DU SOL BA 3rd Year History of Social Thought Notes Chapter 9 Pitirim Sorokin (1889—1968)

DU SOL BA 3rd Year History of Social Thought Notes Chapter 8 Max Weber (1864—1920)

Question 1.
Discuss Sorokin’s ideas regarding of sociology the nature and methodology of sociology.
What does Sorokin say about the subject matter of sociology ? Discuss
Sorokin was greatly influenced by the sociopolitical condition of his time in which he was substantially involved. His involvement in the revolutionary ideology in the Russia of his day, on the other hand, and his careful and successful study of society in its scientific mode of approach. at the Psycho-Neuiological Institute on the other, Sorokin’s experience necessarily resulted from the conflicting traditions of Russian intellectual history, viz,, populist idealism of the revolutionary party and positivistics and deterministic behaviourism of the scientific community.

Sorokin does not treat sociology as a special science but rather as a general science. He wrote, “Sociology is a generalizing science of socio cultural phenomena.”, For this opinon, Sorokin further writes, “Sociology, seems to be the study of the general characteristics common to all classes of social phenomena.” Thus for him the study of sociology comprises, “the study of the general characteristics common to all classes of social phenomena including a careful investigation of the relationship between social and non-social phenomena. He referred to general sociology as the study of those properties common to all socio-cultural phenomena and divided it into two parts  structural sociology which deals with the structure of social, cultural, and personality features of the superorganic  and dynamic sociology which investigates “(1) repeated social processes and change, together with the uniformities of the how and why ; (2) repeated cultural processes and change ; (3) the processes and changes of personality in its relationships with the social and cultural processes.”

Those common properties which are common to a given class of socio-cultural phenomena, constitutes the subject matter of special sociology, according to Sorokin. Thus, the properties which are common to all the phenomenas constitute the scope of sociology.

Sorokin, in his analysis of the definition of sociology, followed to an extent, the logic of Leon Petrazucki, ‘that if a particular social phenomena can be divided into n sub-classes there must be n+1 disciplines to study them, that is, n disciplines to study each of the sub-classes and one more to study that which is common to all of them.’

He went ahead to explain this -concept of generalising definition of sociology and hold that while, other social sciences such as economics, political science, study a particular sub-class of social phenomena, sociology studies society as a whole as well as the relationship between economy and society, state and society etc. Later Sorokin while bring a formal reform in his earlier, opinion, gave three special aspects open and susceptible to sociology and contended that sociology is the generalising theory of the structure and dynamics of – ‘(1) social systems and congeries ffunctionally inconsistent elements) ; (2) cultural systems and congeries ; and (3) personalities in their structural aspects, main types, inter-relationships, and personality processes.’

Sorokin emphasised the facts of social life in general and opined that, “sociology has been, is and will be a science of general characteristics of all classes of social phenomena, with the relationships and correlations between them, or, there will be no sociology.”

Question 2.
Examine Sorokin’s ideas about culture.
What are different forms of culture according to Sorokin ? Discuss.
Sorokin in his book on Social and Cultural Dynamics {1937—1941) discussed various aspects of culture and conceded that ‘no culture is ever fully integrated.’ At the same time he argued that each culture so long as it survives, will reveal the functioning of a few major concepts or ideas or meanings which makes each culture’s overall character or mood. He defined culture as, “the sum total of everything which is created or modified by the conscious or unconscious activity of two or more individuals interacting with one another or conditioning one another’s behaviour.”

Three Components. Sorokin formulated three components to his concept of culture, and maintained that each of these components W3s related, yet each distinctively identifiable. These are :

  1. Ideational Culture ;
  2. Sensate Culture ;
  3. Idealistic Culture.

1. Ideational Culture. In view of Sorokin, people in this – culture generally abide by the truth of faith, having belief in the idea that ‘behind sense impressions lies another, deeper reality’. Sorokin writes, “True value and true reality consist in a super-sensory, super-rational God.”
In his Social and Cultural Dynamics, Sorokin gives following characteristics of ideal culture :

  1. Reality is perceived as non-sensate and non-material, everlasting Being (Sein) ;
  2. the needs and ends are mainly spiritual;
  3. the extent of their satisfaction is the largest, and the level, highest;
  4. the method of their fulfilment or realisation is self-imposed minimisation or elimination of most of the physical needs, and to the greatest possible extent.

Ideational culture has further been divided by Sorokin into following two types :

1. The Principle of Cyclical Change. Sorokin rejected the view that ‘history never repeats itself (in reference to socio-cultural changes) and that no two cultural objects are ever the same’. On the contrary, Sorokin formulated that ‘socio-cultural phenomena’ are always ‘recurrent’ and also the process of change is of cyclical nature. wrote, “the great symphony of social life is “scored” for a countless number of separate processes, each proceeding in a wave like manner and recurring id space, in time, in both space and time, periodically or non-periodically, after long or short intervals. Briefly, or for an extensive time, in the same or in several social systems, a process moves in a certain quantitative or qualitative or spatial direction, or in all these directions, reaches its “point of saturation”, and then often reverses its movements.”

Advocating the direction of social change as ‘linear, Sorokin maintained that the general trend of social change is that of a linear advance upto a certain point at which time either a reversal of cultural advance or the setting in of cultural stagnation occurs. When there is ‘cultural reversal’ the cultural movement heads towards still ‘another point of cultural advancement facing once again the inevitability of reversal’. Thus the cultural changes reoccur in an oscillating fashion, between the sensate mentalities and the ideational mentalities. Thus, ‘this oscillating action necessarily fosters at mid-way between the extreme of sensuality and spirituality the appearance of the synthesis of idealistic mentalities’.

2. The Principle of Immanent Change. This principle explains the reason behind the ever-fluctuating nature of cultural changes. Sorokin writes, “Bearing the seeds of its change in itself, any socio-cultural system bears also in itself the power moulding its own destiny or life career. Beginning with the moment of emergence, each socio-cultural system is the main factor of its own destiny. This destiny, or the system’s subsequent life career, represents mainly an unfolding of the immanent potentialities of the system in the course of its ~6xistence.”

The Externalistic Theory of Change was not acceptable to Sorokin (this theory attributed change within particular social phenomenon, to factors external to it. Sorokin, Weber, accepted the factor of environment. He wrote, “the reason or cause of a change of any socio-cultural system is in the system itself, and need not be looked for anywhere else.” Accepting the impact of environment he said, “the environmental forces are not negligible, but their role consists essentially in retardation, or acceleration, facilitation or hindrance, reinforcement or weakening, of the realisation of the immanent potentialities of the system. They cannot however, change fundamentally the immanent potentialities of the system and its normal destiny in the sense of making the life career of an unfolding acron that of a cow, or vice-versa.”

When cultural systems attain their climax of optimum dominance, then these cultural systems become less and less capable of serving as an instrument of adaptation as an experience for real satisfaction of the needs of its bearers, and as a foundation for their social and cultural life.

3. The Principle of Limit. This principle speaks of limits to the variations in the socio-cultural phenomena. Sorokin writes, “Processes go on for some time without any appreciable change in their direction, but sooner or later the trend reaches its limit, and then the process turns aside into a new path.” Unreasonable (too much) Sensate freedom and unreasonable (too much) Ideational restraints generate opposition implications. Sorokin points out, “When immobility persists too long, social systems generate forces working for differentiation.” The possibilities for the variation of systems are very limited.

Sorokin successfully illustrated the dynamic rather than static quality of cultural change as well as integration. For him social reality is a constantly changing (oscillating) process the occurrence of which can be anticipated. ‘The process within socio-cultural system is, essentially of dialectical nature giving rise ‘first to this pre- ception of reality and then that one’. It has been expressed that ‘this dialectic is at the heart of his concept of the “principle of limits” – the rhythmic periodicity of socio-cultural change, and the concept of the principle of immanent change – the location of the major causes of change within a socio-cultural system rather than being explain to it’. Sorokin asserted that the highest level of integration of socio-cultural aspects and values are located in the society’s major social institutions.

With the to view explain social change, Pitirim Sorokin advanced a theory of ‘flux’ which is a derivative of cyclical theories. He viewed society as a “supersystem” that includes a social structure, culture, and groups of individuals. This supersystem is in a continual state of social change, unlike many of the theorists preceding him, Sorokin saw the possibility of societies changing in many different directions according to the values of the individuals within the system. Sorokin explained that societies may move back and forth from one type of “civilization” to another and that human beings have begun to gain the knowledge needed to control the direction of change.

To understand the flux of social change, students of sociology must first become acquainted with the various possible types of society that can exist. Sorokin supplies descriptions of three basic “civilization” – sensate, ideational, and idealistic – which exist only as “ideal types” and never in their pure forms.

Sensate culture exists when the mentality of its populace accepts as real only those things that can be perceived by the sense organs. Therefore, sensate civilizations are not interested in acquiring or seeking “absolute knowledge” and tend to use empiricism (observability) as the source of truth. Such cultures would probably be atheistic or agnostic because of a lack of a belief system that transcends the individual.

All the opposite characteristics typify the ideational culture. The adherents of the culture of an ideational civilization view reality in a spiritual sense. These civilizations are deeply religious in orientation, depend upon faith and revelation as sources of truth, and are not preoccupied with the empirical aspects of existence.

Sensate persons might want to gain knowledge about observable phenomena, so as to manipulate them for their own gratification, but ideational persons simply conform to existing patterns and conditions in this world and set their sights on the visionary prophecies of the “next world”. Reality in ideational culture, is everlasting and absolute.

Idealistic culture is a perfect blending of sensate and ideational types ; however, this third civilization is raised above the other two because of the addition of “reason” as a source of truth. Of course, for idealistic culture to exist, the elements of sensate and ideational culture must coexist in a harmonious fashion. This- creates an epistemological triangle within which societies can fluctuate.

To classify a society, one need only examine the works of its philosophers or its art forms, analyze them, and then categorize them according to the descriptions given above. However, the sociologist may find that a given civilization might not “fit” Sorokin’s scheme :

Simple arithmetical calculations result in findings that take the following form :‘ In the Nth century, “A” per cent of Western philosophy was sensate and “B” percent was idealistic. Such findings support Sorokin’s theory of social change, but they also demonstrate a limited possibility of quantifying data on cultural style.

A fourth type of culture must be imagined Sorokin’s system of thought, a mixed culture. Mixed culture would be a combination of sensate and ideational cultures without reason as a source of truth. Mixed culture would depend partly upon empiricism and partly on asceticism (faith) and would represent the midpoint of the line separating sensate and ideational cultures at the base of the triangle.

Sorokin believed that societies were continually “bouncing” back and forth between sensate the ideational civilizations, sometimes rising to great heights and nearly achieving idealistic culture and other times passing through mixed culture in a sort of schizophrenic fashion. Writing some time before his death in 1969, Sorokin observed that Western cultur had nearly reached the extreme of sensate culture and might begin to thru toward ideational mannerisms. This, of course, is speculation, and, in fact, many contemporary sociologists believe that all Sorokin’s theory regarding “culture types” or “civilization types” is highly speculative and geared more toward philosophy than toward sociology.

Question 4.
What are Sorokin’s ideas about Personality and Society ?
Personality and society are two closely related terms often one effecting and moulding the other. Sorokin spent much of his time in the area of personality studies n~d this research convinced him to emphasise in rather strong-wards, the influence of sociocultural environments in shaping the human personality. He held, personality is an indivisible part of society and society nor individual can survive in isolation. Sorokin writes, “Since individuals are the indispensable components of all social and cultural systems, their personalities obviously influence the framework of the social and cultural patterns ; on the other hand as we have seen, the super- oganic aspect of personality is not determined by or acquired from biological heredity.

It is moulded by social and cultural milieu. There is no other source for the social and cultural properties of the individual.” It clearly reveals that for Sorokin in the relationship between society and personality is intimate. An individual is according to Sorokins, a multi-faceted’ creature, not only related with society influenced deeply by his connexions with many other associations in society. Sorokin writes, “My thesis is that the individual has not one empirical soul, or self, or ego, but several; first biological and second social egos the individual has as many different social groups and strata with which he connected.”

Sorokin, carefully avoided a one-sided sociologistic interpretation of human behaviour – a danger Durkheim occasionally was not too careful to avoid—Sorokin was concerned particularly about the interdependent and interacting elements of the individual and personality on the one hand and society and culture on the other as integrated totalities or social wholes. Sorokin reflected his earnestness in emphasising upon the pluralism of ‘selves’ in individuals. This was seen by Sorokin as reflection of the pluralism of groups, and the multiple ‘social egos’ of the individuals were the outcome of his membership of various groups. It was also believed by Sorokin that the pattern of socio-cultural system produces ‘characteristic personality types’.

Sorokin points out three inseparable related components (reflecting the deep connection between personality and society).

These are –

  1. Personality as the subject of interaction
  2. Society as the totality of interacting personalities ; and
  3. Culture as the totality of the meanings, values, and norms possessed by the interacting personalities and the totality of the vehicles which objectify, socialise and convey these meanings.

Question 5.
Discuss Sorokin’s views on the Sociology of revolution.
Sorokin’s analysis of sociological aspects of revolution has the Russian revolution in the background. In his book, ‘The Sociology of Revolution : Social and Cultural (1925)’ he tries to explain the sociological aspects of revolution in very comprehensive terms.

Meaning of Revolution. Sorokin terms revolution a crime, and says that political revolution is nothing but a crime on a large scale. Pointing out the difference between crime and general and revolution, he writes, “If a revolution is confined to narrow limits it is regarded to be a general crime, while, on the other hand, a general crime on a large scale is regarded revolution”. Sorokin, considers crime of revolution as one of the wraths of God and has put it into the category of famine, epidemic, war etc. He tries to emphasise that a revolution is never in the interest of society.

Why Revolution ? The factors that give rise to revolutions are always present in a society. In the form of conflict among these contrary forces, with the absence of harmony among these conflicting elements, revolution results. Discussing the reasons for this dis-harmony Sorokin explains like some other psychologists Sorokin believes that the behaviour of man is guided more by sentiment than by reason and that instincts plays large part in the life of men. Now if the natural instincts become corrupted some reason, man is inclined towards crime and anti-social activity. This leads to disappearance of harmony leading to disorganization in the society and in disorganized society the criminal tendencies get maximum scope of expression. When revolution occurs in a society all old values and social laws become extinct. Anarchy rules over everything and peaceful tendencies are subdued. Rationality in the human behaviour is lost.

According to Sorokin a revolution is directly concerned with state control, insufficient state controlleads td revolution. Generally, state is indifferent to the seed of revolution and does precious little to nip in bud, the revolutionary tendencies in the society. The state’s attitude is relaxed and flabby until there is full blown revolution. Taking advantage of the flabby attitude of state, the revolutionary tendencies gain strength. The state’s bid to crush revolution when the activists have become strong leads to direct confrontation between the forces of state and the forces of revolution and when the revolutionary forces are strong a revolution succeeds otherwise crushed.

Effects of Revolution. Revolution affects every aspect of social organisation. ‘All norms of human conduct and thought, all processes of normal life come to an end at the time of revolution. The political fall out of revolution is that the ruling clique is thoroughly discredited and may even be divested pf property or done to death’. Sorokin explains that the individual property is looted by revolutionary activists and calls them as band of criminals. When revolution occurs, it gives serious and severe jolts to peace loving people and helps the anti social elements.

How to Check Revolution ? Sorokin emphatically states that in order to control revolution change in human nature is indicated. The selfish tendencies of man must be converted into altruistic tendencies. If altruistic tendencies in man develop, the seed of revolution would never find any suitable soil to grow. It is in the mud of gross selfish-ness that these seeds take root and grow. Thus Sorokin strongly recommends the attempts to modify the emotional nature of roan for checking and crushing a revolution. In this regard an early start is the most effective step.

Question 6.
Critically examine Sorokin’s views on social stratification.
Pitirim A. Sorokin is held as one of the most prominent of the analysts and theoreticians. In his analyse of Dynamics, he treats the concept of stratification as an inherent element in social systems. To Sorokin ‘Stratification is inevitable in a social system because of the needs of the social system itself, “because of physical and mental characteristics of human beings, and, because of environmental factors’. Sorokin discusses stratification in both its structural and dynamic aspects.

The Structural Aspect. Sorokin points out distinction between two types of differentiation, ‘one of which is that which merely notes individual differences and rank, and the other which evaluates the differences so noted. He argues that these are different from stratification which presupposes that a group of individuals is similarly differentiated and then, differentiations are similarly evaluated. He points out that stratification is real as well as quasi-real. To quote him, “The organised real strata usually are defined by the official law of the group, like the ranks of the Pope-Cardinal-Archbishops-Bishop hierarchy in the Church groups, like the Full-Associate-Assistant- Professor-Instructor grading in the university, and so on for other groups”.

In real and organised stratum, “individuals possessing the same position, rights, duties, functions etc., in the hierarchy of strata, and who therefore think, feel and act similarly so far as such similarity is imposed on them by the similarity of their stratum position. But because of their unorganised nature, they may not even be aware of their co-belonging to the same stratum. Sorokin discusses at length, the concept of class. He argues that class should not be confused with rank, unibonded or muitibonded human groups. A social class, according to Sorokin, must possess following characteristics :

‘It is (1) legally open, but actually semi-closed; (2) ‘normal’; (3) solitary ; (4) antagonistic to certain other groups (social classes) of the same general nature,..(5) partly organized but mainly quasi-organised. (6) Partly aware of its own unity and existence and partly not; (7) characteristic of the western society of the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries ; (8) a muitibonded group bound together by two unibonded ties, occupational and economic…and by one bond of social stratification in the sense of the totality of its essential rights and duties’.

Sorokin opined that the social groups constitute the beast of every society, and for analytical purposes suggested following inter-related characteristics of social groups :

  1. each group is characterised by a central set of meanings or ideas or values;
  2. the central set of ideas and values must be consistent within itself—a principle closely approximating a theorem held by many functionalists.
  3. these consistent ideas and values assume the form of norms to be followed by the group members and finally ;
  4. these norms are ‘law norms’ must be effective, and therefore eventually enforceable.

Sorokin’s General Proposition about stratification. Sorokin conducted extensive research and on the vast data at his disposal, he pointed out following general propositions regarding social stratification :

  1. There has scarcely been any society whose strata were absolutely closed, or in which vertical mobility was not present in its forms—economic, political and occupational.
  2. There have never existed a society in which vertical social mobility has been absolutely free and the transition from one stratum to another has had no resistance.
  3. The intensiveness, as well as the generality of the vertical social mobility, varies from society to society.
  4. The intensiveness and the generality of the vertical mobility, the economic, the political and the occupational, fluctuate in the same society at different time.
  5. In the field of vertical mobility, in its three fundamental either an increase or a decrease of the intensiveness of generality or mobility. Thus Sorokin attributed social stratification to hereditary differences and environmental conditions.

Question 7.
Discuss briefly Sorokin’s contribution to the social thought.
Critically evaluate Sorokin’s social ideas.
Sorokin’s Contribution. Sorokin, undoubtedly is one of the greatest social thinkers. He contributed to the history of social thought many ideas and’ concepts and brought glory to Russia by producing magnificent analytical studies relating to social phenomena.

Sorokin, unlike his colleagues (in the field of social thought) did not ignore the most important philosophical issues and in addition to raising these issues he also revealed the ‘inescapable presence of these issues in the scientific as well as philosophical study of man and society. He did hot narrow or limit the scope of the study, rather he developed comprehensive theories of varied implications.

Sorokin is hailed as the true successor to Auguste Comte, Emile Durkheim and Kroptokin ; respectively because of his following studies :

  1. His studies and interest in the social consensus (like Comte).
  2. His contributions in the field of social solidarity (like Durkheim) and
  3. His in depth analysis and research into the concept of mutual aid. .

Pitirim A. Sorokin’s contribution to philosophy has been sum-marized by Ford as under :

‘Sorokin recognized the role of values and meanings directly. While holding to consistent concepts of “meang” and “value” on a socio-cultural level, he has effectively demonstrated their use in widely varying empirical fields. Using his tremendous knowledge of the historical social theories and the empirical studies of the day, Sorokin was able to demonstrate to value-free and meaning-free scholars in social science that their paths are variously blind or circular, and then hopes of avoiding the crucial issues illusory. While the so called value-free social scientists may scoff at his hopes for “creative altruism” in the “reconstruction of humanity”, few would doubt today the depth and seriousness of the “crisis of our age” which Sorokin delineated so ably.’ This is a prelude to Sorokin’s great contribution to sociology.

Despite severe criticism of philosophical bent of Sorokin’s social ideas, in recent years sociologists have started appreciating his systematic approach to the study of social change in general and the effect of war and revolution in such changes in particular.

Question 8.
Explain Sorokin’s thesis that social system is characterised by Logico-Meaningful Integration.
Discuss critically the philosophical orientation of Sorokin.
Sorokin in his early phases, was interested in philosophizing about the nature of man and reality. It was opined by him that total reality is a manifold infinite which transcends any single perspective. This clearly establishes that Sorokin was an agnostic but not an atheist. Sorokin proposes “integralist” conception of truth which is not identical with sensate, ideational or idealistic truth, but embraces all of them. According to Sorokin, “Each of the systems of truth, within its legitimate field of competency, gives us genuine cognition of the respective aspects of reality.” Such a position creates communication related problems besides other difficulties of a logical nature.

Sorokin’s sociological and philosophical position is considered as the integralist school and he expounded it in his ‘Society, Culture and Personality (1947)’. In his book Sorokin argued that reality of a supra-individual socio-cultural sort is objectified in material and other vehicles but it can not be reduced to the physical alone because the socio-cultural phenomena are integrated in cohesive fashion by their meaning structure. Sorokin, in his principle of Immanant change, discusses why no social and cultural system is static for any period of time.

Sorokin treates society as a socio-cultural system and points out that integration of the various elements present in the general frame- .work. Integration constitutes the vital point in the philosophical system of-Sorokin. He writes that meaningful socio-cultural systems are integrated and they function and change in important parts as a whole and in togetherness”. He argues that, ceteris paribus (other things remaining constant or equal) the highest amount of self determination belongs to those social and cultural systems which are most perfectly integrated casually and meaningfully.

Sorokin specifies four basic types of integration of some cultural systems: –

1. There is integration by “spatial or mechanical adjacent congeries.” These are compared to “a damp in which are fragments of a great variety of objects”.

2. Integration through “indirect association through a common external factor.”

3. Functional integration which is examplified by the relation of parts of a functioning automobile to one another. According to Sorokin, the relationships and parts, have “tangible, noticeable, testifiable, direct interdependence of the variables or parts upon one another and upon the whole system”.

4. The logico-meaningful integration “is integration in its supreme form”. Sorokin explains that it is illustrated by “the inner consistency and supreme integration of the Cathedral of Charters, or the Gregorian chart, of the musical composition of Bach or Mozart or Beethoven tragedies of Shakespeare, or the sculpture of Phidias, or the pictures of Duerer…” What it is not illustrated by a “highly developed ascetic monastic life and materialistic sensate philosophy”, side by side in the same cultural conglomeration, or by the strictest caste system and the equilitarian ideadology shared by all castes in the same cultural area.

Sorokin’s logico-meaningful integration is characteristically treated as a pointer ‘to what it is not’. Among the sensate systems, according to Sorokin, “true reality and true value is sensory , beyond the reality value perceived by our sense organs there is no other reality and no value”.

Sarokin argued that there is possibility of only five or six main integrated systems of truth. These are based on :

  1.  faith
  2. reason
  3. the senses ;
  4. their idealistic synthesis, and
  5. an “integrated, sceptical and antagonistic or critical system”

Sorokin also argues that there can not be more than five integrated forms because of the above five possible main integrated systems of truth. They are :

  1. The ideational premise that true reality is super-sensory ;
  2. The sensate premise, that is sensory ;
  3. The idealistic premise that the two aspects are integrated and inseparable;
  4. The Skeptical premise that is unknown and unknowable  and
  5. That it is “known only in its phenomenal aspect, while in its intrascendental aspect (if it has such an aspect) it is unknowable the premise of Hume Kants’ Criticism and Agnosticism”’

Sorokin further explains that because of the limited possibilities of integrated systems, the three major systems of truth and reality – Ideational, Sensate and Idealistic – recur in any long-standing culture leading to the super-rhythms in historic social change’. According to Sorokin, the historical process of change is manifested with lack of direction or purpose and this change is related” to a man who is “circling in various directions without any definite goal or point of arrival”. Sorokin also points out that sensate systems are less viable and that “a considerable proportion of idealism is a prime requisite for the durable existence of society”.

Sorokin accepted the moral philosophies of great saints and mystics and put trust in the ‘truth of faith’. He believes that the “truth of faith, derived from and based upon intuition, is the genuine truth as much as the truth is the senses and of reason”.

Question 9.
What is Sorokin’s concepts of social mobility ?
What does Sorokin opine about social mobility ? Discuss critically.
Sorokin’s social and cultural Mobility is considered as a classic in the field of sociological studies. The study of Social Mobility is one of the greatest contributions of Sorokin in the analysis of social dynamics. Social Mobility was termed by Sorokin to signify the dynamics of social stratification. Sorokin defined social mobility as “any transition of an individual or social object or value anything that has been created or modified by human activity from one social position to another.” Thus, social mobility is “to find the position of a man or a social phenomenon in social space means to define his or its relations to other men or other social phenomena chosen as the ‘point of reference’. Sorokin, in his study of transition of human beings from one social level to another, discovered that social mobility through the stratified structures of society occur in two types. These are (*) horizontal and (ii) vertical.

Horizontal. This is the social mobility involving the transition of an individual or social object from one group to another which occupies the same level. Thus under horizontal movement we are concerned with the movement from one social position to another situated on the same level, as for example membership in comparable religious tradition. Thus though mobility has taken place from the individuals point of view, but without any fall or rise in status.

Vertical Mobility. This form of mobility refers to individuals transition from one social stratum to one higher or lower upon the social scale sue!’ as an advance upper working class from the lower middle class or vice versa. Thus vertical mobility signifies qualitative movement. According to Sorokin it is in two forms. “The case of individual infiltration into an existing higher stratum or of individuals dropping from a higher social layer into a lower one are relatively common and comprehensible. They need no explanation. The second form of social ascending and descending, the rise and fall of k groups, must be considered more carefully.”

Sorokin endeavoured to locate the media of vertical mobility and analysed mechanisms of social selection and the distribution of persons in different social strata, as well as the “channels”, “elevators” or “holes” which permit individuals ascend or descend from one stratum to another. Sorokin points out that in the history of humanity, the family, army, church, school, political, economic and professional organisations have been the main channels which permit individual to move up and down the social ladder from stratum to stratum. These same channels are also the “sieves” which test and sift, select and distribute the individuals within different social strata or positions”’ Some of these, such as school and family, have the function of testing for the genery qualities of the person, such as intelligence, health and social characteristics. Some others, such as occupational organisations, test for the specific qualities of individuals necessary for successful performance of various functions in the society. Western society has also exhibited an extensive amount of horizontal mobility.

Effects of Mobility on Social System. One of the effects of mobility on social system is that “behaviour becomes more elastic and versatile”. “Increase of mobility tends to refuse narrow-mindedness and occupational and other idiosyncracies”. “Mobility facilitates inventions and discoveries.” “Mobility, under some conditions, facilitates a better and more adequate social distribution than in an immobile society”. At the same time it is said that “Mobility tends to increase mental strain”. “Mobility diminishes intimacy and  increase psycho-social isolation and loneliness of individuals.”

Question 10.
Discuss Sorokin’s views on the modalities of interaction.
What are the types of relationship that appear during the social interaction in the society ? Discuss.
Sorokin firmly believed that interaction must be the single most important and determinative unit in terms of which social phenomena should be analysed. Sorokin defined social interaction without any reference to culture. Protesting against this tendency Sorokin wrote, “tripped of their meaningful aspects, all the phenomena of human interaction become merely biophysical phenomena and, as such, properly form the subject of the bio-physical sciences”. For him interaction is a casual-functional process.

Sorokin, while defining interaction, writes, “any event by which one party tangibly influences the overt action or the state of mind of the other”. He further explained that, ‘in its developed forms, the superorganic is found exclusively in the realm of interacting human beings and in the products of their interaction.’ He developed a specialised type of interaction termed it as socio-cultural interaction and put forth a restricted meaning of the term, saying that, “the most generic model of any socio-cultural phenomena is the meaningful interaction of two or more human individuals.

Components of Socio-cuitural interaction. According to Sorokin, interaction has following three components : “1. Thinking, acting and reacting human beings as subjects of interaction ; 2. meaning, values and norms for the sake of which the individuals interact, realizing and exchanging them in the course of interaction; 3. overt actions and material phenomena as vehicles or conductors through which immaterial meanings, values and norms are objectified and socialized”. Sorokin mentions following three interrelated components of socio-cultural interaction : “1. Personality as the subject of interaction ; 2. Society as the totality of interacting personalities ; and 3. culture as the totality of the meanings, values, and norms possessed by the interacting personalities and the totality of the vehicles which objectify, socialize and convey these meanings”.

1. Familistic Relationships. Sorokin maintains these relation-ships as ideal and based on mutual love, sacrifice and devotion among the members of the family. Characteristics of this type of relationships are : “(a) predominantly solidary; (b) total or broad in extensity; (c) of high intensity; (d) durable; (e) direct; (f) mutual, or two. sided; (g) marked by the fundamental, normative, and purposive types of motivation, all working harmoniously with one another; (h) based upon a deep sense of the socio-cultural oneness of the parties; (i) possessing leadership or government that is natural and spontaneous and truly paternalistic with a leader who is merely a primus inter pares”.

Sorokin pointed out that familistic relationships are ‘all-embrac-ing, all-forgiving and all-bestowing, and involve a fusion of the ego into ‘we’.

2. Contractual Relationships. Sorokin wrote, “In almost every contractual variety of mixed relationship the main motivation of solidarity is one of the purposive, implicitly egoistic, utilitarian type, often supplemented and moderated by the legal normative motivation”. The contractual relationships by their very nature limited and specified and only a portion of the lives of the members are covered under it. It is self-centred and instrumental, each party trying to take maximum advantage of it. In the modern days societies, these relationships occur in the field of commerce and trade.

3. Compulsory Relationships. This type of relationship bears the ingredient of antagonism which may be mild or even intense. Explaining the nature of compulsory relationship, Sorokin wrote, “It may be rooted in the fundamental, the normative, or the purposive type of motivation or in a combination of all three.” The relationship between leader and follower is a typical example.

Sorokin differs from Durkheim and Weber on the issue of the rule of individuals personality. According to him, “The immediate and most decisive factors of either solidarity or antagonism of the interacting parties are –

  • the character of their law and ethical convictions ;
  • the concordance or discordance of the law and moral convictions of each party with those of the others ;
  • the degree to which these norms are consistently and adequately practised by the overt actions and vehicles of the parties”.

He opposed the behaviouralistic approach in his ‘Society, Culture and Personality’ “all the phenomena of human interaction become merely biophysical phenomena and as such, properly form the subject of the biophysical sciences.”

Thus, Sorokin’s definition of interaction necessarily focussed upon human conduct that influences others and derive the proposition that any group of interacting individuals is first of all a causal- functional unity in which aH components are mutually and tangibly interdependent.

DU SOL BA 3rd Year History of Social Thought Notes

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