review, The Sociology of Revolution (North American Review)

 

Clarence H. Gaines review of The Sociology of Revolution & other works – North American Review (2)

posted here (PDF file above):

Clarence H. Gaines, review of Sorokin’s The Sociology of Revolution and other works

The North American Review

June 1, 1925

 

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Editorial comment:  This review, in my opinion, does an excellent job of delineating why Sorokin’s study is so original and fresh, even today. And valuable.

 

posted by Roger W. Smith

     July 2022

“A Disillusioned Intellectual”

 

review of Leaves from a Russian Diary – Workers Monthly 1-1-1925 pg 113

Posted here (PDF file above)

review of Sorokin’s Leaves from a Russian Diary

reviewed by Alexander Bittelman

Workers Monthly

January 1, 1925

 

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Alexander Bittelman (1890–1982) was a Russian-born American communist political activist, Marxist theorist, influential theoretician of the Communist Party USA, and writer. A founding member, Bittelman is best remembered as the chief factional lieutenant of William Z. Foster and as a longtime editor of The Communist, its monthly magazine. (Wikipedia)

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

     July 2022

Alexander Goldenweiser, “Facts vs. Theories”: a review of Sorokin’s “Contemporary Sociological Theories”

 

Goldenweiser, ‘Facts vs. Theories’ (review of Contemporary Soc Theories) – NY Herald Tribune 7-1-1928

 

Posted here (downloadable Word document above) is the following:

Facts vs. Theories

review of Contemporary Sociological Theories, by Pitirim Sorokin

reviewed by Alexander Goldenweiser

New York Herald Tribune

July 1, 1928

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

     May 2022

Louis A. Ryan, review of “The Crisis of Our Age”

 

Louis A. Ryan review of The Crisis of Our Age – The Thomist

 

“I discovered Sorokin in my local public library at age 17 when I was a senior in high school. … There was a book on the library’s shelves which caught my eye: The Crisis of Our Age by one P. A. Sorokin, whom I had never heard of.

“ ‘This looks interesting,’ I thought. …

The Crisis of Our Age was an intensely stimulating and exciting read for a 17 year old with an interest in history and, especially, the history of ideas. … I could not put the book down, devoured it. It was a very rewarding intellectual exercise for me at that stage in my intellectual development. It challenged me, stimulated me mentally, and greatly expanded my intellectual horizons.”

Roger W. Smith, “Sorokin (Сорокин)”

Roger W. Smith, “Sorokin (Сорокин)”

 

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Posted here (downloadable Word document ahove) is a very through and thoughtful review of Sorokin’s The Crisis of Our Age by Louis A. Ryan:

book review: The Crisis of Our Age. By Pitirim A. Sorokin. New York: Dutton & Co., 1941. Pp. 338, with index. $3.50.

The Thomist: A Speculative Quarterly Review

Volume 4, Number 3

July 1942

pp. 523-533

Louis A. Ryan, O.P. was a professor of sociology at the College of St. Mary of the Springs in Columbus, Ohio.

 

– posted by Roger W. Smith

      May 2022

a review of “The Sociology of Revolution”

 

William English Wallling review of The Sociology of Revolution – Twin City Review 4-24-1925

 

Posted here is the following book review of Sorokin’s The Sociology of Revolution:

“Revolutionary Movements Dissected and Exposed”

By William English Walling

Twin City Review

April 24, 1925

This short, pithy review gets at the heart of why Sorokin’s groundbreaking work is still very much worth reading.

 

— Roger W. Smith

      July 2021

a damaging review of two Sorokin works

 

Ruth Benedict review of The Crisis of Our Age & Dynamics – New Republic 2-2-1942

 

Posted here is a review by Ruth Benedict of Sorokin’s The Crisis of Our Age and of his Social and Cultural Dynamics in The New Republic of February 2, 1942.

The review identifies and nails some of Sorokin’s fundamental weaknesses as a scholar. But, in my opinion (I would be inclined to say, that is), Sorokin does not fit neatly into any scholarly paradigm. He came out of a Russian tradition which was more mystical (is that the right word?) — certainly — than was or is seen in the social sciences; and he was never really understood or accepted by American intellectuals.

 

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Ruth Benedict (1887-1948) was an American anthropologist and folklorist. She taught at Columbia University, where she did graduate work under the anthropologist Franz Boas. Patterns of Culture was her best known work.

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

      July 2021

Sidney Hook and Lewis Mumford on Sorokin

 

1 Sidney Hook, ‘History in Swing Rhythm’ (review of Dynamics) – Nation 7-10-1937

2 Lewis Mumford, ‘Insensate Ideologue’ (review of Dynamics, vols. 1-3)

3 Sidney Hook review of The Crisis of Our Age – NY Herald Tribune 1-11-1942

4 Sidney Hook review of Society, Culture and Personality – NYTBR 8-17-1947

5 Lewis Mumford review of The Reconstruction of Humanity – J of Religion

 

Several of the most savage — if that is not too strong a word; one can safely say highly critical and damaging — reviews of Pitirim A. Sorokin’s major works were written, not in scholarly journals, but in newspapers and a magazine by two polymaths: the American historian, sociologist, philosopher of technology, and literary critic Lewis Mumford and the American pragmatist philosopher Sidney Hook. It is hard to gainsay the validity of conclusions reached by these two prominent New York intellectuals about flaws in Sorokin’s scholarship, his methodology, his overreaching in sweeping statements and conclusions, his carelessness in the use of evidentiary material, his lack of objectivity in works supposedly the result of exhaustive research based on data compiled scientifically.

What I would be inclined to say is that Sorokin wrote hastily and aimed high — at profundity and broad scope. I feel that the criticisms are valid. Sorokin’s flaws should be acknowledged. They do not necessarily invalidate his works (written during the mid-twentieth century, when, as Sorokin wrote, mankind was in the midst of crisis unprecedented “in all its stark and unquestionable reality” … “of an enormous conflagration burning everything into ashes”), the breadth and depth and timelessness of which are indicators of their lasting importance.

— Roger W. Smith

   August 2019

 

I have transcribed and posted here (above), as downloadable Word documents, the following reviews:

review of Social and Cultural Dynamics, Vols. 1-3

by Sidney Hook

The Nation

July 10, 1937

review of Social and Cultural Dynamics, Vols. 1-3

by Lewis Mumford

The New Republic

July 14, 1937

pp. 283-284

review of The Crisis of Our Age: The Social and Cultural Outlook

by Sidney Hook

New York Herald Tribune

January 11, 1942

 

review of Society, Culture, and Personality: Their Structure and Dynamics

by Sidney Hook

New York Times Book Review

August 17, 1947

review of The Reconstruction of Humanity

by Lewis Mumford

The Journal of Religion

Vol. 29, No. 4 (October 1949), pp. 301-302

 

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Sidney Hook (1902-1989) was an American philosopher known for his contributions to the philosophy of history, the philosophy of education, political theory, and ethics. After embracing Communism in his youth, Hook was later known for his criticisms of totalitarianism, both fascism, and Marxism-Leninism.

Lewis Mumford (1895-1990) was an American historian, sociologist, philosopher of technology, and literary critic. Noted for his study of cities and urban architecture, he had a broad career as a writer. His works ranged from a groundbreaking study of Herman Melville to books such as The Culture of Cities and The City in America; The Condition of Man; and Technics and Civilization, in which he divided human civilization into three distinct epochs, in a manner somewhat similar to Sorokin.

Lewis Mumford review of “The Reconstruction of Humanity”

 

Lewis Mumford review of The Reconstruction of Humanity – J of Religion

 

The following (PDF file above) is a review by Lewis Mumford of Pitirim A. Sorokin’s The Reconstruction of Humanity (1948):

The review is a penetrating one well worth reading.

Lewis Mumford (1895-1990) was an American historian, sociologist, philosopher of technology, and literary critic. Noted for his study of cities and urban architecture, he had a broad career as a writer. His works ranged from a groundbreaking study of Herman Melville to books such as The Culture of Cities and The City in America; The Condition of Man; and Technics and Civilization, in which he divided human civilization into three distinct epochs, in a manner somewhat similar to Sorokin.

The review, while critical of Sorokin’s weaknesses as  writer and scholar, is an evenhanded one. It demonstrates insight into Sorokin’s works as a whole and places The Reconstruction of Humanity within the context of Sorokin’s oeuvre as it stood at the time the review was written, which was just after the publication of Sorokin’s The Crisis of Our Age.

Note, for example, Mumford’s statement: “The present book has the virtues and defects of Professor Sorokin’s earlier works–both in great abundance. Like his greatest rival, Arnold Toynbee, he is a scholar who carries on his shoulders a tremendous burden of scholarly research, but … his thought is sometimes confused, rather than clarified, by his very erudition.”

 

— Roger W. Smith

     May 2019

 

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review of The Reconstruction of Humanity

by Lewis Mumford

The Journal of Religion

Vol. 29, No. 4 (October 1949), pp. 301-302

 

The Reconstruction of Humanity stands in logical sequence to the series of sociological interpretations that Professor Pitirim Sorokin has published since his monumental Social and Cultural Dynamics (1937). Those four volumes, though concerned with a general theory of culture, clearly indicated Professor Sorokin’s criticism of our present age: that it was a typically “sensate” culture, founded on an exclusive belief in sensations as a source of meaning and “reality,” and that this very fact tended to undermine its existence–since only a supersensate or ideational culture could do justice to all the more significant aspects of human experience.

Sorokin’s next boom addressed to the public at large–for he has published various systematic texts in sociology–was largely a condensation of his Dynamics: The Crisis of our Age, which came out in 1941. Here, restating in briefer form his general theory of social development, his diagnosis became even sharper, as the disintegration of the West itself became more obvious. At the end he observed: “Our remedy demands a complete change of contemporary mentality, a fundamental transformation of our system of values, and the profoundest modification of our conduct toward other men, cultural values, and the world at large.” Drawing his conclusions from similar periods in the past, he reduced the change to a “compact formula: Crisis–ordeal–catharsis–charisma–resurrection.” This conclusion was only briefly framed at the end of the book; it called for a more detailed statement, and that the author seeks to provide in his new work, The Reconstruction of Humanity.

The thesis of Sorokin’s new book is that all detailed plans for improving the present situation through creating a world government or correcting the existing capitalist economy or through this or that program of education are insubstantial or insufficient because they do not envisage any major change in the agent that is to carry them out, namely, in man himself, in his prospensities [sic], his purposes, his ideals. Sorokin believes that this major change involves the deliberate fostering of “creative altruism,” a term that seems to be the precise equivalent of what Kropotkin, in his classic treatise, called “Mutual Aid.” Unfortunately the pages devoted to the regeneration of the personality, the very core of any effort at achieving altruism, make up only a quarter of the book; and at the very point at which Sorokin has something fresh to say, not already indicated in his previous works, he leaves the reader grasping, not exactly at straws, but at hastily improvised life-­rafts and distant life-preservers. We must look forward to still another book to bring Sorokin’s positive doctrines to the necessary stage of concreteness and pragmatic application.

The present book has the virtues and defects of Professor Sorokin’s earlier works-both in great abundance. Like his nearest rival, Arnold Toynbee, he is a scholar who carries on his shoulders a tremendous burden of scholarly research, but–and here the parallel perhaps still applies–his thought is sometimes confused, rather than clarified, by his very erudition. Though he condemns the habits of our “sensate culture,” to use his own term, he frequently succumbs to them, as in his statement on page 118 that there has been a “decrease of the ethics of absolute principles from 100 per cent in the Middle Ages to 57 per cent between 1900 and 1920”: a use of pseudo-statistics that should make the rawest Ph.D. blush. In spite of Sorokin’s passionate belief in the values of grace and love, his recent works do not show any considerable increase in the proportion of these qualities as his insight has deepened. Though he is properly critical, for example, of Dr. Sigmund Freud’s ideological mistakes, he does not acknowledge the real gains in psychological insight which Freud effected, including the fact that Freud, by his original act of reinterpreting the dream and demonstrating its meaningfulness, laid one of the foundation stones of a more ideational culture, which will respect the autonomous functions of the personality. His wholesale disparagement of Freud does not, however, prevent him from availing himself of insights directly derived from Freud’s work.

Finally, Sorokin casts doubts upon the value of many of his more profound generalizations by interlarding his book with many palpably exaggerated or false judgments, such as the statement that “the twentieth century has not produced a single genius in any field of art comparable to the greatest creative geniuses of the preceding centuries or even to the foremost masters of the nineteenth century.” In short, in Sorokin’s own person, both catharsis and charisma seem to have fallen short of the requirements of the situation he has diagnosed. There is more of unregenerate Saul than of charitable Paul in his judgments; and one would be more confident of his program for “reconstructing” humanity if he himself incarnated, in a greater degree, the qualities he holds necessary for mankind’s redemption.

If as a prophet Sorokin’s weaknesses are fatal ones, as a sociologist he nevertheless, despite all his painful weaknesses, demonstrates a fuller insight into the nature of society and the disintegration of our own age than do many of his colleagues, who commit fewer sins of semantics and logic and who show less irascible contempt for those who are in disagreement with them. With such exceptions as Malinowski, Radin, and Kroeber in anthropology, Sorokin is one of the few American sociologists who has done something like justice to the higher human functions. His sociological schema gives full place not only to the social processes and to the cultural heritage but to the purposive, goal­-seeking elements in the human personality. Unlike Freud, he does not dismiss religion as a childish violation of human reason. At the same time, his insight into the underlying unity of the higher religions keeps him from attributing supreme truth to the Christian religion and true godhood solely to its own savior; in marked contrast to Toynbee, he thus avoids the easy archaism of suggesting reversion to some historic form of Christianity as the one force capable of saving our civilization. So, too, though his insights are associated with his system of sociology, that system is in fact a very comprehensive one; so he differs from another wide-ranging interpreter, F. S. C. Northrop, in being less confined to a wooden set of categories, as arbitrarily defined and separated as Northrop’s theoretic and aesthetic components. Much of The Reconstruction of Humanity, it is true, consists in a series of verbal injunctions, without either method or appropriate discipline, as ineffective to produce a change as Milton said medicine would be if it followed only the method of the preacher and merely exhorted the patient verbally to get well.

But he who reads Sorokin’s work with a fuller charity than Sorokin himself applies to most of his contemporaries will also find a mind well grounded in man’s history and culture who has carried through in detail those fundamental insights into the present disintegration of Western civilization which Henry Adams first presented half a century ago. Unlike his emotionally unawakened and therefore intellectually more limited colleagues in sociology, Sorokin has earnestly set himself the task, hopeless to those who are without faith in superconscious processes and axial transformations, of summoning up the forces of life and laying down the basis for a new era founded on love and mutual aid­-love enlarged beyond the narrow boundaries of sexuality and mutual aid capable of encompassing the eventual unity of mankind. Sorokin’s overall purpose and his emotional readiness help to transcend and partly nullify his disturbing, and sometimes almost disrupting, weaknesses. Unfortunately, those who have not by themselves come to the same conclusions as Sorokin will probably lack the patience and sympathy to overlook his solecisms and to grapple with his essential contribution.

LEWIS MUMFORD

Amenia, New York

Henry Noble MacCracken, “Russia of To-day”

 

Henry Noble MacCracken, ‘Russia of To-day’ – NY Evening Post 5-5-1923

Henry Noble MacCracken, ‘Russia of To-day’ – The Literary Review 5-5-1923

 

Posted here (above) as a PDF and Word document is the complete text of following article:

“Russia of To-day”

By Henry Noble MacCracken

The Literary Review, New York Evening Post

Vol. 3, No. 35

May 5, 1923

pp. 657, 658, 665

The article reviews a recent “pamphlet” (so termed by MacCracken; actually a short book) of Sorokin’s that he published in Prague:

“современное состояние России” (sovremennoye sostoyaniye Rossii;  The Present State of Russia)

By Pitirim Sorokin

Prague, 1922 (MacCracken gives the wrong year of publication, 1923)

MacCracken writes:

“The psychology of the refugee” is the phrase with which most European observers of to-day are apt to dismiss any report written by an exile of this home land. There is much that is just in the observation. It is inevitable that the refugee should, in order to justify himself for leaving his home land, exaggerate the abnormalities of home conditions, the cruelty of his enemies, and the need of foreign aid and intervention. It is natural also that the refugee should stress the circumstances which passed under his immediate observation, and should generalize from insufficient data of the universal conditions. The precariousness of his own means of existence, the characteristics of dependency, well known to social workers, all influence his judgement and his interpretation of facts.

It is true that most books about Russia bear marks of the refugee psychology. They all, or nearly all, tell the same story. In contrast with the present conditions, the previous condition of Russia is treated as idyllic, and in most of the books at least the deplorable conditions of the present are attributed to the active ill will and viciousness of a small group of people, instead of to unsound political and economic doctrine, and the inevitable conditions of war.

As a result, scarcely any really trustworthy accounts of conditions in Russia to-day can be found. It is quite out of the question to expect that an American observer, however familiar with Russia he might have been in the past, could get a really wide and impartial view of Russian conditions, or that, seeing them, he could really interpret them. Those residents of Russia who might give such a picture are prohibited from writing by the Soviet Government. Whatever else the Bolshevists may have to reproach the capitalistic governments with, at least they cannot claim superiority in the matter of freedom of speech.

It is therefore a wholly exceptional opportunity which is presented in the recent pamphlet of Pitirim Sorokin. Exiled last autumn from his professorship of sociology at Petrograd University, Sorokin brought with him [to Czechoslovakia] official data concerning conditions in Russia, and in the course of a few days wrote at white heat his pamphlet, which was published in the first week of January of this year. After extended conversations with him in Prague in December, he gave me an advance copy of his work, with permission to use extracts from it in any way.

Henry Noble MacCracken (1880–1970) was president of Vassar College from 1915 to 1946. He and Sorokin were lifelong friends. MacCracken first met Sorokin during a trip to Czechoslovakia in late 1922. He invited Sorokin, upon Sorokin’s coming to the USA, to visit Vassar College, where Sorokin had a pleasant stay before going to the Midwest to deliver lectures on the Russian Revolution.

 

— transcription of article by Roger W. Smith

     posted April 2019

review of “The Crisis of Our Age”; The Thomist 1942

 

review of ‘The Crisis of Our Age’ – The Thomist, July 1942

 

Posted here (above) as a downloadable PDF file is a review of The Crisis of Our Age by Pitirim A. Sorokin:

The Crisis of Our Age by Pitirim A. Sorokin (review)

By Louis A. Ryan

The Thomist: A Speculative Quarterly Review

Volume 4, Number 3 (July 1942), pp. 523-533

It is a very thorough and thoughtful as well as discerning review, and I thought it worth posting.

 

— Roger W. Smith

     June 2018