Sorokin’s theory of Cultural Dynamics

Sorokin’s theory of Cultural Dynamics of social change is presented in his book “Social and Cultural Dynamics”. He has criticised the theories of Marx, Pareto and Veblen related to social change. According to Sorokin, social change is like a pendulum of a clock, in the form of up and rise. It occurs between one situation to another situation. Sorokin’s theory of Cultural Dynamics explained two cultures i.e.

  • Ideational
  • Sensational

In his view, every society rotates along with these two spindles of culture.  In other words, it comes and goes from sensational to ideation and vice versa. During the process of going from one state to another, there is a state in the middle where there is a combination of sensational and ideational cultures. Sorokin calls this as ideal culture. Also, after going through various cultures change occurs in the society too. The characteristics of these three types of cultures are described briefly as under

1. Sensational culture

Sensational culture is also called material culture. It is related to human senses and organs. It means, its knowledge can be gained by seeing, smelling and touching. In such a culture, more stress is given on accomplishment of material requirements and desires. In this culture, scientific inventions, technology, material things and things of amusement have great significance. Ethics, religion, ceremonies, traditions and God etc are not given much importance in such culture. Or in other words, individual and collective sides are involved in sensational culture. Western society is an example of this culture.

2. Ideational Culture

It is absolutely opposite to that of sensational culture. This is related to feelings, God, religion, soul and ethics. This culture is called spiritualist culture. In such type of culture spiritual progress, enlightenment and attainment of God is given more importance over material comfort. All things are assumed to be God’s grace. Also predominance of religion and God is found in all ideas, ideals, art, literature, philosophy and law. Although more stress is given on customs and traditions but technology and science lag behind in such a culture.

3. Ideal culture

This culture is a combination of both sensational and ideational cultures. Hence the characteristics of both the cultures are found here. Also balanced form of religion and science, material and spiritual comfort is found here. Sorokin believes this kind of culture to be excellent. And because of this he calls this as ideal culture.

Further in the view of Sorokin,  all the cultures of the world swing in a cradle from sensational to ideational culture. And every culture after reaching its topmost position again goes back to another type of culture

As in the above figure, sensational and ideational cultures are the only limits of change. Most of the time ideal culture is prevalent in society. So why this change occurs in culture?

Sorokin believes that the cause of change are the internal factors of natural law. Because change is the law of nature hence culture also changes due to the same. In addition to this, the internal situation of the culture is also responsible for their change. According to Sorokin , in 20th century, the western civilization has reached its topmost position of sensational culture. And now it will again return back to ideational culture. Hence when change occurs in culture it also occurs in the society.


Although Sorokin has tried to make his theory scientific. But still there are many limitations such as

  • It takes a long time for a culture to reach the stage from another stage. Based on this it is difficult to present the nature of social change.
  • Based on historical facts,  it is not possible to prove that all societies go through the phase of change. i.e. from one type of culture to another.
  • Sorokin has also been unable to specify the factors of social change. To say this that change occurs due to natural factors is not sufficient for a scientist.
Please follow and like us:

Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)