Historically, the notion of "Kulturologia" (Культурология in russian) may be traced to late 19th century and early 20th century in Russia and is associated with the names of Mikhail Bakhtin, Aleksei Losev, Sergey Averintsev, Georgy Gachev, Yuri Lotman, Vyacheslav Ivanov, Vladimir Toporov, and others (1). During the Stalinist era, this kind of research was superseded by Marxist social studies. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, however, culturology was institutionalized as a new discipline in Russia and some other states of the former Soviet Bloc. Defined as an integral study of human cultures as integral systems and their influence on human behavior, it may be loosely compared to the Western discipline of cultural studies, although it has a number of important distinctions.
In terms of contemporary social sciences, the word "culturology" is borrowed from American anthropologist Leslie White who defined it as the field of science which studies culture as cultural systems (2)(3). Following White, Mario Bunge defined culturology as the sociological, economic, political and historical study of concrete cultural systems. When synchronic, culturology is said to coincide with the anthropology, sociology, economics and politology of cultures. By contrast, diachronic culturology is a component of history (4). Scientific culturology also differs from traditional “cultural studies” in that the latter are too often the work of idealist literary critics or pseudo-philosophers ignorant of the scientific methodology and incompetent to the study of social facts and concrete social systems.
Bunge’s systemic and materialist approach to the study of culture has given birth to a variety of new fields of research in the social sciences. Fabrice Rivault, for instance, was the first scholar to propose "international political culturology" as a subfield of international relations in order to understand the global cultural system, as well as its numerous subsystems, and explain how cultural variables interact with politics and economics to impact on world affairs (5). This scientific approach differs radically from culturalism, constructivism and cultural postmodernism in that it is based on logics, empiricism, systemism and emergent materialism. While a similar approach ought to be adopted in the emerging fields of political culturology or cultural economics, Rivault’s work is presently been used by scholars around the world to study cultural factors in international relations (6)(7).
(1) Epstein, Mikhail, (1999) “Transcultural Experiments: Russian and American Models of Creative Communication,” St. Martin's Press, New York.
(2) White, Leslie, (1959) "The Evolution of Culture: The Development of Civilization to the Fall of Rome", McGraw-Hill, New York.
(3) White, Leslie, (1975) “The Concept of Cultural Systems: A Key to Understanding Tribes and Nations, Columbia University, New York.
(4) Bunge, Mario, (1998) Social Science Under Debate, Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
(5) Rivault, Fabrice (1999) "Culturologie Politique Internationale : Une approche systémique et matérialiste de la culture et du système social global", McGill Dissertation, 1999, Montréal, Culturology Inc.
(6) Xintian, Yu (2005) “Cultural Factors In International Relations”, Chinese Philosophical Studies.
(7) Xintian, Yu (2009),"Combining Research on Cultural Theory and International Relations".