Contemporary sociological


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Contemporary sociological 

theories 



Sorokin, Pitirim Aleksandrovich, 1889-1968 

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Book 

To My Wife 



ACKNOWLEDGMENT 

For friendly criticism and stimulation the author is indebted to 

Professor F. Stuart Chapin. For encouragement, to the 

distinguished sociologists, Professors Franklin H. Giddings and 

Edward A. Ross. For help in the preparation of the manuscript he 

is obliged to Professors Ross L. Finney and Carl C. Zimmerman. 

For an effort to bring out a German edition of the book, to a 

prominent professor of the University of Berlin, Dr. R. Thurnwald, 

and Dr. H. Kasspohl. A readiness to render help requested on the 

part of the distinguished scholars of Europe and Russia, L. von 

Wiese in Germany, Gaston Richard in France, Corrado Gini in 

Italy, Adolfo Posada in Spain, Ivan Pavlov and E. V. Spectorsky in 

Russia, is gratefully acknowledged. The author offers his sincere 

thanks to the International Institute of Sociology, the International 

Institute of Sociology and Social Reforms, to the German and 

Ukrainian Sociological Societies, and to the Czecho-Slovakian 

Academy of Agriculture for the honor of membership granted to 

him. The Staff of the Library of the University of Minnesota, by its 

unfailing service, has greatly helped the composition of the book. 

Finally, and last but not least, to the students of the author's 

classes and seminars he is indebted for many a happy moment in 

mutual scientific work. Minneapolis, October, 1927 

EDITOR'S INTRODUCTION 


Students of sociological theory are prone to fall into two 

contrasting types of error; either they accept speculative 

explanations of social phenomena with credulity, or they dismiss 

all theorizing as unscientific escapes from the hard reality of 

laborious research. Professor Sorokin's book is a sound antidote 

for both extremes. 

By assembling quantitative data on social phenomena from an 

amazing variety of reputable sources, he confronts unfounded 

speculation w^ith cold facts, and provides the student with 

tangible criteria for evaluating theory. By exhibiting time and again 

the recurrence of type theories, he shows how necessary it is for 

the research student to take pains to inform himself about the 

works of other students before plunging into fact-gathering and 

then drawing inferences which he naively considers are original 

with himself. In these two respects the present book is a 

substantial corrective for these most egregious forms of'error 

often found in the works of contemporary social scientists. 

The book is quite unique among works on social theory because 

of the enormous amount of factual and quantitative data 

assembled as the test of theories that various writers have 

expounded, and which so often are content to rest their validity on 

distinctions of a purely verbal sort. Professor Sorokin has no 

patience with what may be termed ''substitute speech reactions." 

If young students of sociology will read this book with care they 

will save themselves much wasted time in following theories that 

are mere "painful elaborations of the obvious," and incidentally 

discover how pure speculative theorizing leads unerringly to 

logical contradiction and fallacy. 

Aside from the characteristics just mentioned, this book is a 

contribution to the scientific literature of sociology in that it deals 

primarily with contemporary theories. Earlier theoretical 


conceptions are considered only as it becomes necessary to link 

up 


the present with the past to preserve a balanced sense of 

historical perspective. 

Serious students of the other social sciences, anthropology, 

economics, history and political science, will find this work a 

useful addition to their libraries, and a demonstration of the values 

and limitations of contemporary sociological theories. In this 

connection the work has real synthetic significance. 

F. Stuart Chapin 

CHAPTER PAGE 

ness cycles and the rhythm of economic life. 9. Geographical 

environment and race. 10. Geographical conditions and health. 

11. Climate and human energy and efficiency. 12. Climate and 

mental efficiency. 13. Climate and suicide. 14. Climate and 

insanity. 15. Climate and crime. 16. Climate and birth, death, and 

marriage rates. 17. Geographic conditions and religion, art, and 

literature. 18. Geographic conditions and social and political 

organization of society. 19. Climate and genius and the evolution 

of civilizations. 

IV Biological Interpretation of Social Phenomena: 

Bio-Organismic School 195 

1. Principal types of biological theories in sociology. 

2. Bio-organismic school and its relation to other organic theories. 

3. Predecessors. 4. Contemporary bio-organismic theories in 

sociology. 5. Criticism. 6. Biological and social differentiation. 7. 

Critical remarks. 


V Anthropo-Racial, Selectionist, and Hereditarist 

School 219 

I. Predecessors. 2. Historical-philosophical branch of the school: 

A. de Gobineau and H. S. Chamberlain. 

3. The Racial-anthropometrical branch of the school: G. V. de 

Lapouge and O. Ammon. 4. Biometric branch of the school: 

Francis Galton and Karl Pearson. 5. Other anthropo-racial

hereditarist, and selectionist interpretations of social phenomena. 

6. Criticism of the school. 7. Valid principles of the school. 8. 

General conclusions. 

VI Sociological Interpretation of the "Struggle for 

Existence" and the Sociology of War .... 309 I. General 

characterization of the branch. 2. Uncertainty of the meaning of 

"the struggle for existence" in biological and sociological literature. 

3. Forms of the struggle for existence, and their modification in 

the course of human history. Criticism. 4. Social functions and the 

effects of war and struggle: war's selections ; war's effects on the 

health of the population; influence of war on vital processes and 

economic phenomena; war as a means of expansion for solidarity 

and peace; the moral effects of war; influence of war on political 

organization; war, revolution, and reform movements; war and 

social mobility; war and change of opinions, attitudes, and 

dispositions; influence of war on science and arts; g-eneral 

conclusion about the effects of war. 5. 

CHAPTER PAGE 

War's factors. 6. General conclusion about biological sociology. 

VII Bio-Social Branch; Demographic School 357 


I. Predecessors. 2. Adolphe Coste. 3. Size and density of the 

population and vital processes; death and birth rates and growth 

of population. 4. Size and density of population and migration. 5. 

Demographic conditions and war. 6. Demographic factors and 

revolution. 

7. Demographic factors and economic phenomena: technique of 

production, forms of ownership and possession, and economic 

prosperity. 8. Size and density of population correlated with the 

forms of social organization : social stratification, differentiation, 

and segregation ; family organization. 9. Demographic factors 

correlated with forms of political and social institutions. 10. Size 

and density of population correlated with inventions and men of 

genius. 11. Demographic factors correlated with mores and 

customs. 12. Demographic factors correlated with other 

ideological phenomena: language, religion, mysticism, 

equalitarian ideology. 13. Demographic factors correlated with the 

progress and decay of societies. 

Mil SocioLOGiSTic School 433 

I. General characteristics of the school. 2. Predecessors. 3. 

Sociologistic interpretations of De Roberty, Espinas, Izoulet, 

Draghicesco, Cooley and others. 4. Durkheim and his school. 5. 

Gumplowicz, Op-penheimer, and others. 

IX Sociologistic School: The Formal School and a 

Systematics of Social Relationship 488 

I. The characteristics of the school and its leading 

representatives. 2. Criticism. 3. The formal systematics of social 

processes and human relationship in contemporary sociology. 

X Sociologistic School: Economic Branch 514 



I. Predecessors. 2. K. Marx and F. Engels: their theories, 

interpretation and criticism, 3. Contemporary studies of the 

correlation between various economic conditions and other social 

phenomena. 4. The economic conditions and bodily and mental 

characteristics of population. 5. Economic conditions and vital 

processes. 6. Economic conditions, suicide, pauperism, and 

crime. 7. Economic conditions and migration. 

8. Economic conditions, social organization, and institu- 

CHAPTER PAGE 

tions. 9. Economic conditions, including the technology of 

production, and forms of social organization and political 

institutions. 10. Economic conditions, strikes, disorders, and 

revolutions. 11. Economic conditions, and various political 

phenomena and attitudes. 12. Economic conditions and 

ideologies, religion, and arts. 13. Economic conditions, and decay 

or progress of a society. 14. General conclusions of the economic 

school in sociology. 

XI Psychological School 600 

1. Predecessors and principal branches of the school. 

2. Instinctivist interpretations. 3. Behaviorist interpretations. 4. 

Interpretations in terms of desires, conations, pain and pleasure, 

interests, wishes, wants, volitions, and attitudes. Criticism. 

XII PSYCHO-SOCIOLOGISTIC THEORIES OF ReLIGION, 

MoRES, 


Law, Public Opinion, Arts, and Other Cultural 

Phenomena as Factors 660 



I. Beliefs, magic, myths, superstitions, ideologies, and religion as 

a factor: predecessors, and contemporary theories. Max Weber's 

sociology of religion. Criticism. 2. Social role of folkways, mores, 

and customs. 

3. Social functions of law. 4. Public opinion and propaganda, as 

factors. 5. Other cultural agencies. 6. General conclusion. 

XIII Other Psycho-Sociologistic Studies of the Correlation 

Between Various Psycho-Social 

Phenomena and Their Dynamics 712 

I. Studies of a correlation between family or home, and other 

social phenomena. 2. Studies of the correlation between the 

character of a neighborhood and other social phenomena. 3. 

Studies of the influence of occupation, and occupational 

correlation. 4. Studies of the effects of urban and rural 

environment. 5. Studies of psychosocial types of individuals and 

groups, and the correlations between the psychological traits and 

social affiliations of individuals. 6. Studies in a correlation of 

leadership and intelligence with a number of social groups 

participated in and with a social shifting. 7. Studies of conditions 

which facilitate interindividual and intergroup sympathy and 

repellence. 8. Studies of the fluctuations, rhythms, and cycles of 

social processes. 

9. Studies of the velocity of change of various parts of culture, and 

the closeness of a correlation between them. 

10. Studies in migration, diffusion, and mobility of cul- 

CHAPTER PAGE 

tural objects, features, values and individuals. ii. Studies of 

sudden, cataclysmic, revolutionary, and catastrophic changes. 12. 

Beginning of the stage of experimental sociology. 13. Conclusion 


about special studies. 14. Conclusion about the sociologistic and 

psychological school. 

XIV Conclusion : Retrospect and Prospect 757 

To-day's status of sociological field. Its ^'weeds'' and "sterile 

flowers." Real subject-matter of sociology and definition of 

sociology as a science. 

Index 763 

INTRODUCTION 

Object of the Book. 

This book deals with the sociological 



theories of the last sixty or seventy years. Its objective is to survey 

the principal types of these theories and to find to what extent 

they are scientifically valid. All other approaches to a study of the 

theories, such as, for instance, why a certain theory is set forth by 

a certain author, or why it has become popular, or what is the 

personality of an author, are intentionally excluded. The reason is 

that the first task may be solved independently from the others. 

Moreover, it is impossible to embrace in one book all the possible 

approaches to the study of sociological thought. This book deals 

with the character and the validity of the theories, but does not 

deal with their authors. So much for this point. 

Reasons for Its Writing and Publication. 

In the opinion of the 



writer, the primary task of a scholar is to deal with facts rather 

than theories. If, however, disregarding this, he writes a book 

about other books, he does it because he has several reasons. In 

the first place we do not have any single book which gives a 

concise survey of all the principal sociological theories of the 

period mentioned. \Vt have many an excellent monograph about a 

certain problem or a sociologist, but all such cover only a small 

part of the whole field.^ We have several valuable works in the 

history of sociological thought," but they pay inadequate attention 


to the last period of sociology. There are many valuable essays in 

the history of the sociology of a certain country for the last few 

decades,^ but again, they cover only a part of the field. 

' They are indicated further. 

^ See the text of the book. 

3 For America see Sm.\ll, Albion, "Fifty Years of Sociology in the 

United States," American Journal of Sociology, May, 1916; 

Barnes, H. E., "American Psychological Sociology," The 

Sociological Review for 1922, 1924, 1925; Gillin, John L., 

Presidential Address in Publications of the American Sociological 

Society, Vol. XXI. For England, Barnks, M. E., " English 

wSociology," in Publications of the American Sociological Society, 

Vol. XXI. For Germany, Vierkandt, A., " Die Ubervvindung des 

Posilivismus in der deiitschen Soziologie der Gegenwarl," 

Jahrbuch fiir Soziologie, Vol. II; Barth, P., Die Philosophie der 

Geschichte als 

Finally, even such valuable works as P. Earth's Die Philosophic 

der Geschichte als Soziologic, or F. Squillace's Le dottrine sociol-

ogiche, or M. Kovalevsky's Contemporary Sociologists (in 

Russian), or H. E. Barnes' The New History and the Social 

Studies, or papers of F. H. Hankins in H. E. Barnes' The History 

and Prospects of the Social Sciences, and of Charles A. Ellwood 

in E. C. Hayes' Recent Developments in Social Sciences, are 

either not translated into English, or are not up to date, or deal 

with the historical rather than the sociological aspect of the 

theories, or else they are too short to give a sufficient account of 

the principal schools in contemporary sociology. The situation is 

such that the writer has found difficulty in obtaining any book 

suitable as a text for the graduate students in his course in 

Contemporary Sociological Theories. Such a situation is the first 

excuse for the publication of the book. 


In the second place, the field of sociology has grown to such an 

extent that, for a sociologist who is devoted to a study of a special 

sociological problem, it is extremely difficult to have an adequate 

knowledge of the whole field of the science. Being absorbed in his 

special study, he does not have time to go through the hundreds 

of various sources where information about the theories is given. 

Meanwhile, some approximate knowledge of the general situation 

in contemporary sociology is necessary for any sociologist. Not 

knowing that a certain theory has been developed long ago, or 

that a certain problem has been carefully studied by many 

predecessors, a sociologist may easily devote 

Soziologie, Leipzig, 1922, Vol. II; von Wiese, L., "German 

Sociology," The Sociological Review, Vol. XIX, No. i; Brinkmann, 

Carl, "German Sociology," Publications of the American 

Sociological Society, Vol. XXL For Italy, Michels, Robert, 

"Elemente zur Soziologie in Italien," Kolner Vierteljahrshefte filr 

Soziologie, III Jahrgang, 4 Heft, translated and published in 

Revue International de Sociologie and in Suspilstvo, Vol. III-IV. 

For France, see Duprat, G. L., "La psycho-sociologie en France," 

Archiv fiir Geschichte der Philosophie und Soziologie, Vol. XXX, 

Heft i and 2; Faucounet, P., "Durkheim Sociological School," The 

Sociological Review, Vol. XIX, No. i. For Russia, Sorokin, P., "Die 

Russische Soziologie in Zwanzigsten Jahrhundert," Jahrbuch fiir 

Soziologie, Vol. II, translated and published in Suspilstvo, Vol. III-

IV, and in an abbreviated form in Publications of the American 

Sociological Society, Vol. XXI; Hecker, J., The Russian Sociology, 

N. Y., 1915. For Czechoslovakia, Blaha, Arnost, "Die 

zeitgenossische tschechische Soziologie," Jahrbuch fiir 

Soziologie, Vol. II. These \vorks are only representative samples 

of the studies of this type. 

his time and energy to the discovery of a new sociological 

America after it was discovered long ago. Instead of a 

comfortable crossing of the scientific Atlantic in the short period of 


time necessary for the study of what has been done before, such 

a sociologist has to undergo all the hardships of Columbus to find, 

only after his time and energy are wasted, that his discovery has 

been made long ago, and that his hardships have been useless. 

Such a finding is a tragedy for a scholar, and a waste of valuable 

ability for society and sociology. As a rule, explorers do not 

receive anything for such ''discoveries." Meanwhile, if the energy 

and time had been given to the study of an unexplored part of the 

sociological field, sociology might have been enriched, and 

society would have received something from its scholar. This 

consideration is not a mere possibility, but a real situation which 

has happened many times. For this reason the books which give 

a general survey of the whole field of a certain science are not 

entirely useless. 

In the third place, sociology has not suffered during the period 

mentioned from a lack of various theories. They have been 

produced in a great abundance, and have been appearing like 

mushrooms after rain. At the present moment the field of 

sociology is overcrowded by a multitude of various and 

contradictory systems. Every novitiate who enters the field is likely 

to be lost in it, and what is more important, such a novitiate has 

the greatest difficulty in discriminating between what in all these 

theories is valid and what is false. Therefore, one of the most 

urgent tasks of the contemporary sociologist is to separate what is 

really valid from that which is false or unproved in these theories. 

Such a separation is likely to be as necessary as the setting forth 

of a new hypothesis. Providing that it is done carefully, a critical 

analysis of the contemporary sociological theories may be of a 

real service to the science of sociology. This task is attempted in 

the book and is its primary purpose. A lack of space has not 

permitted me to criticize the theories in detail; nevertheless, the 

critical remarks are so developed as to suggest to a thoughtful 

reader the principal shortcomings of a theory or hypothesis. Not 



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