Pitirim Sorokin

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Pitirim Alexandrovich Sorokin
Питирим Сорокин.jpg
Sorokin in 1917
Native name
Питирим Александрович Сорокин
Born 2 February [O.S. 21 January] 1889
Died 10 February 1968(1968-02-10) (aged 79)
Nationality Russian
Alma mater Saint Petersburg Imperial University
Spouse(s) Elena Petrovna Sorokina (née Baratynskaya) (1894–1975)
Scientific career
Fields sociology
Doctoral students Robert K. Merton

Pitirim Alexandrovich Sorokin (/səˈrkɪn, sɔː-/;[1] Russian: Питири́м Алекса́ндрович Соро́кин, 2 February [O.S. 21 January] 1889 – 10 February 1968) was a Russian-born American sociologist and political activist, best known for his contributions to the social cycle theory.


Pitirim Alexandrovich Sorokin was born on 2 February [O.S. 21 January] 1889, in Turya, a small village in Yarensk uyezd, Vologda Governorate, Russian Empire (now Knyazhpogostsky District, Komi Republic, Russia), the second son to a Russian father and Komi mother. Sorokin's father, Alexander Prokopievich Sorokin, was from Veliky Ustyug and a travelling craftsman specializing in gold and silver, while his mother, Pelageya Vasilievna, was a native of Zheshart and belonged to a peasant family. His elder brother, Vasily, was born in 1885, and his younger brother, Prokopy, was born in 1893. Sorokin's mother died on March 7, 1894, in the village of Kokvitsa, and after her death Sorokin and his elder brother Vasily stayed with their father, travelling with him through the villages in search of work, while Prokopy was taken in by his aunt, Anisya Vasilievna Rimsky, who lived with her husband, Vasily Ivanovich, in the village of Rimia. Sorokin's father began to develop alcoholism, and following instances of physical abuse, he and Vasily left their father to be independent.

In the early 1900s, supporting himself as an artisan and clerk, Sorokin attended the Saint Petersburg Imperial University in Saint Petersburg where he earned his graduate degree in criminology and became a professor.[2]

Sorokin was an anti-communist, and during the Russian Revolution was a member of the Socialist Revolutionary Party, supporter of the White Movement, and a secretary to Prime Minister Alexander Kerensky who was a leader in the Russian Constituent Assembly. After the October Revolution, Sorokin continued to fight communist leaders, and was arrested by the new regime several times before he was eventually condemned to death. After six weeks in prison, Sorokin was released and went back to teaching at the University of St. Petersburg, becoming the founder of the sociology department at the university. In 1922, Sorokin was again arrested and this time exiled by the Soviet government, emigrating in 1923 to the United States, and became a naturalized citizen in 1930.[2]

Sorokin was a leader among the Democrats leading up to the Russian revolution, and was sought by Lenin's forces after Lenin consolidated his power. After months in hiding, he escaped from the Soviet Union in 1922 and emigrated to the United States, becoming a naturalized citizen in 1930.[3] Sorokin was personally requested to accept a position at Harvard University, founding the Department of Sociology and becoming a vocal critic of his colleague, Talcott Parsons.[4][5] Sorokin was an ardent opponent of communism, which he regarded as a "pest of man," and was a deputy of the Russian Constituent Assembly.

Sorokin was professor of sociology at the University of Minnesota from 1924 to 1940, when he accepted an offer of a position by the president of Harvard University, where he continued to work until 1959. One of his students was writer Myra Page.[6]


Before his achievements as a professor in the United States, he published his 1924 Leaves of a Russian Diary, by (E.P. Dutton & Co.), giving a daily, and sometimes hourly account of the Russian Revolution which actually first started in February 1917 where he was in the forefront of creating a provisionary government, only to see it unravel and lose power to the Bolsheviks in October 1917. In 1950, Sorokin published an addendum to the book called The Thirty Years After. It is a personal and brutally honest account of the revolution and of his exile.

Sorokin's academic writings are extensive; he wrote 37 books and more than 400 articles.[2] His controversial theories of social process and the historical typology of cultures are expounded in Social and Cultural Dynamics (4 vol., 1937–41; rev. and abridged ed. 1957) and many other works. Sorokin was also interested in social stratification, the history of sociological theory, and altruistic behavior.

Sorokin's work addressed three major theories: social differentiation, social stratification and social conflict. The theory of social differentiation describes three types of societal relationships. The first is familistic, which is the type that we would generally strive for. It is the relationship that has the most solidarity, the values of everyone involved are considered, and there is a great deal of interaction.

Social stratification refers to the fact that all societies are hierarchically divided, with upper and lower strata and unequal distribution of wealth, power, and influence across strata. There is always some mobility between these strata. People or groups may move up or down the hierarchy, acquiring or losing their power and influence.

Social conflict refers to Sorokin's theory of war. Whether internal to a nation or international, peace is based on similarity of values among the people of a nation or between different nations. War has a destructive phase, when values are destroyed, and a declining phase, when some of values are restored. Sorokin thought that the number of wars would decrease with increased solidarity and decreased antagonism. If a society's values stressed altruism instead of egoism, the incidence of war would diminish.

In his Social and Cultural Dynamics, his magnum opus, Sorokin classified societies according to their 'cultural mentality', which can be "ideational" (reality is spiritual), "sensate" (reality is material), or "idealistic" (a synthesis of the two). He suggested that major civilizations evolve from an ideational to an idealistic, and eventually to a sensate mentality. Each of these phases of cultural development not only seeks to describe the nature of reality, but also stipulates the nature of human needs and goals to be satisfied, the extent to which they should be satisfied, and the methods of satisfaction. Sorokin has interpreted the contemporary Western civilization as a sensate civilization, dedicated to technological progress and prophesied its fall into decadence and the emergence of a new ideational or idealistic era. In Fads and Foibles, he criticizes Lewis Terman's Genetic Studies of Genius research, showing that his selected group of children with high IQs did about as well as a random group of children selected from similar family backgrounds would have done.[2][7]

Personal life and death

Sorokin married Dr. Helen Baratynskaya, with whom he had two sons, one of whom, Peter P. Sorokin, co-invented the dye laser.

Sorokin died on 10 February 1968, in Winchester, Massachusetts. A Russian Orthodox service was held at home for the family, followed by an eclectic service at the Memorial Church of Harvard University.[8]

Sorokin's papers are currently held by the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Canada, where they are available to the public. In March 2009 the Sorokin Research Center was established at the facilities of Syktyvkar State University in Syktyvkar, Republic of Komi, for the purpose of research and publication of archive materials, mainly from the collection at the University of Saskatchewan. The first research project "Selected Correspondence of Pitirim Sorokin: Scientist from Komi on The Service of Humanity" (in Russian) has been drafted and will be in print in the Fall of 2009 in Russia.[7][9]

Major works

In English or English translation
  • Contemporary Sociological Theories (1928), New York: Harper.online free
  • Principles of Rural-Urban Sociology (1929, with Carle C Zimmerman) New York : H. Holt. Preface: "a summary of Source book in rural sociology," in three volumes, prepared under the auspices of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture and the University of Minnesota, to be published in 1930 or 1931"[10]
  • The Sociology of Revolution (1935) OCLC 84193425. FReprint, H. Fertig, 1967.[11]
  • Social and Cultural Dynamics (1937-1941), Cincinnati: American Book Company, 1937-41. 4 vols.
  • The Crisis of Our Age (1941), New York : Dutton, 1941 "Based upon four volumes of the author's Social and cultural dynamics."[12]
  • Society, Culture, and Personality: Their Structure and Dynamics, A System of General Sociology (1947), Harper & Brothers Publishers:, New York & London. (723 double columned pages plus an 11 triple coumned page Index and a 7 triple columned page Index of Names)
  • Leaves From a Russian diary, and Thirty Years After (1950), Boston: Beacon Press. OCLC 1476438
  • The Ways and Power of Love: Types, Factors, and Techniques of Moral Transformation. Philadelphia: Templeton Foundation Press (Original work published 1954). 2002. ISBN 978-1-890151-86-7. (with introduction by Stephen G. Post in 2002 edition) (552 pages)
  • Fads and Foibles in Modern Sociology and Related Sciences (1956), Chicago:, H. Regnery Co. OCoLC 609427839. Reprinted by Greenwood Publishing Group, 1976, ISBN 978-0-8371-8733-4.
  • Social and Cultural Dynamics: A Study of Change in Major Systems of Art, Truth, Ethics, Law and Social Relationships (1957 (reprinted 1970) ed.). Boston: Extending Horizons Books, Porter Sargent Publishers. ISBN 978-0-87558-029-6.
  • (with Lunden, W. A.), Power and Morality: Who Shall Guard The Guardians? (1959), Boston, MA: Porter Sargent Publishers.
  • A Long Journey: the Autobiography of Pitirim A. Sorokin (1963) College and University Press, LC 426641.
  • Hunger As a Factor in Human Affairs (1975), University Presses of Florida.

See also


  1. ^ "Sorokin". Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary.
  2. ^ a b c d Allen Phillip, J. (1963). Pitirim A. Sorokin in Review. Durham N.C. Duke University Press
  3. ^ Sorokin, Pitirim (1992). Дальняя дорога: автобиография [Long journey: autobiography] (in Russian). Moscow: Terra. p. 9.
  4. ^ Jeffries, Vincent. "Sorokin, Pitirim," Encyclopedia of Social Theory. California: Sage Publications.
  5. ^ In "Fads and Foibles," Sorokin accuses Parsons of borrowing his work without acknowledgement.
  6. ^ Page, Myra; Baker, Christina Looper (1996). In a Generous Spirit: A First-Person Biography of Myra Page. University of Illinois Press. p. 67. ISBN 9780252065439. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
  7. ^ a b Gladwell, Malcolm (2008). Outliers. New York. p. 90. ISBN 978-0-316-03669-6.
  8. ^ Sergei P. Sorokin, "Life With Pitirim Sorokin: A Younger Son's Perspective".
  9. ^ "Sorokin Research Center (Russia, Komi Republic, Syktyvkar)" (in Russian). Sorokin Research Center. Retrieved 2009-09-11.
  10. ^ WorldCat item record
  11. ^ WorldCat item record
  12. ^ worldCat item record


  • Cuzzort, R. P. and King, E. W. (1995), Twentieth-Century social thought (5th ed.). New York, NY: Harcourt Brace College Publishers.
  • Gambescia, C. (2002), Invito alla lettura di Sorokin. Rome, Italy: Edizioni Settimo Sigillo.
  • Johnston, B.V (1995). Pitirim A. Sorokin an Intellectual Biography . Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas.
  • Nieli, Russell (2006). "Critic of the Sensate Culture: Rediscovering the Genius of Pitirim Sorokin". Political Science Reviewer. 35 (1): 264–379.
  • Yuri Doykov (2008-2009), Pitirim Sorokin: The Man Out of Season — A Biography (in Russian).
    • Vol. 1 (Archangelsk, 2008. 432 pages)
    • Vol. 2 (Archangelsk, 2009. 488 pages)
  • Doykov Yuri (2009), Pitirim Sorokin in Prague, Archangelsk. 146 pages (in Russian).
  • Doykov Yuri (2009), Pitirim Sorokin, Minneapolis (Minnesota) - Archangelsk. 184 pages (in Russian).
  • Uzlaner, Dmitry; Stoeckl, Kristina (2017). "The legacy of Pitirim Sorokin in the transnational alliances of moral conservatives". Journal of Classical Sociology. 18 (2): 133–153. doi:10.1177/1468795X17740734.
  • Andrzej, Sarnacki (2017). "The decay of American culture?: Pitirim Sorokin's view on the relevance of the sex revolution". Relacje Międzykulturowe. 2 (2): 105–20.
  • Jeffries, Vincent (2005). "Pitirim A. Sorokin's integralism and public sociology". The American Sociologist. 36 (3–4): 66–87. doi:10.1007/s12108-005-1017-x. JSTOR 27700434.
  • Johnston, Barry V (1987). "Pitirim Sorokin and the American sociological association: The politics of a professional society". Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences. 23 (2): 103–22. doi:10.1002/1520-6696(198704)23:2<103::AID-JHBS2300230202>3.0.CO;2-I.
  • Johnston, Barry V (2016). "Pitirim A. Sorokin (1889-1968): Pioneer and Pariah". International Sociology. 11 (2): 229–38. doi:10.1177/026858096011002005.
  • Nichols, Lawrence T (2005). "Integralism and Positive Psychology: A Comparison of Sorokin and Seligman". Catholic Social Science Review. 10: 21–40. CiteSeerX doi:10.5840/cssr2005102.
  • Krotov, Pavel (2012). "Pitirim Sorokin Studies in Russia in the Context of the New Section on Altruism, Morality, and Social Solidarity in the American Sociological Association". The American Sociologist. 43 (4): 366–73. doi:10.1007/s12108-012-9166-1.
  • Ponomareva, Inna (2011). "Pitirim a Sorokin: The interconnection between his life and scientific work". International Sociology. 26 (6): 878–904. doi:10.1177/0268580910394003.

External links

  • The Pitirim A. Sorokin Foundation (USA)
  • The Pitirim A. Sorokin Foundation (in Russian)
  • The Pitirim A. Sorokin Foundation in LiveJournal (in Russian)
  • Community in LiveJournal (in Russian)
  • American Sociological Association page
  • Pitirim Sorokin Collection in Canada
  • Culture in crisis: the visionary theories of Pitirim Sorokin
  • Pitirim Sorokin's Integral Sociology (in Georgian)
  • Pitirim Sorokin and Walter A. Lunden, Power and Morality - extracts (1959)
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