Pitirim SorokinThis is a featured page

Pitirim Sorokin nsIn sociological thermodynamics, Pitirim Sorokin (1889-1968) was a Russian-born American sociologist noted for his 1928 book Contemporary Sociological Theories, in which he devotes the opening chapter "The Mechanistic School", the first sixty-pages, to first summarize what he calls the "mechanistic school of social thermodynamics", namely those who have used a human molecule or social atom views, steeped in social mechanism and thermodynamics-based views, including: Leon Winiarski, Vilfredo Pareto, Eugene Roberty, Henry Carey, and Wilhelm Ostwald, to conclude and argue, in the end, that the theories developed by this school are all "pseudo-sciences" and mere "superficial analogies". [1] Of note, Sorokin was a vocal opponent of American sociologist Talcott Parsons.

Clausius and economics
In 1941, Sorokin seems to have been wrestling with this issue of Clausius and economics, and seems to have become a supporter rather than a detractor, to an extent. Specifically, in his 1941 four-volume work Social and Cultural Dynamics, he devotes a section on the "hows and whys of sociocultural change" wherein he attempts to substantiate (or base), in part, sociocultural change on German physicist Rudolf Clausius’ notions of transformations, energy, entropy, and the directionality of the universe, e.g. heat death, as connected to the mechanical theory of heat. [3]

Mechanistic school (1928)
Sorokin's 1928 classification of the first main branch (of eleven) of "contemporary sociology", that of the “mechanistic school of social thermodynamics”, all based on the thermodynamics of Rudolf Clausius. [3]

Mechanistic school of sociology
See main: Mechanistic school
Interestingly, Sorokin, in his 1940 review of George Lundberg’s Foundations of Sociology, seems to classify Percy Bridgman (1938) as the latest mechanist since Pareto: [10]

“The fault is not, however, Lundberg’s. It is the fault of the way and method he chose. Anybody who has done that, from all the representatives of the Mechanistic School up to Pareto and P.W. Bridgman (in his The Intelligent Individual and Society) similarly were swamped in a similar maze of blunders and inconsistencies.”

Austrian sociologist Werner Stark, in two chapters to his 1962 The Fundamental Forms of Social Thought, attempted a similar aggressive "critique" of the mechanistic schools, which has been compared to Sorokin's critique. [5]

American sociologist Alan Sica, in his 2012 article “Classical Sociological Theory”, has recently commented on Sorokin's "mechanistic school" dissection in relation to modern 21st century human thermodynamics. [6]

Pareto | Human molecules
Sorokin devoted a certain amount of focus to Vilfredo Pareto’s conception of society viewed as ‘a system of human molecules in a complex mutual relationship’, as early as 1928, a subject about which he devotes a section to, with particular focus on Pareto's 'derivations' theory, which Sorokin considers to be a contemporary form of sociology. [1]

In 1936, Sorokin wrote “Is the Concept of Equilibrium Necessary for the Social Sciences?” (in French), a critique of the equilibrium concept. [7]

On the subject of equilibrium, Sorokin states: [2]

Life can never be at equilibrium. Complete equilibrium is never attained and would be fatal if it were attained, as it would mean stagnation, atrophy, and death.”

This seems to be a pure unadulterated adoption of Thomson's heat death theory applied to the concept of life; but, does seem to capture the view that the postulate that so-called paradise view of economic equilibrium is a false ideology.

States of existence
On the various states of which a culture may be in, Sorokin gives the following view: [4]

“Whole integrated culture, as a constellation of many culture subsystems, changes and passes from one state to another, because each of these is a going concern and bears in itself the reason of its change.”

He seems to adopt this perspective from Clausius, of whom he quotes as saying:

“It is frequently asserted that everything in this world has a circular course. While transformations proceed in a certain direction in a certain place and time, other transformations take place in inverse direction at another place and time, in such a way that the same situations are reproduced generally and that the state of the universe remains invariable, when the phenomena are considered in their totality and in a general manner. The second fundamentally principle of the mechanical theory of heat, however, contradicts this opinion in the most decisive manner. It follows, from this, that the state of the universe must change more and more in a determined direction.”

The source of this quote, however, still remains to be determined to corroborate that Clausius actually said this. On expressing the destiny of a society, Sorokin states his views in what seem to be Clausius-terms fairly well: [4]

“The activities of [a society’s] life career or destiny are determined mainly by the system itself, by its potential nature and the totality of its properties. External conditions can crush the system or terminate an unfolding of its immanent destiny at one of earliest phases of its development, depriving it of a realization of its complete life career; but they cannot fundamentally change the character and the quality of each phase of the development; nor can they, in many cases, reverse or fundamentally change the sequence of phases of the immanent destiny of the system.”

In this passage, Sorokin seems to be in realization of the defunct aspects of the theory of life, in his usage of "life career or destiny" alternative, when speaking of society as a pure molecular-based thermodynamic system.
Paretism vs Marxism
The lower right "flat" social structure (Marx-based), which is shown contrasted with the upper left "stratified" spinning top social pyramid (Pareto-based), seems to be what Sorokin is referring to in his 1927 quote (adjacent) about flat social groups (see: Harvard Pareto circle). [11]

The following is a noted 1927 Sorokin quote on what seems to be his take on Marxism: [8]

“Any organized social group is always a stratified social body. There has not been and does not exist any permanent social group which is ‘flat’ and in which all members are equal.”

Namely, that the premise of equal workers in a workers state is untenable.

Energy of love
In 1959, in what seems to be a turn of the tables, Sorokin gave an audio-recorded lecture on “The Mysterious Energy of Love” (see: audio), the contents of which are shown below, wherein he seems to now embrace physics concepts of energy and power applied to meaningful intimate interactions, such as love, suicide, etc.: [9]

Mysterious Energy of Love (Sorokin)

The multiple use of the term "creative" in his overhead, and his quoting of Jesus, St. James, and St. Paul, at about 6-min into his talk, about hate and work, give insight into the likeliness that Sorokin's 1920s and 1930s vehement objection to the mechanistic school, all along, was but a religious objection.

The talk, in some way, seems to have been a followup to his 1954 book The Ways and Power of Love. (Ѻ)

Sorokin studied at the University of St. Petersburg in the early 1910s and supposedly taught law and sociology there as well. He eventually became a professor of sociology at the University of Minnesota, from 1924 to 1930, after which he moved to Harvard, founding the department of sociology, remaining there until 1955.

1. Sorokin, Pitirim. (1928). Contemporary Sociological Theories (§1: The Mechanistic School (pdf), pgs. 4-62; thermodynamics, pgs. 25-27; human molecules, pg. 46-47). Harper & Brothers.
2. Wallace, Thomas P. (2009). Wealth, Energy, and Human Values: the Dynamics of Decaying Civilizations from Ancient Greece to America. AuthorHouse.
3. Sorokin, Pitirim A. (1941). Social and Cultural Dynamics: a Study of Change in Major Systems of Art, Truth, Ethics, Law, and Social Relationships (part nine: Why and How of Sociocultural Change, ch. 40, section II: The Problem of Linear Sociocultural Processes, pgs. 665-66). Transaction Publishers (4 vol., 1937–41; rev. and abridged ed. 1957).
4. (a) Sorokin, Pitirim A. (1970). Social and Cultural Dynamics (pg. 638-39). Boston: Porter Sargent.
(b) Wallace, Thomas P. (2009). Wealth, Energy, and Human Values: the Dynamics of Decaying Civilizations from Ancient Greece to America (pgs. 165-66). AuthorHouse.
5. Warshay, Leon H. (1993). “The Social Theory of a Humane Organicist: On Werner Stark as Intellectual Detective and Moralist”, in: In Search of Community: Essays in Memory of Werner Stark (1909-1985) (pgs. 45-55). Fordham.
6. Sica, Alan. (2012). “Classical Sociological Theory”, in: The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Sociology (editor: George Ritzer) (§5, pgs. 82-97; Sorokin + “mechanistic school”, pgs. 85-86; humanothermodynamics, pgs. 87-88). John Wiley & Sons.
7. (a) Sorokin, Pitirim. (1936). “Is the Concept of Equilibrium Necessary for the Social Sciences?” (“Le concept d'équilibre est-il nécessaire aux sciences sociales”), Revue Internationale de Sociologie, 44:497:529.
(b) Russett, Cynthia. (1966). The Concept of Equilibrium in American Social Thought (quote, pg. 18; Gibbs, 18+ pgs). Yale College.
8. Sorokin, Pitirim. (1927). Social Mobility (pg. 12) (Ѻ). Publisher.
9. Sorokin, Pitirim. (1959). “The Mysterious Energy of Love” (aud), in: SOTSIOLOGICHESKIE ISSLEDOVANIYA, (9):144-159, 1991.
10. Sorokin, Pitirim. (1940). “Book Review: Foundations of Sociology by George Lundberg” (abs), American Journal of Sociology, 45(5):795-98.
11. (a) Sorokin, Pitirim. (1927). Social Mobility (pg. 12) (Ѻ). Publisher.
(b) Thims, Libb. (2013). “Econoengineering and Economic Behavior: Particle, Atom, Molecule, or Agent Models?” (video, 1:33-min) (article, 40-pgs) (PowerPoint, 36-slides), Key speaker talk delivered at the University of Pitesti Econophysics and Sociophysics Workshop (UPESW) / Exploratory Domains of Econophysics News (EDEN V) (organizer: Gheorghe Savoiu). University of Pitesti, Pitesti, Romania, Jun 29.

Further reading

● Johnston, Barry V. (1995). Pitirim A. Sorokin: an Intellectual Biography (Pareto, 17+ pgs). University Press of Kansas.

External links
Pitirim Sorokin – Wikipedia.
Pitirim A. Sorokin Collection – University of Saskatchewan.

TDics icon ns

Latest page update: made by Sadi-Carnot , Jan 23 2014, 2:45 PM EST (about this update About This Update Sadi-Carnot Edited by Sadi-Carnot

23 words added
10 words deleted

view changes

- complete history)
More Info: links to this page

Anonymous  (Get credit for your thread)

There are no threads for this page.  Be the first to start a new thread.

Related Content

  (what's this?Related ContentThanks to keyword tags, links to related pages and threads are added to the bottom of your pages. Up to 15 links are shown, determined by matching tags and by how recently the content was updated; keeping the most current at the top. Share your feedback on WikiFoundry Central.)