Sorokin, Pitirim Alexandrovitch

Sorokin, Pitirim Alexandrovitch

(pĭtĭrēm` ăl'ĭgzăn`drəvĭch sōrō`kĭn), 1889–1968, Russian-American sociologist. Supporting himself as artisan and clerk, he was able to study at the Univ. of St. Petersburg and to teach sociology. Sorokin was imprisoned three times by the czarist regime; during the Russian Revolution he was a member of the KerenskyKerensky, Aleksandr Feodorovich
, 1881–1970, Russian revolutionary. A lawyer, he was elected to the fourth duma in 1912 as a representative of the moderate Labor party.
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 government. After the October Revolution he engaged in anti-Bolshevik activities and was condemned to death; the sentence was commuted to banishment. He emigrated (1923) to the United States and was naturalized in 1930. Sorokin was professor of sociology at the Univ. of Minnesota (1924–30) and at Harvard (1930–55). His writings cover the breadth of sociology; his controversial theories of social process and of 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. He was also interested in social stratification, the history of sociological theory, and altruistic behavior.


See his autobiography, Leaves from a Russian Diary—and Thirty Years After (enl. ed. 1950, repr. 1970); study by J. J. P. Maquet (1951, repr. 1973); F. R. Cowell, Values in Human Society; the Contributions of P. A. Sorokin to Sociology (1970).

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.


Prestuplenie i kara, podvig i nagrada. St. Petersburg, 1911.
L. N. Tolstoi kak filosof. Moscow, 1914.
Problema sotsial’nogo ravenstva. Petrograd, 1917.
Sistema sotsiologii, vols. 1–2. Petrograd, 1920.
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.
Lenin, V. I. “O znachenii voinstvuiushchego materializma.” Poln. sobr. soch., vol. 45.
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.