Year-long Observance of Sorokin's 125th Anniversary in the Komi Republic

Pitirim Sorokin 125Within the Russian Federation, most of the celebrations of Pitirim Sorokin's 125th birthday have been taking place in the Komi Republic, his birthplace in a largely rural region lying at the northeast corner of European Russia. These are planned to continue well into the summer. Most of these events have been government-sponsored to honor Sorokin as a great scholar, a prime Native Son, and an exemplar for young people. His legacy is also being acknowledged in ongoing programs to perpetuate the cultural heritage of the indigenous Finno-Ugric stock (now about 25 percent of the population) from which Pitirim's mother came.

Media coverage of the anniversary has been widespread in Komi. Brief notices have appeared in almost all newspapers together with more comprehensive editorials in magazines and journals about the significance of Sorokin's life. As outlined in a letter to Dr. Sergei Sorokin from Vyacheslav Gaizer, Head ("Glava") of the Komi Republic, some events have been aimed at the general public and others at different target audiences such as school children, college students and teachers, and the research community. One of the main goals stipulated in the government's program is to educate the public, especially children, about Pitirim Sorokin: who he was, and why Komi should be proud of him. At various times in recent years and again in February, 2014, "Sorokin lessons" were taught to young school children in many cities and villages. One held in the central city library of far-north Vorkuta included a display of books written by Sorokin or about him. Two competitions for the best essay or research paper about his legacy were held in secondary schools throughout Komi during 2013, and a third one in March, 2014, at the Syktyvkar State University, the Republic's leading institution of higher education.

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Igor I. Sikorsky: Rude force has become
the arbiter of conflicts.

Igor Sikorsky (1889-1972), famed designer of the first large four-motor airships, the American Clipper seaplanes of the 1930’s and 40’s, and the first successful helicopter, was also deeply interested in religious and philosophical matters. In this excerpt from his “Notes from a Reading of Sorokin’s Crisis of Our Age” Sikorsky considers the effect on our legal system from erosion of its traditional ethical and moral norms:

"In writing in 1941 Sorokin indicated that there was a crisis of transition between our culture which is dying and the coming of an ideational culture of the future. He prophesized that both Communism and Naziism were merely death agonies of the particular culture shock and cultural change. He also indicated that there have been repeated cycles of such cultural changes from idealistic cultural basis to sensate cultural basis down to the ideational cultural basis. We are now in the death of the sensate culture and in the beginning of a new form, and it is not the Hitlers, Stalins or other dictators who created the present crisis. Rather it is a ready existing enthrust upon the world by the historical process.

He points out that this crisis will also be reflected in the crisis of our law with the disintegration of our ethical and legal systems and the substitute of one initially of force. The essence of the crisis consists of a devaluation of the ethical and moral norms of the legal system. Legal norms are increasingly considered as a device of the group in power for exploiting other less powerful groups and have thus lost their moral prestige which had been given to them through the connection with the religious base for legal sanctions. Since legal sanctions are now not based on a religious support they sooner or later have to be based on rude force as the only controlling power in human relationship. Hence the contemporary “might is right” is an essential feature of the crisis of our legal system. This crisis did not originate either suddenly or recently but rather is a generational change as the present ethical system has decayed the religious base on which the earlier moral and legal system was based. The sensate ethics and law were inherent in the utilitarian and ultimately hedonistic relative law. Any value as soon as it is put on a relativistic and utilitarian foundation is bound to retrogress and become more and more relative, more and more conventional until it finally reaches a stage of bankruptcy. As pleasure, utility, happiness and even the economic system would differ with different persons and different groups one is entitled to pursue them in any way one pleases and there is no moral sanction. The absence of any moral sanctions leads to inevitable clashes of individuals and groups over the power with no common standard to serve as an arbitrator. The ultimate result is the emergence of rude force assisted by fraud as the supreme and sole arbiter of conflicts.

When limitless relativism was introduced into the world of moral values their arbitrariness engendered conflict and struggle. This in turn produced hatred and hatred led to the use of brute force and bloodshed as the ultimate solution.

This is not just something that happened and is not just something that occurred because individuals such as Hitler or Stalin or Marx came along. It is rather the inevitable end result of the sensate ethics which prepared its own surrender to coercion. By liberating itself from a religious basis, from all absolutes and categorical moral imperatives, it became the victim of undisguised physical coercion and fraud."

In our present-day conflicted world it seems that legal decisions of international reach are valid only when advanced by the strongest nations.

Sorokin Updated

EDWARD A. TIRYAKIAN Updating Sorokin. Introduction to Sociological Theory, Values, and Sociocultural Change. Essays in honor of Pitirim A. Sorokin. Transaction Publishers. New Brunswick (USA) and London (UK), 2013.

A new edition of the "Sociocultural Theory, Values, and Sociocultural Change: Essays in Honor of Pitirim Sorokin", originally published in 1963, was issued in 2013 with an introduction by Professor Edward A. Tiryakian, who is also a member of the Foundation's Advisory Board. Professor Tiryakian overviews current trends in sociology, where Pitirim Sorokin's theoretical and research ideas become an important resource for developing new fields of the discipline.

"Nearly half a century has passed since the original publication of this volume of essays intended as a festschrift in honor of one of the most important figures of twentieth-century sociology... 

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New Publication in Japan

Michukuni OhnoProfessor Michikuni Ohno, a sociologist from the University of Tachibana, Kyoto,  has been exploring the area of Cultural Sociology and the ideas of Pitirim Sorokin that create grounds for this sociological field. His project was supported by a grant from the Japan Society for Promotion of Science. Here, we present his recent publication “Sorokin Revisited: The Fate of Grand Theory or the Possibility of Cultural Sociology”

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Larry Nichols' ASA Award

Larry NicholsThe History of Sociology Selection Panel awards the 2013 Distinguished Publication Award of the History of Sociology Section of the ASA to Lawrence T Nichols of the University of West Virginia for his article "Sorokin as a Lifelong Russian Intellectual: the Enactment of a Historically Rooted Sensibility", THE AMERICAN SOCIOLOGIST 43, December 2012, pp.374-405.

The panel considers that the winning entry by Lawrence T Nichols displays a refined analysis of what Pitrim A Sorokin brought to American sociology from his Russian background. Involved in Kerensky's government before his emigration, Sorokin has always been an enigmatic figure in sociology, achieving great fame yet not being understood well by his contemporaries or by sociologists today. Nichols does a very nice job in contextualising much of what Sorokin did as a sociologist, making sense of Sorokin's Russian sensibilities.