Talcott Parsons

Talcott Parsons

Born: 1902. Died: 1979.


Talcott Parsons is an American sociologist who attempted to integrate all the social sciences into a science of human action. He was converted to functionalism under the influence of the anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski.

In "The Social System" 1951, Parsons argued that the crucial feature of societies, as of biological organisms, is homeostasis (maintaining a stable state), and that their parts can be understood only in terms of the whole.

Parsons began his career as a biologist and later became interested in economics and sociology. He studied in Heidelberg, Germany. He taught sociology at Harvard from 1931 until his death, and set up the Department of Social Relations there. He published more than 150 books and articles.

Like the German sociologist Max Weber, whose work he translated, Parsons wanted to describe convincingly logical types of social relation applicable to all groups, however small or large.

His great achievement was to construct a system or general theory of social action to include all its aspects, drawing on several disciplines and reinterpreting previous theories. His first attempt at this systematization appeared in "The Structure of Social Action" 1937, followed by "Essays in Sociological Theory, Pure and Applied" 1942.

Major Books of Talcott Parsons

- Action Theory and the Human Condition, 1978
- American Society: Toward a Theory of Societal Community, edited by Giuseppe Sciortino, 2007
- The American University, with Gerald Platt, 1973
- The Early Essays (Essays from the late 1920s and the 1930s), by dited by Charles Camic, 1991
- Economy and Society, with N. Smelser, 1956
- Essays in Sociological Theory, 1954
- The Evolution of Societies, with Jackson Toby, 1977
- Family, Socialization and Interaction Process, with Robert F. Bales and James Olds, 1955
- On National Socialism, 1993
- Politics and Social Structure, 1969
- Social Structure and Personality, 1964
- The Social System, 1952
- Social Systems and the Evolution of Action Theory, 1977
- Societies: Evolutionary and Comparative Perspectives, 1966
- Sociological Theory and Modern Society, 1968
- The Structure of Social Action, Volumes 1 and 2 1937
- Structure and Process in Modern Societies, 1960
- The System of Modern Societies, 1971
- Theories of Society, with Edward Shils, Kaspar D. Naegele and Jesse R. Pitts, 1961
- Toward a General Theory of Action, with Shils and Kluckhohn, 1951

Major Articles of Talcott Parsons

- 1935, The Place of Ultimate Values in Sociological Theory, International Journal of Ethics
- 1935, Sociological Elements in Economic Thought, Part I and II, The Quarterly Journal of Economics
- 1938, The Role of Theory in Social Research, American Sociological Review
- 1938, The Role of Ideas in Social Action, American Sociological Review
- 1942, Age and Sex in the Social Structure of the United States, American Sociological Review
- 1948, Sociology, 1941-46, with Bernard Barber, The American Journal of Sociology
- 1948, The Position of Sociological Theory, American Sociological Review
- 1950, The Prospects of Sociological Theory, American Sociological Review
- 1956, Suggestions for a Sociological Approach to the Theory of Organizations, Part I and II, Administrative Science Quarterly
- 1958, The Pattern of Religious Organization in the United States, Daedalus
- 1961, Images of Man and the Sociology of Religion, with William L. Kolb, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion
- 1963, On the Concept of Influence, The Public Opinion Quarterly
- 1970, Theory in the Humanities and Sociology, Daedalus


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