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Date Created: 04/16/15
Social Theory 41615 713 PM Talcott Parsons 19021979 In the mid20th century sociological theory begins to take on a more professional lookquot in the sense of being produced primarily for consumption by fellow professional sociologists and not for a wider social public The writing style becomes more esoteric using terms that are not widely used outside the discipline it becomes more formal and it draws its examples primarily from inside sociology rather than from other disciplines or the wider range of public discourse Talcott Parsons exemplifies this midcentury innovation and Parsons was a major force in the 20th century American sociology Prose is very convoluted could not write a straight sentence Everything is very clotted Very significant though The Structure of Social Action The Structure of Social Action was one of the first works in American sociology to provide a serious examination of the works of Durkheim and Weber as well as Vilfredo Pareto and Alfred Marshall Parson s bigger goal in this work was to develop a mode of theorizing that he called analytic realismquot and to apply this theoretical strategy to solving the problem of social orderquot The central focus of attention is in the process of development on one coherent theoretical system that is to be denoted as the voluntaristic theory of action and the definition of the general concepts of which this theory is composedquot Problem of social order is what theory is all about he thinks The problem of social order goes back to Thomas Hobbes Why does the British society cohere in the 17th century There s no mention of Karl Marx Notoriously allergic to Marxian ideas Never once referred to any one of Marx s works Thought Marx was a radical The Social System In this work Parsons elaborated on three interpenetrating action systemsquot the cultural the social and the personalityquot Social values and social norms how they become social systems Trained a number of prominent sociologists Published in 1951 He read a lot of material on biology unaware that there s a new field called cybernetics He starts to think how values have a hierarchical structure Regional values north vs south tensions will work themselves out Other kinds of divisions inside society Didn t think class was a large issue in society or the basis for political conflicts Values reduce the necessity to start everything from scratch Pattern Variables Ascription vs Achievement Do individuals attain positions in society on the basis of ascribed attributes such as age sex race family membership or do they achieve these positions through their own effort and merit Particularism vs Universalism Are individuals judged in terms of their particular relationships to oneself or by how they perform against abstract universal standards Diffuseness vs Specificity Are relationships selectively entered into and assessed in terms of specific tasks or do relationships with others occur across a broad range of tasks Affectivity vs Affective Neutrality Are relations entered into for instrumental reasons without the involvement of feelings or do emotional attitudes influence behavior toward others Collectivity Orientation vs Individualism Are people basically concerned with their own problems and interests or do they have a stronger allegiance to and concern for the larger groups they belong to Use this schema as a means for looking at different types of societies and making an assessment for their value orientations Becomes the basis for modernization theory Adaptation involved securing sufficient resources from the environment and then distributing them throughout the system Goal attainment refers to establishing priorities among system goals and mobilizing system resources for their attainment Integration denotes coordinating and maintaining viable relationships among system units Latency embraces two related problems pattern maintenance amp tension management Pattern maintenance pertains to how to ensure that actors in the social systems display the appropriate characteristics Tension management concerns dealing with the internal tensions and strains of actors in the social system Robert Merton Merton did a number of different theoretical works considered a part of the functionalist school in sociology Sociologists were happy to use this language of functionalism Functional analysis is the basis for consensual agreement among everybody Functional analysis has innovations here were to suggest that there were both manifest and latent functions in the social activities Manifest functions those objective consequences contributing to the adjustment or adaptation of the system which are intended and recognized by participants in the system Latent functions those objective consequences which are neither intended nor recognized by most members of society There are positive and negative functions that is some patterns may increase the adaptations of a society and some decrease its adaptation Middlerange theory theorizing focuses not on grand abstract systems but on smaller social processes that can be found across institutions Sociology of science why science is so popular Anthony Giddens thinks that the central problem confronting social theory is the need to reconcile opposing approaches to the nature of society that have divided sociologists All these debates presume that sociology has to integrate a set of dualisms actionstructure micromacro subjectiveobjective We need to figure out how structure and action are related 41615 713 PM 41615 713 PM