Race, ideas, and ideals: A comparison of Franz Boas and Hans F.K. Günther

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article compares two radically opposed views concerning "race" in the first half of the 20th century: the one of Franz Boas (1858-1942), the founder of American cultural anthropology, and the other of Hans F.K. Günther (1889-1968), the most widely read theoretician of race in Nazi Germany. Opposite as their views were, both derived from a similar non-evolutionist German anthropological matrix. The article reconstructs their definitions of racial objects and studies their analyses of racial intermixture. Although both believed that contemporary peoples were racially deeply mixed, Boas moved towards an antiracist conception of race-as-population, whereas Günther moved towards a racist conception of homogenous races in mixed peoples. The comparison shows that the major difference between them concerns their ideals or guiding principles. Their respective ideals seeped into their versions of science and transformed the nature and the significance of their respective ideas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)313-332
Number of pages20
JournalHistory of European Ideas
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Boas
  • Günther
  • Ideals
  • Race
  • Racial intermixture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Philosophy


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