Sorokin, “Some of the Basic Factors in the Improvement of Scholarship among American Students of the Social Sciences”


Sorokin, ‘Some Basic Factors in Improvement of Scholarship Among American Students – Social Science, 1936 (2)


Posted here (PDF file above) is the following article by Sorokin:

Some of the Basic Factors in the Improvement of Scholarship among American Students of the Social Sciences
By Pitirim A. Sorokin
Social Science, Vol. 11, No. 2 (April 1936), pp. 93-99

It is a very interesting article in terms of Sorokin’s views not only on the teaching of sociology, but his views on sociology and sociological scholarship.


posted by Roger W. Smith

      April 2022

“Use of A-Bomb Condemned”


‘Use of A-Bomb Condemned’ – NY Times 8-3-1955

Posted here (PDF file above):

Use of A-Bomb Condemned: Group Notes Tenth Anniversary of Bombing of Hiroshima

letter to editor

The New York Times

August 3, 1955

The signers were Clarence E. Pickett, Bishop W. Appleton Lawrence, Lewis Mumford, Pitirim A. Sorokin, W. Harold Row, A. Philp Randolph, Orie O. Miller, Howard Thurman, Henry J. Cadbury, A. J. Muste, Roland H. Bainton, and Rabbi Isidor B. Hoffman.


— posted by Roger W. Smith

     March 2022

Sorokin to Edward A. Ross (July 1922)


Sorokin to Edward A. Ross


The following letter (in Russian) to the American sociologist Edward A. Ross of the University of Wisconsin was written by Sorokin in July 1922, when Sorokin was in St Petersburg..



Позволю себе послать Вам мою небольшую заметку* о Вашей прекрасной книге, случайно попавшей в Петроград, любезно предоставленной мне для прочтения глубокоу-важаемым г. Кини, представителем Христианского Союза молодых людей.

Вместе с этим позволю обратиться к Вам и через Вас другим американским социологам с большой просьбой: мы, русские социологи, до сих пор оторваны от амери-канской и европейской социологии,  – книг и журналов. Этот духовный голод чувствуется нами острее, чем мате-риальный. Я лично, выпустивший за эти годы два тома «Системы социологии» (многотомная работа) и «Голод как фактор», не имею литературы зарубежной, вышед-шей после 1916/17 гг. (кроме немногих книг, в частности книг профессора Е. С. Hayes ‘а, любезно им присланных недавно).

Этим Вы очень обрадуете нас и принесете большую пользу. Лично я, как проводник американской социологии в России (и вообще чрезвычайно высоко ставящий Аме-риканское общество), был бы чрезвычайно признателен Вам.

Если правительство России даст мне разрешение – то я намерен через месяца два-три прибыть в Америку и пробыть в ней год или два, чтобы хорошо изучить американскую социологию, многому научиться, а с другой стороны – поделиться и с вами знаниями и, в частности, большим опытом и выводами, полученными из нашего великого трагического эксперимента.

Если Вы позволите – я очень бы желал посетить Вас и поучиться у Вас.

в заключение в позвольте еще обеспокоить Вас одной просьбой. Вам, конечно, известно, что революция сде-лала и ученых бедными. Я еду в Америку без субсидий государства, рассчитывая только на свой мозг и мускулы. Для существования я должен буду искать какой-нибудь работы. Не были бы добры как-нибудь помочь мне в этом отношении? Я готов делать какую угодно работу, не исключая и мускульной, лишь бы она была мне по силам и не была морально унизительной. Я молод (еще 32 года) и жена – преподавательница ботаники в Агрономическом институте (26 лет), и потому мы можем – если не найдется интеллектуальной работы – работать физически.

Вы очень обязали бы нас, если бы помогли нам в этом отношении. Простите за просьбу – нормально не очень тактичную, но наши исключительные ненормальные условия вынуждают к ней и делают в известной мере извинительными».



Let me send you my little note about your wonderful book,* which happened to be in Petrograd, kindly provided to me for reading by Mr. Keeny,** a representative of the Young People’s Christian Union.

At the same time, I will take the liberty to address you, and through you, other American sociologists, with a big request: we Russian sociologists are still divorced from American and European sociology, books, and magazines. This spiritual hunger is felt more acutely by us than material hunger. I personally, who over the years have published two volumes of System of Sociology (a multi-volume work) and Hunger as a Factor, have had access to no foreign literature since 1916/17 (except for a few books, in particular the books of Professor E. C. Hayes, kindly sent to them recently).

Under such conditions, perhaps you will not find it a tactless request: to send your works of recent years and to ask other American sociologists and, in particular, The American Journal of Sociology, to do the same generously.

You will greatly please us with this and it will be a great benefit. Personally, as an expositor of American sociology in Russia (and having, in general, an extremely high regard for American society), I would be extremely grateful to you.

If the Russian government gives me permission, then I intend to come to America in two or three months and stay there for a year or two in order to study American sociology in depth, to learn a lot, and on the other hand, to share with you the knowledge and, in particular, the profound experience and conclusions obtained from our great tragic experiment.

If you allow it, I would very much like to visit and learn from you.

Let me further bother you with one request. You know, of course, that the revolution has made scholars poor. I am going to America without state subsidies, relying only on my brain and body. To exist, I will have to look for some kind of work. Would you be kind enough to help me in any way in that regard? I am ready to do any work, not excluding physical, as long as it is within my power and is not morally humiliating. I am young (32 years old) and my wife is a teacher of botany at the Agronomic Institute (26 years old), and therefore we can – if there be no intellectual work – work physically.

You would be very obliged to us if you could help us in this regard. Sorry for the request – which is not per se very tactful, but our exceptionally abnormal conditions necessitate and make it to a certain extent excusable.

translation from the Russian by Roger W. Smith


*Edward Alsworth Ross, Foundations of Sociology (1905)

**Spurgeon M. (Sam) Keeny, a friend of Sorokin’s, who had served during World War I as a Y.M.C.A. volunteer with the British Army. At the time of Sorokin’s letter, he was serving with the American Relief Administration (ARA) headed by Herbert Hoover.




Probably we would have settled in Czechoslovakia “permanently” as teachers in one of the Czech universities if I had not received invitations from two distinguished American sociologists, Edward C. Hayes of the University of Illinois and Edward A. Ross of the University of Wisconsin. They invited me to come to America to deliver a series of lectures on the Russian Revolution. These unexpected invitations radically changed the course of our subsequent life. For many years before, I had been greatly interested in the United States and had studied American social, economic, and political institutions and theories, American culture, literature, and the way of life. …. I greatly admired the American people, democracy, and way of life. This admiration was seemingly so great that many of my friends and colleagues in Russia even nicknamed me “a Russian-American.”

A Long Journey: The Autobiography of Pitirim A. Sorokin, pg. 200


— posted by Roger W. Smith

     March 2022


Edward Alsworth Ross

post updated


‘Pitirim Sorokin at Vassar College’


My post

Питирим Сорокин в Вассар Колледже (Pitirim Sorokin at Vassar College)

posted at

Питирим Сорокин в Вассар Колледже

has been updated to include my English translation (downloadable Word document above) of the following article:

Питирим Сорокин в Вассар Колледже: по материалам местной прессы (Pitirim Sorokin at Vassar College: Based on Local Press Accounts)

By Natalia S. Sergieva and Roger W. Smith

Наследие (Heritage), No. 2 (19), 2021, pp. 50-69


— Roger W. Smith

Питирим Сорокин в Вассар Колледже



‘Pitirim Sorokin at Vassar College’


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

Сергиева Н.С., Роджер В. Смит, Питирим Сорокин в Вассар Колледже: по материалам местной прессы (Pitirim Sorokin v Vassar Kolledzhe: po materialam mestnoy pressy)

Natalia S. Sergieva and Roger W. Smith, Pitirim Sorokin at Vassar College: Based on Local Press Accounts

Наследие (Heritage), No. 2 (19), 2021, pp.  50-69

An English translation by Roger W. Smith (downloadable Word document above) has also been posted here.

The press accounts have been drawn from local newspapers such as the Poughkeepsie Evening Star & Enterprise, the Poughkeepsie Eagle-News, and the Vassar Miscellany News.


– posted by Roger W. Smith

     March 2022

“the mysterious energy of love”


Before the first world war and the later catastrophes of our time, science largely shunned this field [altruistic love]. The phenomena of altruistic love were thought to belong to religion and ethics, rather to science. They were considered good topics for preaching, but not for research and teaching. Moreover, prewar science was much more interested in the study of criminals than of saints, of the insane than of the genius, of the struggle for existence than of mutual aid, and of hate and selfishness than of compassion and love.

The explosion of the gigantic disasters after 1914 and the changing danger of a new suicidal war have now radically changed the situation. These calamities have given impetus to the scientific study of unselfish love. …

… without reinforcement by the energy of unselfish love, all the fashionable prescriptions for the elimination of those ills of humanity cannot achieve their task. This conclusion equally applies to all the prescriptions that try to prevent conflicts by either purely political, educational, sham religious, economic, or military means.

For instance, we may like to think that if tomorrow all the governments of the world were to become democratic, we would finally have a lasting peace and crimeless social order. Yet recent careful studies of comparative criminality of 967 wars and 1,629 revolutions in the history of Greece, Rome, and the Western countries … up to the present time show that democracies have hardly reversed belligerent, turbulent, and crime-infested nanotocracies. The same goes for education in its present form, other panaceas against international wars, civil strifes, and crimes.

Since the tenth century … education has made enormous strides forward. … Yet the number and deadliness of wars, bloody revolutions, and grave crimes have not decreased at all. On the contrary, in this most scientific and most educated twentieth century, they have reached unrivaled heights and have made this century the bloodiest in the past twenty-five centuries of Graeco-Roman and Western history.

Similarly, the tremendous progress of knowledge and the domestication of all of all forms of physical energy has not given man any lasting peace. Rather, it has greatly increased his chances of being destroyed in all forms of interhuman conflicts.

— Pitirim A. Sorokin, “The Mysterious Energy of Love”; a lecture by Sorokin given in 1959 at an undisclosed university.



… none of the prevalent prescriptions against international and civil wars and other forms of interhuman bloody strife can eliminate or notably decrease these conflicts.

By these popular prescriptions I mean, first, elimination of wars and strife by political changes, especially by democratic political transformations. Tomorrow the whole world could become democratic and yet wars and bloody strife would not be eliminated because democracies happen to be no less belligerent and strife-infected than autocracies. Still less pacification can be expected from autocracies. Neither the United Nations nor a world government can give a lasting internal and international peace if the establishment of these bodies is not reinforced by notable altruization of persons, groups, institutions, and culture.

The same goes for education in its present form as a panacea against war and bloody strife. Tomorrow all grown-up persons in the world could become Ph.D.’s, and yet this enormous progress in education would not eliminate wars and bloody conflicts. Since the tenth century on up to the present, education has made enormous progress. The number of schools of all kinds, the percentage of literacy, the number of scientific discoveries and inventions have greatly and almost systematically increased, and yet the international wars, the bloody revolutions, and the grave forms of crime have not decreased at all. On the contrary, in the most scientific and most educated twentieth century, they have reached an unrivaled height and made this one the bloodiest of all the twenty­ five centuries of Graeco-Roman and European history.

The same goes for religious changes, if by religion is meant a purely ideological belief in God or in the credo of any of the great religions. One of the evidences for that is given by our investigation of 73 Boston converts “brought to Jesus” by two popular evangelical preachers. Of these 73 converts only one changed his overt behavior in an altruistic direction after his conversion. Thirty-seven converts slightly changed their speech reactions; after their conversion they began to repeat more frequently the words. “Our Lord Jesus Christ” and similar utterances, but their overt behavior did not change tangibly. The remaining converts changed neither their actions nor their speech reactions. If by religious revival and “moral rearmament” is meant this sort of ideological and speech-reactional transformation, it will not bring peace nor decrease interhuman strife, because it represents mainly a cheap self-gratification for psycho­neurotics and sham-religious persons.

The same goes for communist, socialist, or capitalist economic remedies, and for scientific, artistic, legal, or other ways of establishing and maintaining lasting peace in the human universe, when these are not backed by increased altruization of persons and groups. In my Reconstruction of Humanity (1948), I have given the minimum of evidence to substantiate these statements. This assumption positively signifies that without a notable increase of unselfish, creative love (as ideally formulated in the Sermon on the Mount) in overt behavior, in overt inter-individual and intergroup relationships, in social institutions and culture, there is no chance for a lasting peace and for interhuman harmony, internal or external. This, then, was our first assumption, already vindicated to a considerable degree by the existing body of inductive evidence. …

While many modern sociologists and psychologists view the phenomena of hatred, crime, and mental disorders as the legitimate objects of scientific study they quite illogically stigmatize as theological preaching or non-scientific metaphysics any investigation of the phenomena of love, friendship, heroic deeds and creative genius. There is no need to argue the patently unscientific nature of such an attitude. It is but one of the manifestations of the prevalent concentration on the negative, pathological, and subhuman phenomena which is typical for the disintegrating phase of our sensate culture.

— Pitirim A. Sorokin, “The Scientific Search for Love,” Fellowship, April 1956


— posted by Roger W. Smith

      February 2022



See also my post

a recorded Sorokin lecture

a recorded Sorokin lecture



Sorokin, “The Bard of Life” (Walt Whitman 1819-1892)


Sorokin, ‘Walt Whitman’ 3nd MODIFICATION


‘The Bard of Life’


Posted here (English and Russian texts above; also PDF of original text):

Pitirim A. Sorokin, “The Bard of Life (Walt Whitman 1819-1892)

Vseobshchiy Zhurnal [Universal Magazine] 2 (1912), 130-205

translated from the Russian by Roger W. Smith


posted by Roger W. Smith

      February 2022

“Revolutionary Gardener”


“Revolutionary Gardener”

Faculty Profile

By Dennis E. Brown

The Harvard Crimson

May 1, 1954


One morning nearly five years after the Russian Revolution of 1917, an article headlined “Professor Sorokin” appeared in Pravda. Written by Lenin himself, the article stated that though Sorokin had never agreed with the Bolsheviks, he was a true revolutionary at heart. Russia, Lenin concluded, “needs his mind.”

To the man who had spent weeks in an over-crowded prison in north Russia, this statement meant an unexpected salvation. Each day between the hours of four and twelve, guards had entered his cellblock to read off a list of names. “This was a kindly invitation to be shot,” Sorokin recalls, and he adds that most of the prisoners were almost willing to accept. The prison conditions were bad, food was nearly as limited at space, and disease was a commonplace.

But once freed, Sorokin still refused to collaborate with the Bolsheviks and after several close escapes, managed to smuggle himself out of the country. “What a relief,” he recalls, “to cross the border and know that this time they could not come after me.” Sorokin’s last flight from Russia marked the end of an active, fifteen-year career as a revolutionary and gave him the opportunity to continue his work in sociology. Before leaving Russia in 1922, he had become prominent in both fields.

Sorokin usually attributes his early rise in Russia’s political and educational circles to “mistaken ideas about my ability” and “just plain luck.” To ability and chance, his friends would add firm conviction and a tenacity which has brought him both trouble, in the form of political imprisonment, and fame. “This is my stubbornness,” he says: “I regard it a man’s main duty to tell the truth as he sees it.”

As early as 1905, Professor Sorokin was telling his truths to factory workers and villagers in his own Russian district. The son of an artisan, he understood the working class, and because of his talents as an orator and pamphleteer, he soon became a top leader in the Social Revolutionary Party.

Underground Lessons

The years of political activity that followed were lessons in the technique of the underground. Police methods under the Tsars were comparatively lenient, he discovered, because the dying regime was old and soft. Often prisons became centers of revolutionary activity. But the “super heated Turkish bath” that followed 1917 was another matter. Sorokin had enjoyed a few months respite under the Kerensky government as secretary to the Prime Minister and editor of the party newspaper. When the Bolsheviks stormed the Petrograd Garrison, however, it meant that the other socialist parties would be again outlawed and persecuted.

Looking back at his experiences with the Bolsheviks, Sorokin remembers some lighter incidents, although he was hunted almost continually by the secret police. On one occasion, he was sentenced to Peter and Paul Prison where he found many of the elite from former regimes and parties. These old political enemies, from Tsarists to Anarchists, decided to issue prison society notes, which began “The social season at Peter and Paul resort opened brilliantly today . . . .”

At other times, it was harder to laugh. During one summer, Sorokin was forced to hide in the forests of northern Russia. Living off whatever food he could find, he remained there until the first snowfall drove him back to the cities.

Throughout the hardships that political activity caused in those times, Sorokin miraculously managed to pursue his studies in sociology. He was a prolific writer, and long before coming to the United States, had published several texts on the subject. In 1923 he came to this country with an invitation to teach at the University of Minnesota. Eight years later, President Lowell asked him to form the first Sociology Department at Harvard. The University had possessed a grant for such a department since 1906, and officials felt that in Sorokin, they at last had a man who could do the job.

Creative Altruism

His job, as chairman of the new department, lasted fourteen years. Professor Sorokin was only too glad to end what he calls his “Roosevelt term” and devote his time to a project he had long considered. A witness to the revolutions in Russia and two world wars, he had lived with violence and always opposed it. In his mind, the one hope for civilization was the development of man’s creative over his destructive impulses. To study the problem, he has established the Harvard Research Center in Creative Altruism.

Sorokin tackles his new work with the vigor of the young revolutionary who debated with Lenin and Trotsky. He has never lost the ability to support a cause he believes in, and does so in characteristically strong language. To his long list of writings, most of which have been translated into other languages, he has added several new volumes on altruism. Pointing proudly to a bulky, orange book on his desk, he remarked, “They are even writing books about my books now.”

His garden in Winchester is a source of pride almost equal to his literary accomplishments. Each year, nearly ten thousand visitors stop to admire the azaleas which he plants and tends alone. This season, as in the past, he predicts a bad year for the flowers, his last touch with the rural Russia of his youth. Almost unfailingly, however, the plants have survived oppressive frosts, and like their gardener, continue to grow.


— posted by Roger W. Smith

“the fact of stratification is universal”


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. Unstratified society, with a real equality of its members, is a myth which has never been realized in the history of mankind. …

Except, perhaps, the few cases where the members of a population are leading an isolated life, where no permanent social life and interaction exist, where, therefore, we do not have a social organization in the proper sense of the word, as soon as organization begins primitive social groups exhibit the trait of stratification. … Traditional opinion about primitive groups as communistic societies which do not have any commerce or private property, or economic inequality, or inheritance of fortune, are far from being correct. …

If we cannot find a non-stratified society among the most primitive groups, it is useless to try to find it among more advanced, larger and compound societies. Here, without any single exception, the fact of stratification is universal. … Among all agricultural and, especially, industrial societies social stratification has been conspicuous and clear. The modern democracies also do not present any exception to the rule. Though in their constitutions it is said that “all men are equal,” only a quite naive person may infer from this a non-existence of social stratification within these societies. It is enough to mention the gradations: from Henry Ford to a beggar; from the President of the United States to a policeman; from a foreman to the most subordinate worker; from the president of a university to a janitor; from an “LL.D.” or “Ph.D.” to a “B.A.”; from a “leading authority” to an average man; from a commander-in-chief of an army to a soldier; from a president of a board of directors of a corporation to its common laborer; from an editor-in-chief of a newspaper to a simple reporter; it is enough to mention these various ranks and social gradations to see that the best democracies have social stratification scarcely less than the non-democratic societies. …

Family, church, sect, political party, faction, business organization, gang of brigands, labor union, scientific society—in brief, any organized social group is stratified at the price of its permanency and organization. The organization even of groups of ardent levelers, and the permanent failure of all attempts to build a non-stratified group, testify to the imminency and unavoidability of stratification in an organized social group. This remark may appear somewhat strange to many people who, under the influence of high-sounding phraseology, may believe that, at least, the societies of the levelers themselves are non-stratified. This belief, as many another one, is utterly wrong. Different attempts to exterminate social feudalism have been successful, in the best cases, only in ameliorating some of the inequalities, and in changing the concrete forms of stratification. They have never succeeded in annihilating stratification itself. … all attempts of the most ardent levelers in the history of all countries have had the same fate. They could not avoid it even when the faction of the levelers has been victorious. The failure of the Russian Communism is only an additional example in a long series of similar experiments performed on small and large scale, sometimes peacefully, as in many religious sects, sometimes violently, as in social revolutions of the past and present. If many forms of stratification were destroyed for a moment, they regularly reappeared again in the old or in a modified form, often being built by the hands of the levelers themselves.

Present democracies and Socialist, Communist, Syndicalist, and other organizations, with their slogan of “equality” do not present any exception to the rule. In regard to democracies this has been shown above. … The enormous potential taste for inequality of numerous “levelers” becomes at once conspicuous, as soon, indeed, as they happen to be victorious. In such cases they often exhibit a greater cruelty and contempt toward the masses than former kings and rulers. This has been repeated regularly in victorious revolutions where the levelers become dictators. …

Social stratification is a permanent characteristic of any organized society.

Pitirim A. Sorokin, Social Mobility (1927). Chapter II


— posted by Roger W. Smith

       January 2022

Sorokin, “Opinions are not the rules for actions.”


See my post

“Opinions are not the rules for actions.”


“Opinions are not the rules for actions.”

Roger W. Smith