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To Sorokin, the process of human interaction involves three essential elements: human actors as subjects of interaction; meanings, values, and norms that guide human conduct; and material phenomena that are vehicles and conductors for meanings and values to be objectified and incorporated into a sequence of actions.
Not unlike Max Weber, Sorokin (except during his early years as an apprentice sociologist) rejected any attempt to study human affairs without reference to norms, meanings, and values. "Stripped of their meaningful aspects," he writes, "all the phenomena of human interaction become merely biophysical phenomena and, as such, properly form the subject of the bio-physical sciences.''
Hence, in Sorokin's sociological thought the emphasis is on the importance of cultural factors, that is, of superorganic elements, as determinants of social conduct. To understand personalities as subjects of interaction, and society as the totality of interacting personalities, one must bear in mind that they rest on a foundation of culture--a culture that consists of the totality of meanings, norms, and values possessed by interacting persons and carried by material vehicles, such as ritual objects or works of art, which objectify and convey these meanings.
In analyzing components of social interaction, Sorokin distinguishes between unorganized, organized, and disorganized forms. He discusses various types of legal and moral controls and speaks of solidary, antagonistic, and mixed systems of social interaction, as well as of familistic, compulsory, and mixed (contractual) types of social bonds.
Having elaborated these different types of social interaction, Sorokin then proceeds to classify organized groups in terms of their functional and meaningful ties. Here he considers different degrees of intensity of group interaction and the related closeness or slackness of ties between group members. Furthermore, he states that groups may be unibonded, that is, they may be based on one main value, (as is the case, for example, with religious, occupational, or kinship groups), or they may be held together by multiple bonds (as in the case of a nation or a social class). In addition, he states that both unibonded and multibonded groups may be either open or closed.