Sorokin and Civilization

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* Book: Sorokin and Civilization. A Centennial Assessment. By Joseph B. Ford. Routledge, republished 2018 (1996)



"Sorokin and Civilization is a festschrift to Pitirim Sorokin, one of the most famed figures of twentieth-century sociology and first president of the International Society for the Comparative Study of Civilizations (ISCSC). He was a giant of the twentieth-century stage in the larger world as well. He debated with Trotsky, exchanged ideas with Pavlov, and received a personal invitation to meet with President Masaryk of Czechoslovakia. His principled dissent from sociological orthodoxy frequently anticipated that of Charles Wright Mills, Alfred McClung Lee, and Alexander Solzhenitsyn. He was, to paraphrase Joseph Ford, a scholar among statesmen and a statesman among scholars.

The volume is divided into four parts: "A Life Remembered"; "Sorokin as Gadfly"; "Sorokin's Methodology"; and, "Applying Sorokin's Theories." Contributors and chapters to this volume include: "Sorokin's Life and Work" by Barry V. Johnston; "The Sorokin-Merton Correspondence on Puritanism, Pietism, and Science" by Robert K. Merton; "Sorokin and American Sociology: The Dynamics of a Moral Career in Science" by Lawrence T. Nichols; "Sorokin as Dialectician" by Robert C. Hanson; "Applying Sorokin's Typology" by Michel P. Richard; and "Transitions, Revolutions, and Wars" by William Eckhardt. Sorokin and Civilization will appeal to all those with an interest in cultural and historical processes and the life and theories of Sorokin."


Table of Contents

Part I: A Life Remembered

1. Sorokin's Life and Work Barry V. Johnston

2. Sorokin Remembered Edward A. Tiryakian

3. The Sorokin-Merton Correspondence on "Puritanism, Pietism, and Science," 1933 34 Robert K. Merton

Part II: Sorokin as Gadfly

4. Snakes and Ladders: Parsons and Sorokin a Harvard William Buxton

5. Sorokin and American Sociology: The Dynamics of a Moral Career in Science Lawrence T. Nichols

6. Sorokin's Challenge to Modernity Palmer C. Talbutt

Part III: Sorokin's Methodology

7. Sorokin's Methodology: Integralism as the Key Joseph B. Ford

8. Sorokin as Dialectician Robert C. Hanson

9. Sorokin's Concept of Immanent Change Robert G. Perrin

10. Civilizational Worldview as an Aggregate of Intuitions David Richardson

Part IV: Applying Sorokin's Theories

11. Sorokin versus Toynbee on Civilization David Wilkinson

12. Applying Sorokin's Typology Michel P. Richard

13. An Empirical Assessment of Sorokin's Theory of Change George A. Hillery, Jr. Susan V. Mead Robert G. Turner, Jr.

14. A Study of Generational Fluctuations in Philosophical Beliefs Dean Keith Simonton

15. Sorokin's Vision of Altruistic Love as a Bridge to Human Consensus Paul V. Crosbie Samuel P. Oliner

16. Transitions, Revolutions, and Wars William Eckhardt


Pitirim Sorokin on the Altruization of Humanity

Barry V. Johnston:

"Sorokin saw before us a period of increased conflicts, revolutions, and wars. A major change in our values and understanding of the world was necessary to survive and progress. Accordingly, his research focused on the transition and he published: "A Neglected Factor of War" (1938), The Crisis of Our Age (1941), Man and Society in Calamity (1942), "The Causes and Factors of War" (1942), and "The Conditions and Prospects of a World Without War" (1944).

In The Crisis of Our Age, Sorokin asked what could be done about our situation. The remedy "demands a fundamental transformation of our system of values, and the profoundest modification of our conduct toward other men, cultural values and the world at large" (Sorokin 1941, 321). The new mentality must involve an Integral synthesis that fuses the truth of reason, faith, and science. A new Integral value system that treats truth, goodness, and beauty as integrated absolutes is essential for the new age (Sorokin 1941, 317). The Integral transformation of worldview and values is insufficient, however, unless it becomes part of human action, social relationships, and social organization. Sorokin was unsure how this might happen. He simply suggested replacing "the present compulsory and contractual relationships with purer and more godly familistic relationships" (Sorokin 1941, 320). While Crisis lacks a satisfying solution to current problems, Integralism becomes more developed as the strategy.

Sorokin continued to seek a solution in Man and Society in Calamity. This work explored the effects of hunger, disease, and war on mind, behavior, and social organization. Again, Sorokin had no satisfying remedies but found a promising direction (Sorokin 1942b, 296-307). To resolve our crisis we must develop an Integral culture.

To do this we must transform Integral knowledge and values into personal and collective action. The mechanism for such a transformation was altruism. Sorokin argued that all other solutions were inadequate:

- None of the prevalent prescriptions against international and civil wars can eliminate or notably decrease these conflicts. By these popular prescriptions I mean, first, elimination of wars and strife by political changes, especially by democratic political transformations. Tomorrow the whole world could become democratic, and yet wars and blood strife would not be eliminated because democracies happen to be no less belligerent and strife-infected than autocracies. The same goes for education in its present form as a panacea. Tomorrow all grown-up persons in the world could become Ph.D. 's, and yet this enormous progress in education would not eliminate wars and bloody conflicts. Since the tenth century, education has made enormous progress and yet the international wars, the bloody revolutions, and the grave forms of crimes have not decreased. On the contrary, in the most scientific and most educated twentieth century they have reached an unrivaled height and made this century the bloodiest among all the preceding twenty-five centuries of Graeco-Roman and European history. The same goes for religious changes ... if by religious revival and moral rearmament are meant only ideological and speech-reactional transformation. The same goes for Communist, Socialist, or Capitalist economic remedies, when these are not backed by increased altruization of persons and groups. Without a notable increase of unselfish, creative love (as ideally formulated in the Sermon on the Mount) in overt behavior, in overt interindividual and intergroup relationships, in social institutions and culture, there is no chance for a lasting peace and for interhuman harmony, internal or external (Sorokin 1942b, 271-73)."

The solution to the crisis is the altruization of humanity."

(Source: Sorokin's Life and Work. Barry V.Johnston. Chapter 1 of "Sorokin and Civilization")