly general. Events in the Far East produce rapid, and increasingly rapidly felt, effects in the European power system. Even African affairs assume increasing importance in the political and economic balance. Thus the study of exotic peoples and lands is increasingly necessary for public life not merely in England, but in all the countries of the European continent without exception. These studies are in fact making considerable progress; it is enough to say that there is no lack of authors writing in Polish from whom much can be learned about peoples of other civilisations.

            There is also an increasingly conscious objectivity in face of the exotic. The legion of those men who recognise only one civilisation, i.e. their own, and regard people of other civilisations as uncivilised, is visibly diminishing. Acknowledgment that difference does not mean some basic inferiority is increasingly frequently met with. We try to enter into the spirit of these differences; the old Roman nil humani a me alienum puto has been extended geographically beyond expectation.

      So too textbooks of general history increasingly readily take the whole world into account, thus acquiring whole chapters. A great but laudable enthusiasm is to be remarked in this direction. We are also becoming increasingly aware that this movement is leading to new conceptions of general history as a whole, with its divisions, motives, difficulties, sacrifices and illusions. Against an enormously enlarged background, there is more than one change in perspective, problems assume other forms.

            Having increasingly to do with the variety of civilisations, it must seem the more astonishing that we do not ask ourselves whence comes this variety, what is its origin? Why do a Japanese and a Swede, although they telephone in the same way, think and act  differently? Why do not all peoples belong to one civilisation? Why do they differ not only in the stages but in the kinds of their different civilisations?

Copyright © Feliks Koneczny 2018

Version: 2nd January 2018