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SIS-700 CRS Proseminar
SIS-701 IR Proseminar
SIS-705 Social Theory Proseminar
SIS-714 The Conduct of Inqury in International Relations
Scholars and Thinkers
Ferdinand de Saussure
Qualitative Data Analysis
Recent Changes (still working on this one)
A Theory of Power for Women”
A Theory of Structure Duality, Agency, and Transformation
Action Systems and Social Systems
An Economic Theory of Democracy
An Introduction to Varieties of Capitalism
Anomie and the Modern Division of Labor
Arbitrary Social Values and the Linguistic sign
Arbitrary Social Values and the Linguistic sign (2)
Art, War, and Fascism
Assembling the Social
Back to the Future Endogenous Institutions and Comparative Politics
Call for a Debate about the Paradigm
Can the Subaltern Speak
Capital and the Values of Commodities
Civil Society and the Political Public Sphere
Civilization and the Individual
Civilizing the Enemy German Reconstruction and the Invention of the West
Class, Status, Party
Climate, Coastal Proximity, and Development
Action Systems and Social Systems
“Action Systems and Social Systems”
The overall “system of action” is composed of four constituent elements: social systems, and the following three “constituents of its environment”: “cultural systems, personality systems, and behavioral organisms,” each with different functions (301).
system serves primarily an
function, coordinating the actions of individuals and, in some cases, collectivities.
system serves primarily the
and (pattern-change) function—involving “complexes of symbolic meaning” (301).
serves primarily a
function and “is the primary
of action processes, hence of the implementation of cultural principles and requirements” (301).
serves primarily the function of adaptation to the physical environment.
There is “interpenetration” between these four subsystems (302). Examples:
The personality system
cultural and social norms from those two subsystems.
Norms from the cultural system get
in the social subsystem.
Language cuts across all four of the systems [if I understood correctly—bottom of p. 302].
In line with Durkheim (as Parsons acknowledges), society [not clear if this is just the social “subsystem” specifically or the whole “action system”] is a reality unto itself and not merely epiphenomenal of individual actions.
The social system has four components (all p. 303):
Values, which “take primacy in the pattern-maintenance functioning of social systems.”
Norms, which “integrate social systems” in a way more “specific to … types of social situations.”
Collectivities have “goal-attainment primacy” and are not just any set of people but a group that has clearly-defined membership and some differentiation among members in terms of status and function.
Roles have “primacy in the adaptive function” and relate to “reciprocal expectations… in a particular collectivity.”
These four components can vary independently of each other, and “social systems are comprised of
of these structural components” (303).
From a draft of my first precis:
In many ways, this theoretical framework does not make sense. Parsons sometimes uses the term “system” and sometimes “subsystem” in discussing the social, cultural, personality, and organism elements. It is not clear whether the social system encompasses the other three or are on the same level of analysis with them under “action system.” If the latter, it is unclear what an action system is. In a confusing twist, he also changes course on the locus of agency: in the four (sub)systems, the “personality” has agency, but in the components (values/norms/collectivities/roles), collectivities have “goal-attainment primacy” suggesting such entities can also have agency. It is unclear what is the relationship of the four “components” (values, norms, collectivities, and roles) to the four (sub)systems. Moreover, it seems odd to have values and norms in the same list as collectivities and roles. Further, since norms seem a more limited application of values and roles are a part of collectivities, it is questionable whether each of these four “components” is truly independent of the others (can different value systems still have the same norms related to a particular activity?). Finally, it is not clear what “pattern maintenance” is, a function performed by both cultural (sub)systems and values.
Nevertheless, Parsons’ work contains some important insights regarding the sources of social cohesion. First, although the social system is its own independent reality, and thus presumably its own potential for causation,
still rests with the individual personality, as well as with “collectivities,” which are narrowly defined.
Second, norms and values serve as social glue.
Finally, interesting implications can be drawn from Parsons’ description of collectivities and roles.
Role differentiation and even perhaps status differentiation may be routes toward cooperation within a group.
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