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Regular version of the site

Article

The Promise of John W. Meyer’s World Society Theory: “Otherhood” through the Prism of Pitirim A. Sorokin’s Integralism

The American Sociologist. 2020. Vol.  51. No. 4. P. 506-525.

Times of societal turbulence are painful for social theories tending towards optimistic
accounts of the world. In the current sociological mainstream, so-called World Society
Theory (WST), proposed by John W. Meyer and his colleagues, is one of the most
contested examples. We discuss WST core conceptual assumptions with special
emphasis on the concept of “Otherhood”, which receives limited attention in literature
but is central for the “promise” of World Society Theory in times of multiple crises,
associated with ongoing global pandemic and its expected consequences. Analyzing
recent debates, we outline directions for World Society Theory further development.
We argue that important contributions to WST scholarship may come from another
“grand theory”, Integralism, elaborated by Pitirim Sorokin in middle twentieth century,
which remains ignored in discussions about WST. Integralism, including its central
concept of “Altruism”, may be helpful in comprehending ontological grounds of
“Otherhood”, which may go beyond pure social construction. Integralism also allows
expanding the analysis of causes, content, mechanisms and global macro-historical
dynamics of “Otherhood”, stimulating its more nuanced comprehension, including
theoretical and empirical distinction between its various types. Integration of Pitirim
Sorokin ideas in debates about WST is important for its further elaboration, including
its optimistic and, thus, highly valuable “promise” for the global world and related
implications for the practical role that social science can play in global development.