Sorokin, Pitirim Alexandrovich

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Sorokin, Pitirim Alexandrovich (1889–1968) Born in Russia of humble origins, imprisoned and under threat of death, Sorokin was exiled in 1922, and found his way to the United States, where he eventually became Professor of Sociology at Harvard. During his career he published over thirty books on a wide range of topics including The Sociology of Revolution (1925), Social Mobility (1927), Rural Sociology (1930), and Social and Cultural Dynamics (4 vols., 1937–41). The last of these offers a cyclical theory of social change, which sees societies oscillating between three different types of ‘mentalities’, the sensate (emphasizing the role of the senses in understanding reality), ideational (religious ways of thinking), and idealistic (transitional types between the two). A prolific and profoundly iconoclastic sociologist (see, for example, his Fads and Foibles in Modern Sociology and Related Sciences, 1956
), Sorokin's work is generally recognized as provocative and (in many respects) pioneering, yet later generations have been remarkably uninfluenced by it (with the notable exception of his analysis of social mobility).