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The article is a comparative analysis of the intellectual biographies and the creative heritage of two  thinkers, Pitirim Sorokin and Mikhail Reisner, who left a notable mark on 20th century legal,  sociological and philosophical thought. The choice of these personalities is largely due to their  diametrically opposed reaction to the 1917 revolutionary events in Russia, which decided their  destinies and had a direct impact on the nature and content of their theoretical research. The  article examines the facts of the thinkers’ pre-revolutionary biographies which preceded the  paradox of the choice made by each of them: Reisner’s gilded childhood and youth did not prevent  him from supporting the revolution, in spite of its horrors, while the poverty and adversities  suffered by Sorokin from an early age turned him into a tough and uncompromising opponent of  the revolutionary chaos and the Bolshevik reforms. The article pays special attention to the  theoretical difference between the thinkers’ positions as well as the philosophical ideas and moral  beliefs embodied in their legal and sociological conceptions. The role of the schools of thought in  the formation and development of their theoretical views, mindset and ideological attitudes is  traced. The strong connection between the scientific traditions and academic fields is shown and the magnitude of the influence of Reisner’s and Sorokin’s teachers and spiritual guides (Jellinek, Kovalevsky and others) is defined. Arguments are provided for the theses on the essential nature of influence of ontological assumptions and methodological preferences in the  scientific and theoretical formulations of Sorokin, who supported of the primacy of social reality,  and Reisner, who adhered to the primacy of unwritten law.  A common thread running through the  entire analysis is the theme of subsequent reflection over the country’s fate after, and the truth of,  the revolutionary changes by these two very dissimilar authors, who became contemporaries and  participants in one of the most significant events of the 20th century, an event changed the course of global history. Yet, both authors, whose contribution to the development of the sciences on  society and law is beyond any doubt, give substantial grounds for comparative analysis of their ideas, assessments and views. So different in their reaction to what was happening, in their young  years they were expecting the revolution with equal ardency, they were looking forward to the  destruction of the old world and the creation of a new, more rational and, of course, fairer society  in its place. Both of them were influenced by the ideas of European enlightenment during their  education, both were full of hopes for Russia’s progressive development. Both Pitirim Sorokin and  Mikhail Reisner would later give up most of the illusions of their youth, each of them would  overcome positivism in his own way and each of them would make his choice in favor of certain  ideals while having – certainly – to sacrifice the other ones. What would affect the choice of these  two outstanding scientists, what would predetermine their intellectual and value-related preferences? One might try to find the answer to this question both in the circumstances of their  destinies and in the peculiarities of their research biography.

About the Authors

Kutafin Moscow State Law University
Russian Federation

Professor, Kutafin Moscow State Law University, Associate Member, International Academy of Comparative Law

(9 Sadovaya-Kudrinskaya St., Moscow, 123286, Russia) 

Kutafin Moscow State Law University
Russian Federation

Professor, Kutafin Moscow State Law University

(9 Sadovaya-Kudrinskaya St., Moscow, 123286, Russia)


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ISSN 2309-8678 (Print)
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