Article Information


Lawrence T. Nichols (

West Virginia University, Newington, United States

Citation: Nichols L.T. (2022) Sorokin, Parsons and Harvard: Rivalry, Status Reversal and Stratification in Science. Zhurnal sotsiologii i sotsialnoy antropologii [The Journal of Sociology and Social Anthropology], 25(1): 7–51.

Abstract. The paper examines the lengthy, complex and sometimes conflicted professional and personal relationship between Pitirim A. Sorokin and Talcott Parsons, approaching them as representatives of consecutive generations in social science.  Two of the most prominent and influential U.S. sociologists of the twentieth century, they held simultaneous appointments for some thirty years at Harvard University, where they competed for leadership both at the organizational level and in the field of sociology more generally. The treatment combines narrative with conceptual analysis, by setting out a series of events that have not been fully documented previously and considering them within a broad framework in terms of several phases. The paper emphasizes Harvard as a context, including its organizational culture and prevalent understandings of science, as well as key decision makers and influential figures there who acted in support of, or in opposition to, the careers of Sorokin and Parsons.  The analysis has implications for understanding processes of stratification over time in sociology and other sciences, especially at the organizational level.

Keywords: intergenerational relations, stratification in science, Pitirim A. Sorokin, Talcott Parsons, Harvard University


The following abbreviations are used:

FASP: Correspondence of the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University Archives, Pusey Library

HPP: Correspondence of the President of Harvard University, Harvard University Archives, Pusey Library

LJHP: Faculty Papers of Lawrence J. Henderson, Baker Library, Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration.

RKMP: Faculty Papers of Robert K. Merton, Butler Library, Columbia University.

TPP: Faculty Papers of Talcott Parsons, Harvard University Archives, Pusey Library.

RDS: Records of the Department of Sociology, Harvard University Archives, Pusey Library

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