Sorokin letter to President Kennedy

 

 

Sorokin letter to JFK 5-23-1961

 

 

 

Sorokin, ‘Mutual Convergence of the US and USSR to the Mixed Sociological Type’

 

 

This letter of May 23, 1961 from Pitirim A. Sorokin to President John F. Kennedy is self-explanatory. The “enclosed reprint of my paper” which Sorokin refers to in the letter is probably his article “Mutual Convergence of the United States and the U.S.S.R. to the Mixed Sociocultural type,” International Journal of Comparative Sociology; January 1, 1960. A copy of this article is posted here (PDF file above).

 

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   March 2020

 

 

Sorokin, Nabokov

 

 

According to a Wikipedia entry, in 1936, Vladimir Nabokov, then living in Berlin, began seeking a job in the English-speaking world. In 1937, Nabokov left Germany for France. His family followed him to France; they eventually settled in Paris. In May 1940, the Nabokovs fled the advancing German troops to the United States on board the SS Champlain.

In Vladimir Nabokov: The Russian Years by Brian Boyd (Princeton University Press, 2016), pg. 514, it is stated:

By late October 1939 Nabokov had settled arrangements at Stanford [University, to teach a summer course there] with [Stamford faculty member Henry] Lanz. Now ready to apply for a visa, he sought affidavits from eminent Russians in America: the artist Mstislav Dobuzhinsky, the sociologist Pitirim Sorokin, and his friend the historian Mikhail Karpovich, who appears to have put him in touch with Alexandra Tolstoy, the novelist’s daughter. Head of the newly established Tolstoy Foundation, which looked after the interests of Russian émigrés in America, Alexandra Tolstoy secured an affidavit for Nabokov from Sergey Koussevitzky, the longtime conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Nabokov became an American citizen in 1945.

All of this is of interest, since Pitirim A. Sorokin had close, extensive contacts with the Russian émigré community. Sergey Koussevitzky was a lifelong friend of Sorokin and his wife Elena.

It would be interesting to know if there exists correspondence between Sorokin and Nabokov.

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   February 2020

“Sorokin Would Welcome Fuehrer, Duce at Harvard”

 
“Sorokin Would Welcome Fuehrer, Duce at Harvard”

The Minneapolis Tribune

February 25, 1939

pg. 15
ALSO published as:

Harvard Savant Would Teach 3 Dictators “Common Sense”

The Sun (Baltimore, Maryland)

February 25, 1939

pg. 3

 

 

[By the Associated Press]

Cambridge, Mass., Feb. 24 — While one Harvard scientist [Percy W. Bridgman] today gained support in his “manifesto” to bar scholars of totalitarian states from his laboratories, another said he would “welcome Mr. Hitler, Mr. Stalin and Mr. Mussolini to my classes, so that they might learn the ABC’s of common sense.”

Commenting in an interview on Physicist Percy W. Bridgman’s announcement in Science magazine that he wanted to make it more difficult for totalitarian states to get scientific information they might misuse, Prof. Pitirim Sorokin, of the sociology department said:

“Any scientific discovery or invention which could be applied in war should be kept secret except from the Government concerned — because today’s friends may be tomorrow’s enemies.

“However, in the case of the social sciences, since our theories are different from the totalitarian ideologies, and critical of them, it would be useful if the Nazis, the Communists and the Fascists–yes, even Mr. Hitler, Mr. Stalin and Mr. Mussolini–would come to our classes to learn some common sense.”

 

 

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See also (pdf file below):

 

“Physicist Shuts Laboratory To Subjects of Dictators”

The New York Times

February 24, 1939

pg. 1

 

 

‘Physicist Shuts Laboratory to Subjects of Dictators’ – NT Times 2-24-1939

 

“Contemporary Social and Cultural Crisis” by P. A. Sorokin (1938)

 

 

 

Sorokin, ‘Contemporary Social and Cultural Crisis’ – Harvard Alumni Bulletin

 

 

 

Posted here (above) is the following downloadable PDF file:

 

“Contemporary Social and Cultural Crisis”

By Dr. P. A. Sorokin, Professor of Sociology

Harvard Alumni Bulletin

Vol. XL, No. 16

February 4, 1938

1. 512-514

 

 

Sorokin gave this address in December 1937 as part of a series of radio talks

 

 

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We have here Sorokin writing in the characteristic style of the years following the publication of his Social and Cultural Dynamics, the fist three volumes of which were published in 1937 —  a style that foreshadows that of The Crisis of Our Age, which was published in 1941.

Scholars currently studying Sorokin’s early works in Russian are learning more about his career as a writer. Overlooked (mostly) in the past was the early journalistic experience he had. Sorokin qua writer is a topic that deserves study. One will find, I believe, both strengths and weaknesses.

The fact that Sorokin wrote the majority of his major works in a second language is not something to be ignored. Even in this rather straightforward article, there can be seen occasional infelicities in grammar and wording.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   August 2019

 

 

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addendum:

 

An article of interest — in Russian — which I have not yet seen has recently been published:

 

Американский этап лингвистической биографии Питирима Сорокина (“The American Stage of Pitirim Sorokin’s Linguistic Biography”)

 

by Сергиева Н.С. (Natalia S. Sergieva)

 

Полилингвиальность и транскультурные практики (Polylinguality and Transcultural Practices)

 

Vol. 16, No..1 (2019), pp. 35-44

 

 

Abstract:

 

The article discusses the features of the bilingualism of an eminent sociologist of the twentieth century Pitirim Sorokin in the American period of his life. The purpose of the study is to identify and explain the linguistic features of his scientific thinking in connection with the development of his scientific worldview. The study is based on the materials of Pitirim A. Sorokin Collection at the University of Saskatchewan (Canada). Archival manuscripts and research notes allow us to trace the process of changing the language and switching codes in the professional activities of Pitirim Sorokin after moving to the United States of America. It has been established that the use of a mixed metalanguage by Pitirim Sorokin can be considered as additional evidence of the continued connection with the Russian period of his life and scientific activity. Russian remained for him a tool of scientific thinking, planning and management.

“wriggling, banging of seats, scraping of feet, twisting, whispering, and flipping of note book leaves in the auditorium” (during a Sorokin lecture, 1924)

 

 

With all this talk of courtesy and etiquette going the rounds today, and classes on the subject organized voluntarily by pupils of our schools, I do wish some one would start a fad for courtesy in the public lecture room. We need it here in Decatur.

I’m prompted to this comment by the wriggling, banging of seats. scraping of feet twisting. whispering, and flipping of note book leaves in the auditorium last week when Dr. Pitirim Sorokine was speaking.

The audience composed of about equal proportions of townspeople and students, had difficulty in understanding his broken speech, so it gave up trying and wriggled, banged. and so on, until those who could understand were not permitted to hear.

Part of the fault may have lain with those who introduced the speaker. I think it would have stimulated personal interest if, instead of trying to explain his message, that had been left to him and explanation given instead about the man himself.

Who even in that noisy audience would not have sat quietly, for instance, if they had known that this man came out of Europe unable to speak a single word of English, and in one month was lecturing all over America in the language?

Instead of blaming him for his broken speech. and punishing him cruelly with noise. I think he would have been listened to with admiration and respect. None but would have given him just due for the accomplishment of a difficult feat–if they had known of it.

Dr. Sorokine had long been a student of English and could read and write it with ease. But to read and write, and to speak, are quite different things. as those of us who can struggle through a page of French. only to fall flat before pronunciation, can relate to our sorrow.

And in just one month he had conquered his ignorance of spoken English to such an extent that be spoke it in lectures before that most critical of all audiences in the world, students in a lecture room.

If any person in that audience, with two years gruelling drill in French, had been set before a Parisian audience to deliver a lecture on any subject, do you suppose they could have done it? And if the audience had been noisy, and then heaped the last insult by rising one by one and clumping out.

 

The Assistant Woman’s Editor.

 

 

“Let’s Talk It Over,” Decatur Herald (Decatur, IL), Tuesday, March 25, 1924, pg. 10

 

 

 

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EDITORIAL COMMENT: Let’s hear it for empathy.

“I am no longer a revolutionist because revolution is catastrophe. I am no longer a Socialist, because Socialism is wrong.”

 

 

We had about three hundred and fifty miles to walk. To travel that distance without stopping at villages for food was impossible. In every village we ran great risk of arrest. To pass from one place to another it was necessary to get permission from the “Communistic Committee of Poor Peasants.” Red soldiers were patrolling the forests and special pickets watched all principal vistas. We thought of retreating into the deepest depths of the forest, building a hut and remaining there all winter. We considered also hiding in a house in a village, never appearing out of doors, and never speaking except to the master of the house. It sounds fantastic, but life is more fantastic than any fiction. Two of my friends saved their lives by that first plan and another by the second. This man lived for two years in a small house, never showing himself to anyone except his landlady, and in the end he escaped alive.

We continued to wander over the bosom of Nature, occasionally wishing we might see a little of civilization. In free moments we talked much about the Revolution, and doubts which had been born in my mind at the beginning of the upheaval grew to full size. In this wild forest the utter futility of all revolution, the vanity of all Socialism and Communism became clear to me. The catastrophe of the Revolution, the deep historic roots of Bolshevism, loathed by the majority, it is true, but having as its basis and its force the passive spirit of the Russian nation, overwhelmed me with its truth. Only when the people have suffered the fullest horrors of Bolshevism, only when they have passed completely through the tragic, perhaps the fatal experience of the Communist experiment, can their dreadful sickness be cured once and forever. Only then the poisons in which Bolshevism flourished would be purged from the organism of the Russian people. Only then would this damned passivity disappear and they be transformed from a people accustomed to tyranny to a self-governing nation.

Out of these meditations I wrote an address to my electors, sending it to my friends to be made public. I am no longer a revolutionist because revolution is catastrophe. I am no longer a Socialist, because Socialism is wrong. I released myself from responsibility as a member of the Constitutional Assembly, since the people would not support their own representative body. If they hope to have a ” Government of the people, tor the people, and by the people,” they themselves must be active and must cease to lean on leaders who, without their support, are powerless. Such was the essence of my message.

Many dazzling illusions, beautiful dreams in whose reality I had once believed, I lost during my meditations in the forest. They fled, I believe, forever. But I did not grieve over my lost illusions. Life and the world are so beautiful, so wonderful in their reality that illusions are necessary only to the blind and deaf and lame, for mental, moral, and physical cripples. Healthy persons have no need of illusions.

 
— Pitirim A. Sorokin, Leaves from a Russian Diary — and Thirty Years After; Part II: 1918; Chapter XII, “In the Bosom of Nature” (Boston: Beacon Press, 1950), pp 171-173

 

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

 

 

 

 

 

a telling criticism

 

 

[C. Wright Mills’s] The Sociological Imagination … was a collection of literary essays–some brilliant, others pedestrian-that permitted the profession to engage in the sort of self-analysis that too few people in the sociological positivism of the 1950s were prepared to engage in. True enough Pitirim Sorokin made a similar effort [in his Fads and Foibles in Modern Sociology and Related Sciences], but it was so laden with moral judgments and psychological mysticism that it could not penetrate to the heart of the issues raised by the dominant tendencies toward empiricism. Sorokin in his own distinct way, like [Talcott] Parsons, became captive to generalizations that were so rich in tautology and platitudes that we forgot how often devoid they were in specific reference points. [italics added]

 

— Irving Louis Horowitz, “C. Wright Mills, 1916-1962: Bright Lights and Dark Shadows,” Contemporary Sociology, Vol. 41, No. 4 (July 2012), pg. 415

 

 

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What I would be inclined to say is that the late Irving Louis Hortwitz, a distinguished American sociologist, made an excellent point — in this article about C. Wright Mills — about Pitirim A. Sorokin’s shortcomings as a scholar and writer. True, it was only a passing remark.

Horowitz was a student of Mills at Columbia University and edited two posthumous collections of Mills’s work. Note that he also found fault with the writings of Sorokin’s nemesis Talcott Parsons!

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   April 2019