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This paper addresses the emergence of a humanist discourse within nursing and questions the extent to which it represents the panacea implied within much of the humanist nursing literature. Particular attention will be given to whether it represents an ontological and epistemological framework capable of understanding the social, economic and political dynamics formative in the structuring of nurse-client relations. It will be argued that the humanist analyses extant within much nursing literature are vague, idealistic, inconsistent and inadequate in the sense that they offer little by way of a meaningful analysis of power. A critique will also be made of the methodological individualism implicit within much humanist analyses. The paper will go on to identify the influence of humanist approaches on transcultural theory, and the manner in which the epistemological foundations of the latter have shared the limitations of the humanist nursing approach generally. As such, the transcultural nursing literature is often vague, inconsistent in its use of terminology, lacking in any rigorous analysis of power, and suspect in its conceptualizations of culture. Its capacity for enabling nurses to examine critically the socio-economic and political dynamics of nurse-client relations and develop strategies for addressing racisms, considered by many to be endemic within nursing and the health care system generally, is seriously undermined.