Sorokin's Principle of Limits

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Sorokin Library:

"Sorokin's ideas on historical change cannot be understood unless Principle of Limits is kept always in the forefront of the mind. Sorokin's philosophy of history begins with the simplest concrete social processes and gradually works outward to the most complicated sociocultural rhythms.

Principle of Limits was first expressed in its most systematic form in the Journal of Social Forces, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, in September, 1927, in an article entitled, "A Survey of Cyclical Conceptions of Social and Historical Processes". In this 1927 study Sorokin makes the point that "no social process ever continues endlessly in one direction". The large survey embraced in this article points out that any single movement of a social process has rigid limits. For instance a phenomenon like a death-rate or a divorce-rate cannot continuously increase or decrease. In this article Sorokin even implies that the limits of movement in one direction apply also to most known physical, chemical and other phenomena, due in part to changes of substance and to changes of meaning. When uranium changes greatly, to illustrate Sorokin's meaning, it becomes no longer uranium, but lead.

When Sorokin later develops this idea further, (see Dynamics One, [1 Volume Ed.], Ch. 39), he draws it still tighter as basic to understanding the inherent cyclical tendencies always immanent in the processes of cultural and historical change. In other words, the idea of limits is more restrictive, or allows less range for variation, in the more complicated and composite cultural phenomena than in single elements within the total phenomena."