Tag Archives: Pitirim Sorokin

further reflections on Shostakovich’s seventh (and what Virgil Thomson had to say); дальнейшие размышления о седьмом Шостаковиче (и что должен был сказать Вирджил Томсон)

 

 

The following comments of mine were prompted by a recent, rather wishy washy review by New York Times music critic Anthony Tommasini of Dmitri Shostakovich’s seventh symphony:

 

“At the Philharmonic, a Screaming Reflection on War”

By Anthony Tommasini

The New York Times

November 30, 2018

 

 

Excerpts from the Tommasini review follow, along with comments of my own that I made in a letter to a friend. (My comments are in boldface.)

 

— Roger W. Smith

   December 2018

 

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Shostakovich’s “Leningrad” Symphony is a sprawling score that heaves, blasts, marches and meanders for nearly 80 minutes. Written in 1941, while Hitler’s forces were devastating Leningrad in a siege that would last 900 days and take at least a million lives, the work practically screams, “This is a big statement!”

And scream it did on Thursday at Geffen Hall, where Jaap van Zweden led the New York Philharmonic in a performance of the “Leningrad” that was intense and powerful — sometimes overly so.

Shostakovich began composing this symphony, his seventh, before the German invasion. Debates continue over whether he intended it as a grim portrait of a historic city under siege, or as a more general cry against tyranny. Are there coded, anti-Stalinist messages in the piece? And are those long stretches of militaristic-sounding marches bitterly ironic?

I am aware of divergence of critics on these points.

Mr. van Zweden seemed to take the piece at face value — in the best sense. He laid out this shifting score clearly, letting it speak for itself. He pushed the orchestra to blaring extremes at times, but the excessiveness of the music may call for that. (Critics who question the symphony’s merits, including Virgil Thomson, have found it obvious and steeped in banality.)

I wonder about this. Thomson is not NECESSARILY wrong, but I know the seventh well and find much to admire in it.

From the Philharmonic strings, Mr. van Zweden drew a dark, deep tone in the opening theme: a stern yet elusive melodic line, played in unison, that is soon goaded by bursts of drums and trumpets. The transition from there into a quizzically lyrical passage was deftly handled.

The most curious section of the nearly half-hour first movement comes when you expect a development section to begin. Instead, a snare drum plays an obsessive march rhythm. Over it, individual instruments, then groups, play what sounds like a jaunty march tune — over and over. Each statement becomes bigger, louder and more elaborately orchestrated. This roughly 10-minute section has aptly been described as Shostakovich’s “Boléro.” Mr. van Zweden and the orchestra played it straight, building inexorably to an assaultive fortissimo climax.

I don’t like Ravel’s “Boléro.” I know this passage in Shostakovich’s seventh well. I am not crazy about it. … Shostakovich often surprises.

The Philharmonic’s high level of the performance continued throughout the symphony: the second movement’s cross between a scherzo and lyrical reminiscence; the restless slow movement; and the often frenzied finale, which drives toward of seemingly triumphant (or bitter?) coda of victory.

 

 

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Composer and critic Virgil Thomson is known for having been highly critical of Shostakovich and composers similar to him, such as Sibelius. His caustic remarks on Shostakovich’s seventh are frequently quoted. The review quoted has, I would suspect, been rarely read in its entirely and it is not available online. I am posting the entire review here.

Whether one is able to listen without mind-wandering to the Seventh Symphony of Dmitri Shostakovich probably depends on the rapidity of one’s music perceptions. It seems to have been written for the slow-witted, the not very musical and the distracted. In this respect it differs from nearly all the other symphonies in the world in which abnormal length is part and parcel of the composer’s concept. Beethoven’s Ninth, Mahler’s Ninth and Eighth, Bruckner’s Seventh and the great Brahms “machines” are long because they could not have been made any shorter without eliminating something the author wanted in. Their mater is complex and cannot be expounded briefly.

Its Length Is Arbitrary

The Shostakovich piece on the other hand is merely a stretching out of material that is in no way deep or difficult to understand. The stretching itself is not even a matter of real though possibly unnecessary development. It is for the most part straight banal repetition. The piece seems to be the length it is not because the substance would brook no briefer expression but because for some reason not inherent in the material the composer wishes it that way. Of what the reason could possibly be I have only the vaguest notion. That the reason was clear to its author I have not the slightest doubt, however, because the piece all through bears the marks of complete assurance. It is no pent up outpouring out of personal feelings and still less an encyclopedic display of musical skill. It is interminably straightforward and withal is limited in spiritual scope as a film like “The Great Zigfield” or “Gone With the Wind.” It could have said what it says in fifteen minutes or it could have gone on for two hours more. The proportions of the work seem to this auditor, in short, wholly arbitrary.

Its Content Is Tame

They do not seem, nevertheless, accidental. Nothing seems accidental in this piece. The themes are clearly thought out and their doings are simplified with a master’s hand. The harmonies, the contrapuntal web, the orchestration show no evidence of floundering or of experiment. If the music has no mystery and consequently no real freedom of thought, neither does it obtain any obscurity or any evidence of personal frustration. It is as objective as an editorial, as self-assured as the news report of a public ceremony.

Heretofore this author’s music, whether theatrical or symphonic, has been animated by an instinct for easy theatrical values. He has put into his works with never-failing effect crowd scenes, barcarolles, burlesques and patriotic finales, holding these all together with a kind of neutral continuity-writing in two-part counterpoint. The most entertaining of these numbers have always been burlesques of bourgeois musical taste, which were the more charming for their being purged, as it were, of bitterness by the optimism of the final patriotic and military passages. One could always feel in them the rambunctious but gifted boy whose heart was really in the right place. In spite of the static and not very significant character of the innocent two-part counterpoint between, his “production numbers,” if one may call them that in symphonic music, have always been bright, full of gusto and genuinely characteristic of their composer. They have put us in contact with a real person.

The Seventh Symphony has the same formal structure as the rest of its author’s work. It is series of production numbers interspersed with neutral matter written chiefly in that same two-part counterpoint. There is a mechanized military march and the usual patriotic ending, neither of them quite as interesting or imaginative as they might be. And the rest of the episodes are tamer. The pastorale and the Protestant chorale are competent routine stuff, no more, and the continuity-counterpoint, though less static than usual, just sort of runs on as if some cinematic narrative were in progress that needed neutral accompaniment. The opening passage, which is said to represent the good Soviet citizen, is bold and buoyant. But nowhere is there any real comedy, which is what Shostakovich does best.

It is no reproach to an author to say that one of his works is the kind of work it is. And this work is certainly of more sober mien than most of its author’s others. It is very long and very serious, and both these qualities are certainly deliberate observances. The facile competence and the assurance of the whole thing, moreover, eliminate the possibility that any auditor find the struggle between the artiest and the material a major subject of interest. It is easy to listen to the piece, equally easy to skip any part of it without missing the sense of the whole. It is excellent journalism, and some of it can be remembered. But it will probably not make much difference to anybody’s inner musical life whether he hears it or doesn’t.

Its Author Is Growing Up and Not Very Prettily

Shostakovich is an abundant musician, a “natural” composer. He is also an experienced and perfectly assured one. Heretofore he has maintained a boyish taste for low comedy (redeemed by sincere patriotic sentiment) that gave gusto to his writing and made listening to it sometimes fun. The present work shows a wish to put boyish things behind him and a complete ability to do so without losing confidence in himself. That it is less amusing than his previous works is not to its discredit. That it is, in spite of its serious air and pretentious proportions, thin of substance, unoriginal and shallow indicates that the mature production of this gifted master is likely to be on the stuffy side. That he has deliberately diluted his matter, adapted it, both by excessive simplification and by excessive repetition to the comprehension of a child of eight indicates that he is willing to write down to a real or fictious psychology of mass-consumption in a way that may eventually disqualify him for consideration as a serious composer.

— Virgil Thomson, “Shostakovich’s Seventh,” New York Herald Tribune, October 18, 1942, pg. E7

 

 

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In an earlier review of a performance of Shostakovich’s Seventh by the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Arturo Toscanini, Thomson stated:

The Shostakovich Seventh Symphony is easy to listen to but hard to keep the mind on. It is easy to follow because the tunes are simple, the counterpoint thin and the orchestration very broad and plain. It is experienced work by a man of thoroughly musical mentality; and it is apparently designed for easy listening, perhaps even with a thought to making it possible for the radio listener to miss some of the repetitions without losing anything essential. It is hard to keep one’s attention on it at a concert hall because it repeats itself so much. One gets to thinking about something else while waiting for the next section.

As usual with Shostakovich, the quiet passages are less effective that the noisy ones. [italics added] Even these, with doubled brass and seven men at the battery, are not especially rousing. Like everything else in the work they are a little too simple to be interesting. The symphony seems to need film accompaniment, something to occupy the mind while it goes on and to explain the undue stretching out of all its sections. I do not find the work objectionable in spirit, and it is certainly sincere and competent music-making. I merely find it thin in substance.

— Virgil Thomson, “Imperfect Workmanship,” New York Herald Tribune, October 15, 1942, pg. 18

 

 

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I don’t, in the final analysis, agree with Thomson. I like Thomson’s music. And he writes very well. He was justifiably regarded as a very good critic. I don’t mind incisive criticism like this even when I disagree with it. It makes me think.

With a Shostakovich symphony, you never know what to expect. There are deep thought and great ingenuity in all his works. Somewhat like Beethoven, his symphonies (with the possible exception of the second and third symphonies) tend to hold their own, none “copying” another. Each one is a remarkable work.

Yet, the greatest works of art can be uneven. “Perfect” construction is not necessarily desirable or a virtue. Samuel Johnson said as much in a comment about Milton’s Paradise Lost:

In every work one part must be for the sake of others; a palace must have passages; a poem must have transitions. It is no more to be required that wit should always be blazing, than that the sun should always stand at noon. In a great work there is a vicissitude of luminous and opaque parts, as there is in the world a succession of day and night.

— Samuel Johnson, “Milton,” Lives of the Poets

 

Take Beethoven’s Ninth, for example. An inferior work? Yet, at times the construction seems sort of messy. How does the “Ode to Joy” fit into the work? Is it strident? Too much? An emotional outpouring that amounts to overblown sentiment?

Shostakovich has been accused of writing such music and of being inferior to supposedly more cerebral composers such as Stravinsky. Was Beethoven’s music at times too romantic? Is Shostakovich’s music as times too patriotic? Such questions seem nonsensical to me.

Shostakovich, in my opinion, stands head and shoulders above most twentieth century composers, including those who were trying to show primarily how clever or innovative they were. Shostakovich is a brilliant “musical thinker,” and, on top of that, one continually encounters passages of deep feeling and startling beauty.

Thomson’s assertion that “the quiet passages [in Shostakovich’s works] are less effective that the noisy ones” is flat out wrong. Here are some examples from the symphonies that demonstrate just the opposite:

 

Symphony No. 5 in D minor, Op. 47

3rd movement

Largo

 

 

Symphony No. 7 in C major, Op. 60 (“Leningrad”)

3rd movement

Adagio

 

 

Symphony No. 9 in E-flat major, Op. 70

2nd movement

Moderato

 

 

Symphony No. 11 in G minor, Op. 103 (“The Year 1905”)

3rd movement*

Adagio (Eternal Memory)

 

Only one of Shostakovich’s fifteen string quartets had been published when Shostakovich’s seventh symphony was premiered. Had Thomson been familiar with the quartets and other later works of Shostakovich — such as the 24 Preludes and Fugues, Op. 87, premiered in 1952 — he might have had a deeper and fuller appreciation of the composer’s’ oeuvre.

 

* The third movement of Shostakovich’s eleventh, “Eternal Memory,” starts with a halting motion on pizzicato strings, over which a noble melody (‘You Fell As Victims’, most famous of all the revolutionary songs and whose deployment was by no means limited to Soviet composers) is heard on violas then extended to upper strings. A sombre new theme, heard initially on woodwind and brass before being transformed on violins, begins the ascent to the apex, at the summit of which the climactic motif from the previous movement is sounded out balefully on full orchestra, underpinned by pounding timpani that continue as the intensity subsides. The viola melody, now a distant recessional, is heard again before pizzicato strings arrive at a questioning pause.  [Program notes, recording of the eleventh symphony by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.]

The sociologist Pitirim A. Sorokin mentions this revolutionary song and Shostakovich’s eleventh symphony in his autobiography, A Long Journey.

 

 

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Addendum:

 

Shostakovich’s seventh has much in common with his eleventh symphony, another work comprised of program music of great beauty and power. See my previous post:

 

Shostakovich, symphony no. 11 (“The Year 1905”); Шостакович, Симфония № 11 («1905-й год»)

https://rogersgleanings.com/2018/07/19/shostakovich-symphony-no-11-the-year-1905-%d1%88%d0%be%d1%81%d1%82%d0%b0%d0%ba%d0%be%d0%b2%d0%b8%d1%87-%d1%81%d0%b8%d0%bc%d1%84%d0%be%d0%bd%d0%b8%d1%8f-%e2%84%96-11-1905/

on the importance of downtime

 

 

… I have been a chronic loafer and an enthusiast of dolce far niente all my life. This is the other side of the Taoist percept that “doing nothing is better than to be busy doing nothing.” Almost daily I spend a couple of afternoon hours in my favorite ways of “doing nothing” mentally: working in my garden, cutting the lawn, struggling with the jungle around my summer cottage, walking, swimming, fishing, and climbing mountains. … I still do … [all] kinds of physical work.

Quite frequently I also loaf by meditating on a beautiful sunset or sunrise, whitecaps or the stillness of dreaming waters, the fireworks of a thunderstorm, or the “deafening silence” of a starry night.

 

— Pitirim A. Sorokin, A Long Journey: The Autobiography of Pitirim A. Sorokin (1963)

 

 

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I have observed it often. I am sure you have too.

Overprogrammed kids (uber-kids). Overprogrammed adults.

 

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Uber-kids. You will from time to time read about them in the newspaper. The high school student who missed getting into an Ivy League School for some reason and perhaps feels it was because of discrimination. Near 800 scores on their SAT’s. Proficient on the cello. Captained the high school tennis team. Volunteers at a homeless shelter and spent a summer in Guatemala assisting with refugee efforts.

And so on.

I hope I don’t sound snide. Or like a know it all. When I was in high school, and was striving to get accepted to Harvard, I felt overprogrammed. I volunteered for all sorts of clubs and student organizations; participated in athletics which I did enjoy for the most part but also hoped would make me appear “well rounded”; and studied very hard. But, one can’t help wondering, is it fair to place such demands and expectations on young people, that they always perform at a high level in so many areas? With no time to just be themselves. Their wonderful, unique selves (as their parents know them to be).

I have witnessed, as I am sure most readers of this blog have, many kids brought up this way from early childhood. Swimming lessons. Tennis lessons. Music lessons. After school enrichment programs. Summer camp (no time allowed for sheer idleness). And so on.

Their parents seem hard pressed to shepherd them (usually by automobile) from appointment to appointment.

 

 

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Anyway, I took a walk yesterday after a long, hectic week. And was thinking about how I often feel overprogrammed. Multitasking. I often seem to be doing everything practically at once and accomplishing less and less as time goes on.

It was sometimes this way in my own adolescence, but I do recall having a lot of time as a child — in a different age, when things seemed simpler and less competitive — to just hang out with friends or do things by myself. Long summer vacations (they seemed endless when you were a kid). Playing in the back yard, the street, or a vacant lot. Improvised games and idle conversations. Playing kids’ board games or with toys, or simple card games such as War and Old Maid. (Games that were essentially a waste of time, but we were socializing.) Days spent lolling around with a book, or a comic book. Daydreaming. Being alone, lost in thought, or playing a solitary game. The feeling we used to have of delicious boredom.

 

 

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On my neighborhood walk yesterday, I thought to myself that everyone needs down time. Not only to “recharge batteries.” But for true productivity.

And, most importantly, for CREATIVITY.

When one is idling mentally, one has the time and opportunity to think or just start doing something different or new. It doesn’t have to be something momentous. It often isn’t. It could be picking up something such as a book you had forgotten you had. It could be cleaning your room or raking leaves, or doing some other menial task. But, what happens is that one finds that the mind becomes reenergized. Naturally.

It seems to be true that the mind is most fertile precisely when it is not overprogrammed. You pick up a newspaper or magazine or a book you had forgotten about. You engage in a conversation that seems to be going nowhere in particular (which is of no account). And, suddenly, you get a new idea. Or, when you are doing something nonintellectual, and a whole new idea, a new thought, comes to you, strikes you. And, feeling refreshed, you are eager to perhaps write it down, to run with it, so to speak. This happens, it seems, not only because you are refreshed, but also because the mind has been cleared, making new thoughts more likely, and so on. If I were a psychologist, I could, no doubt, explain this better.

 

 

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Pitirim A. Sorokin expressed this well. But, it should be noted that it is not exactly a matter of shutting down mentally. It’s just that the mind needs freedom to idle (like a car engine) and wander a bit. It needs some freedom to “roam.”

To put it another way, using a metaphor from nature. If you can give yourself a break mentally, a germination process often occurs. You are cleaning your room or raking leaves (or perhaps doing something non task oriented, like walking). You have shut down mentally for a short while. All the thoughts and impressions, all the knowledge, is still there. They are mulch, like leaves on the ground. They are the substratum of new mental matter, new thoughts.

How truly pleasurable this is. I hope our kids will be allowed to experience it.

Why can’t they just be kids?

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   February 2018

new site dedicated to Pitirim A. Sorokin

 

 

 

The Russian-American sociologist and social philosopher Pitirim A. Sorokin (Russian, Питирим Александрович Сорокин) has been one of my personal heroes since my high school years. I have a created a new site about him at

 

https://pitirimsorokin.com/

 

Further materials about Sorokin which I have discovered as well as materials that Russian scholars have shared with me are in preparation for posting and will be forthcoming.

There has been much scholarship about Sorokin going on in post-Communist Russia (he was banished shortly after the Russian Revolution by the Soviet government). There have  been exciting discoveries such as that of a long lost and unknown novel by Sorokin.

Pitirim A. Sorokin was an interesting person, scholar/writer, and historical figure in his own right — interest in him is not limited to sociologists or, for that matter, scholars. I encourage those who are interested to visit my new Sorokin site.

 

— Roger W. Smith

   February 2018

 

 

 

 

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новый сайт, посвященный Питириму А. Сорокину

 

Российско-американский социолог и социальный философ Питирим А. Сорокин был одним из моих личных героев со школьных лет. У меня есть новый сайт о нем

 

https://pitirimsorokin.com/

 

Дальнейшие материалы о Сорокине, которые я обнаружил, а также материалы, которые поделились со мной российскими учеными, готовятся к публикации и будут опубликованы.

Было много стипендий о том, что Сорокин происходит в посткоммунистической России (он был изгнан вскоре после русской революции советским правительством). Были интересные открытия, такие как давно потерянный и неизвестный роман Сорокина.

Питирим А. Сорокин был интересным человеком, ученым / писателем и исторической фигурой в своем собственном праве – интерес к нему не ограничивается социологами или, если на то пошло, учеными. Я призываю тех, кто заинтересован посетить мой новый сайт Сорокина.

 

 

– Роджер У. Смит

Февраль 2018 года

Manhattan Island from Bottom to Top; Walking as Exercise

 

 

In the spirit of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, I will begin with the conclusion, followed by evidence to prove my point.

Walking is a naturally beneficial form of exercise habitual since human origins. It is perfectly suited to the human body and is a form of physical activity from which it seems personal injury cannot come; hence, one can justly say that it is one hundred percent beneficial.

The body welcomes such exercise. In fact, when it is undertaken, the body seems to be saying, “give me more!” It seems to cure all kinds of nagging (but not serious) physical complaints, discomforts, and ills, such as aches and pains, and actually seems to restore energy as much if not more than depleting it.

 

 

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I love to walk, as was noted by me in a previous post on this blog:

“on walking (and exercise)”

https://rogersgleanings.com/2016/03/20/roger-w-smith-on-walking/

I like to think of new places and routes to walk in the City (i.e., New York City, including Manhattan and the “outer boroughs” of Brooklyn and Queens).

I keep finding new places to explore — in Brooklyn, for example. It could be a neighborhood, such as Williamsburg, or a park, such as Brooklyn Bridge Park, which I only found out about recently. I like to call my walks, playfully, “jaunts,” a favorite term used by the poet Walt Whitman.

The other day, while writing a post, “Walt Whitman on Manhattan”

https://rogersgleanings.com/2017/07/18/walt-whitman-on-manhattan/

I noticed that in his poem “Mannahatta,” Whitman describes Manhattan as “an island sixteen miles long.”

Yes, I thought to myself, sixteen miles long, from the southernmost point of Manhattan, Battery Park (which overlooks New York Harbor and from which boats depart regularly for the Statue of Liberty, which can be viewed from the park), to Inwood at the northernmost point of Manhattan.

Then, on Thursday evening (July 20), I saw a documentary film at the Morgan Library in Manhattan: Henry David Thoreau, Surveyor of the Soul, directed by Huey Coleman. In the film, it is noted that when Thoreau first attended a lecture by Ralph Waldo Emerson, he walked seventeen miles from Concord, Massachusetts to Boston to attend.

I had been thinking of taking such a walk myself. If Thoreau can do it, I can, I thought. I would like to see how such a long walk feels.

 

 

 

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Yesterday I walked, in around 90 degree weather, from Bowling Green, at the southern tip of Manhattan, to the northernmost point of Manhattan Island, Inwood Hill Park, where the Henry Hudson Bridge and the Spuyten Duyvil Bridge link Manhattan to the Bronx.

It took me about ten hours with a couple of pit stops.

I got up in the morning feeling sluggish and achy. I took the subway to Bowling Green, then started walking, taking a few photographs of the harbor and then starting to walk uptown.

I felt sluggish and unsteady on my feet. The heat felt oppressive. I had a pain in my right foot that had persisted for a day or two. But gradually, as my walk and the day progressed, I started feeling better.

At 3:45 p.m., I texted a friend:

have reached 96th St and Broadway

wouldn’t u know it

I seem to have more energy than when I started

my toe is not hurting any more

I feel much less achy and better overall

A couple of hours later, from 155th and Broadway, I texted my friend again, saying “I am getting tired.” I had probably walked over 15 miles already. But, I kept going. It took me over an hour more to reach Inwood Hill Park. The park is entered via Dyckman Street, which is located precisely where West 200th Street would be, were it a numbered street. I walked along the western end of the park, which skirts the Hudson, to the northern end of the park, then back to the subway.

Riding home on the subway, I felt exhausted. I was relieved to get home and after a short while fell into a deep sleep.

I woke up very early after only a few hours of sleep feeling refreshed and very energetic. I haven’t felt so good in a long time. I felt very alert and refreshed. (It is my belief that pleasurable, mentally relaxing exercise such as walking obviates neurasthenia and chronic fatigue.)

 

 

 

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Conclusion:

 

I already said it! The body welcomes exercise. It craves it. I can often hear my “brother body” (a term used by Pitirim A. Sorokin, which he undoubtedly got from Saint Francis) telling me, “thank you; give me more.” It is not uncommon after a five to seven mile walk for me to find myself saying to myself, I could do another five miles more. And, I am not a fitness addict or fanatic.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   July 22, 2017

 

 

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Battery Park

 

 

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New York Harbor viewed from Battery Park

 

 

 

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Sixth Avenue, Greenwich Village

 

 

 

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Broadway, Upper Manhattan

 

 

 

 

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Inwood Hill Park

 

 

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Hudson River, late evening, viewed from Inwood Hill Park

 

 

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Inwood Hill Park, overlooking Hudson River

 

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northern tip of Inwood Hill Park, overlooking Hudson River and Spuyten Duyvil Bridge

 

 

 

photos by Roger W. Smith

 

 

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Addendum: On Sunday, August 6, 2017, I reversed myself and walked from the top (northernmost point) of Manhattan Island to the bottom (Battery Park). I found that Manhattan actually ends at Broadway and 218th Street — not at 207th Street, as I had thought.

I did it faster this time. It took me about seven and a half hours.

The weather was cool for August, and I did not experience appreciable fatigue. I felt as if I could have kept going should I have had cause to.

 

 

 

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Broadway at 218th Street, 1:34 p.m.; Manhattan’s northern border

 

 

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Broadway at entrance to Battery Park, 8:44 p.m.; Manhattan’s southern tip; end of my Sunday walk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

my Sorokin books

 

my Sorokin books

 

 

The attached Word document (below) contains an inventory of books by and about the Russian-American sociologist and social philosopher Pitirim A. Sorokin (1889-1968) in my personal home library.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   April 2019

 

 

 

 

 

a trip to Massachusetts (and its disappointing aftermath)

 

 

 

During the month just ended, I took a trip to Massachusetts to attend the American Literature Association’s annual conference in Boston, and also to take photos of personal interest from the point of view of my personal history and also from a genealogical angle.

I grew up in Massachusetts, in the Greater Boston area.

Practically all of my relatives came from Massachusetts. My father’s ancestors, on his father’s side, emigrated from Scotland to Boston in 1872. His relatives on his mother’s side emigrated during the colonial period and lived mostly in Essex County, north of Boston, and subsequently in the Greater Boston area.

My mother’s relatives were originally mostly from Cape Cod; some of my relatives continue to live there.

The following is a trip itinerary with photographs.

 

 

 

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Wednesday, May 24

I went to Danvers, Mass., which is where my mother grew up and photographed the house and block where she lived. Danvers was originally an outlying area of Salem; it was known as Salem Village. The Salem witchcraft trials arose from incidents that took place in what is now Danvers.

My mother lived at 19 Braman Street from around 1920 through 1940. The house looks shabby now.

 

 

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19 Braman St., Danvers, MA

 

 

2.jpg

19 Braman St.

 

 

 

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view of Braman St., Danvers

 

 

 

 

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From Danvers, I headed south, in the direction of Boston. Although my focus was mostly family history, it occurred to me, why not make a stop in Winchester, Mass., where the world famous Russian émigré sociologist and social philosopher Pitirim A. Sorokin, one of my heroes, lived?

Sorokin, his wife, and their two sons resided at 8 Cliff Street in Winchester. (Sorokin died in 1968. One of his sons still occupies the same residence.) I was interested not only to see the residence of a world renowned scholar and writer, but also to see the house because it was famous for its grounds: a garden developed and maintained by Sorokin himself, for which he had won awards from horticultural societies and of which he was proud.

I drove up the block, which was on a steep ascent, using GPS to guide me. The GPS system advised me that I had arrived at my destination, 8 Cliff Street, on my left. I saw 6 Cliff Street, but where was number 8? Number 8 was shrouded and hidden by a profusion of flowering bushes. It reminded me of the Forest of Thorns in “Sleeping Beauty.”

 

 

 

 

Pitirim A. Sorokin residence, 8 Cliff St., Winchester, MA. Photographs by Roger W. Smith.

 

 

 

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Next, I drove to Woodlawn Cemetery in Everett, Mass., which was close by — a beautiful cemetery where my Scotch ancestors are buried — and photographed gravestones. This required a return visit a couple of days later because a cemetery worker suggested I have one of the gravestones, for my great-great grandfather and great-great grandmother, cleaned, at the cost of seventy-five dollars.

 

 

 

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Gravestone of my father’s paternal grandmother Jennie H. (Wright) (Smith) Simpson and her 2nd husband, Capt. George F. Simpson. Marjorie (Smith) Farrar (my father’s aunt) was her daughter. Elva Farrar, who died in infancy, was Jennie’s granddaughter.

 

 

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I then drove all the way, heading south, to New Bedford, Mass., which was a flourishing city in the nineteenth century but now has a depressing look and feel to it. My maternal grandmother grew up there. I took photographs of the house where she was born in 1894. The house is on South Sixth Street. Shortly thereafter, the family moved to Wing Street in New Bedford. I intended to photograph the house, but it is no longer standing.

 

 

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120 South Sixth St., New Bedford, MA. My maternal grandmother, Annie Congdon (Hart) Handy, was born there in 1894.

 

 

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Thursday, May 25

I drove to New Bedford again early Thursday morning to visit Rural Cemetery, an old cemetery where many burials occurred in the nineteenth century. There, I located the grave of my mother’s great-grandfather, John Congdon Hart. He died in 1883. He had two wives and thirteen children. His gravestone reads “J. C. Hart / 5th Mass. Batt’y.” No dates are carved on the stone. John C. Hart was a Civil War veteran. The inscription on his gravestone clearly indicates that he was proud of his Civil War service.

 

 

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Section of Rural Cemetery, New Bedford, MA where John Congdon Hart (1829-1883), my maternal grandmother’s paternal grandfather, and his family are buried.

 

 

 

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From New Bedford, I drove to Cape Cod, a drive of about 45 minutes. I went to Cataumet Cemetery in the town of Bourne (Cataumet being a section of that town). It is a small cemetery across the street from a Methodist church where many ancestors on my mother’s side worshiped. Many of my mother’s ancestors, surnamed Handy, are buried there.

 

 

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United Methodist Church, Cataumet, MA

 

 

 

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Gravestone of Henry Thomas Handy, his wife Lydia Perkins (Ellis) Handy, and three of their children, two of whom died in infancy, Cataumet Cemetery, Cataumet, MA.  Etta H. Handy was my mother’s aunt and a close relative. Henry T. Handy pursued a career as a whaler in his early adulthood and later became a farmer on Cape Cod.

 

 

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Gravestone of my maternal grandparents,  namely Ralph Ellis Handy (1894-1946) and Annie C. (Hart) Handy (1894-1972), Cataumet Cemetery, Cataumet, MA. Also named is Clifton Edward Handy, my mother’s younger brother, who died in infancy.

 

 

 

 

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Another view of my maternal grandparents’ gravestone, Cataumet Cemetery, Cape Cod.

 

 

 

 

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Cataumet Cemetery

 

 

 

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I then drove to Pocasset, also on Cape Cod, which is right next door. I photographed the beautiful house and grounds where my mother’s uncle Robert S. Handy lived. My mother and her cousins spent many enjoyable times during summer vacations there. One can’t miss the house from the street, although it is set back and is fronted by an extensive greensward. It is a neighborhood landmark.

 

 

 

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The late Robert S. Handy’s residence, County Road, Pocasset. Robert Handy (1881-1972) was my mother’s uncle.

 

 

 

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Front yard, Robert S. Handy residence, Pocasset.

 

 

 

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From Cape Cod, I drove to Dorchester, Mass., to the section known as Mattapan. Dorchester is part of Boston. It took me a long time navigating local traffic to find 67 Woolson Street in Mattapan, a modest house where my father, Alan Wright Smith, was born in 1917. I had never seen the house before.

 

 

 

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67 Woolson St., Mattapan (Boston), MA. My father was born there in 1917.

 

 

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67 Woolson St.

 

 

 

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I got lost and stuck in Boston traffic on my return and had to call it a day.

 

 

 

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Huntington Avenue approaching Symphony Hall, Boston. (Photo taken from my car window.)

 

 

 

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Friday, May 26

Friday was a total change of pace: the American Literature Association (ALA) annual conference at the Westin Copley Place hotel in Boston. I attended a few lectures and the annual meeting of the International Theodore Dreiser Society.

Attendance at the Dreiser Society meeting was sparse, but I was very glad to be able to participate. I had the opportunity to meet noted Dreiser scholars such as Thomas P. Riggio, Renate von Bardeleben, Yoshinobu Hakutani, and Miriam Gogol, all of whom I already knew (not necessarily well) from prior acquaintance. Professor Hakutani made some very interesting observations comparing a work of Richard Wright’s (he is an authority on Wright), Black Boy, to an autobiographical work of Dreiser’s. I made a mental note to purchase and read Black Boy.

Other scholars present include Ashley Squires, a professor from Moscow who gave a fascinating presentation on the reception of Theodore Dreiser in Russia, where he has been for a long time — and is still — very popular. Being seated right next to her, fortuitously, I struck up a conversation. “For a Russian, you speak awfully good English,” I said. It turned out that she’s one hundred percent American and grew up in the heartland. It just so happens that she is teaching in Moscow.

I had a very enjoyable conversation with a graduate student from Oklahoma who delivered a paper on Dreiser. It was a pleasure to experience for a few minutes her sincere commitment to her studies and enthusiasm for them. A male companion was with her. They are both rabid baseball fans and were very excited about the prospect of attending their first game ever at Fenway Park that evening.

In the afternoon, I had an enjoyable get acquainted chat with a noted American literature scholar, Jerome Loving, a biographer of Whitman, Twain, and Dreiser. He was interested in talking with me about the Chester Gillette murder case, upon which Theodore Dreiser’s novel An American Tragedy was based. I have done extensive research on the case.

 

 

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Saturday, May 27

On Saturday, I went back to Woodlawn Cemetery in Everett and photographed the gravestone of my Smith Scotch ancestors, which had been cleaned.

 

 

 

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Gravestone of my Smith ancestors, Woodlawn Cemetery, Everett, MA. They included Thomas Smith, my father’s great-grandfather (who was born in Scotland); Thomas’s wife Jane (Gilchrist) Smith (also a native of Scotland); their son Thomas, Jr., my grandfather’s  father (also born in Scotland); and Wlliam G. Smith, an uncle of my grandfather. (He was born in Boston just after his parents emigrated in 1872.)

 

 

 

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I then drove to Cambridge, Mass., where I lived until age twelve. I photographed the house on Mellen Street, a ten or fifteen minute walk from Harvard Square, where we lived. The house is in excellent condition and looks the same, except that the back yard where we used to play has been paved over. Lesley College (now Lesley University) bought the house from my father in the 1960’s, and the section of Mellen Street on which the house stands has been made into a private way and renamed.

 

 

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27 Mellen Street, Cambridge, MA. I lived there from birth until 1958.

 

 

 

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27 Mellen St., Cambridge, rear view; the fire escape is still there.

 

 

I went over to the next block, Everett Street, where my best friend, Francis Donlan, lived. I photographed the apartment complex at 11 Everett Street where he lived. It looked the same, which is to say it sort of “reemerged” into my visual memory/consciousness — I had forgotten. Francis’s father was the janitor there. Parking in Cambridge must be notoriously difficult. Everett Street was one way, and restricted/no parking signs were everywhere.

 

 

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Apartment house on Everett St. where my best friend Francis Donlan lived.

 

 

 

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My last stop in Cambridge was Oxford Street, where I photographed my old elementary school. I walked right past it. Remembering the order of the streets, I was sure I had missed it, but how? I was looking for the familiar old building and schoolyard. I asked a middle aged man in a playground with two children, “Is there an elementary school near here?”

“Yes,” he replied, “the Baldwin School,” pointing in the direction which I had come from. The school, which I had inadvertently passed, was a block away.

The school when I attended it was named the Agassiz School. I always liked the sound of the name; it sounded distinctive. It was also hard for an elementary schooler to spell.

The school was named in honor of Jean Louis Rodolphe Agassiz (1807-1873), a world renowned Swiss-American biologist and geologist who was a professor of zoology and geology at Harvard University. The school’s name was changed to the Maria L. Baldwin School in 2002, due to objections to the theories of Agassiz, which have been characterized as racist. Maria Louise Baldwin (1856 -1922), an African American educator and civic leader, was principal of the school from 1889 until 1922.

I didn’t recognize the school building, and the playground where I used to play kickball was gone.

 

 

 

Maria L. Baldwin School (formerly Agassiz School), Oxford St., Cambridge, MA. Photographs by Roger W. Smith.

 

 

 

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Oxford St., Cambridge, MA

 

 

The theories of Agassiz that have led to his being discredited are based on polygenism, the idea that races were created separately, that they could be classified on the basis of specific climatic zones, and that they were endowed with unequal attributes. It appears that the attribution of racism to Agassiz is not such an open and shut case. He did not support slavery, for example. In general, the renaming of buildings and monuments to conform to changing views makes me uncomfortable. A couple of former classmates whom I have mentioned this to feel, on the contrary, that the change of the school’s name was entirely appropriate.

 

 

 

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Leaving Cambridge on Saturday morning, I drove as fast as I could to Oak Grove cemetery in Falmouth, Mass., on Cape Cod, wishing to arrive there before the cemetery supervisor, who works a half day on Saturdays, left. I got stuck in a traffic jam of holiday travelers crossing the Bourne Bridge, which spans the Cape Cod Canal.

At the cemetery, I found quite a few ancestral graves in the same section. I never would have found them without the cemetery supervisor’s help. My mother was born in Falmouth. Her maternal grandparents are buried there, as are several of their ancestors.

 

 

 

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Gravestone of William Hewins (1801-1893) of Falmouth, MA and his wife Love (Handy) Hewins (1804-1884), as well as two of their sons. William and Love were great-grandparents of my maternal grandmother Annie C. (Hart) Handy on her mother’s side.

 

 

 

 

John Swift 2nd gravestone (2)

Gravestone of John Swift, 2nd (1806-1864) of Falmouth, MA. He was my maternal grandmother’s great-grandfather on her mother’s side.

 

 

 

 

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Gravestone of Frances Lincoln (Weeks) Swift (1807-1868),  wife of John Swift, 2nd, my maternal grandmother’s great-grandmother on her mother’s side.

 

 

 

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Gravestone of Llewellyn Russell Hewins (1834-1908) of Falmouth, MA. He was the grandfather of my maternal grandmother, Annie (Hart) Handy, on her mother’s side. The birthdate on the stone is off by a year.

 

 

 

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Gravestone of Arabella F. (Swift) Hewins (1834-1868), first wife of Llewellyn Russell Hewins of Falmouth. She was the grandmother of my maternal grandmother.

 

 

 

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From Falmouth on the Cape, I turned around and drove right back, heading north and west, to Arlington, Mass., a town adjacent to Cambridge and only six miles northwest of Boston. It was practically a second home town for me in my youth. I photographed the big, stately house on a hilltop on Cliff Street in Arlington Heights where my paternal grandparents, T. Gordon and Esther (Whittredge) Smith, lived in the 1930’s and ’40s, which I remember visiting.

 

 

 

Views of 18 Cliff St., Arlington, MA,where my paternal grandparents lived during my early childhood, and of Cliff Street itself. Photos by Roger W. Smith.

 

 

And, the house on Wellington Street, near Arlington Center, where my grandparents lived in the 1950’s and ‘60s. I used to take the streetcar from Cambridge to visit them at the latter residence.

 

 

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37 Wellington St., Arlington Heights, MA

 

 

 

It was adjacent to Spy Pond, which I photographed, and there was a baseball field across the street where I would sometimes watch games with my grandfather. I photographed that too.

 

 

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Spy Pond, Arlington, MA

 

 

 

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baseball field adjacent to Wellington St.

 

 

 

 

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I then drove to East Boston, where my Smith Scotch ancestors lived and where my paternal grandfather, Thomas Gordon Smith, was born and raised. My great-great grandfather, Thomas Smith, settled there in the 1870’s after emigrating with his wife and children from Scotland. I found the house where my paternal grandfather was born and the house he moved to with his widowed mother and siblings when he was about ten years old. I found the residences where his grandfather, my great-great grandfather, lived at 606 and 635 Bennington Street. They are in good condition. The latter residence is owned and occupied now by the Salesians of St. John Bosco, a religious order.

 

 

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606 Bennington St., East Boston, MA.  The family of Thomas Smith, my great-great grandfather, lived their briefly in the 1880’s.

 

 

 

 

Photos of 635 Bennington St., East Boston. My great-great grandparents lived there for over 20 years. Photographs by Roger W. Smith.

 

 

 

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I left East Boston at around 7 p.m. on Saturday evening and drove northward, hoping that I could perhaps reach Crane Beach on the North Shore before it got dark. The beach is located in the town of Ipswich. I remember going there with my parents in the 1950’s. My mother knew the beach well. It is said to be one of the most beautiful beaches in Massachusetts.

 

 

North Shore 7-49 p.m. 5-28-2017

View of countryside, Essex County, MA, near Crane Beach. Photograph by Roger W. Smith.

 

 

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Crane Beach, Ipswich, MA. Photograph by Roger W. Smith.

 

 

 

 

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Crane Beach, Ipswich, MA. Photograph by Roger W. Smith.

 

 

Indeed, it is.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   June 2017

 

 

 

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Addendum:

 

A main objective of mine on this trip was to photograph ancestral sites and graves. Graves are very difficult to find; it is like looking for a needle in a haystack. But, I succeeded beyond my expectations. Not only in finding graves, which are invaluable as genealogical sources, but also in finding and photographing ancestral residences and streetscapes and, most importantly, the houses, hitherto unknown, where my father’s father and mother’s mother and also my father were born.

I decided to share this information with as many descendants as I could, emailing them photographs with commentary.

Their response, in most cases lack of response, was much worse than I could have anticipated — disappointing, and in, a couple of instances, not just disappointing, but inconsiderate and mean spirited. Hardly anyone bothered to acknowledge having received the photos.

Worst of all was the response of some of my relatives (I shared photos and pertinent information only with descendants of the ancestors whose graves and houses I had photographed) who actually COMPLAINED, saying that because I emailed the photos and information to them, they found it to be a nuisance. It had taken me about to week to go through the photos, select the best ones, tweak them, identify them correctly, and write commentary so that my relatives would know whose grave or house it was and how that individual was related to us.

I wrote back to the disgruntled respondents, my relatives, merely saying: “This has involved a great deal of time, effort, and expense on my part.” I mentioned, in replying to them, the time, effort, and expense merely for purposes of comparison: what went into the project versus what would be required for someone to open emails, read them, and download what was perhaps a total of 25 photos. (I do not recall the exact number.) Considerable effort over several days (not counting the spade work, planning, organizing, and dissemination of the materials) versus a few minutes of one’s time for each email.

Regarding the supposedly great inconvenience of being bombarded with emails, what the pros and cons are, it’s not worth discussing here, but I would have thought that someone could have overlooked this (despite whatever their preferences are) in consideration of receiving hitherto unavailable photos and information that were obtained at great effort and considerable expense, and which were available nowhere else, that they would never have known about or had access to otherwise. I am talking about things such as gravestones and homesteads of people such as my nineteenth century ancestors, my ancestors from Scotland, the houses were my father and two of my grandparents were born, and so on. (When, say I “my,” I mean also “their,” that is, our relatives.)

I felt it incumbent upon me to share these materials with as many relatives as I could think of contacting and had the email addresses of, hoping that they would disseminate them among their children and grandchildren. I thought they would be appreciative of this and was taken completely by surprise.

It seems to me that it’s a matter of weighing in the balance what one would rather have: the “inconvenience” (as they conceive it to be) of having a few additional emails (of course, they will say, “what do you mean, a few?,” as if they were greatly imposed upon, put out, inconvenienced; choose your participle) within the space of a couple of days in their inboxes, and having to download a photo or two with a simple click, versus the thought, which does not seem to occurred to them, of what goes into ascertaining the facts thorough prior research (such as, where was such and such ancestor buried? where were my father and grandparents born? where in Boston, at exactly what address, did my great-great grandfather and his children live?). Using those facts to locate materials, planning such a trip, driving to various locales not necessarily close to one another, locating the actual graves and houses, and so on. It would seem that the favor and services done for them far outweigh the “inconvenience,” as they perceive it. But, people seem to take things for granted. The last thing they would ever do is look up such stuff themselves. When it is handed to them on a silver platter, they don’t appreciate it but instead complain, vent, and find cause for fault.

I enjoy such projects and find them rewarding, despite the effort involved. And, it is my credo that such materials should be disseminated as widely as possible among parties to whom they would not, presumably, be of no interest or relevance. But, I have experienced such lack of appreciation and inconsiderateness in the past. From persons who have made inquiries of me and requests for information and materials related to scholarly or genealogical research. I always go all out to respond and share what I have. It is incredible how often people don’t even bother to acknowledge receipt or say thanks.

“Sorokin” («Сорокин»)

 

 

 

Sorokin post final – English, Russian

русский перевод см ниже

Для загружаемого документа Word, содержащего текст этого сообщения, см. Ниже.

 

 

 

 

My essay about the Russian-American sociologist Pitirim A. Sorokin which follows is approximately 4,000 words long. A downloadable Word document, which contains the text of the essay in both English and Russian — is available above.

 

 

 

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“Sorokin”

by Roger W. Smith

 

 

The following essay about the Russian-American sociologist and social philosopher Pitirim A. Sorokin (1889-1968) comprises an email of mine which was occasioned by a message I received a few days ago from a reader of this blog.

 

 

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Thanks for contacting me about Pitirim A. Sorokin. I am glad you discovered my blog posts about him.

Sorokin is one of my intellectual and personal heroes. I have always admired him. Greatly. He is one of my intellectual idols. I revere him on account of his works; his deep and earnest thought; his sincerity; his originality; the excitement which I felt upon encountering his works as an intellectually curious and intellectually hungry adolescent; and the fact that he always gave me the feeling of being a kindred spirit, one whose views could not be pigeonholed and who wasn’t afraid to take unpopular positions. (Sorokin used the oxymoron Conservative Christian Anarchist to describe his Weltanschauung — world view. Conservative Christian Anarchist was used by Henry Adams to describe himself, as Sorokin noted.)

 

 

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I discovered Sorokin in my local public library at age 17 when I was a senior in high school. (It seems that practically every important book I ever read was discovered by serendipity, as was the case in this instance.) There was a book on the library’s shelves which caught my eye: “The Crisis of Our Age” by one P. A. Sorokin, whom I had never heard of.

“This looks interesting,” I thought.

Philosophy of history.

“The Crisis of Our Age” was an intensely stimulating and exciting read for a 17 year old with an interest in history and, especially, the history of ideas (in contrast to event-based history, which has never had much interest for me).

I could not put the book down, devoured it. It was a very rewarding intellectual exercise for me at that stage in my intellectual development. It challenged me, stimulated me mentally, and greatly expanded my intellectual horizons. I was introduced to numerous big words which I dutifully looked up, greatly expanding my knowledge of abstract words used in academic writing and discourse. (“Syncretism” is one I recall.) The book enlarged for me the mental landscape and scope of my knowledge of intellectual history.

History was one of my best subjects, and I wound up majoring in it in college. The book was not actually history, and it was anything but the usual dry academic tome or fact-laden historical monograph. It was a mélange of historical, cultural, social, and intellectual history plus interpretive analysis by Sorokin. It was supposedly an objective sociological work, a condensed version of the author’s four volume magnum opus, “Social and Cultural Dynamics.”

It was anything but objective, despite the statistical charts and data, collected laboriously by the author and research assistants, which supposedly provided the “scientific” (or social scientific) underpinnings for his findings. For “findings,” one should perhaps substitute pronouncements or sweeping assessments.

 

 

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Over the course of time, I learned about Pitirim A. Sorokin’s personal life.

He was born in 1889 among the Komi, a Uralic ethnic group in the northeast of European Russia. He was orphaned at an early age and eventually became a student at a teacher’s college. He was arrested and imprisoned in 1906 for anti-czarist revolutionary political activities. Upon the outbreak of the so called February Revolution (in March 1917), he became a founder of the Russian Peasant Soviet, which was dispersed by the Communists. He was, from the beginning of the Revolution, vehemently opposed to Communist leaders such as Lenin and Trotsky.

He was arrested twice by the Bolsheviks and was condemned to death, but was freed on Lenin’s orders and allowed to return to his academic activities as a professor at the University of St. Petersburg. In 1922, he was banished from the Soviet Union. He emigrated to the United States in 1923 and, in 1930, was invited to become the first professor and chairman of the Sociology Department at Harvard University. He retired from teaching duties in 1955, but continued to write. He was a controversial figure and vigorously opposed trends in the Harvard sociology department after stepping down as chairman.

 

 

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Sorokin had pretensions to be a scientist – a social scientist – and believed he was using the scientific method. He larded his books with statistics; but the “science” and statistical analysis somehow never seemed convincing, and it appeared that what he really was, was a social philosopher, not a social scientist.

The scientific slant, such as it was, in his thinking and writing undoubtedly came from his studies at the Psycho-Neurological Institute in Petrograd and the University of St. Petersburg under scholars such as Ivan Pavlov. He became, in the words of Sorokin biographer Barry V. Johnston, “an empirical neopositivist.”

I agree with critics such as Arnold Toynbee who found fault with Sorokin’s methodology and accused him of creating a tautological work, a massive tautology. Essentially, they said, he decided what he was going to say first, then engaged in pseudoscientific research to prove what was for him a foregone conclusion, with shoddy methodology and biases that predetermined what his research would find. Then, the critics seemed to be saying, he propagated simplistic, self-evident conclusions. The art of the Idealistic period (e.g., the Middle Ages) was spiritual in its focus and nature. The art of our present, Sensate era is not spiritual; there is much nudity and erotic content. And so on. The present, Sensate era is overly materialistic and has become decadent (plus the factor of aggression and bloodshed between nations), but a new, more spiritual era will right things, so to speak, because history is cyclical. The focus of the Idealistic Middle Ages was otherworldly. The Ideational period shows a mixture of Idealistic and Sensate elements and represents a transitional phase.

 

 

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Sorokin saw history as cyclical and as alternating periodically between recurring phases: Ideational, Idealistic, and Sensate. To illustrate what Sorokin meant by these three types of cultures or cultural phases predominating at various periods in history, a timeframe helps:

Ideational — the High Middle Ages represented such a culture in full flower. “Its major principle or value was God.”

Sensate — it began roughly with the sixteenth century and is based on the premise or ethos that “True reality and value is sensory”; it reached its apogee (and unleashed monstrous destructive forces) in the twentieth century.

Idealistic — a mix of the above two cultural types; represented by European culture in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. “Its major premise was that true reality is partly super sensory and partly sensory.” St. Thomas Aquinas is one exemplar of such thinking.

It should be noted that Sorokin believed that these three cultural forms alternated rhythmically over all historical time. He includes examples from antiquity as well.

 

 

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Shoddy methodology? I would say yes. But, for an intellectually curious high school student, this was indeed exciting stuff — it seemed profound. And, I have great respect, as stated above, for Sorokin the man and scholar. He wasn’t afraid to attack big themes, and some of his work is profoundly original and important in its implications.

Sorokin counterattacked his critics caustically. He loved a good fight. Despite expressing profound admiration for Arnold Toynbee’s oeuvre, he felt, not surprisingly, that Toynbee’s works were conceptually and methodologically flawed in several important respects wherein Sorokin thought his own works surpassed Toynbee’s. (Ditto for the work of another philosopher of history, Oswald Spengler, whose works Sorokin found to be unpersuasive and methodologically flawed.)

It has been said that Sorokin was an arrogant scholar. Perhaps so. Nevertheless, I found much to like and admire about him.

 

 

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On the first day of freshman orientation at Brandeis University, my mother accompanied me to the campus and spent the day with me. We sort of took in the whole place. Among other things, I had to check out the library, which met with my approval. The first thing I did was to go to the card catalogue. “Let’s see if they have Sorokin’s works,” I said to her. They did, several works. I was pleased, and my mother beamed, showing that she shared my enthusiasm vicariously.

In my freshman year, I took English Composition. For our first assignment, we were told to write a paper in which we were instructed to “define style,” which I tried mightily to do. (I didn’t quite understand what underlay the assignment.) In the next class, the instructor singled out my paper for criticism. I thought it was pretty good, and one or two other students in the class (notably Ricardo Millett, an exchange student from Panama who went on to have a distinguished academic career) felt so too.

In the paper, I quoted a passage from “The Crisis of Our Age” as an example of what I considered an excellent, distinctive style:

The crisis is here in all its stark and unquestionable reality. We are in the midst of an enormous conflagration burning everything into ashes. In a few weeks millions of human lives are uprooted; in a few hours century-old cities are demolished; in a few days kingdoms are erased. Red human blood flows in broad streams from one end of the earth to the other. Ever expanding misery spreads its gloomy shadow over larger eras. The fortunes, happiness and comfort of untold millions have disappeared. Peace, security and safety have vanished. Prosperity and well-being have become in many countries but a memory; freedom a mere myth. Western culture is covered by a blackout. A great tornado sweeps over the whole of mankind. (“The Crisis of Our Age,” pp. 14-15; note: the book was published at the beginning of World War II)

The instructor, Robert Stein (a chain smoker known to students as “C plus Stein”), read the passage out loud in class and pounced on me for making such a claim. He drew a red line through my paper and wrote something like “No!” in the margin. Purple prose, he said. Exactly the OPPOSITE of excellence of style. (The freshman comp Bible in those days was Strunk and White’s “The Elements of Style.” Sorokin would probably have had difficulty passing a course of theirs.) I was taken aback by Stein’s criticisms and his take on Sorokin the writer.

 

 

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Sorokin does have a characteristic style which could easily be parodied, should one care to. He uses jargon and his own private verbiage, “Sorokinisms” (“intellectual chewing gum” for example), when he feels it will serve his purposes. He will use big words (which is not necessarily a “sin”), actual or near neologisms, and words and phrases drawn from various languages, especially (and notably) Latin — he was addicted to Latin mottoes. He can be guilty of “overwriting.” Yet, his style is basically clear, punchy, and arresting. He wants, above all, to communicate.

He obviously had linguistic ability. His native language was Komi (a language spoken in the northeastern European part of Russia). I was interested to read that, as Sorokin wrote, in later life, he had forgotten it. He was, of course, fluent in Russian from his school days on. He knew both German and Latin — knowledge of the former served him well for sociological studies — and undoubtedly other languages (apparently including Italian) as well. He learned English after emigrating in the mid-1920’s. Some of his faults as a stylist — and I feel that in many respects he was actually an excellent writer — may have been attributable to imperfect knowledge of English.

 

 

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I wrote a research paper on Sorokin for the freshman comp course. One day I encountered Mr. Stein in the college snack bar. Despite being regarded as a prickly and difficult teacher, he found my writing to be good and showed respect for me. “Why are you so hung up on Sorokin?” he asked. He apparently knew a former Harvard student who had studied under Sorokin (or knew someone who had) and from that person had learned that Sorokin was regarded as something of a crackpot at Harvard. This surprised me, and though I was not about to alter my views, I did later learn more about Sorokin that seemed in accord with what Mr. Stein had said. A few anecdotal factoids emerged:

— Sorokin could be “over the top” as a lecturer in that the whole course – he taught a required course at Harvard, Social Relations, which was popular and heavily subscribed – was devoted to his theories. He was said to regard himself as a great thinker up there with Aristotle and who knows else?

— Some graduate students (according to their reminiscences) found him difficult to have as an academic advisor. (But not all; he was beloved by some former students.)

— Sorokin had been ousted as department chairman in a bitter power struggle with Talcott Parsons. They detested one another and each had contempt for the other’s theories and methodologies. Their approaches were diametrically opposed, Parsons being the classic dry social scientist, Sorokin the quixotic figure writing jeremiads. (“Quixotic” was a term my former therapist actually used to describe him.)

— Sorokin wasn’t even teaching by the time I took Mr. Stein’s course. He was still writing and lecturing, but he had already retired from Harvard. (He retired from teaching in 1955 and continued on as director of a research institute at Harvard which he had founded until 1959).

 

 

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Not knowing that Sorokin had already retired, I asked my older brother, who was attending Harvard, whether he knew of Sorokin. He did not, but he said that if Sorokin was still teaching at Harvard, we would certainly attend one of his lectures together. Needless to say, this never came about.

My father also attended Harvard at a time when Sorokin, who taught at Harvard from 1930–1955, was teaching there. My father’s transcript indicates that he took Social Relations 1a and Social Relations 1b, a two semester sequence comprising a required core course, in the 1948-1949 academic year. I am certain that the course would have been taught by Sorokin. But my father (who may or may not have been aware of my interest in Sorokin, I don’t recall) and I never discussed Sorokin.

 

 

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Influenced by Sorokin, I chose sociology as my major at Brandeis. I had some excellent sociology professors (notably Gordon Fellman and Lewis A. Coser), but the courses were a letdown and I changed my major to history. Sorokin was NEVER mentioned. Sociology on a grand scale it was not (although we did read sociologists such as Durkheim and Max Weber who wrote seminal works of a similar scope).

 

 

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Insofar as my extracurricular reading of Sorokin was concerned, I progressed from theoretical works, e.g., “The Crisis of Our Age” — which was based on the Lowell Lectures which Sorokin delivered at Harvard University in 1941; the book was actually a condensed version, aimed at the general reading public, of what Sorokin considered his major scholarly work — to reading autobiographical works of his.

“Leaves from A Russian Diary” (1924; enlarged edition with afterword, 1950), which details Sorokin’s experiences as a revolutionary opponent of the Czarist government, an official in the short lived Kerensky government, and an anti-Bolshevik, was a work that I could not put down. It has a cogency and dramatic interest, being written at white heat, so to speak, that make it compelling. It reads like a novel, a sort of “Les Misérables” minus about a thousand pages. l feel that it is an underrated book and could never understand why it never achieved a wide readership. For me, it is the best book on the Russian Revolution, the only one I practically ever read about it, in fact. It made me feel what the revolution must have been like. I regard it as a classic, and I felt it was very well written, much more so than when Sorokin was writing as a scholar.

 

 

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“Russia and the United States” was another one of my first Sorokin books. It was not readily available, but our college library had it and, as was customary for me, I read it on my own, independently of coursework. The book held my interest from start to finish.

I have always felt that “Russia and the United States” is one of Sorokin’s best books, modest though it may be in scope. In fact, I think that the fact that Sorokin was not overreaching in this book is part of its value and appeal. Also, Sorokin got it right. It’s a sensible book, written at a time when the Soviet Union was regraded with outright hostility, fear, and suspicion, and written by a scholar (Sorokin) who had been banished from the USSR, barely escaping execution, because of his fervent anti-Communism.

I read the book at a time, the mid-1960’s, when the Cold War was at or near its zenith, when the USSR was regarded as our mortal enemy. I myself had rarely harbored anti-Russian feelings, but I was keenly aware, along with everyone else, of the political undertones. When Khrushchev stood beaming in a cornfield during a visit to the USA in the late 1950’s and pictures were published in newspapers the next day, one of our teachers told us, “Don’t let him fool you. You can never and should never trust him.”

What Sorokin said, basically, in “Russia and the United States,” which was published in 1941 — meaning that it was written before the USSR became our wartime ally — was that a careful study of the lineaments, so to speak, of the two countries would reveal that they actually had much in common as countries and societies, and that the two nations would eventually become less hostile to one another over time because of commonalities.

As Sorokin put it, the two countries “exhibit an essential similarity or congeniality in a number of important psychological, cultural, and social values”: vast territories with all that implies (such as various climates, topography, and regional characteristics); rich natural and human resources; major cultural and urban centers; the fact that both countries were world powers; and so on.

This seemed counterintuitive at the time, but I sensed then that Sorokin was right, and history proved him right, insofar that the Cold War came to an unexpected end. I myself had always admired the USSR – if not as a political entity – as a country with vast expanses like us and a multiplicity of nationalities and ethnic groups with a rich, continually growing culture ranging from Tolstoy and Dostoevsky to Mussorgsky and Tchaikovsky. Just like America. Huge, diverse, all encompassing, culturally fertile; and with a vibrant economy.

 

 

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Sorokin’s autobiography, “A Long Journey,” came out when I was in college. I had to read it. I am so glad I acquired and read it when I did. It is truthful and revelatory, not in the sense of a confessional, but in the sense that Sorokin is straightforward and unafraid to tell it as he saw and experienced it, without worrying about how this or that comment or remark about others might be received. Underneath the academic theorizing, he was a simple man with simple tastes and plain, unvarnished, almost childlike, feelings. (He took great pride in a garden of his at his home in Winchester, Massachusetts, which won awards from horticultural societies; he came of peasant stock and was proud of it.)

It ranges in subject matter from Sorokin’s days as a revolutionary, to his becoming an emigre, his early teaching career in Minnesota, his Harvard years, and, interestingly, his family life, his love of music (he was a good friend of Boston Symphony Orchestra music director Serge Koussevitzky), his love of the outdoors, and disputes with scholars. He was miffed when, as an emeritus, he submitted a paper to the American Sociological Review that was rejected. He is unapologetic about opinions of his which often ran counter to prevailing academic and intellectual fashions. It makes for interesting reading. Dull he is not.

 

 

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I have perused over the years but have never read as carefully as I would have liked “Social and Cultural Mobility” and “The Sociology of Revolution.” The latter work, written by Sorokin in the early 1920’s when he was a refugee in Czechoslovakia, asserts that all revolutions are disasters in the making which result in the unleashing of violent and destructive forces in lieu of social amelioration. “A society which has never known how to live,” Sorokin wrote, “which has been incapable of carrying through adequate reforms, but has thrown itself in the arms of revolution, has to pay the penalty for its sins by the death of a considerable proportion of its members.” This is characteristic Sorokin. He was not given to dry summations or mealy-mouthed pronouncements. (Note: I have, since this writing, read “The Sociology of Revolution.” It is a remarkable work which, despite somewhat “old fashioned’ scholarship, has not become outdated or less valid despite having been published almost a hundred years ago.)

 

 

 

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In the mid-1970’s, I was in a second rate bookstore in lower Manhattan one Sunday and found a remaindered copy of a book of Sorokin’s that had been posthumously published by a university press: “Hunger as a Factor in Human Affairs.” T. Lynn Smith, a former academic colleague and friend of Sorokin’s, had lovingly prepared the book for publication, along with Sorokin’s widow, Elena P. Sorokin, the translator. The book contained wonderful illustrations of Sorokin and his family from his wife’s collection. What’s more, it was a compelling read.

“[Hunger as a Factor in Human Affairs] was written by Sorokin during the Russian famine of 1919-1921 while he was still in Russia. It was written by a starving and freezing scholar in the midst of a famine that he felt was caused by the revolution to which he was very hostile. Banished from the Soviet Union in 1922, Sorokin managed to smuggle out some proofs which lay untouched until 1972 when Sorokin’s wife Elena began [a] translation.” (http://www.sociosite.net/sociologists/sorokin_pitirim.php)

“Hunger as a Factor in Human Affairs” — titled in the original Russian “Golod kak faktor: vliyaniye goloda na povedeniye cheloveka i sotsial’nuyu organizatsiyu zhizni” (Hunger as a factor: the impact of hunger on people’s behavior, social organization of life) — was a compelling book not simply because of the circumstances under which it was written but owing in part to conclusions derived from them. Sorokin, then a professor at the University of Leningrad, wrote it under conditions of great privation during the Russian famine. The book concludes with remarks by Sorokin that seem to have wide applicability: that, when food is scarce, government control and repression increase. Sorokin, noted for his colorful, pithy phrasing, concludes with the words “Caveat consules!” (let the consuls beware).

The book was a revelation for me. Often, I have found with writers in general that their early works are among their best. This was certainly true of Sorokin. One could see him here, in one of his first books, in a “pristine” state — when he was perhaps less preachy and less addicted to writing in a sometimes overblown fashion, in the manner of a grand scholar — at his best. It is a provocative, original, and groundbreaking work, and one from which the conclusions can be extrapolated and applied to various governments and economic conditions. Sorokin’s main point was stated as follows on the penultimate page:

Ceteris paribus, with the increase of the wealth of a country and a decrease of famine, and if there is an average proprietary differentiation, the curve of compulsory statism will decrease under any power and form of government, and vice versa.

In other words, there is an inverse relationship between scarcity or abundance of food and the degree of individual freedoms permitted versus the lack of it. Think of the United States, where food has always been abundant, famine conditions have never been known, and individual freedoms are greater than those permitted in most of the world.

 

 

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I also read “The American Sex Revolution,” also while in college, which is a hopelessly outdated book. But, at least Sorokin was bold enough to tackle the subject.

 

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   February 2017; updated April 2019

 

 

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Addendum: The same points which Sorokin made in his seminal work “Golod kak factor” (translated into English by his wife and published posthumously in the United States in 1975 as “Hunger as a Factor in Human Affairs”) are made in an article by Sorokin entitled “Impoverishment and the Expansion of Governmental Control” which was published in the American Journal of Sociology in 1926 (American Journal of Sociology, vol. 32, no. 2, Sept. 1926) shortly after Sorokin had arrived in the United States and been appointed a professor at the University of Minnesota.

In the article, drawing on examples from various historical periods and civilizations, Sorokin makes incisive points with wide applicability about governmental control, noting that, when there is a yawning gap between the relative economic conditions of the rich and the poor and when food is scarce, government control and repression increase.

This article is posted here as a downloadable PDF file.

 

sorokin-impoverishment-the-expansion-of-governmental-control1

 

 

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Addendum: Please note that I have many articles about Pitirim A. Sorokin and some articles by Sorokin that I would be willing to share. My email address is available in the “About” section of this site. — Roger W. Smith

 

 

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Pitirim A. Sorokin, autobiographical (from “Sociology of My Mental Life”)

Pitirim A. Sorokin, autobiographical (from “Sociology of My Mental Life”)

 

 

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«Сорокин»

 Роджер У. Смит

 

 

В представленном ниже эссе о русско-американском социологе и социальном философе Питириме Александровиче Сорокине (1889-1968) приведено электронное письмо, написанное мной в ответ на сообщение, полученное несколько дней назад от читателя этого блога.

 

 

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Спасибо, что написали мне о Питириме Александровиче Сорокине. Я рад, что вы прочли посты о нем в моем блоге.

Сорокин – мой герой, как ученый и как личность. Я всегда им восхищался. Он один из моих интеллектуальных идолов. Я преклоняюсь перед ним за его работы; глубину и серьезность его мысли; его искренность; его оригинальность; воодушевление, которое я ощутил, познакомившись с его работами, которые оказались интересными в интеллектуальном плане, они утоляли мой юношеский интеллектуальный голод; я как будто встретил родственную душу, человека, взгляды которого и сегодня не потеряли свою актуальность и который не боялся отстаивать непопулярные мнения. (Сорокин описывал свое Weltanschauung (мировоззрение) при помощи оксюморона «консервативный христианский анархист». Как отмечал Сорокин, «консервативным христианским анархистом» называл себя Генри Адамс.)

 

 

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Я впервые познакомился с работами Сорокина в местной публичной библиотеке, когда мне было 17 лет, и я учился в старших классах. (Наверное, практически все стоящие книги, которые я когда-либо читал, попались мне под руку совершенно случайно, и это как раз такой случай.) На полке в библиотеке мое внимание привлекла книга с названием «Кризис нашего времени» П.А. Сорокина, о котором я никогда не слышал.

«Это интересно», – подумал я.

Философия истории.

Книга «Кризис нашего времени» оказалась мотивирующим и захватывающим чтением для 17-летнего юноши, интересующегося историей и, в частности, историей идеологии (в отличие от истории на основе событий, которая меня никогда не интересовала).

Я не мог оторваться от этой книги, наслаждался ею. На том этапе моего интеллектуального развития это был чрезвычайно полезный опыт. Книга стала вызовом, мотивировала меня, позволила расширить интеллектуальные горизонты. Я старательно искал в словарях значения новых слов, и в результате существенно расширил словарный запас за счет абстрактных слов, которые используются при написании научных работ и ведении интеллектуальных дискуссий. («синкретизм» – одно из таких слов.) Книга расширила мой кругозор и знания в области интеллектуальной истории.

История – один из моих любимых предметов, который я выбрал в колледже в качестве профильного. Нельзя сказать, что это книга по истории, она точно не похожа на привычный сухой академический труд или перегруженную фактами историческую монографию. Это синтез исторической, культурной, социальной и интеллектуальной истории с интерпретативным анализом Сорокина. Предположительно, это объективное социологическое исследование, краткая версия четырехтомной монографии автора «Социальная и культурная динамика».

Но эта книга – точно не объективная работа, несмотря на все статистические таблицы и данные, кропотливо собранные автором и его ассистентами, которые, вероятно, предоставили «научную» (или социально-научную) базу полученных им результатов. «Результатами» стоит, наверное, считать высказывания или радикальные оценки автора.

 

 

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С течением времени я узнал о личной жизни Питирима А. Сорокина.

Сорокин родился в 1889 году в республике Коми, уральской этнической группе на северо-востоке европейской России. Он осиротел в раннем возрасте, а повзрослев стал студентом учительского колледжа. В 1906 году он был арестован и заключён за анти царскую революционно-политическую деятельность. В начале так называемой февральской революции (в марте 1917 года) он стал основателем Русско-крестьянского Совета, который был отменён коммунистами. В начале революции Сорокин был ярым противником коммунистических лидеров как Ленин и Троцкий.

Сорокин дважды был арестован большевиками и был приговорён к смертной казни, но по приказу Ленина он был освобождён и получил разрешение вернуться к своей научной деятельности в качестве профессора в Санкт-Петербургском университете. В 1922 году он был выслан из Советского Союза. Он эмигрировал в Соединённые Штаты Америки в 1923 году, и стал профессором социологии в Университете Миннесоты, где он преподавал с 1924 по 1930 год. В 1930 году он был приглашен президентом Гарвардского университета Абботтом Лоуренсом Лоуэллом, чтобы стать председателем и основателем нового отдела Социологии в Гарвардском университете. В 1955 году он ушёл с преподавательской деятельности, но продолжал писать. Он был спорной фигурой и активно выступал против тенденций в социологическом отделе Гарварда даже после ухода с поста председателя.
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Сорокин претендовал на звание ученого – социолога – и полагал, что использует научный метод. Его книги переполнены статистикой; но «наука» и статистический анализ никогда не казались убедительными, поэтому на самом деле он был социальным философом, а не ученым-социологом.

Научный уклон в его размышлениях и работах, несомненно, связан с его учебой в Психоневрологическом институте в Петрограде и в Санкт-Петербургском университете под руководством таких ученых, как Иван Павлов. Он стал, по словам биографа Сорокина Барри В. Джонстона, «эмпирическим неопозитивистом».

Я согласен с критиками, такими как Арнольд Тойнби, который раскритиковал методологию Сорокина и обвинил его в создании тавтологических работ, серьезной тавтологии. По сути, они говорили, что он сначала решал, что именно хочет сказать, затем приступал к псевдонаучному исследованию, чтобы доказать заранее известный вывод, используя ненаучную методологию и ошибочные суждения, которые заранее предопределяли, какой именно результат будет получен в ходе исследования. Затем, говорили критики, он выдавал банальные и очевидные выводы. Искусство идеалистического периода (например, Средних веков) было духовным по своей цели и сути. Искусство настоящей, чувственной эпохи не духовно; в нем много обнаженного и эротического содержания. И так далее. Настоящая, чувственная эпоха чрезмерно пропитана духом материализма и декадентства (плюс фактор агрессии и кровавой вражды между нациями), но новая, более духовная эра все исправит, так сказать, потому что история циклична. Идеалистическое Средневековье было сосредоточено на потустороннем мире. Идеациональный период – это смесь идеалистических и чувственных элементов, это переходная фаза.

 

 

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Сорокин видел историю как цикличное развитие, как периодическую смену повторяющихся фаз: идеациональной, идеалистической и чувственной. Проиллюстрировать, что именно Сорокин подразумевал под этими тремя типами культур или культурными фазами, преобладающими в разные периоды истории, можно при помощи временных рамок:

Идеациональная культура – Классическое Средневековье стало периодом расцвета такой культуры. «Его основной принцип и ценность – Бог».

Чувственная культура – этот период начался примерно в шестнадцатом веке, главная идея чувственной культуры: «Настоящая реальность и ценность лежит в сфере чувственности»; своего апогея она достигла в двадцатом веке (и выпустила на волю чудовищные разрушительные силы).

Идеалистическая культура – это смесь двух описанных выше типов; примером является европейская культура тринадцатого и четырнадцатого веков. «Основная идея в том, что в настоящей реальности сочетаются сверхчувственная и чувственная стороны». Св. Фома Аквинский – один из примеров такого мировоззрения.

Сорокин считал, что эти три типа культуры циклично сменяют друг друга в ходе исторического развития. Он также приводит примеры из античности.

 

 

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Ненаучная методология? С этим я бы согласился. Но для любознательного учащегося старшей школы это был действительно интересный материал – он казался мудрым и глубоким. И, как я писал выше, я уважаю Сорокина как личность и как ученого. Он не боялся работать с крупными темами, некоторые его работы и выводы являются действительно оригинальными и глубокими.

Сорокин саркастично нападал на своих критиков. Он любил хорошие схватки. Естественно, он чувствовал, что работы Тойнби не выдерживают критики. (То же касается и другого специалиста в философии истории, Освальда Шпенглера, чьи труды Сорокин считал, что неудивительно, неубедительными и методологически слабыми.)

Говорили, что Сорокин был заносчивым ученым. Возможно. Но я вижу много причин, чтобы им восхищаться.

 

 

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В день знакомства для первокурсников в Брандейском университете моя мама сопровождала меня в студенческий городок и провела со мной целый день. Мы хотели разведать обстановку. В частности, я должен был ознакомится с библиотекой и я оценил ее по достоинству. Первое, что я сделал – пошел в картотеку. «Разрешите посмотреть, есть ли у вас работы Сорокина»,– сказал я сотруднице. У них было несколько работ. Я обрадовался, а мама просто просияла, почувствовав мой энтузиазм.

На первом году обучения я выбрал курс литературной композиции на английском языке. Нашим первым заданием было написать работу, в которой нужно было «дать определение стиля». Я выполнил задание с большим усердием (я не очень понял суть задания). На следующем уроке преподаватель выбрал мою работу для анализа. Я решил, что это хороший знак, еще пару студентов в классе подумали то же самое (в частности, Рикардо Миллет, студент по обмену из Панамы, который впоследствии сделал успешную научную карьеру).

В работе я процитировал отрывок из книги «Кризис нашего времени» как пример того, что я считал отличным, выразительным стилем:

Кризис наступил во всей своей суровой и бесспорной реальности. Мы находимся в эпицентре бушующего пожара, который сжигает все дотла. За несколько недель разрушаются миллионы человеческих жизней; за несколько часов уничтожаются древние города; за несколько дней исчезают с лица земли целые королевства. Красные реки человеческой крови разливаются по всей земле. Под мрачную тень горя и страданий попадают все большие и большие территории. Благосостояние, счастье и комфорт миллионов людей исчезают. Мира и безопасности больше не существует. Во многих странах благосостояние и процветание – не более чем воспоминание, а свобода – всего лишь миф. Это полное затмение Западной культуры. Мощное торнадо захлестнуло все человечество. («Кризис нашего времени», стр. 14-15; примечание: книга была опубликована в начале Второй мировой войны.)

Преподаватель, Роберт Штайн (заядлый курильщик, которого студенты называли «C плюс Штайн»), вслух прочел отрывок на уроке и набросился на меня за такое утверждение. Он красной ручкой перечеркнул мою работу и написал что-то вроде «Нет!» на полях. «Высокопарный слог, – сказал он. – Нечто ПРОТИВОПОЛОЖНОЕ совершенству стиля». (В те времена библией первокурсника, изучавшего литературную композицию, была книга «Элементы стиля» Странка и Уайта. Сорокин вряд ли успешно прошел бы этот курс.) Меня застигла врасплох критика Штайна и его мнение о Сорокине как о писателе.

 

 

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У Сорокина нет характерного стиля, который при желании можно было бы легко скопировать. При необходимости он использует жаргон и им самим придуманные слова, «сорокинизмы» («интеллектуальная жвачка», например). Он использует сложные слова (что само по себе не является прегрешением), неологизмы или нечто похожее на них, а также слова и фразы, взятые из разных языков, в частности (чаще всего) из латыни – он обожал латинские изречения. Его можно обвинить в «витиеватости». Но его стиль в целом можно охарактеризовать как понятный, эффектный и запоминающийся. Прежде всего, он стремится донести информацию.

У него, очевидно, были хорошо развитые лингвистические способности. Его родным языком был язык коми (используется на северо-востоке Европейской части России). Мне было интересно узнать, что как писал сам Сорокин, он с годами забыл этот язык. Конечно, еще со школьных лет он свободно говорил на русском языке. Он знал немецкий и латинский – знание последнего пригодилось ему при проведении социологических исследований, – а также другие языки (в том числе итальянский). После эмиграции в середине 1920-х он приступил к изучению английского. Некоторые его стилистические ошибки – а я убежден, что во многих аспектах он был замечательным писателем – можно объяснить его недостаточными познаниями в английском.

 

 

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В рамках курса литературной композиции я написал исследование о Сорокине. Однажды я встретил г-на Штайна в буфете колледжа. Несмотря на репутацию строгого и придирчивого учителя, он хорошо отозвался о моей работе и уважительно отнесся ко мне. «Почему вы так увлечены Сорокиным?» – спросил он. Он, видимо, был знаком с бывшим студентом Гарварда, который учился у Сорокина (или знал кого-то, кто учился у него), и от него узнал, что Сорокина в Гарварде считали чудаком. Это удивило меня и хотя я не был готов изменить свои взгляды, позже мне стало известно больше о Сорокине, что подтверждало слова г-на Штайна. Появилось несколько отдельных неподтвержденных фактов:

– Сорокин мог «перегибать палку как лектор», в результате чего весь курс – а он преподавал в Гарварде обязательный курс, общественные отношения, который был популярен у студентов

– был посвящен его собственным теориям. Говорили, что он считал себя великим мыслителем, наравне с Аристотелем и неизвестно кем еще…

– Некоторые студенты-аспиранты вспоминали, что с ним сложно было общаться как с научным руководителем. (Но не все; некоторые из его бывших студентов любили его.)

– Сорокина сняли с должности заведующего кафедрой в результате сложного противостояния с Толкоттом Парсонсом. Они с презрением относились к теориям и методологиям друг друга. Их подходы были диаметрально противоположными: Парсонс был классическим сухим социологом, а Сорокин – эксцентричным чудаком, который писал наполненные эмоциями работы (мой бывший врач называл его «сумасбродом».)

– Когда я записался на курс г-на Штайна, Сорокин уже не преподавал. Он все еще писал и читал лекции, но уже ушел из Гарварда (он перестал преподавать в 1955 году и продолжал работать директором исследовательского института в Гарварде, который был основан им в 1959 году).

 

 

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Я не знал, что Сорокин уже не преподает, и спросил старшего брата, который учился в

Гарварде, знает ли он Сорокина. Он не знал, но сказал, что если он все еще преподает в Гарварде, мы обязательно сходим на одну из его лекций вместе. Стоит ли говорить о том, что сделать это нам не удалось.

Мой отец также учился в Гарварде в тот период, когда там преподавал Сорокин (он преподавал в Гарварде с 1930 по 1955). Судя по записям отца, он посещал 2-семестровый курс общественных отношений 1a и 1b, в который входил обязательный базовый курс, в 1948-1949 учебном году. Я уверен, что этот курс вел Сорокин. Но мы с отцом (я не помню, знал ли он о моем интересе к Сорокину) никогда не обсуждали Сорокина.

 

 

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Находясь под влиянием Сорокина, я выбрал социологию своей основной специальностью в Брандейском университете. Я учился у замечательных профессоров-социологов (в частности, у Гордона Феллмана и Льюиса А. Козера), но курсы меня разочаровали, и я сменил специальность, выбрав историю. Сорокина НИКОГДА не упоминали. Фактически, это не была социология в полном масштабе (хотя мы читали аналогичные по области действия фундаментальные труды таких социологов, как Дюркгейм и Макс Вебер).

 

 

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Что касается моего знакомства с трудами Сорокина вне учебного курса, после прочтения теоретических работ, таких как «Кризис нашего времени» — которая была основана на лекциях Ловела которые Сорокин читал в Гарвардском университете в 1941 году; книга книга была фактически является предназначенной для широкого круга читателей краткой версией книги, которую Сорокин считал своей фундаментальной научной работой — я приступил к чтению работ, написанных им собственноручно.

Я не мог оторваться от книги «Страницы из русского дневника», в которой Сорокин описывает свой опыт революционно настроенного оппонента царского режима, чиновника временного правительства Керенского и антибольшевика. Книга убедительна и драматична, в ней чувствуется напряжение, которое делает ее интересной. Это практически роман, можно сказать «Отверженные» без пары тысяч страниц. Я считаю, что эту книгу недооценивают, и не понимаю, почему ею не заинтересовалась широкая аудитория читателей. Как по мне, это лучшая книга о российской революции, фактически единственная книга, которую я прочел на эту тему. Благодаря ей я почувствовал, какой была революция. Я считаю эту книгу классикой, к тому же она отлично написана, гораздо лучше, чем Сорокин писал, как ученый.

 

 

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«Россия и Соединенные Штаты» – следующая из первых прочитанных мной работ Сорокина. Ее не было в свободном доступе, но я нашел ее в библиотеке нашего колледжа и, как обычно, прочел самостоятельно, не в рамках учебы. Я с интересом прочел книгу от начала до конца.

Я всегда считал, что «Россия и Соединенные Штаты» – это одна из лучших работ Сорокина, хоть и небольшая по объему. Тот факт, что Сорокин тут не перегибает палку, повышает ее ценность и привлекательность. Сорокин все правильно изложил. Это разумная работа, написанная в период, когда Советский Союз ассоциировался с открытой враждебностью, страхом и подозрительностью, написанная ученым (Сорокиным), которого выслали из СССР, которому едва удалось избежать казни, так как он был ярым антикоммунистом.

Я прочел эту работу в середине 1960-х, на пике холодной войны, когда СССР считался смертельным врагом. Я едва ли испытывал антироссийские чувства, но, как и все вокруг, был в курсе политических настроений. Во время визита в США в 1950-х Хрущев с широкой улыбкой стоял посреди кукурузного поля, а на следующий день эти фотографии были во всех газетах. Тогда один из наших преподавателей сказал нам: «Не позволяйте ему обмануть вас. Ему нельзя доверять».

В работе «Россия и Соединенные Штаты», которая была опубликована в 1941 году – то есть до того, как в военное время СССР стал нашим союзником – говорится, что если тщательно изучить особенности двух стран, то окажется, что между этими странами и их общественной жизнью очень много общего, благодаря чему их народы через время станут менее враждебными друг другу.

Сорокин утверждал, что две страны «обладают похожими или одинаковыми психологическими, культурными и общественными ценностями»: обширные территории со всем, что к ним прилагается (разные климатические зоны, рельеф и региональные характеристики); богатые природные и людские ресурсы; крупные культурные центры и города; тот факт, что обе страны являются мировыми державами; и так далее.

В то время это звучало парадоксально, но я чувствовал, что Сорокин был прав, а впоследствии его правоту доказала сама история, когда холодная война неожиданно прекратилась. Я всегда восхищался СССР, если не как политической единицей, то как страной с обширными территориями, как и наша страна, с многообразием национальностей и этнических групп, с богатой развивающейся культурой, начиная с Толстого и Достоевского и заканчивая Мусоргским и Чайковским. Точно как Америка. Огромная, разнообразная, всеобъемлющая, с богатой культурой и бурно развивающейся экономикой.

 

 

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Автобиография Сорокина «Долгое путешествие» была опубликована, когда я учился в колледже. Я просто обязан был ее прочитать. Я очень рад, что приобрел и прочел ее. Это правдивая и откровенная работа, речь не о признаниях, а об откровенности автора – он не боится рассказывать правду о событиях, не переживая о том, как будут восприняты те или иные комментарии или замечания о других людях. Если отвлечься от научных теорий, он был простым человеком с простыми вкусами и простыми, открытыми, почти детскими чувствами. (Он гордился своим садом в Винчестере, Массачусетс, который был удостоен наград от садоводческих сообществ; он гордился своими крестьянскими корнями.)

В автобиографии описаны различные события – времена, когда Сорокин был революционером, эмиграция, начало преподавательской карьеры в Миннесоте, его годы в Гарварде и, что интересно, его семейная жизнь, любовь к музыке (он дружил с дирижером Бостонского симфонического оркестра, Сергеем Кусевицким), любовь к свежему воздуху, дискуссии c учеными. Он был раздражен, когда, будучи профессором в отставке, подал работу в American Sociological Review и получил отказ. Он не склонен извиняться за свои взгляды, которые часто идут вразрез с преобладающими научными и интеллектуальными настроениями. Книга получилось интересной, скучной ее точно не назовешь.

 

 

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Я просмотрел, но так и не прочел с должным вниманием, как бы того хотел, «Социальную и культурную мобильность» и «Социологию революции». В «Социологии революции», написанной Сорокиным в начале 1920-х, когда он был беженцем в Чехословакии, автор утверждает, что все революции являются катастрофами в действии, которые приводят к высвобождению мощных разрушительных сил вместо улучшения ситуации в обществе. «Общество, которое никогда не знает, как жить», — пишет Сорокин, — «которое неспособно провести адекватные реформы, а вместо этого бросается в объятия революции, должно заплатить за свои грехи смертью существенного количества людей». Это характерное для Сорокина высказывание. Он не любил сухих выводов или туманных высказываний. (Примечание: со времени написания этой статьи я прочитал «Социология революции». Это замечательная работа, которая, несмотря на несколько «старомодную» стипендию, не устарела и не стала менее действительной, несмотря на то, что была опубликована почти сто лет назад ». )

 

 

 

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Однажды в воскресенье в середине 1970-х я зашел в книжный магазин в Нижнем Манхеттене и обнаружил там уцененный экземпляр книги Сорокина, которая была опубликована посмертно университетским издательством — “Hunger as a Factor in Human Affairs” («Голод как фактор, влияющий на поведение людей»). Т. Линн Смит, в прошлом коллега и друг Сорокина, подготовил книгу к печати вместе с вдовой Сорокина, Еленой Петровной Сорокиной, переводчиком. В книге размещены замечательные фото Сорокина и его семьи из коллекции его жены. Это захватывающая книга.

 

Сорокин написал «Голод как фактор, влияющий на поведение людей» во время голода в России в 1919-1921 гг., пока он все еще был в России. Книга написана страдающим от голода и холода ученым в разгар голода, который, по его мнению, начался из-за революции, к которой он относился крайне враждебно. Сорокин был выслан из Советского Союза в 1922 году и сумел вывезти доказательства, которые лежали без дела до 1972 года, когда его жена Елена начала их переводить [a]. (http://www.sociosite.net/sociologists/sorokin_pitirim.php)

 

«Голод как фактор: влияние голода на поведение людей, социальную организацию жизнЬ» (его оригинальное русское название) это потрясающая книга, не только из-за обстоятельств, в которых она была написана, но и частично из-за сделанных выводов. Сорокин, который на тот момент был профессором Ленинградского университета, написал эту работу во время голода в России в условиях строгой секретности. Книга заканчивается выводами Сорокина, которые можно считать универсальными: если пищи недостаточно, правительственный контроль и репрессии увеличиваются. Сорокин, известный своей любовью к цветистым фразам, завершает работу словами «Caveat consules!» (консулы, будьте бдительны).

 

Книга стала для меня откровением. Я неоднократно приходил к выводу, что зачастую ранние работы писателей являются одними из лучших их работ. И это конечно же касается работ Сорокина. Здесь, в одной из его первых книг, мы видим его в первоначальном виде — когда он был менее нравоучительным и менее склонным к высокопарному стилю, к стилю великого ученого — это его лучшее состояние. Это провокационная, оригинальная и новаторская работа, выводы которой можно экстраполировать и применить к разным правительствам и экономическим условиям. Главная мысль Сорокина изложена на предпоследней странице:

 

Ceteris paribus, по мере повышения благосостояния страны и ликвидации голода, при средней дифференциации собственности, принудительный государственный контроль ослабевает независимо от типа власти и формы государственности, и наоборот.

 

Иными словами, наблюдается обратная зависимость между дефицитом или изобилием пищи, степенью личных свобод и их нехваткой. Посмотрите на Соединенные Штаты, где пищи всегда достаточно, условия голода никогда не возникали, а личных свобод больше, чем где бы то ни было.

 

 

 

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Я также прочел книгу «Американская сексуальная революция», еще в колледже, которая оказалась безнадежно устаревшей. Но Сорокин хотя бы был достаточно смел, чтобы коснуться этой темы.

 

 

– Роджер У. Смит

   Февраль 2017 г.

 

 

 

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Приложение
: Сорокин использовал те же идеи в своей конструктивной работе Голод как Фактор (переведён его женой на английский язык и опубликован посмертно в соединённых штатах в 1975 году как Hunger as a Factor in Human Affairs) в написанной им статье озаглавленной “Обеднение и расширение государственного контроля” которая была опубликована В Американском журнале социологии в 1926 году (Американский журнал социологии 32, 2, сентябрь 1926 года) вскоре после того как Сорокин прибыл в Соединённые Штаты и был назначен профессором в университете Миннесоты.

В статье, описаны примеры из различных исторических периодов и цивилизаций, Сорокин использует острые идеи широко применимостью о государственным контролем, примечая,что, когда огромный разрыв между относительно экономических условий

богатых и бедных и когда не хватает еды, государственный контроль и рост репресий.

Эта статья размещена ниже как загружаемый файл PDF.

 

 

 

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смотрите также

 

Primitive A. Sorokin, autobiographical (from “Sociology of My Mental Life”)

Pitirim A. Sorokin, autobiographical (from “Sociology of My Mental Life”)

 

 

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Добавление: Обратите внимание, что у меня есть много статей о Питириме А. Сорокине и некоторых статьях Сорокина, которые я бы хотел поделиться. Мой адрес электронной почты доступен в разделе «About» этого сайта.

Большинство статей на английском языке.

– Роджер У. Смит

 

 

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