Sorokin on the city versus the country

 

мы знаем, что характер поведения людей (А) представляет результат («функцию») двух основных причин, двух «независимых переменных»: характера организма со всеми его наследственно полученными свойствами (В) и характера среды, как комплекса раздражителей (С), воздействующих на организм и вызывающих с его стороны ответные акты («реакции»), в своей совокупности и составляющие поведение.

A = f (B+C)

Если поэтому в этом уравнении меняется организм (В) или сфера (С) или обе «независимые, переменные», то меняется и поведение (А). Среда (С) города и среда деревни глубоко отличны друг от друга, а в силу различия этой «переменной», резко различным будет и поведение (с психикой) горожанина и земледельца. Первый живет главным образом «на лоне культуры», второй — «на лоне природы». Первый находится в среде «искусcтвенной», второй ‒ «естественной». Железо, бетон и камни, пар и электричество, огромная скученность населения, магазины, кафе, газеты, телефон, фабрики, машины, беспрерывно движущийся поток трамваев, автомобилей, и поездов, сумасшедшая толкотня и суетня на улицах, ‒ такова среда горожанина. Весь мир он воспринимает сквозь призму «культуры», сам он, так сказать, весь обернут газетами и пеленками «цивилизации» и только изредка подвергается прямому воздействию «природы». Не естественный ветер обдувает его, а струя вентиляционного воздуха, настоящее солнце ему заменяет электрическая люстра, почву ‒ мостовая, реку ‒ сжатый в железо и бетон, испачканный нефтью канал, лес и деревья ‒ подстриженный и напудренно-вылощенный сквер, чудеса и жизнь природы он видит лишь в «кино», жизнь животных ‒ в «зоологическом саду». Сам он весь «стилизован» и «окультурен», начиная с вставных зубов, пудры, корсета, и кончая … нефтью, машинным маслом и копотью угля …

 

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We know that the behavior of people (A) represents the result (“function”) of two main causes, two “independent variables”: the nature of the organism with all of its hereditarily obtained properties (B) and the nature of the environment, as a complex of stimuli (C), acting upon the body and causing on its part reciprocal acts (“reactions”), in their totality and composite behavior.

A = f (B + C)

If therefore in this equation the organism (B) or the sphere (C) or both “independent variables” change, then the behavior also changes (A). The environment (C) of a city and the environment of a village are profoundly different from one another, and due to the difference in this “variable,” the behavior (as well as the psyche) of a city dweller and a farmer will also be distinctly different. The first lives mainly “in the bosom of culture,” the second ‒ “in the bosom of nature.” The first is in an “artificial,” the second ‒ in a “natural” environment. Iron, concrete and stones, steam and electricity, a huge overcrowding of the population, shops, cafes, newspapers, telephones, factories, cars, a constantly moving stream of trams, cars and trains, the crazy hustle and bustle in the streets ‒ this is the environment of a city dweller. He perceives the whole world through the prism of “culture,” he himself, so to speak, is all wrapped up in newspapers and diapers of “civilization” and is only occasionally exposed to the direct influence of “nature.” It is not a natural wind that blows it, but a stream of ventilated air, the real sun is replaced by an electric chandelier, the soil is pavement, a river is compressed into iron and concrete, a canal stained with oil, a forest and trees are a trimmed and powdered and polished park, the wonders and the life of nature he sees only in the “cinema,” the life of animals ‒ in a “zoological garden.” He himself is all “stylized” and “cultured,” starting with false teeth, powder, a corset, and ending … with oil, engine oil and coal soot …

— excerpted from Pitirim Sorokin, “Город и Деревня. (био-социологическая характеристика)” (“City and Country. (Bio-Sociological Characteristics”); Prague: Peasant Russia Publishing House, 1923); English translation by Natalia S. Sergieva and Roger W. Smith

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

      October 2020

Sorokin on human emotions in a time of plague

 

 

That bubonic plague, typhus, fever, influenza, smallpox, and other serious diseases alter the sensations, emotions, and feelings of their victims need not be demonstrated. The general characteristic of the change induced by all these diseases is the pain, fear of death, delirium, and sense of weakness experienced by the victim. Apart from this common trait, each of the main epidemics discloses its own pattern of transformation of the victim’s sensations, feelings, and emotions. For our purposes it is unnecessary to characterize the specific changes produced by each of these diseases. It suffices to say that all the important pestilences profoundly transform the emotional and affective life of the patient. This transformation is due nor only to the biological forces of the sickness itself but also to the profound change in the social relationships of the victim. He suddenly finds himself isolated from almost all his fellow men, often even the members of his family. His condition plunges him into a sort of social vacuum. Hundreds of persons with whom he was linked by the ties of friendship and attachment, business, and common interests now try to avoid him. The victim is in the position of a spider whose web has been torn asunder. The former subject–or active participant in social life–is turned into a helpless object, avoided, forsaken, and repellent. He ceases to form a part of society. Socially he is already dead though he is still alive biologically.

 

Regardless of the biological factors, this abrupt psychosocial lonesomeness, this social death, is alone sufficient to create the profoundest change in the victim’s affective and emotional life. Even gradual psychosocial isolation alters the whole mental life of persons so profoundly that often it drives people to commit suicide. As a matter of fact, psychosocial isolation is the primary cause of so-called “egotistic” suicide. Vastly more profound is the change created by the psychosocial isolation due to pestilence. It comes abruptly; it isolates the victim suddenly. It effects a thoroughgoing revolution in the mental life of the victim.

Pestilence affects also the emotional life of all those who are in contact with the sick. Their emotional tone is also profoundly disturbed. Anxiety, sorrow, and fear, sympathy for the sick and egoistic concern for their own safety, hope and despair, mounting depression alternating with outursts of macabre exhilaration, irritability, and fatalistic resignation, emotional excitation and dullness, a reckless “devil may care” attitude and intense religiosity–these and similar waves of emotion sweep over the society ravaged by a pestilence. As in famine, its emotional life becomes unstable, jumpy, and uneven, subject to contrasting moods and violent changes. This instability and these contrasting emotional changes are probably the most important characteristics of such a society from the sociological standpoint.

— Pitirim A. Sorokin, Man and Society in Calamity (1942)

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

     April 2020

 

I wish to thank Valery E. Sharapov for calling my attention to this passage.

“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

     May 2019

a fervent anti-communist

 

«Мы участвовали, участвуем и будем участвовать в борьбе с коммунистической бандой».

— Сорокин Питирим. Третье письмо другу // Борьба за Россию / La Lutte pour la Russie (Париж). 1929. 9 февраля. №116. С.2–5

 

“We have participated, are participating and will participate in the fight against the communist gang.”

— Pitirim Sorokin. The third letter to a friend // Fight for Russia (Paris). 1929. February 9. №116. pp. 2-5

 

quoted in

Дойков, Юрий

Питирим Сорокин. Миннеаполис. Миннесота. 1924–1930

Архангельск, 2009

стр. 113

 

Yuri Doykov

Pitirim Sorokin: Minneapolis. Minnesota, 1924–1930

Arkhangelsk, 2009

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

      March 2019

another Sorokin quote… ““I would rather have a man of common sense”

 

“I would rather have a man of common sense from the street as a ruler than a high brow social scientist.”

— Pitirim A. Sorokin, quoted in The Hammond Times (Hammond, Indiana), December 30, 1935, pg. 1

 

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Sorokin had a way of making headlines with pungent remarks that showed him to be the eternal gadfly. He often came off as the high-handed scholar showing off his erudition and scorning his contemporaries — he was not infrequently given to writing pompously — while, at the same time, he prided himself on his scorn of academic pomposity and intellectual sterility and his identification with common humanity.

 

— Roger W. Smith

     March 2019

a Sorokin quote

 

“Utopia you cannot make in a day. Russian tried to butter the bread of everyone and found it spread too thin to suit the taste of the people.”

— Pitirim A. Sorokin; quoted in Evening Times, Cumberland, Maryland, April 8, 1943, pg. 4

 

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Sorokin was indeed quotable.

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

     March 2018

“Men cannot be treated like mice and guinea pigs.”

 

Before accepting a position in the sociology department at the University of Minnesota, Pitirim A. Sorokin was a guest of Vassar College, where he gave lectures.

The following article appeared in the Vassar Miscellany News, March 18, 1931: “Scintillating Selz Sends in Successful Solutions”

The article noted that Katherine Selz ’31 was the winner of the college’s Chat Current Events contest.

The prize-winning answers included the following:

 

“Who said:

Q. ‘Men cannot be treated like mice and guinea pigs’?

A. Mr. Sorokin”

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This squib provides a revealing glimpse of Sorokin: the provocative lecturer and a sociologist who was firmly against what he called quantophrenia. And insight into what was Sorokin’s humanistic conception of sociology.

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

      March 2019