Undoubtedly, “culture” was the signature and the Leitmotif of the XX century. Increasingly, we describe and interpret social spheres in cultural terms. This notion was still based on Johann Gottfried Herder’s cultural concept that had drawn on a double perspective of social processes: it included on the one hand the historical view of traditionalized images of the “Volk” and the “Nation” and on the other hand the view of the broad diversity of the world cultures. Especially from the sixties onward the ideas of cultural tradition referring to cultural diversity embodied two major perspectives in the debates on social identity. These perspectives paved the way for new conceptual views of popular culture and everyday culture in industrial societies as well as of specific ethnic and cultural traditions in postcolonial countries, as the article demonstrates by examples and theories of the XX century.
However, this cultural concept came with a certain price: more and more, culture appeared to be static, homogeneous and confined within the frame of that concept. Inwardly, the results were “cultural integration” and outwardly “cultural difference”. Any further “culturalization” would be misleading, especially since in times of globalization thinking within the categories of cultural systems – national, social, ethnic or religious – seems inappropriate. Culture cannot simply be the subject matter for “politics of identity”, but on the contrary it ought to be understood as an open and symbolic practice of “negotiating society” beyond false ideas and ideologies of genuineness, unity and authenticity. Along these lines culture then will be an indispensable heuristic instrument for analysing society as well as for a reflexive perspective within society even in the XX century – not only for cultural studies.