Pitirim A. Sorokin, fully Pitirim Alexandrovich (Alexander) Sorokin

Pitirim A.
Sorokin, fully Pitirim Alexandrovich (Alexander) Sorokin

Russian-born American Scholar, Sociologist, Academic and Political Activist, Founded Department of Sociology and the Harvard Research Center for Creative Altruism at Harvard University

Author Quotes

The main ambition and central preoccupation of scientific, philosophical, social, and humanistic thinkers in these centuries [18th & 19th] consisted in the discovery and formulation of these ?eternal laws of progress and evolution,? and in an elaboration of the main stages or phases through which the trend passes as it comes to fuller realization in the course of time. Discovery, formulation, and corroboration of the existence of such trends and their stages was the focal point of biology and sociology, of the philosophy of history and social philosophy, and of the other nineteenth-century social and humanistic sciences.

The resort to human flesh, often after months of ever-increasing hunger pangs, appeared to be an animal-like reaction without painful emotional overtones.

Are there quantitative aspects to the phenomena of war that can be counted? Evidently!

The sensory world is in a state of incessant flux and becoming. There is nothing unchangeable in it ? not even an eternal Supreme Being. Mind dominated by the truth of the senses simply cannot perceive any permanency, but apprehends all values in terms of shift and transformation. Sensate mentality views everything from the standpoint of evolution and progress. This leads to an increasing neglect of the eternal values, which come to be replaced by temporary, or short-time, considerations.

Either the conscious intellect is impotent, or is not sufficiently strong, or is not the factor positively connected with altruistic phenomenon generally or their sublime form particularly.

The sociocultural processes with an unlimited possi?bility of variation of their essential traits are also impossible?factually and logically. Hence, history is ever old and repeats itself? As to the possibilities of variation of the accidental properties of the system, the range of the possibilities here is wide, in some cases, at least, theoretically, almost unbounded. Hence, an incessant change of the system in these traits as long as the system exists. Likewise, almost unlimited are the possibilities of variation of the ever-new systems through the method of substitution or replacement of the exhausted systems by new ones. Hence, history is ever new, unrevealed and inexhaustible in its creativeness.

Identically recurrent sociocultural processes are impossible? Eternally linear sociocultural processes are also impossible? But a linear trend limited in time (whose duration is different for different systems and processes) is to be expected and is factually found in almost all sociocultural processes. In some it lasts only a few moments or hours or days or months; in others many decades and even centuries, but in all, it is limited in time and is shorter than the time of the whole existence of the system.

This means that the strictly cyclical (identically recurrent) conception of the sociocultural process; the linear, in the sense of unlimitedly linear; the unicist, in the sense of the nonexistence of any recurrent rhythms in the sociocultural processes, they being brand-new and unique in the totality of their traits and properties at any moment; the static conception that there is no change, and that the sociocultural world ever remains strictly identical with itself?all these conceptions are fallacious. The valid conception is that of an incessant variation of the main re?current themes, which contains in itself, as a part, all these conceptions, and as such is much richer than any of them.

In the predominantly Sensate cultures similar to the culture in the West for the last four centuries, the progressively linear theories of the evolution of humanity tend to dominate. In such a culture the whole historical process is viewed as a sort of progressive advance along the highway, with some deviations and little detours, from ?the caveman to superman,? from ?barbarism to civilization,? from ?stupidity to wisdom and genius,? from ?bestiality to semi-divinity,? from war and struggle for existence to peace, harmony and mutual aid ? and so on.? ? ?The theories of progress-evolution by Kant and Fichte, Herder and Lessing, Hegel and Adam Smith, August Comte and Herbert Spencer, Karl Marx and John Fiske, the Darwinian and biological theories of evolution ? these are the typical representations of historical processes, trends, laws of evolution of that Sensate period of Western culture.

Thus history ever repeats itself and never repeats itself; both seemingly contradictory statements are true and are not contradictory at all, when properly understood.

Inalienable rights will be alienated; Declarations of Rights either abolished or used only as beautiful screens for an unadulterated coercion. Governments will become more and more hoary, fraudulent, and tyrannical, giving bombs instead of bread; death instead of freedom; violence instead of law? Suicide, mental disease, and crime will grow.

Whole integrated culture, as a constellation of many culture subsystems, changes and passes from one state to another, because each of these is a going concern and bears in itself the reason of its change

In-group exclusivism has killed more human beings and destroyed more cities and villages than all the epidemics, hurricanes, storms, floods, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions taken together. It has brought upon mankind more suffering than any other catastrophe.

Life can never be at equilibrium. Complete equilibrium is never attained and would be fatal if it were attained, as it would mean stagnation, atrophy, and death.

Man is a conscious, rational thinker and a supra-conscious creator genius.

Other conditions being equal, the more limited the possibilities of variation of main forms, the more frequent, conspicuous, and grasping are the rhythms in the process of the system and the simpler the rhythms from the standpoint of their phases. And vice versa, if in some of the processes we cannot grasp any recurrent rhythm, the reason is either that the process has comparatively large possibilities of vari?ation that empirically prevent us from noticing the infrequent rhythm; or that it endures a shorter life span and dies earlier, before it has had a chance to run through all its forms (just as some organisms die at the prenatal stage or in childhood, before they have a chance to run through all the main phases of human life from birth to senility. Or the inability to grasp any recurrent rhythm may be due to a co?existence and mutual interference of several con?temporaneous and different rhythms in the same system that change them into an un-rhythmical noise for the listener or observer; or to the excessively long duration between the recurrences, which makes the rhythm also unobservable; or to the exceedingly complex and many-phased nature of the rhythm.

Quantitative colossalism will substitute for qualitative refinement.? What is biggest will be regarded as best. Instead of classics, we shall have best-sellers. Instead of genius, technique. Instead of real thought, Information. Instead of inner value, glittering externality. Instead of sages, smart alecs. The great cultural values of the past will be degraded; ?Michelangelos and Rembrandts will be decorating soap and razor blades, washing machines and whiskey bottles.

Since practically all the sociocultural systems have limited possibilities of variation of their essential forms, it follows that all the systems that continue to exist after all their possible forms are exhausted, are bound to have recurrent rhythms. Hence, the inevi?tability of recurrence in the life process of such systems.

The activities of [a society?s] life career or destiny are determined mainly by the system itself, by its potential nature and the totality of its properties. External conditions can crush the system or terminate an unfolding of its immanent destiny at one of earliest phases of its development, depriving it of a realization of its complete life career; but they cannot fundamentally change the character and the quality of each phase of the development; nor can they, in many cases, reverse or fundamentally change the sequence of phases of the immanent destiny of the system.

The factual evidence openly contradicts the assumption that there exists any universal and perpetual linear trend or any universal stages of evolution applicable to the whole of mankind and to all groups and individuals.

The home will become a mere overnight parking place.

Love is the supreme value around which all moral values can be integrated into one ethical system valid for the whole of humanity.

The topic of unselfish love has been placed on the agenda of history and is about to become its main business.

The ultimate, true reality-value is sensory. Beyond it there is neither other reality nor any other non-sensory value'. Such a major premise and the gigantic supersystem built upon it is called Sensate.

Millions of singular sociocultural phenomena that make the superorganic world of reality appear to us in the form of the integrated systems and unintegrated congeries. If two or more singular superorganic phenomena are related to one another only by chance (by mere spatial or time adjacency) they are congeries having no real unity and interdependence between them. If two or more singular sociocultural facts are tied together meaningfully and causally in such a way that they articulate consistently the same set of meanings (values, norms) and empirically-in their vehicles and human members-show tangible (causal) interdependence of its important parts, such combination of any number of singular sociocultural phenomena makes an integrated cultural system or organized social system (Ganzbuten). Though overlooked by the majority of sociologists, the distinction between the systems and congeries is basic and important in many respects and especially for the purposes of adequate study of the sociocultural phenomena.

Author Picture
First Name
Pitirim A.
Last Name
Sorokin, fully Pitirim Alexandrovich (Alexander) Sorokin
Birth Date
Death Date

Russian-born American Scholar, Sociologist, Academic and Political Activist, Founded Department of Sociology and the Harvard Research Center for Creative Altruism at Harvard University