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Talcott Parsons on institutions and social evolution: Selected writings (The Heritage of sociology)

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Other topics covered include the role of theory in social research, evolutionary universals in society, influence, control, and the mass media. Passar bra ihop. Structure of Social Action 2ed v1 Talcott Parsons. Essays in Sociological Theory Talcott Parsons. Bloggat om On Institutions and Social Evolution.

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In his first book, The Structure of Social Action , he argued that the classical sociological theorists could be seen as moving towards a voluntaristic theory of action, conceiving of human beings as making choices between means and ends, in a physical and social environment that limited choices. A central aspect of the social environment is the norms and values by which we make our choices. Within this context, actors aim at maximum gratification, and behaviour and relationships that achieve this goal become institutionalized into a system of status roles.

This is the social system and it presupposes three other systems: a personality system the actor himself or herself ; a cultural system or wider values giving coherence to the norms attached to status roles ; and a physical environment to which the society must adjust. Parsons then builds up an elaborate model of systems and subsystems.

Talcott Parsons, On Institutions and Social Evolution

In order to survive, each system must meet four functional prerequisites, or four requirements that must be fulfilled. These are adaptation to the physical environment ; goal attainment a means of organizing its resources to achieve its goals and obtain gratification ; integration forms of internal co-ordination and ways of dealing with differences ; and latency or pattern-maintenance means of achieving comparative stability. Each system, therefore, develops four specialist subsystems in the process of meeting these requirements. This was then developed into an evolutionary view of history as moving from the simple to the complex, societies developing rather as amoeba, through a process of splitting and then reintegration.

Systems and subsystems are organized into a cybernetic hierarchy, those systems which have a high level of information such as the cultural system, including norms and values , controlling systems which have a high level of energy such as the human biological system.

The four systems mentioned above—cultural, social, personality and biological— form what Parsons calls the general system of action. Each system corresponds to a functional prerequisite. Similarly, the social system itself has four subsystems, these being in hierarchical order the socialization system pattern maintenance ; the societal community or institutions of social control integration ; the political system goal attainment ; and the economic system adaptation.

Each of these can, itself, be seen in terms of further, more specialized, subsystems. We can also analyse actions, social relationships, and whole systems according to what Parsons calls pattern variables—or choices between pairs of alternatives. For example, in any relationship we may treat its object as unique, or as an example of a general class this is the dilemma between particularism and universalism ; may draw on or ignore emotional commitments affectivity versus affective neutrality ; may value something or someone for their own sake or for what can be done with it or them quality versus performance ; and may relate to all aspects of an object or to one only diffuseness versus specificity.

Institutions tend to cluster round opposing poles: in the family, for example, relationships are particularistic, affective, quality-oriented, and diffuse; in a factory they are typically universalistic, affectively neutral, performance-oriented, and specific. His structural-functionalism is perhaps best understood as a vast classificatory scheme, enabling us to categorize any level of social life, at any level of analysis. It is not surprising that C. Wright Mills's labelling of the approach as grand theory has stuck. The explanations that it offers are of a functionalist nature and many of the criticisms directed at Parsons's work have been criticisms of functionalist explanations as such.

It has also been criticized for its abstraction and lack of connection with empirical research; for its social determinism although it is a theory of social action it seems that, ultimately, systems prescribe the activities of each actor ; for its implicit conservatism; and its inability to take account of action oriented to material rather than normative interests. Parsonsian theory seemed to disappear in the s, with rising interest in a wide range of other theories, but in recent years there has been a renewal of interest see, for example, J. Collins ed.

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Giddens and and J. Turner eds. However, American and German neo-functionalism are markedly less systematic, and far more open than the original.

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The leading anglophone social theorist between about and , Talcott Parsons — , who was born in Colorado Springs , Colorado, on December 13, was a tireless synthesizer of ideas from classical social and economic theory, functionalist anthropology, psychoanalysis in which he was trained , and psychology.

Though he did not create pathbreaking scientific concepts or procedures, nor contribute formally to ethical reasoning, he did succeed in grafting a robust affection for scientific method as his generation understood and venerated it onto the massive edifice of classical social theory in a way that no one else had managed.

Parsons was the youngest child of an early feminist mother who could trace her ancestry to Jonathan Edwards [—], the American "divine" and a Congregational minister who became president of Marietta College. Parsons first studied biology at Amherst College , then shifted to political economy of the German-historical type.

After a year at the London School of Economics — , he moved to the University of Heidelberg, receiving his doctorate there with a dissertation on "'Capitalism' in Recent German Literature: Sombart and Weber. He married Helen Bancroft Walker on April 30, , and with her produced three children, Anne an anthropologist of Italian culture , Charles an economist , and Susan. Diabetic since the age of fifty-six, he died at seventy-six while on a trip to Heidelberg, on May 8, , while celebrating his formative academic experience in that town fifty-three years earlier.

In Parsons helped form a new department, Social Relations, which brought together anthropology, political science , social psychology, and sociology. His keen attention to the claims of progressive, liberalizing science, coupled with an ever-present desire to understand the ethical meaning of social action individually and collectively were provoked by his parentage and upbringing, plus the special context of Harvard between and , where he worked closely with a galaxy of gifted students and colleagues.

It dovetailed perfectly with the strict Protestant morality, left-leaning in its politics, that he had absorbed while a boy. Parsons was also president of the American Sociological Association in At Harvard, Parsons educated four self-aware generations of enterprising sociologists who carried his structural-functionalist scheme around the country and the world, particularly during the s and s with a small renaissance in the early s. His leadership of the theory wing of American sociology began to wane with C. Wright Mills's — famous attack on "grand theory" in The Sociological Imagination and was ended by Alvin Gouldner's — rhetorical masterpiece, The Coming Crisis of Western Sociology Of Parsons' fourteen books, his first one, The Structure of Social Action , remains of paramount interest.

In this large study of Max Weber — , Durkheim, Vilfredo Pareto — , and the English economist Alfred Marshall — , Parsons claimed to have discovered a "convergence" of ideas among four geniuses that culminated in Parsons's own ideas about the nature of normatively ordered social action. He was especially interested in how societies deal with the "Hobbesian problem of order," which is understandable given the history of the twentieth century to that point.

But he was equally dedicated to updating the perennial question first systematically presented by Durkheim in What is the proper balance between the rights of individuals to express their uniqueness and the needs of the larger society to constrain these egocentric rights through normative controls?

Parsons's statements about science and technology now seem banal because he uncritically echoed the great enthusiasm for Big Science that so much infected the post— World War II period. A comment from his book, The System of Modern Societies, is typical:. Applied science did not begin to have a serious impact upon technology until the late nineteenth century. But technology has now become highly dependent upon research "payoffs," involving ever-wider ranges of the natural sciences, from nuclear physics to genetics, and also the social or "behavioral" sciences, perhaps most obviously economics and some branches of psychology.

The social sciences share with the natural sciences the benefits of some striking innovations in the technology of research. His most important work in this regard is a little-known empirical study he conducted with many collaborators between and , "Social Science: A Basic National Resource. He wrote op-ed pieces for the New York Times making the same point, and led the fight for equal funding for social science because of its basic importance to national security, as well as its pivotal role in the general acquisition of knowledge.

Passar bra ihop

Parsons was rediscovered briefly in the s by a new generation of theorists, both in the United States and in Europe, but the "neofunctionalism" that briefly carried his banner has since become moribund. His future importance will probably turn around his first book, and he will be remembered as a great systematizer in an era that no longer cared for the presentation of knowledge in such "grand" synthetic gestures.

Mayhew I. Sociological Theory and the Action Frame of Reference 1. The Role of Theory in Social Research 2. The Action Frame of Reference 4. Hobbes and the Problem of Order 5.

On institutions and social evolution : selected writings

Rationality and Utilitarianism 6. The Pattern Variables II. Institutionalization 7. Integration and Institutionalization in the Social System 8. The Superego and the Theory of Social Systems 9. Illness and the Role of the Physician, with Rene Fox The Hierarchy of Control Specification Jurisdiction III.