Parsons, Talcott

Parsons, Talcott
born Dec. 13, 1902, Colorado Springs, Colo., U.S.
died May 8, 1979, Munich, W.Ger.

U.S. sociologist.

Parsons taught at Harvard University from 1927 to 1973. He advocated a structural-functional analysis, a study of the ways that interrelated and interacting units forming the structures of a social system contribute to the system's development and maintenance. He was largely responsible for introducing the work of Émile Durkheim and Max Weber to American sociologists. His major work is The Structure of Social Action (1937). See also functionalism.

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▪ American sociologist
born Dec. 13, 1902, Colorado Springs, Colorado, U.S.
died May 8, 1979, Munich, West Germany

      American sociologist and scholar whose theory of social action influenced the intellectual bases of several disciplines of modern sociology. His work is concerned with a general theoretical system for the analysis of society rather than with narrower empirical studies. He is credited with having introduced the work of Max Weber (Weber, Max) and Vilfredo Pareto (Pareto, Vilfredo) to American sociology.

      After receiving his B.A. from Amherst College in 1924, Parsons studied at the London School of Economics and at the University of Heidelberg, where he received his Ph.D. in 1927. He joined the faculty of Harvard University as an instructor in economics and began teaching sociology in 1931. In 1944 he became a full professor, and in 1946 he was appointed chairman of the new department of social relations, a post Parsons held until 1956. He remained at Harvard until his retirement in 1973. Parsons also served as president of the American Sociological Society in 1949.

      Parsons united clinical psychology and social anthropology with sociology, a fusion still operating in the social sciences. His work is generally thought to constitute an entire school of social thought. In his first major book, The Structure of Social Action (1937), Parsons drew on elements from the works of several European scholars (Weber, Pareto, Alfred Marshall (Marshall, Alfred), and Émile Durkheim (Durkheim, Émile)) to develop a common systematic theory of social action based on a voluntaristic principle—i.e., the choices between alternative values and actions must be at least partially free. Parsons defined the locus of sociological theory as residing not in the internal field of personality, as postulated by Sigmund Freud (Freud, Sigmund) and Weber, but in the external field of the institutional structures developed by society. In The Social System (1951), he turned his analysis to large-scale systems and the problems of social order, integration, and equilibrium. He advocated a structural-functional analysis, a study of the ways in which the interrelated and interacting units that form the structures of a social system contribute to the development and maintenance of that system.

      Other works by Parsons include Essays in Sociological Theory (1949; rev. ed. 1954), Economy and Society (1956; with Neil J. Smelser), Structure and Process in Modern Societies (1960), Societies: Evolutionary and Comparative Perspectives (1966), Sociological Theory and Modern Society (1967), Politics and Social Structure (1969), and The American University (1973; with Gerald M. Platt and Neil J. Smelser).

Additional Reading
Critical assessments of Parsons's work have been published in two collections of essays: Bernard Barber and Alex Inkeles (eds.), Stability and Social Change, (1971); and Jan J. Loubser et al. (eds.), Explorations in General Theory in Social Science, 2 vol. (1976). Central aspects of Parsons's sociology are portrayed in Talcott Parsons, The Talcott Parsons Reader, ed. by Bryan S. Turner (1999).

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Universalium. 2010.

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  • Parsons, Talcott — (1902 79) For some twenty to thirty years after the Second World War, Talcott Parsons was the major theoretical figure in English speaking sociology, if not in world sociology. An American who worked all his life in the United States, apart from… …   Dictionary of sociology

  • Parsons,Talcott — Par·sons (pärʹsənz), Talcott. 1902 1979. American sociologist noted for developing the structural functional approach to studying social systems.   Par·sonʹi·an (pär sōʹnē ən) adj. * * * …   Universalium

  • Parsons, Talcott — ► (1902 79) Sociólogo estadounidense. Está considerado uno de los máximos representantes del funcionalismo y el iniciador del accionalismo. Su obra pretende formular una teoría sociológica general para el análisis de la estructura y los procesos… …   Enciclopedia Universal

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  • PARSONS (T.) — PARSONS TALCOTT (1902 1979) Professeur à l’université Harvard, Talcott Parsons est l’un des plus grands théoriciens de la sociologie contemporaine. Sa démarche scientifique fut initialement influencée par les travaux de l’économiste anglais… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Parsons — Parsons, Talcott Parsons, sir Charles Algernon * * * (as used in expressions) Burkitt, Denis P(arsons) Parsons, Elsie Clews Parsons, Sir Charles Algernon Parsons, Talcott Rosse, William Parsons, 3 conde de …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Talcott Parsons — Infobox Scientist name = Talcott Parsons caption = birth date = birth date|1902|12|13 birth place = Colorado Springs, Colorado death date = death date and age|1979|5|8|1902|12|13 death place = residence = United States citizenship = nationality …   Wikipedia

  • Parsons — /pahr seuhnz/, n. 1. Talcott /tawl kot, tal /, 1902 79, U.S. sociologist and author. 2. Theophilus, 1750 1813, U.S. jurist. 3. a town in SE Kansas. 12,898. * * * (as used in expressions) Burkitt Denis Parsons Parsons Elsie Clews Parsons Sir… …   Universalium

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