Who is Talcott Parsons?

Who is Talcott Parsons?

June 26, 2021 Off By Felso

Talcott Parsons (December 13, 1902 – May 8, 1979) was an American sociologist and thinker.

Born in Colorado in 1902, Talcott Parsons studied philosophy and biology at Amherst College. He entered the London School of Economics in 1925, where he studied with Bronislaw Malinowski. A year later, he entered Heidelberg University and during this period, he was introduced to the ideas of Max Weber, which would significantly affect his intellectual course.

His doctoral dissertation on the analysis of capitalism in late German thought was accepted in 1927. In the same year, he began to teach economics at Harvard University, and from 1931 to teach sociology courses. He became a professor of sociology in 1944. He served as the Head of the Social Relations Department between 1946-56. He became president of the American Sociological Association in 1949. He remained at Harvard University until 1974, when he retired.

Parsons put forward an academic orientation that basically combined clinical psychology and social anthropology with sociology.

In addition to his interest in the subject of “action”, Parsons mainly focused on large-scale systems and problems of social order, integration and balance.

“The Social System” is his most classic work.

Talcott Parsons

Parsons pioneered the development of a new approach known as the theory of action, which deals with the various dimensions of human, social and cultural evolution in contemporary societies.

In his book The Structure of Social Action, published in 1937, he developed the theory of social action based on a synthesis of the views of economist Marshall, sociologist Emile Durkheim, Pareto and Weber.

In his theory, he stated that human action, unlike other physical and biological forms of action, benefits from symbols such as language and values. He argued that human behavior is determined by social values ​​and norms, but also has the ability to act freely under the influence of subjective determinants.

He pointed out that the action system emerged as a result of the interaction of the social system, culture, personality and behavioral subsystems specific to the organism, and directed a multi-faceted study.

Parsons, who is one of the leading representatives of this approach, which adopts the structuralist-functionalist analysis approach in sociology, sought an answer to the question of how social order and balance are provided in his book The Social System.

He investigated the mutual interaction of the units that constitute the structures of the social system and contribute to the development and functioning of the system.

He argued that every social system fulfills unchangeable functions such as adaptation, goal attainment, integration and order.

He argued that the function of adaptation is achieved with the economic structure, the achievement of the goal with the political structure, the integration with legal institutions and traditions, and the function of maintaining order with structures such as belief system, morality, family and education.

Concentrating on theoretical studies, Parsons focused on contemporary issues such as aggression, fascism and anti-Semitism as well as his studies on institutions, family and occupations.

Related topics:

Parsons and structural functionalism

Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook