A Short Summary and Evaluation of Talcott Parsons Functionalist Contributions

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A Summary and Evaluation of Talcott Parson’s Functionalist Contributions

Functionalism came to the fore in North American sociology during the 1950s. This was a period of affluence, consolidation and growth in Western capitalism. Two leading functionalists of the North American Sociological tradition wereTalcott Parsons and Robert Merton. These and some of their other cohorts built on the works of the most significant forerunners of functionalism namely Auguste Comte, Herbert Spencer, Emile Durkheim and Max Weber. This work would examine Parson’s functionalist contributions and criticisms leveled against it.

Talcott Parsons (1902 - 1979) was educated at Amherst College in Massachusetts and London School of Economics where Malinowski was lecturing and at the University of Heidelberg in Germany, where Max Weber had been Professor. In 1927 he took up a position at Harvard University where he remained for the rest of his academic career.
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First among his contribution to be considered is his patterned variable of action.Pattern variables according to Parsons & Shils (1951) are the principal tools of structural analysis outlining the derivation of these categories from the intrinsic logic of social action which is the inherent dilemmas of choice facing actors. There are five pattern variables of role-definition that Parsons discusses, although he says that there are many more possibilities.

According to Parsons, action is a process oriented to the realisation of an end. It occurs in conditional circumstances that must be calculated upon and utilised by actors in ...

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