Seeking for the Definition of “Culture”: Current Concerns and their Implications. A Comment on Gustav Jahoda’s Article “Critical Reflections on some Recent Definitions of “Culture’”’

  • Irina A. MironenkoEmail author
  • Pavel S. Sorokin
Regular Article


This article takes as a starting point the critical analysis of attempts to define “culture”, offered by Jahoda in 2012. Basing on the observed proliferation of various, often contradicting, definitions of “culture” (for instance, trying to refer to its both internal and external aspects), Jahoda arrives at the conclusion that attempts to define the concept of “culture” are vain and useless and it is quite practicable simply to use the term without seeking to define it. We find it hard to agree with this statement. Elaborating on Jahoda reflections and drawing on the recent debates in social sciences, cultural studies and philosophy, we argue that seeking for the definition of culture is necessary in the context of contemporary development of social and humanitarian knowledge. Moreover, we claim that the debates about culture indicate the need for a large-scale methodological reorganization of the social and humanitarian sciences, in response to the novel ontological congruence between internal and external, the fundamental “ontological shift”, “reversing the poles” of the human-related reality. The human individual becomes its core element and pivot. Other “objects”, “external” in relation to the individual (for instance, social structures and institutions), undergo such massive and rapid changes that grow progressively fuzzy and sometimes even less “real”, comparing to the individual. The “inner” nature of the individual also transforms: from being “subjected” to think, act and feel according to certain external conditions, an individual becomes an Actor, who is empowered to change the environment following his purposive plans, desires and visions.


Ontology Culture Internal-external dimension of reality Definitions of culture Actorhood Ontological shift Methodology of social and humanitarian knowledge 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by the authors.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology, St. Petersburg State UniversitySt. PetersburgRussian Federation
  2. 2.Department of General SociologyNational Research University Higher School of EconomicsMoscowRussian Federation

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