The full text of Pitirim A. Sorokin’s magnum opus, Social and Cultural Dynamics (1937-1941), is hard to come by nowadays, except perhaps in a library.
I have transcribed and am posting here (downloadable Word documents above) the text of the four separate prefaces to Volumes One through Four of the Dynamics. They make for very interesting and informative reading — including, and importantly, Sorokin’s conception of sociology and his philosophy of history.
Here’s a typical,stirring passage from the preface to Volume One:
This work has grown out of my efforts to understand something of what has been happening in the social and cultural world about me. I am not ashamed to confess that the World War and most of what took place after it were bewildering to one who, in conformity with the dominant currents of social thought of the earlier twentieth century, had believed in progress, revolution, socialism, democracy, scientific positivism, and many other” isms” of the same sort. For good or ill, I fought for these values and paid the penalty. I expected the progress of peace but not of war; the bloodless reconstruction of society but not bloody revolutions; humanitarianism in nobler guise but not mass murders; an even finer form of democracy but not autocratic dictatorships; the advance of science but not of propaganda and authoritarian dicta in lieu of truth; the many-sided improvement of man but not his relapse into barbarism. The war was the first blow to these conceptions. The grim realities of the Russian Revolution provided the second. If anybody had seriously predicted in 1913 a small fraction of what has actually taken place since, he would have been branded then as mad. And yet what then appeared to be absolutely impossible has indeed happened.
The supple and vigorous, often eloquent — sometimes grandiose — Sorokin-ian style is on full display here.
— posted by Roger W. Smith