SOCIAL AND CULTURAL DYNAMICS. New York: Bedminster Press, 1962, c1937-41. 4v.
Different principles underlie causal and logico-meaningful integration. In causal analysis, complex entities are reduced to simpler ones until an ultimate simplicity or basic unit is reached. Studying relationships between basic units results in discovering the nature of their bonding into a more complex structure. Causal functional integration is a continuum. At one end, elements are so closely bound that when one is eliminated the system ceases to exist or undergoes a profound modification. At the other extreme, a change in one element has no discernible impact on the others, because not all cultural traits are causally linked. In the logico-meaningful method, reduction to basic units is impossible because no simple social atoms have been found. Instead, one seeks the central meaning that permeates cultural phenomena and brings them together into a unity. Causal analysis often describes uniformities without telling us why they exist. But we get a different insight from perceiving a logical unity. The properly trained mind automatically and apodictically grasps the unity in Euclid's geometry, a Bach concerto, a Shakespearean sonnet, or the architecture of the Parthenon. We clearly see the relationships and understand why they are as they are. In contrast, items may covary without any logical connection between them. For example, chocolate ice cream consumption may go up as juvenile crime increases. While associated, these facts have no logical relationship and give us no insight into the dynamics of juvenile crime.
Logico-meaningful relationships vary in intensity. Some bind cultural elements into a sublime unity. Others simply merge them into low grades of unity. The integration of major cultural values is the most important form of logico-meaningful synthesis. Finding the principle maintaining this unity allows the scholar to grasp a culture's essence, meaning and integrity. Sorokin notes that
The essence of the logico-meaningful method is... finding the central principle ('the reason') which permeates all components [of a culture], gives sense and significance to each of them, and in this way makes cosmos of a chaos of unintegrated fragments.
If the value of the method relies on finding such a principle we must ask how it can be discovered. How do we know the discovery is valid? How can we resolve different claims by investigators that they have found the organizing principle? The answer to the first question is straightforward. We discover the principle as any scientist would: by observation, statistical study, logical analysis, intuition, and deep thought. All of these are the first stage of scientific discovery. In turn, validity is decided by the logical purity of the principle. Is it free of contradiction and consistent with rules of proper reasoning? Will it stand of the facts it purports to account for? If so, we can have faith in its claims for truth. The validity of competing truth claims is decided in the same way: logical purity and explanatory power. Sorokin states:
Of the several rival theories, that theory is best which describes the field of the phenomena in question most accurately and embraces in its description the largest number of phenomena."
Sorokin proposed that we seek principles that grasp the ultimate reality of different types of cultural systems. The most important principle is the one on which the culture itself depends for its perception of ultimate reality. What source of information is given supreme validity by a culture for judging what is real? Sorokin argued that some cultures accept the foundation of truth or ultimate reality as supersensory and agree that the truths detected by our senses are illusionary. Others are the opposite: ultimate reality is revealed by our senses, and other forms of perception mislead and misdirect us. Different perceptions of ultimate reality shape a culture's institutions and form its essential character, meaning, and personality.
Along with viewing cultural systems as logical unities, Sorokin suggested they possess degrees of autonomy and self-regulation. Furthermore, the most important determinants of the character and direction of change in a system are found within the system. Hence, cultural systems contain immanent mechanisms of self-regulation and self-direction. The history of a culture is determined by its internal properties-that is, "Its life course is set down in its essentials when the system is born."92 Therefore, to understand sociocultural change, we should not rely on theories that emphasize external factors or on those that view change as driven by one element of a social system, such as economics, population, or religion. Change, instead, is the result of a system expressing its internal proclivities for development and maturation. Thus, our emphasis must be on internal unity and logico-meaningful organization.
With this in mind, Sorokin classified the forms of integrated culture. There are two main types, the Ideational and the Sensate, and a third, the Idealistic, which is formed from their mixture. Sorokin describes Sensate and Ideational cultures:
Each has its own mentality; its own system of truth and knowledge; its own philosophy and Weltanschauung; its own type of religion and standards of "holiness"; its own system of right and wrong; its own forms of art and literature; its own mores, laws, code of conduct; its own predominant forms of social relationships; its own economic and political organization; and, finally, its own type of human personality, with a peculiar mentality and conduct. In Ideational cultures, reality is perceived as nonmaterial, everlasting being. The needs and ends of individuals are spiritual and are realized through pursuits of supersensory truths. There are two subclasses of the Ideational mentality: Ascetic Ideationalism and Active Ideationalism. The ascetic form seeks spiritual ends through a denial of material appetites and a detachment from the world. In its extreme expression, the individual completely loses "self in the quest for oneness with the deity or ultimate value. Active Ideationalism seeks to reform the sociocultural world along the lines of increasing spirituality and toward the ends specified by its main value. Its bearers strive to bring others closer to God and their vision of ultimate reality.Sensate cultures are dominated by a mentality that views reality as that detected by our senses. The supersensory does not exist, and agnosticism shapes attitudes about the world beyond the senses. Human needs are met by modifying and exploiting the external world. Sensate culture is the opposite of Ideational in values and institutions. There are three forms of Sensate culture. The first is the Active Sensate, in which needs are satisfied by transforming the physical and sociocultural worlds. The great conquerors and merchants of history are examples of this mentality at work. The second is the Passive Sensate mentality, which meets needs by a parasitic exploitation of the physical and cultural world. The world exists simply to meet wants; therefore, eat, drink, and be merry. The Cynical Sensate will use all mechanisms to meet its wants. This mentality lacks strong values and follows any instrumental route to satisfaction.Many cultures fall between these extremes, and Sorokin judges them to be poorly integrated. An exception is the Idealistic culture. It is syntheses in which reality is many-sided and needs are both spiritual and material, with the former dominating. An unintegrated form of this type is the Pseudo-Idealistic culture, in which reality is mostly sensate and needs predominantly physical. Unhappily, needs are not well met, and privations are regularly endured. A group of primitive people are an example of this type.
Sorokin described in detail the ideal traits of each type. He discussed their social and practical values, aesthetic and moral values, system of truth and knowledge, social power and ideology, and the influences on development of the social self. However, he noted that no pure types exist. In some cultures one form predominates but simultaneously coexists with characteristics of the other types. Sorokin wanted to find actual cases of the forms of integrated culture. His quest spanned twenty-five hundred years. While concentrating on Greco-Roman and Western civilizations, Sorokin occasionally studied the Middle East, India, China, and Japan. He described in great detail trends and fluctuations in their art, scientific discoveries, wars, revolutions, truth systems, and other social phenomena. While avoiding a cyclical theory of change, Sorokin observed that cultural institutions move through Ideational, Sensate, and Idealistic periods, often separated by times of crisis in the transition from one to another.
Sorokin explained these changes as the result of the operation of Immanent Determinism and the Principle of Limits. By Immanent Determinism he meant that social systems, like biological ones, change according to their inherent potentialities. That is, the functioning dynamic organization of the system establishes the boundaries and potentialities of change. Systems, however, have limits. For example, as they become more and more Sensate, moving toward the Cynical Sensate, they reach the border, or limits, of their potential for expansion. In a dialectical fashion, the move toward the Sensate extreme produces Ideational countertrends that grow stronger as the system polarizes. These countertrends cause discord and disorganization and move the system toward a more Idealistic form. As dialectical changes reverberate through the culture, violence, revolutions, and wars increase as the culture attempts to adjust to a new configuration or structure. Consequently, the study of change should focus on internal organization (Immanent Determinism) and the realization that a system can go only so far in any particular direction (the Principle of Limits) before it starts to transform.
Dynamics is filled with data testing Sorokin's hypotheses in a variety of contexts and periods. Patterns of change in art, philosophy, science, and ethics were scrutinized in search of the principles that explained their transformations. In each case Sorokin found support for his theory. For example, his analysis of Greco-Roman and Western philosophical systems showed that up until 500 B.C. these systems were substantially Ideational. By the fourth century B.C. they were Idealistic, and from 300 to 100 B.C. they moved toward a period of Sensate domination. From the first century A.D. to A.D. 400 was a period of transition and crisis followed by a reemergence of Ideational philosophy from the fifth to the twelfth century. This was followed by an Idealistic period and another transition, which brings us to the domination of Sensate philosophy beginning in the sixteenth century and continuing to the present. The analysis proceeds in a similar manner for other social phenomena.
Patterns of war, revolution, criminality, violence, and legal systems are also analyzed. These, however, are mainly studied as phenomena of transitional periods. Sorokin resisted the temptation to tie wars and revolutions to either Sensate or Ideational cultures. Instead, his analysis shows that revolutions result from the loss of compatibility between basic values in a culture. The better integrated a culture, the greater the probability of peace. As value integration diminishes, unrest, violence, and criminality increase. Similarly, war demonstrates a breakdown of crystallized social relationships between nations. In his analysis of 967 conflicts, Sorokin showed that wars increase during periods of transition. These changes often make the value systems of affected societies incompatible. War results from the malintegration of these intercultural relationships.
Sorokin's analysis of Western societies concluded with some bold prognostications for the future:
The organism of the Western society and culture seems to ... be undergoing one of the deepest crises of its life. ... its depth is unfathomable, its end not yet in sight. ... It is the crisis of a Sensate culture, now in its overripe state. ... we are experiencing one of the sharpest turns in the historical road, a turn as great as any . . . made by the Greco-Roman and Western cultures in passing from Ideational to Sensate, and from Sensate to Ideational, phases. We have seen during the course of the present work quite definite signs of such a turn. Not a single compartment of our culture, or of the mind of contemporary man, shows itself to be free from the unmistakable symptoms. . . . The curves of painting, sculpture, music, literature; of movement of discoveries and inventions; of the "First Principles" of science, philosophy, religion, ethics, and law; up to those wars and revolutions-all make a violent turn as we approach our time. Shall we wonder, also, at the endless multitude of incessant minor crises that have been rolling over us, like ocean waves, during the last two decades? . . . Crises political, agricultural, commercial, and industrial! Crises of production and distribution. Crises moral, juridical, religious, scientific, and artistic. Crises of property, of the State, of the family, of industrial enterprise. . . . Each of the crises has battered our nerves and minds, each has shaken the very foundations of our culture and society, and each has left behind a legion of derelicts and victims. And alas! The end is not yet in view. Each of these crises has been, as it were, a movement in a great terrifying symphony, and each has been remarkable for its magnitude and intensity. Each movement has been played, during the last three decades, by enormous human orchestras, with millions of choruses, stage performers, and actors. In 1911 the four-hundred-million-piece Chinese orchestra began one of its first festivals...In 1914 a new brass band of many nations with hundreds of participants started its deadening "March Militaire: 1914-1918." The effects of this performance were appalling. The stage-the soil of this planet-was soaked with blood. Most of our values were poisoned by gas; others were blown to pieces by artillery. The very foundations of our society and culture cracked...Before this festival had ended, the Russian orchestra of some 160,000,000 virtuosi set forth its own variation entitled "Communist Revolution.". . . Dozens of other companies-Turkey and Hungary, Austria and Germany, Bulgaria and Rumania, Spain and Portugal, Italy and Poland, Japan and Arabia, Palestine and Egypt, Syria and Afghanistan-have also been giving their crisis festivals. ... If we turn our ears to Europe, we can hear, without the need of any short-wave radio, as many crisis festivals as we like. One day various fascists occupy the stage; another, communists, then the Hitlerites; then the Popular Front-red shirts and black shirts and brown shirts and silver shirts, and blue shirts and green shirts.
Sorokin ends his description of the Western crisis by observing:
We are seemingly between two epochs: the dying Sensate culture of our magnificent yesterday and the coming Ideational culture of the creative tomorrow. We are living, thinking, and acting at the end of a brilliant six-hundred-year-long Sensate day. The oblique rays of the sun still illumine the glory of the passing epoch. But the light is fading, and in the deepening shadows it becomes more and more difficult to see clearly and to orient ourselves safely in the confusions of the twilight.The night of the transitory period begins to loom before us and the coming generations. . .Beyond it, however, the dawn of a new great Ideational culture is probably waiting to greet the men of the future.Such, it seems to me, is the position we are at on the road of history. The evidence of all the preceding chapters points in this direction. And we find our conclusion in an irreconcilable contradiction with the other current diagnoses.Sorokin argued that the more optimistic scholars and politicians were misleading; so were those who argued, like Oswald Spengler, for cyclical theories of change: Finally, my thesis has little in common with the age-old theories of the life cycle of cultures and societies with its stages of childhood, maturity, senility, and decay. These conceptions have recently emerged once again in the works of Spengler and others. We have seen that in their cyclical form such theories are untenable. We can leave them to the ancient sages and their modern epigoni. Neither the decay of the Western society and culture, nor their death, is predicted by my thesis. What it does assert-let me repeat-is simply that one of the most important phases of their life history, the Sensate, is now ending and that we are turning toward its opposite through a period of transition. Such a period is always disquieting, grim, cruel, bloody, and painful. In its turbulence it is always marked by revival of the regressive tendencies of the unintegrated and disintegrated mentality. Many great values are usually thrown to the winds and trodden upon at such a time. Hence its qualification now as the great crisis. Crisis, however, is not equivalent to either decay or death, as the Spenglerites and cyclicists are prone to infer. It merely means a sharp painful turn in the life process of society. It does not signify the end of the traveled road or of the traveling itself. Western culture did not end after the end of its Ideational phase. Likewise, now when its Sensate phase seems to be ending, its road stretches far beyond the "turn" into the infinity of the future.96
Sorokin concluded Dynamics with the following injunction:
In the light of these considerations, my theory and diagnosis are truly optimistic. Le roi est mort, vive le roi! "In my Father's house are many mansions. . . . Verily, verily, I say unto you. ... ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. ... A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: But as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world."97
Here we see captured not only Sorokin's sense of the crises and the future but his preference for the Ideational phases of civilization over the Sensate, particularly in its passive and cynical forms. This preference often clouds Sorokin's assessment of change in art, philosophy, science, and other institutions of society. It also raised in the minds of many scholars serious criticisms of his work.