Spengler and Toynbee, who tend to think in centuries orneven longer periods, Sorokin breaks down his analysis ofnculture — mostly Mediterranean and European —into 20yearnperiods and provides data virtually year by year.nIn the immensely detailed four-volume work, Sorokinndiscusses, among many other things, the “Fluctuation ofnSystems of Truth.” One section is devoted to what he callsnthe “eternalistic and temporalisdc mentality.” (One problemnwith which Sorokin confronts the reader is his rathernspecialized terminology.) Most historians have thought innterms of two different approaches to time, cyclic and linear.nCyclic time characterizes Hindu and Buddhist thought, asnwell as much Greek thought and that of the philosophernNietzsche: history endlessly repeats itself Most commentatorsnconsider the biblical (Jewish and Christian) concept ofntime to be linear, beginning with the creation of the worldnand ending with the coming or second coming of thenMessiah. Modern faith in progress is then seen as ansecularized variant of the biblical view of linear time.nSorokin, by contrast, makes the Christian view a variantnof the cyclic view, in which repetitive cycles exist but are notnidentical repetitions of one another, and which differ fromnthe non-biblical views of Indian and Greek thinkers in thatnthere is a goal and fulfillment in the eschatological consummationnof all things. For Sorokin the linear view is primarilyna sensate, secularistic view that places unlimited and totallynunwarranted faith in continual progress.nIn his analysis, Sorokin found the 19th century to havenbeen relatively peaceful and prosperous, giving rise to thenfalse hope that the dominant culture of the era (sensate)nwould lead to still further improvements in the humanncondition. This hope was dashed by the fact that the 20thncentury has become the bloodiest of all centuries. Henrejected the proud boast of contemporary society thatnmodernity is more humane than the barbarous centuriesnthat preceded it. Sorokin’s 1937 work examined crime andnpunishment through the centuries and concluded that whilenindividual punishments in earlier centuries were frequentlyncruel, as in the Middle Ages, the number of persons sonpunished was small, so that in fact there is much morenpunishment in our own century than in medieval dmes.nNazi Germany and the Soviet Union indeed became virtualnconcentration-camp sociehes. Sorokin predicted in 1937nthat as a result of the failure of American sensate culture tonmaintain widely shared ethical values, punishment — primarilynimprisonment — would expand tremendously. Andnthis indeed has happened, with the result that prisons in thenUnited States cannot cope with the vast numbers ofnoffenders being sentenced.nSorokin sees three basic patterns of culture emergingnseveral times in the history of the worid: the ideational,nsensate, and idealistic. In ideational culture, the truth of faithnis dominant. Absolute values prevail, and people expectnrewards and punishments from God or the gods, in eternity.nIn sensate culture, the only values are those which can benperceived by the senses, and the only truth is that which isnobtained or supposedly obtained through the sciences. Whatnhe calls idealistic culture is largely ideational, modified by ancertain respect for science, the senses, and human reason.nAugustine is a good example of the ideational value system.nThomas Aquinas of the idealistic, and almost anyone onenmight mention in the 20th century other than Senator JessenHelms can serve for the sensate world view.nSorokin obviously believes in the essential stability of thenhuman race, and for this reason is not surprised when hensees cultural patterns repeating themselves in differentncenturies. The greatest and plainest parallel is that of thensensate phase of late Greco-Roman culture, during thenexpansion and decline of the Roman Empire. When sensatenvalues become dominant, life becomes disordered, socialnstructures disintegrate, and a change must take place.nSorokin sees two possibilities: a turning to the truth of faithn(ideational culture, in his terms), or an ever-increasingncynicism and despair. He considered Western culture —nworld culture, really — to have reached a similar situation innthe period between the 1930’s and the 1950’s, so that oncenagain there was a necessity to turn to faith or to descend intonever greater cynicism.nA reader who views things from a Christian perspectivenwill probably agree with Sorokin in his analysis of ournculture as late sensate, like that of imperial Rome. He willncertainly hope for a return to the “ideational” view, i.e., thenworld-and-life view of Christian faith that replaced thendecaying sensate culture of Rome. Unfortunately, Sorokin’snunderstanding of cultural dynamics would imply that if suchna return does occur, it will be only temporary and will benfollowed by another phase or phases — idealistic and presumablynsensate as well. Thus the changes he expects andnactually promises seem to offer only a temporary improvement—na new Age of Cold, but one to be followed stillnagain by Brass and by Iron.nThe Christian may hope that the eschatological wind-upnwill occur before this disaster recurs. Indeed, Sorokin seemsnto share something like this hope: his Crisis ends with thenwords, Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini (“Blessed isnhe who comes in the name of the Lord”). This was thenacclamation with which Jesus was greeted in the “triumphalnentry” to Jerusalem in the week before his crucifixion, and itnnaturally evokes the coming or the return of the Messiah,nwhich inaugurates the end of history.nThe Crisis, half a century old in 1991, is essentially andistillation of the immense Social and Cultural Dynamics.nRead in isolation, it sounds like a tour de force, the fruit morenof insight or inspiration rather than evidence. Sorokin’snDynamics is so immense and detailed that it demandsnprotracted study to digest, but even a rather cursory readingnwill reveal that Sorokin has marshaled the data to justify hisnanalysis. When the evidence does not permit him to drawnconclusions, he does not draw any, as in his discussion of thencauses and frequency of war and revolution in the variousncultural phases.nHe begins his Crisis with a criticism of two wrong views:nthe idea that our society is really not in a crisis, and thenconviction that the crisis is indeed upon us and is the deathnagony of Western society. He stresses the intensity of thencrisis but hopes and expects that out of it will come anrenewed society, not the death of the West. As he concludes,n”Let us hope that the grace of understanding may benvouchsafed us and that we may choose, before it is too late,nthe right road — the road that leads not to death but to thenfurther realization of man’s creative mission on this planet!”nnnJANUARY 1992/27n