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The System of modern society From the late Eighteenth to the mid-Twentieth century Talcott PARSONS 1971.

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Presentation on theme: "The System of modern society From the late Eighteenth to the mid-Twentieth century Talcott PARSONS 1971."— Presentation transcript:

1 The System of modern society From the late Eighteenth to the mid-Twentieth century Talcott PARSONS 1971

2 Parsons theory… in a table SubsystemsStructural components Aspects of development process Primary function Societal communityNormsInclusionIntegration Pattern MaintenanceValuesValue GeneralisationPattern maintenance PolityCollectivesDifferentiationGoal Attainment EconomyRolesAdaptive UpgradingAdaptation

3 The Industrial Revolution p74-79 Social changes to be the most crucial to society The extension of the market system resulted in the differentiation of labour- which impacted on kinship systems and led to the nuclear family. ‘Occupational role’- money wage (and access to market), status from job. Industrial revolution could only have emerged from a ‘free market’ system. This system, rather than socialism is the future.

4 The Democratic Revolution p79-85 differentiating the ‘polity’ and the ‘social community’. DR questioned ascribed social roles, the political power and privilege of the aristocracy. Wanted a community that included all and was free from privilege- in essence, citizenship. Equality of opportunity,which became institutionalised. Equality of membership. Led to a common pattern of democracy- Universal suffrage, an equal weighting of votes, formal election procedure, secret ballot. French society only partially institutionalised the democratic pattern. England- achieved pluralisation, but kept its aristocracy. Democratisation became a major component of European social conflict.

5 The United States and modernity p86-94 The US didn’t have to disassemble the ascriptive social framework. Has a highly differentiated government and societal community. Evidence of move from ascription  highest government authority is vested in elected officials, and a highly competitive party system. The social community- not based upon a particular religion or ethnic group. Legal system is highly developed, constitution has a strong egalitarian emphasis, and political mobility is achieved via education and wealth. Process of inclusion in regards nationality still incomplete E.g. inclusion of black population.

6 American and the Education Revolution p94-98 as important as the Industrial and Democratic revolution. the extension of education beyond basic literacy, and the expansion of secondary education. US at the forefront because initiated ER early on and has extended it further than other countries. It ‘synthesized’ the major themes of the industrial and democratic revolution, equality of opportunity and equality of citizenship. Changed the occupational structure of society. There is an increasing importance on professions, and to become competent at one requires formal education.

7 Pattern Maintenance, Polity, and the Social Community p98-106 Pattern Maintenance religion=societal values, the pluralisation of religion=destruction of moral consensus? Instead a generalisation of values. ER- transmit cultural secular values. Polity Role of office. “When elective office is a compliment of citizenship…members become the ultimate source of formal power… and the ultimate beneficiaries of societal functioning.” Huge concentration of power and thus a need for good leadership. Bureaucracy- ‘the hallmark of late modernisation’ solution. Issue of accountability=responsible to the electorate and elective officers. This in turn gives lots of power to elected positions, held accountable via election process. Bureaucracy  collegial. E.g. Academia

8 Economy and Social Community p106-114 Economy has moved on from the original conception of Capitalism. End of 19 th C. US has highest economic growth in world. Linked to ready work force, economic resources, a rapid development of commercial banking. US pattern of capitalism distinctive- 1)mass production, 2) scientific knowledge in industrial production. differentiation between households and employing organisation, becomes more obvious. the primary contribution of adult males to the large functional interests are made in occupational jobs. Decline of unskilled work, because of mechanisation. ‘massive transfer payments’ (Social Security). ‘floor’ below which ‘no major category of people should fall. conspicuous consumption, but declining.

9 The US continued p114-122 America=latest phase of modernisation. Ascriptive inequalities  egalitarian patterns =improved national health, free education etc. But war, social injustice for the black community, relative depravation. Society, in regards power and authority has become decentralised and associational Society is basically composed of equals. Main pattern of modern societal development is towards a new pattern of stratification. Society wants high economic productivity AND equality  need greater accountability and equality of opportunity.

10 ‘New Europe’ p128-134 The reformation, democratic revolution and Americanisation have all been processes of irreversible change in Western society according to Parsons. Germany- good social security and an active trade unionism. The Democratic revolution happened later here, and perhaps as a result, many of the old elements of ascriptive inequality and diversity exist. NW Europe= stable democratic political institutions Solid legal systems and relative ethnic and linguistic homogeneity. Highly developed welfare states. Europe is moving towards a model similar to the US.

11 Japan p134-137 Japan- “modernised without European culture or population.” “modern type has a single origin” It adapted a modernising pattern similar to the Eastern European system rather than UK/US. Constitution taken from Imperial Germany. Japan selectively borrowed institutional patterns – its feudally decentralised, and has a a hierarchical organisation. Japan has had industrial, democratic and educational revolutions- it’s the first major example of a relatively fully modernisation of a totally non Western society-raises questions about the system of modernising and modernised state.

12 Evolutionary Theory Like human beings, society is following an evolutionary path, with the ‘modern system of societies’ being at the forefront of development. This modern system of societies is the most developed, Parsons argues, because it has shown the greatest ‘capacity for adaptation’ (Rocher 1974: 71). Adaptation=differentiation and integration. The US has a highly differentiated and complex system, as we have seen, but is also v stable because of successful integration. Process of development, Primitive  modern industrial society. Not the end of development, but the ‘culminating phase of development is a good way off-very likely a century or more.’ (pg. 143)

13 Critique history is not ‘unilinear’ (Burke 1992:72). E.g. France’s democratic history is evidence of this. Doesn’t give enough consideration of human agency (Delanty and Isin: 41) Universally applicable theory? (Lackey 1987) Problem of integration in US- evidence that his theory was designed to fit the culture of US middle class society? (Lackey 1987: Japan’s modernisation

14 Bibliography Burke, P. (1992) History and Social Theory Cambridge: Polity Press Cancian, F, M. (1972) ‘The System of Modern Societies. By Talcott Parsons’ in Social Forces (51:1) Cohen, P, S. (1972) ‘The System of Modern Societies. By Talcott Parsons’ Man, New Series, (7:2) Delanty, G. and Isin, E, F. (2003) (Eds) Handbook of Historical Sociology London: Sage. Lackey, P, N. (1987)Invitation to Talcott Parsons’ Theory Texas: Cap and Gown Press, Inc. Parsons, T (1971) The System of Modern Societies New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc. Rocher, G. (1974) Talcott Parsons and American Sociology London:Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd.


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