The First Years in America

After a year's sojourn in Czechoslovakia where he had been invited to stayat the request of President Masaryk, whom he knew well, Sorokin accepted theoffer of two prominent American sociologists, Edward C, Hayes and EdwardA Ross, to come to America to deliver a series of lectures on the Russian Revo-lution. Arriving in New York in October 1923, Sorokin first resolved to learnsome English by attending lectures and meetings as well as various churchservices. Having gained a sufficient, though by no means full, command of thelanguage, he gave his first lecture at Vassar College. In his early months inAmerica, he also worked on his hook, The Sociology of Revolution anddrafted major parts of his Leaves from a Russian Diary. Proceeding to the Uni-versities of Illinois and Wisconsin, he delivered a series of lectures on theRussian Revolution and related matters. Predictably, he encountered a greatdeal of opposition from younger academics who regarded him as a disgruntledpolitical emigre who had forgotten nothing and learned nothing. Yet this op-position abated when a number of prominent sociologists, Cooley, Ross, andGiddings among them, came to his defense. Sorokin continued to lecture atvarious universities, and in 1924 he was invited by the head of the sociologydepartment at Minnesota, F. S. Chapin, to teach a course during the summersession. This led to an offer of a visiting professorship for the next year at halfthe normal salary for full professors of the University. Soon after, he was givena full professorship, though still at a salary substantially below that given to hisAmerican colleagues. During his years at Minnesota, Sorokin trained a numberof distinguished students, C. A. Anderson, Conrad Taeuber, T. Lynn Smithand O. D. Duncan (the elder) among others, who later made major contribu-tions, especially in rural sociology.

In the meantime, Sorokin's wife decided to continue her graduate workin botany and received her Ph.D. in 1925. The University's strict nepotism rulesprevented her from receiving, a teaching position at the University, and so sheaccepted a professorship of botany at neighboring Hamlin University.

Sorokin's scientific output during his six years in Minnesota was trulyamazing. The Sociology of Revolution was published in 1925. Social Mobility,the pioneering work on which all subsequent research in the area has dependedheavily, followed in 1927. Only a year later his monumental critical survey,Contemporary Sociological Theories, appeared. Collaboration with C. C.Zimmerman, who was to become his life-long friend, produced Principles ofRural-Urban Sociology, in 1929, and three volumes of A Systematic Source-Book in Rural Sociology, with Zimmerman and C. J. Galpin as co-authors,were published in 1930-32. When one considers that Sorokin was still notfully conversant with the English language, that he faced all the usual diffi-culties of adjustment in all unfamiliar academic environment, his is an astonish-ng achievement.

These books established Sorokin's place in the forefront of Americansociology, even though they received mixed reviews. Some reviewers harshlycriticized them; others, including such leaders of the field as Cooley, Ross,Giddings, Chapin, and Sutherland, warmly praised them. As a result, Sorokinwas offered professorial appointments by two major universities, which hedeclined. But when President Lowell invited him to accept the first chair ofsociology at Harvard, he went to Cambridge where he taught from 1930 to 1955.He continued to direct his Research Center in Creative Altruism at the Uni-versity until his full retirement at the end of 1959 at the age of seventy.

From Coser, 1977:486-488.


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