(redirected from Diffusion (anthropology))
Also found in: Dictionary, Wikipedia.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a trend in bourgeois ethnology and archaeology encompassing a number of related schools. Diffusionism explains the development of cultures not in terms of their independent evolution but primarily or even exclusively in terms of cultural borrowings and migrations of peoples.

Diffusionism arose at the turn of the 20th century as a reaction to positivist evolutionism, contrasting the evolutionist view of complete uniformity in cultural development with the concept of absolute diversity in cultural development, disrupted only where borrowings or migrations govern cultural similarity. Subsequent diffusionism substitutes development in time by displacement in space (the German scholars L. Frobenius and F. Graebner) and denies the unity of the historical process (the Austrian scholars W. Schmidt and W. Koppers). Attempts were made to use diffusionism to develop racist theories, ascribing an exclusive cultural role to certain peoples or races (the Austrian scholar O. Menghin and the German scholar G. Kossinna). Marxist ethnology, archaeology, and sociology considers cultural influences and migrations as an important but not the determining factor in cultural and historical development.


Artanovskii, S. N. Istoricheskoe edinstvo chelovechestva i vzaimnoe vliianie kul’tur. Leningrad, 1967.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.