Pitirim Alexandrovitch Sorokin

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Sorokin, Pitirim Alexandrovitch


Born Jan. 21, 1889, in Tur’ia, USSR; died Feb. 10,1968, in Winchester, Mass., USA. Russian-American sociologist.

Sorokin graduated from the University of St. Petersburg. He was the leader of the right wing of the Socialist Revolutionary Party. After the February Revolution of 1917 he served as A. F. Kerensky’s secretary and was editor in chief of the newspaper Volia naroda (The Will of the People) in 1917. Sorokin became a professor at the University of Petrograd in 1919.

From 1922, Sorokin lived in emigration. He settled in the USA in 1923 and became an American citizen in 1930. From 1930 to 1964 he was a professor at Harvard University, where he organized and headed the sociology department. He later was made professor emeritus of Harvard.

Sorokin viewed historical reality as a hierarchy of cultural and social systems of different levels of integration. His idealistic conception is based on the idea of the predominance of a supraor-ganic system of values, meanings, and “pure cultural systems” reflected by individuals and social institutions. History, according to Sorokin, is an ever-changing process of sociocultural systems, each of which constitutes a specific whole and is based on several major philosophical premises concerning the nature of reality and the methods of apprehending it. Sorokin distinguished three basic sociocultural systems: the sensate, in which the immediate sensory perception of reality predominates; the ideational, in which rational thinking predominates; and the idealistic, in which the intuitive method of apprehending reality predominates. The sociocultural system is determined by a dominant Weltanschauung. This Weltanschauung, which is reflected in law, art, philosophy, science, religion, and the structure of social relations, undergoes radical transformations and is replaced by other weltanschauungs as a result of crises, wars, and revolutions.

Sorokin held that the crisis of modern bourgeois society is caused by the development of materialism and science and saw the salvation of society in the victory of a religious, idealistic culture. Sorokin was one of the founders of the bourgeois theories of social mobility and social stratification.


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L. N. Tolstoi kak filosof. Moscow, 1914.
Problema sotsial’nogo ravenstva. Petrograd, 1917.
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The Sociology of Revolution. Philadelphia-London, 1925.
Social Mobility. New York-London, 1927. Later published as Social and Cultural Mobility. Glencoe, Ill., 1959.
Socialand Cultural Dynamics, 3rd ed., vols. 1–4. New York, 1962.
Society, Culture, and Personality. New York, 1947.
Fads and Foibles in Modern Sociology and Related Sciences. Chicago, 1956.
Sociological Theories of Today. New York, 1966.


Lenin, V. I. “Tsennye priznaniia Pitirima Sorokina.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 37.
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Golosenko, I. A. “Filosofiia istorii P. Sorokina.” Novaia i noveishaia istoriia, 1966, no. 4.
Loomis, C. P., and Z. K. Loomis. Modern Social Theories. New York, 1965.
Cowell, F. R. Values in Human Society: The Contributions of P. A. Sorokin to Sociology. Boston, 1970.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.