Amitological Paradigm

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"Writing in 1951, Sorokin defined Amitology as the applied science or art of developing friendship, mutual aid, and love in individual and intergroup relations. Its goal was to stem the tide of Machiavellianism by providing a blueprint ("guidebook") for mutual service, cooperation, and amity. Amitology focused on determining the characteristics of the altruistic personality; the techniques for developing and using love as a force in social interactions; the influence of "significant others" on prosocial relationships; and the characteristics of an environment that promote altruistic actions. The Harvard Research Center in Creative Altruism was committed to discovering these traits, techniques, and conditions."



Jay Weinstein:

"Amitological Principles

The activist part of Sorokin's program was the development of amitology, the applied aspect of integralism. Sorokin defines amitology in Forms and Ways (1951) as: "The applied science or art of developing friendship, mutual aid and love in individual and intergroup relations."

If the goals of amitology are to be achieved, Sorokin noted, not only is it necessary to investigate altruistic phenomena, but altruistic acts must be practiced by ordinary people involved in common social settings.

Sorokin wrote in Altruistic Love (Sorokin 1950: 10), referring to the altruistic activities of "good-neighbors":

- Great altruists alone cannot supply even the very minimum of love and mutual help necessary for any surviving is furnished by thousands and millions of our plain "good-neighbors." Each giving a modest contribution of love, in their totality they produce an enormous amount of "love energy". Without this moral foundation of the deeds of the "good-neighbors" no society can be satisfactory.

At the Center, Sorokin produced his major works on altruism, from which we can draw some of his definitions. In Reconstruction (Sorokin 1948), he defines altruism as the action that produces and maintains the physical and/or psychological good of others. It is formed by love and empathy, and in its extreme form may require the free sacrifice of self for another.

In Altruistic Love (Sorokin 1950), he characterizes "good neighbors" along these lines:

A quest for sympathy, understanding, and encouragement – the desire to find a co-sympathizer in either despair or loneliness – is just as strong in human beings as the need for food or clothing.

These comments obviously point to the importance of altruistic phenomena. However, if such ideas are to aid in our quest for a global village at peace, we must first teach and learn about their underlying values and positive effects. Our schools and colleges must develop and offer courses that focus on the teachings of altruism. Then, on this informed basis, we might try to modify our culture and social institutions by acting through the concerted actions of individuals united as groups. "


More information

* Article: PITIRIM A. SOROKIN AND SOCIOLOGICAL THEORY FOR THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY. By Barry V. Johnston. Michigan Sociological Review. Vol. 12 (Fall 1998), pp. 1-23


"Pitrim A. Sorokin's career culminated in a body of work that linked his study of sociocultural organization and change to the crisis of modernity and a quest for peace. Capping his analysis was the Amitological Paradigm he developed and tested at the Harvard Research Center in Creative Altruism. This research yielded a field tested algorithm for transforming social relationships and improving the human condition. Sorokin's works and those of the Center have been largely overlooked in the history and study of altruism and prosocial behavior. The following paper invites a critical re-engagement with these ideas and the man who developed them."