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SOC4044 Sociological Theory: Talcott Parsons. Talcott Parsons. 1902-1979. Talcott Parsons. Early Life Father Minister in Colorado Springs, Colorado Also a professor of English Father later became president at Marietta College in Ohio

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soc4044 sociological theory talcott parsons

SOC4044 Sociological Theory:Talcott Parsons

© 1998-2006 by Ronald Keith Bolender

talcott parsons
Talcott Parsons
  • 1902-1979

© 1998-2006 by Ronald Keith Bolender

talcott parsons3
Talcott Parsons
  • Early Life
    • Father
      • Minister in Colorado Springs, Colorado
      • Also a professor of English
      • Father later became president at Marietta College in Ohio
      • Believed socialism and Christianity should be one to meet the dynamics of changing culture
      • Believed culture included doctrine and education

© 1998-2006 by Ronald Keith Bolender

talcott parsons4
Talcott Parsons
  • Education
    • Undergraduate work at Amhest University in biology and medicine
      • Developed an interest in social sciences, especially economics, under the teaching of Walter Hamilton
        • During this period he read books by Sumner, Cooley, and Durkheim.

© 1998-2006 by Ronald Keith Bolender

talcott parsons5
Talcott Parsons
  • Studied economics in the London School of Economics
    • Strongly influenced by a social anthropologist named Malinowski
      • Functionalist
  • Attended Heidelberg University, in Germany, on an educational exchange
    • Alfred Weber (Max Weber’s brother) was his primary teacher
    • Also sat under the instruction of Karl Mannheim

© 1998-2006 by Ronald Keith Bolender

talcott parsons6
Talcott Parsons

Grand Theories

  • Talcott Parsons was probably the most prominent theorist of this time, and it is unlikely that any one theoretical approach will so dominate sociological theory again (Turner 1998:28).
  • Parsons’ theory of society is plagued by an absence of clarity. His work abounds with ambiguities in both semantics and syntax (Perdue 1986:118).

© 1998-2006 by Ronald Keith Bolender

talcott parsons the system of modern societies
Talcott Parsons: The System of Modern Societies

The System of Modern Societies

A historical study of societal evolution as evident in the stages of systematic development within Western history.

Parsons, Talcott. 1971. The System of Modern Societies. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

© 1998-2006 by Ronald Keith Bolender

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Talcott Parsons: The System of Modern Societies
  • Era One: Premodern Foundations of Modern Societies
    • The Christian church was the first crucible for Western culture
    • Rome--created a highly developed system of law
    • Medieval society gave witness to the decline of tribalism and the rise of feudalism

© 1998-2006 by Ronald Keith Bolender

talcott parsons the system of modern societies9
Talcott Parsons: The System of Modern Societies
  • From feudalism to a differential and interdependent division of labor that marked the European system
  • During this process, feudal institutions came to be replaced by early capitalism with some growing centralization of political power
  • Then came the Renaissance and the development of secular culture within the framework of a still vibrant religious order

© 1998-2006 by Ronald Keith Bolender

talcott parsons the system of modern societies10
Talcott Parsons: The System of Modern Societies
  • Reformation: During this period, the priesthood began to lose its exclusive entitlement to the keys to the kingdom, an event that signaled the advent of individualism

© 1998-2006 by Ronald Keith Bolender

talcott parsons the system of modern societies11
Talcott Parsons: The System of Modern Societies
  • Era Two: First Crystallization of the Modern System
    • Centered in the European northwest (England, France, and Holland), which saw the centralization of a form of state power and the establishment of mercantile capitalism. One noteworthy development here was the coming of a pluralist political system in England.

© 1998-2006 by Ronald Keith Bolender

talcott parsons the system of modern societies12
Talcott Parsons: The System of Modern Societies
  • Era Three: Age of Revolutions
    • During this time, the industrial revolution featured the expansion of financial markets, while the democratic revolution saw the spreading of the differentiation of rule by people throughout Western Europe.

© 1998-2006 by Ronald Keith Bolender

talcott parsons the system of modern societies13
Talcott Parsons: The System of Modern Societies
  • Era Four: New Lead Society
    • Parsons argued that the promise of the industrial and democratic revolutions could not be realized in Europe because of its aristocratic, stratified, and monarchal traditions. Primarily because of the lack of such restrictions, together with its educational revolution and political pluralism, the “new lead society” is for Parsons none other than the United States. It is here in his native land that Parsons located the highest form of general adaptation, the embodiment of the evolutionary principle that drives systems and systematic theories.

© 1998-2006 by Ronald Keith Bolender

talcott parsons the structure of social action
Talcott Parsons: The Structure of Social Action

Review of Assigned Reading:

The Units of Voluntaristic Action

© 1998-2006 by Ronald Keith Bolender

talcott parsons the structure of social action15
Talcott Parsons: The Structure of Social Action

The Structure of Social Action

  • Voluntaristic Theory of Action
    • Involves these basic elements
      • Actors are individual persons
      • Actors are viewed as goal seeking
      • Actors also possess alternative means to achieve goals

© 1998-2006 by Ronald Keith Bolender

talcott parsons the structure of social action16
Talcott Parsons: The Structure of Social Action
  • Actors are confronted with a variety of situational conditions, such as their own biological makeup and heredity as well as various external ecological constraints, that influence the selection of goals and means
  • Actors are governed by values, norms, and other ideas such that these ideas influence what is considered a goal and what means are selected to achieve it
  • Action involves actors making subjective decisions about the means to achieve goals, all of which are constrained by ideas and situational conditions

© 1998-2006 by Ronald Keith Bolender

talcott parsons the social system
Talcott Parsons: The Social System

The Social System

How do social systems survive?

More specifically, why do institutionalized patterns of interactions persist?

Parsons, Talcott. 1951. The Social System. Glencoe, IL: The Free Press.

© 1998-2006 by Ronald Keith Bolender

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Talcott Parsons: The Social System

Pattern Development and Maintenance

  • Adaptation
    • Involves securing sufficient resources from the environment and then distributing these throughout the system
  • Goal Attainment
    • Refers to establishing priorities among system goals and mobilizing system resources for their attainment

© 1998-2006 by Ronald Keith Bolender

talcott parsons the social system19
Talcott Parsons: The Social System
  • Integration
    • Denotes coordinating and maintaining viable interrelationships among system units

© 1998-2006 by Ronald Keith Bolender

talcott parsons the social system20
Talcott Parsons: The Social System
  • Latency
    • Embraces two related problems
      • Pattern Maintenance
        • Pertains to how to ensure that actors in the social system display the appropriate characteristics
          • Motives
          • Needs
          • Role-playing
      • Tension Management
        • Concerns dealing with the internal tensions and strains of actors in the social system

© 1998-2006 by Ronald Keith Bolender

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Talcott Parsons: The Social System

Let us attempt to apply these concepts in an oversimplified application

© 1998-2006 by Ronald Keith Bolender

talcott parsons the social system wnba
Talcott Parsons: The Social System (WNBA)

© 1998-2006 by Ronald Keith Bolender

talcott parsons the social system wnba23
Talcott Parsons: The Social System (WNBA)

How to Integrate the WNBA into the United States’ Sports Consciousness

  • Adaptation
    • Resources are allocated to the WNBA
      • The United States is evaluated as ready for a women’s league similar to the NBA
      • Resources are deliberately allocated to help give the WNBA a structure similar to the NBA
      • Return on those allocated resources will not be immediate

© 1998-2006 by Ronald Keith Bolender

talcott parsons the social system wnba24
Talcott Parsons: The Social System (WNBA)
  • Goal Attainment
    • Priorities are developed to insure goals are attained
      • Media space (television) is given to the WNBA even though the audience is not yet fully developed
  • Integration
    • Coordinating various relationships within the sports world

© 1998-2006 by Ronald Keith Bolender

talcott parsons the social system wnba25
Talcott Parsons: The Social System (WNBA)
  • Latency (after the WNBA is integrated into the nation’s sports consciousness)
    • Pattern Maintenance
      • Establishing proper roles and motives
    • Tension Management
      • Dealing with internal tensions and strains of actors in the social system

© 1998-2006 by Ronald Keith Bolender

talcott parsons the social system wnba26
Talcott Parsons: The Social System (WNBA)

If any of the four components “failed,” then the WNBA will not be “integrated” into the social system of the United States.

© 1998-2006 by Ronald Keith Bolender