Find the word definition

The Collaborative International Dictionary

Kulturkampf \Kul*tur"kampf`\, n. [G., fr. kultur, cultur, culture + kampf fight.] (Ger. Hist.) Lit., culture war; -- a name, originating with Virchow (1821 - 1902), given to a struggle between the Roman Catholic Church and the German government, chiefly over the latter's efforts to control educational and ecclesiastical appointments in the interest of the political policy of centralization. The struggle began with the passage by the Prussian Diet in May, 1873, of the so-called

May laws, or

Falk laws, aiming at the regulation of the clergy. Opposition eventually compelled the government to change its policy, and from 1880 to 1887 laws virtually nullifying the May laws were enacted.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

1879, originally in reference to the struggle between the German government and the Catholic Church over control of educational and ecclesiastical appointments, 1872-86, German, literally "struggle for culture," from Kultur + Kampf "combat, fight, struggle," from Latin campus "field, battlefield" (see campus).


n. A conflict between secular and religious authorities, especially the struggle between the Roman Catholic Church and the German government under Bismarck.


The German term (, literally "culture struggle") refers to power struggles between emerging constitutional and democratic nation states and the Roman Catholic Church over the place and role of religion in modern polity, usually in connection with secularization campaigns. In the ancien régime, states were confessional and religion governed private and public life and the Catholic Church had been closely associated with reactionary governments and ideological conservatism, thus, "the struggle against the ancien régime, its remnants, or its restoration was necessarily a struggle against the church" and such conflicts were a central theme of Western European history from the mid-19th century until 1914.

In the historical sense, Kulturkampf refers to such power struggles and legislative campaigns in several countries, e g. in Switzerland (see :de:Kulturkampf in der Schweiz), which took a leading role in the 1840s (see: Sonderbund War), in Germany beginning around 1860 and especially their culmination between 1871 and 1876, in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Britain, Spain, Italy, Austria-Hungary (see :de:Maigesetze (Österreich-Ungarn)), Hungary (1890-1895) as well as in the United States and Latin America, e. g. Mexico or Brasil . Because of its intensity the German Kulturkampf is most widely known.

With this meaning the term Kulturkampf entered many languages, e.g.: French: le Kulturkampf, Spanish: el Kulturkampf, Italian: il Kulturkampf. It first appeared 1840 in an anonymous review of a publication by Swiss-German liberal Ludwig Snell on "The Importance ot the Struggle of liberal Catholic Switzerland with the Roman Curia". But it only gained wider currency after liberal member of the Prussian parliament, Rudolph Virchow, used it in 1873.

In contemporary socio-political discussion, the term Kulturkampf (see also culture war) is often used to describe any conflict between secular and religious authorities or deeply opposing values, beliefs between sizable factions within a nation, community, or other group.

Usage examples of "kulturkampf".

The Kulturkampf, the Triple Alliance, and the Herero upris ing yield three color-saturated images.