Sorokin lives! Centennial observations
P.A. Sorokin was one of the most colorful, erudite and controversial figures in American Sociology. A Komi peasant, Sorokin was born on January 21, 1889, in the village of Turya. At fourteen, he was part of the organized resistance to the Czar and politics became intertwined with education in a dynamic mix. By 1922 Sorokin had finished his Magistrant of Criminal Law and PhD degrees. He had also been jailed six times for political defiance. He founded the first sociology department at the University of St. Petersburg, and became Alexander Kerensky's personal secretary in the post Czarist government. During his last incarceration, Lenin ordered him shot. Only pleas from former political allies persuaded Lenin to exile him instead. Sorokin and his wife Elena left Russia in September 1923. After a year in Prague, Sorokin came to the United States and soon found employment at the University of Minnesota. There, in six years, he wrote six books. It was on the reputation of these volumes that Harvard's President, Abbott Lawrence Lowell, invited Sorokin to chair the University's first Department of Sociology in 1930. During his three Harvard decades, Sorokin's writings too many different directions. As a humanistic scholar he wanted to understand the conditions which led to war and the methods by which they could be treated and reduced. Sorokin further argued that sociologists spend too much time studying destructive social behaviors. Sorokin studied altruism and amitology. With support from the Lilly Endowment he established the Harvard Center for Creative Altruism. The Center sponsored many theoretical and practical research projects including seven books by Sorokin. Mainstream sociologists were often skeptical about these projects and Sorokin became somewhat of a margin figure in the discipline . In April 1963 rank-and-file sociologists spoke out in support of Sorokin for the Presidency of the American Sociological Association. Sorokin died in 1968. Sorokin's legacy is substantial. The lasting value of his work was in part captured by the "Sorokin lives" buttons worn by young dissident sociologists at the 1969 ASA meetings in San Francisco.
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