Pitirim Sorokin on the three main types of human society.


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PI Member
Oct 30, 2015
Pitirim Sorokin was a Komi, the Komi are a non-Slavic Russian ethnic group who are very interesting in their own right, historian and sociologist. Rejecting both Marxism and Oswald Spengler's cyclical organic vitalist approach, he developed his own theories which are well worth examining as I believe they do at least to a certain extent have significant explanatory power. He believed that there were three basic types of humanity society:

Culture in Crisis: The Visionary Theories of Pitirim Sorokin

......Sensate (Materialistic) Culture

The first pattern, which Sorokin called Sensate culture, has these features:

  • The defining cultural principle is that true reality is sensory – only the material world is real. There is no other reality or source of values.
  • This becomes the organizing principle of society. It permeates every aspect of culture and defines the basic mentality. People are unable to think in any other terms.
  • Sensate culture pursues science and technology, but dedicates little creative thought to spirituality or religion.
  • Dominant values are wealth, health, bodily comfort, sensual pleasures, power and fame.
  • Ethics, politics, and economics are utilitarian and hedonistic. All ethical and legal precepts are considered mere man-made conventions, relative and changeable.
  • Art and entertainment emphasize sensory stimulation. In the decadent stages of Sensate culture there is a frenzied emphasis on the new and the shocking (literally, sensationalism).
  • Religious institutions are mere relics of previous epochs, stripped of their original substance, and tending to fundamentalism and exaggerated fideism (the view that faith is not compatible with reason).
Ideational (Spiritual) Culture

The second pattern, which Sorokin called Ideational culture, has these characteristics:

  • The defining principle is that true reality is supersensory, transcendent, spiritual.
  • The material world is variously: an illusion (maya), temporary, passing away (“stranger in a strange land”), sinful, or a mere shadow of an eternal transcendent reality.
  • Religion often tends to asceticism and moralism.
  • Mysticism and revelation are considered valid sources of truth and morality.
  • Science and technology are comparatively de-emphasized.
  • Economics is conditioned by religious and moral commandments (e.g., laws against usury).
  • Innovation in theology, metaphysics, and supersensory philosophies.
  • Flourishing of religious and spiritual art (e.g., Gothic cathedrals).
Integral (Idealistic) Culture

Most cultures correspond to one of the two basic patterns above. Sometimes, however, a mixed cultural pattern occurs. The most important mixed culture Sorokin termed an Integral culture (also sometimes called an idealistic culture – not to be confused with an Ideational culture.) An Integral culture harmoniously balances sensate and ideational tendencies. Characteristics of an Integral culture include the following:

  • Its ultimate principle is that the true reality is richly manifold, a tapestry in which sensory, rational, and supersensory threads are interwoven.
  • All compartments of society and the person express this principle.
  • Science, philosophy, and theology blossom together.
  • Fine arts treat both supersensory reality and the noblest aspects of sensory reality........"

Tadhg Gaelach

Staff member
PI Member
Jan 14, 2016
By the Gulag wall.
I'd nearly say that Sensate Culture is purely a modern phenomenon. Even the Roman's had a fairly strong spiritual dimension - at least by today's standards.


PI Member
Mar 31, 2017
I'd nearly say that Sensate Culture is purely a modern phenomenon. Even the Roman's had a fairly strong spiritual dimension - at least by today's standards.
In terms of metaphysics, we're currently undergoing a sea change away from reductive materialism.
Apparently, Panpsychism, a halfway house between materialism and full blown idealism/monism, is becoming increasingly popular in Western academia.

And the evidence for parapsychological phenomena is coming in thick and fast, with results obtained by chance being ruled out by astronomical odds.
Of course, this doesn't make all claims that contradict our conventional understanding of nature valid.
Scepticism still has its place -- perhaps more than ever.

How this will impact upon culture is anyone's guess.
But there are good reasons to be excited about the possibilities unlocked by all of this.
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