Despite severe criticism of my "forecastings" almost all of them have come to pass. I hope that my guess of "the shape of sociology to come" will also be confirmed by its objective development in the future". (Pitirim Sorokin, from "Presidential Address")
A most excellent statement of the method used by Sorokin in what he calls his "Integralist Sociology" is to be found in his Sociocultural Causality, Space and Time. There he envisions for the social sciences a method that is at once intuitional, rational, and empirical—all three—and therefore, in his own terms, an integralist method. It is intuitional, in his words,
..."first of all, for the reason that some kind of intuition is at the very basis of the validity of the systems of truth of reason and of the senses" or because, in other words, real cognition is creation, not a mere anticipation or reflection of nature in the empiricist sense. It is intuitional, secondly, "because intuition . . . has been one of the most important and fruitful 'starters' of an enormous number of the most important scientific, mathematical and philosophical discoveries and technological inventions"; thirdly, "because a variety of religious and aesthetic intuition has been the main source and the main force for the creation of the greatest artistic, religious, and ethical systems of culture"; and fourth, "because there is a sufficiently large body of the testimonies of the great thinkers, creators of religion, of art values, of science, demonstrating the reality, the functioning and the power of this source of truth" (Social and Cultural Dynamics vol. IV, pp. 747-764).
"...This links closely with the idea that there is "superrational" and "supersensory" aspect of man and society and that reason and the senses, needful though they are, are not completely adequate to understand and to know this aspect of reality. This supersensory, and superrational "phase of sociocultural reality, including man himself, must be apprehended through a supersensory, superrational, metalogical act of 'intuition' or 'mystic experience', representing a type of cognition 'sui generis', profoundly different from sensory perception and the logical activity of reason" (Sociocultural Causality, p. 228).
Toynbee on Sorokin's Methodology
Toynbee points out that statistics, developed over the past century and a half, has generally dealt with phenomena in which there are enormous quantities of incidences to analyze. In these limited fields they have been employing more and more abstruse mathematical devices. Sorokin, on the other hand, has had "the temerity to try to open up wider territories with simpler tools ..." Hence the English historian feels that Sorokin, by adventuring not only into new fields but by new methods has inevitably laid himself open to numerous attacks by "the professional censors in the fields of statistics ..."
In Toynbee's opinion, the use of statistical methods, in analyzing the phenomena of war, by Sorokin is still within the currently accepted methodological safety zone. Statistics on internal disturbances are "near the fringe". But his numerous further tables on statistics of fluctuations of such things as ethical and philosophical systems, types of art and personality, and so on, make Sorokin vulnerable. Since "Sorokin has seized the initiative", "furious specialist pursuers" will "come pounding after him into fields that they would perhaps never had trodden except in hot pursuit of a heretic". Nevertheless Toynbee feels that "Sorokin will come out strategically victorious from any number of tactical defeats". The "result will have been a solid gain" in "the drive to increase human knowledge. . . This intellectual service far outweighs Sorokin's [possible] statistical errors . . . "
Sociology as a Science
In Contemporary Sociological Theories Sorokin takes a panoramic walk through what he described as the forest of sociological theory. As in any forest, one finds sterile flowers, weeds, strong trees, healthy plants, and beautiful flowers. The wily sociologist should seek and use the beautiful, healthy, and strong forms while avoiding their barren or uncultivated counterparts. Sterile flowers are theories that exhaust themselves on questions such as these: What is sociology? What should it be? What is progress? What is the relationship between society and the individual? What are the differences between cultural, social, and psychological phenomena? Many scholars spend entire careers in these "antechambers of sociology" and mistake them for the whole building. They pile words upon words without producing any genuine understanding of the social world. In Sorokin's mind these theorists were partly responsible for the anti-sociological sentiments of many intellectuals. Critics of sociology rightfully said, "Instead of a long and tedious reasoning of what sociology is, show it in fact. Instead of a discussion of how sociology ought to be built, build it. Instead of 'flapping' around the introductory problems of a science . . . give us a single real analysis of the phenomena."
The sociological forest also abounds with weeds. The most troublesome and damaging among them is the "sociological preacher," who is concerned with what is good or bad, how to save the world from evil, and how humans should best progress in the modern age. Practitioners of this style have pretended to be omniscient doctors who know how the world is to be saved and give their "prescriptions" about war eradication, birth-control, labor organization . . . and so forth. In this way, all kinds of nonsense have been styled, published, circulated and taught as "sociology." Every idler has pretended to be a sociologist. Shall we wonder that this again has discredited sociology greatly.
Other weeds in the forest are those who overgeneralize from their findings, insufficiently study existing facts, are ignorant of past knowledge, and use sloppy logic combined with carelessness in testing and verifying hypotheses. These practices and the scholars who use them create major problems for the acceptance of sociology by serious scientists. Such underbrush must be cleared away so the strong plants and beautiful flowers of scientific sociology can bloom and replace the forest with a well-tended garden.
To counter this unfortunate tendency, Sorokin offered an operational approach to the discipline.
Sociology is a study, first, of the relationship and correlations between various classes of social phenomena, (correlations between economic and religious; family and moral; juridical and economic; mobility and political phenomena and so on); second, that between the social and the nonsocial (geographic, biological, etc.,) phenomena; third, the study of the general characteristics common to all classes of social phenomena.
About Two Methods in Social Sciences
(from: Presidential address "SOCIOLOGY OF YESTERDAY, TODAY, AND TOMORROW")
Analytical-factfinding and synthesizing-generalizing periods alternate in the history of science and philosophy; at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century sociology was predominantly synthesizing and generalizing, while the sociology of the last 40 or so years has been preeminently analytical and fact-finding. Preoccupied mainly with techniques, narrow concrete problems and analytical theorizing, detached from empirical realities, recent sociology has neither produced a great synthesis nor discovered a great, empirical uniformity. Its theories and research represent mainly reiteration, variation, refinement, and verification of methods and theories developed by sociologists of the preceding period. Through empirical research, recent sociology has given US a fuller knowledge of a few "specks" and dimensions of the total, immense, multidimensional sociocultural reality but it. has not substantially increased our understanding of the total '"superorganic" reality. If sociology is going to grow as a basic science of sociocultural phenomena, it is bound to pass into a new synthesizing-generalizing phase. Empirical signs indicate that for several reasons this transition has already begun. Stipulating certain conditions, we can reasonably expect a synthesizing sociology, unifying into a rich, logically and empirically valid system all the sound parts of the existing analytical theories and integrating all the little and "middle-range" uniformities of today's sociology.
Spencer, Tarde, Bernard, Whitehead, Berr and Joel noted a recurrentalternation of analytical, fact-finding periods and generalizing orsynthesizing periods in the history of science and philosophicalthought.
In the terms of this theory, the general sociology of thelast 45 years or so (1920— 196S) appears to be more analytical andfact-finding than the general sociology of the preceding period(1875-1920). Compared with the recent period, general sociology at theend of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century was moreproductive in formulating vast sociological syntheses, in discoveringbroad uniformities and trends, and in building grand systems ofsociology. Exemplified by the systems of Spencer, Marx, Durkheim,Tarde, Weber, Scbeler, Sitnmel, Spengle, Ward, Sumner, Pareto, Ross andothers, this period established and developed sociology as ageneralizing science, boldly delineated its essential character, itssubject-matter, tasks, and methods. Their synthesizing theories arestill the basic framework and referential systems for today'ssociology...
...Being analytical or fact-finding, each of such theories isolates from the total, multidimensional reality of the human universe one of its dimensions, elements, parts, or relationships, studies it in detail, and then presents the results of the study in the form of a fully developed "ecological", "functional," "structural," "psychological," "behavioral," "formal," "dialectic," "phenom-enological," "cybernetic," "sociometric," "psychoanalytical," or some other type of sociological theory. Exactly in this way a vast number of strikingly different and often discordant currents of sociological thought have emerged and proliferated in modern sociology.
...Each such theory gives a knowledge of only one "speck" (element, relationship, dimension, or uniformity) of the immense multidimensional total sociocultural reality; moreover, the "speck" is studied in a state of isolation, torn out of the "whole configuration" of which it is a part. All the existing theories of this sort yield, at best, knowledge of several scattered "specks" of the total socio cultural universe, without enlightening us muck about their mutual relationships, their place in the total universe, or about the universe itself as a whole. Such knowledge is obviously meager and quite limited. It resembles the knowledge of a few pieces of an unassembled jig-saw puzzle. The puzzle remains unsolved despite knowledge of its pieces. Like several pin-points of light in the darkness of night, the knowledge supplied by theories in question illuminates a few "specks" in the darkness but it does not make visible the total reality hidden in darkness, so that we often misinterpret even the lighted-up "specks'.
...the recent predominantly analytical and fact-finding theories have increased our knowledge of the total sociocultural reality only slightly, especially in the field of the multidimensional, macrosociological systems of "civilizations," cultural supersystems, and great historical social systems. In some cases they have even yielded more pseudoscientific sham-truth, half-truth, and plain error than valid truth.
...This explains why further production of analytical and fact-finding theories cannot greatly enrich our knowledge of the total sociocultural reality and why sociology (or other science) has to pass—for its further growth—from the phase of predominantly analytical theory and fact-finding research into one syntheses, reconciliation, and integration of all sound analytical and factfinding theories and their narrow uniformities into much broader, generalized, multidimensional theory and uniformities.
Prognosis of The Shape of Sociology to Come
(from: Presidential address "SOCIOLOGY OF YESTERDAY, TODAY, AND TOMORROW")
Any prediction of the future course of science or creative activity can be but conjectural because the very notion of creativity implies something new, unforeseen, and unpredictable.
With this stipulation, and assuming there will be no global, suicidal war, I am inclined to believe, first, that sociology will continue to grow not only externally as it has done successfully in the recent period, but internally, as a generalizing science of the super-organic or sociocultural reality; second, that to accomplish this growth it will increasingly pass from the present, predominantly analytical and fact-finding character to the predominantly integrating, synthesizing and generalizing one; third, that there are already some signs of such a passage and transformation; fourth, that this coming sociology, through its integration, reconciliation, and mutual complementation of the existing, largely discordant, analytical and fact-finding theories will greatly increase the knowledge of the whole superorganic, human universe as well as of its basic empirical dimensions, relationships, and uniformities; fifth, that it will investigate the positive, creative, sociocultural phenomena no less than the negative, pathological, and destructive; sixth, that after realizing all the syntheses, generalizations, and uniformities possible at this stage, sociology will pass into a new analytical and fact-finding phase, to collect relevant new facts and to study analytically important new "specks" of sociocultural reality. This alternation of the two phases will continue in the future if and as long as sociology matures and grows.
Principles of Covergence Between Analytical and Fact-finding Theories
(from: Presidential address "SOCIOLOGY OF YESTERDAY, TODAY, AND TOMORROW")
1. Explicitly or implicitly, all currents of sociological thought now accept sociocultural phenomena as a meaningful, "normative" "value-laden," "superorganic" realm of reality, different from the inorganic and organic realities.
2. Whether recent currents of sociology clearly specify the internal structure of sociocultural phenomena, they all admit (directly or circuitously) three distinct components of these phenomena: interacting individuals who create, realize, and exchange, through meaningful actions and reactions (interactions), meanings, values and norms; "immaterial" meanings, values and norms (often called "symbols" or "images"), superimposed on inorganic and organic phenomena and thus transforming these into the superorganic reality of sui generis; and the bio-physical media in which and through which the interacting individuals "objectify" "materialize and exchange their "symbolic" "immaterial" meanings, values and norms. These bio-physical media are the "vehicles" of meaningful interaction and "the solidified conserves" of the meanings, values and norms accumulated in the countless meaningful interactions during the course of human history. This third component is often called "material culture" or the "material substratum" of society.
3. Sociocultural phenomena have three different levels of realization; ideological, given in the minds of persons; behavioral, realized in overt, meaningful interaction; and "material" objectified by and solidified into the bio-physical "vehicles" and "conserves." Under different terms—"material culture," "material basis of society," "symbols," "ideologies" or "ideological superstructure," "ego" and "alter," "social behavior," "social roles" and so on, these three levels are recognized—clearly or vaguely—in practically all sociological theories of our time.
4. Viewed from a different standpoint, all sociocultural phenomena have cultural, social, and personal aspects. Though in their empirical forms these aspects are distinctly different from one another, nevertheless, they all represent three main concrete forms of multidimensional superorganic phenomena. For this reason the empirical forms of the cultural, social, and personal aspects of sociocultural reality are closely interdependent and none can be adequately understood without consideration of the other two. This theory in diverse independent formulations appears in most of the recent sociologies, psychologies, and psychiatry.
5. The same can be said of the distinction between cultural systems (with their subsystems and supersystem) and congeries, between social systems (organized groups) and social congeries (unorganized and disorganized aggregates of individuals), and between integrated personality systems and unintegrated and disintegrated personalities. The objective ground for this distinction between system and congeries is the undeniable fact that in the sociocultural universe causal or causal-meaningful unities (systems) exist, as well as singularistic aggregates whose parts are adjacent in space or time but devoid of any causal bonds. This distinction is confirmed by and explains the fact that sociocultural systems are studied by the recently emerging systemic theories while sociocultural congeries are investigated by the singularistic-atomistic theories. As long as systemic theories study sociocultural systems and atomistic-singularistic theories investigate sociocultural congeries, both approaches and their methods are fully warranted, and they complement each other.
6. From this distinction between system and congeries three other principles follow. They are also increasingly recognized by most currents of contemporary sociological thought. The first of these principles consists in distinguishing cultural systems and congeries from social systems and congeries.
7. The second principle following from the distinction between system and congeries is a growing effort to classify cultural as well as social systems in a logical order, in which each system is a subsystem of a larger system, beginning with the smallest units and ending with vast cultural and social super-systems. In the field of cultural systems this trend is exemplified by Spengler's, Toynbee's, Northrop's, Kroeber's, and my own theories of "civilization" and cultural super-systems, with their subdivisions of these supersystems into their main systems, these into smaller systems and so on down to the smallest cultural systems.
In the field of social systems this trend manifests itself in similar attempted gradations of social systems beginning with the smallest "social units,"—dyads, triads, and "small groups" as subsystems of larger social groups and ending with such social supersystems as self-sufficient "society," self-sufficient "community," "nation-state," "global society," and vastest "social systems" of other sociologists.
8. The third principle resulting from the distinction concerns the proper methods of studying systems and congeries. Since congeries include a single unique phenomenon or a mass of singularistic-atomistic phenomena, the problem of proper methods (and also the kinds of cognitive results expected from each method) can be briefly summed up in terms of the proper method for, and the kind of cognitive results expected from, studies of unique, unrepeated sociocultural phenomena, of singularistic-atomistic mass phenomena repeated in time or space, and of social and cultural systems. Unique sociocultural phenomena can only be described, as in an ideographic history. They do not provide a firm basis for generalized conclusions or for formulating uniformities. The unique sociocultural realities correspond to the single atom or particle in the micro-physical world. The physicists call this world "the microcosm of lawlessness," "the realm of discontinuity and uncertainty." This characterization of the physical "microcosm of lawfulness" fits well the unique sociocultural phenomena. They are poor ground for hunting uniformities, generalized propositions, or scientific predictions...
These properties of systems require the following modifications in the methods of their study.
A. Throughout its study a system must be treated as a unified meaningful-causal whole with its triple interdependence among the components of a system, between the whole system and its components, and between all components and the whole system.
B. A study of a system has to proceed not only "from parts to the whole" and "from each part to the other parts" but still more so "from the whole to the parts" (along the lines of the triple interdependence).
C. An explanation of the important structural properties of the whole system, as well as those of its essential parts, and explanation of its "physiological" (repeated) processes as well as of the phases through which system passes in its life course—its rhythms, periodicities and other changes—must be sought, first of ally in the system itself, in its life-functions; in the nature of its component meanings, values, norms, and "vehicles and material conserves"; in its human members and their relations with each other; second, in the relations of the system to other systems of which it is a subsystem or with which it shares a larger system; third, in its total sociocultural environment. Residual problems may be "explained," sometimes, by the bio-physical milieu of the system or by interference of some extraordinary—unforeseen and unpredictable—"factors," forces, and events.
This means that the system's structural and dynamic properties, and its life-course, cannot be "explained" by merely environmental factors, or by the system's part taken for "the factor" of the whole system (i.e., by the system's "economic" or "ideological" or "technological" or other part), nor along the line of such formulae as "stimulus-response," "challenge-reaction," and other procedures that largely neglect the system as a unified whole.