Introduction

Introduction Of his time, Talcott Parsons (1902-1979) was considered the most admired American sociologist. Parsons was bread into a well-to-do family and was given a strong educational foundation as a child. Starting as a biologist, Parsons felt out of place and transferred to economics and sociology. As he excelled in these fields, Parsons began studies in Europe, giving him a wide view on different societies. He began teaching at Harvard, and there he exposed his sociological thoughts.

Although very controversial, Parsons’ works had influences on all aspects of Sociology. He generally focused on social action and systems and believed that morality in social action is the main element to help preserve social order. In The Structure of Social Action (1937), Parsons developed earlier sociologists’ views into a theory of social action, or the action theory. These ideas look into today’s society and it’s institutional structures, which work to clarify action and to gain from it. His second book, The Social System (1951), extends and further explains his prior theories, including a structural-functional strategy.

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Talcott Parsons’ functionalistic ways, influenced by Bronislaw Malinowski, became the center of debate. His beliefs were questioned and challenged by rival sociologists. His studies became even greater and his theories more significant. Until the time of his death, his principal aim focused on the systematic study of social action and it’s components. He looked at the surrounding factors and if and why they influenced the social system.

As an award before his death, Parsons received high honors for his accomplishments in sociology. Many people considered him the most intelligent sociologist of his era. Methods for Securing Information To gather material on this subject, I used a few research tools. First, I utilized the internet as a source of information. Starting off, I figured I would use search engines, or special programs that find websites concerning your topic, to begin.

I listed as many keywords as I could, including Talcott Parsons, Parsons, sociology, sociologists, dead sociologists, and structural-functional paradigm. I then used these keywords in my searches on the yahoo!, excite, starting point, and webcrawler search engines. I passed trough websites, selecting valuable information and printing out what was needed. I looked over the various internet articles, and I highlighted and took notes on some important details. I kept the web pages nearby for quick reference.

Next, I visited the Boca Raton Public Library to collect more substantial data. I began by using the library’s computers to search for information on Talcott Parsons and sociology. I was lead to the International Encyclopedia of Social Sciences, in which I found biographical supplements. I copied specific pages concerning Talcott Parsons, and as I read the text, I choose certain information for reviewing. This information was observantly copied to note cards.

I located two other encyclopedias, The New Encyclopedia Britannica and Encyclopedia Americana, and repeated the steps as before, using note cards to take notes. During my search, I found a paperback book on sociology. I studied the section pertaining to Talcott Parsons, and I took careful notes on his works. Afterwards, I researched the historical events happening while Parsons grew up. Initially, I found these events on the Society in History: Time Lines in my sociology text book.

I noted the events and relied on the internet. I used the same method as before, search engines and websites. I listed the keywords on the subjects and found many different articles. I printed the useful documents and reviewed them for significant points. Last, I highlighted the main topics and noted the major facts. Biographical Information Talcott Parsons was born on December 13, 1902 in Colorado Springs. His family consisted of five siblings and his mother and father, Mary Ingersol Parsons and Edward Parson.

According to the Inter. Encyclopedia of Social Sciences, “His mother..was a suffragist..and his father was a ‘social gospel’ Protestant of broad academic interests” (610). Parsons was academically pushed by his father, who was the first in the family to attend college. Although of Christian faith, his family was still interested in the sciences of Darwinism, which gave Parsons an early view of science. He attended high school at Horace Mann High School in New York City. After graduation, he started his studies at Amherst College. Parsons majored in biology, but shifted his thoughts to sociology later in his learning experience at Amherst.

In 1924, Talcott graduated from Amherst and moved on to the London School of Economics. During his instruction in sociology and economics, Parsons began finding a correlation between his two interests. Sociology at Hewett explains that Talcott’s most crucial experience was in his lecture with Bronislaw Malinowski: “He was converted to functionalism under the influence of the anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski” (1 of 2). Soon after Parsons began the London School of Economics, he was offered a place at the University of Heidelberg. In Germany, he was exposed to a new view of social thought, entailing Max Weber’s beliefs. Parsons began his classes in economics and sociology and Marxian theory.

In 1927, he was awarded his doctorate in economics at Heidelberg, and he married Helen B. Walker around the same time. He then returned to America to teach economics at Harvard University. From 1928 to 1929, Talcott produced two writings about his main thoughts on society. He used different sociologists’ views and made critiques on them and incorporated his own conceptions.

Parsons was still interested in the relationship between economics and sociology, and he began to notice that they had complex links. He was caught between the two fields, which he both admired, and noticed he had to make a change. So in 1931, Parsons became a member of Harvard’s sociology department and launched his teachings in the new subject. During 1937, while teaching at Harvard, Talcott brought forth his first major work, The Structure of Social Action. Encyclopedia Britannica describes, “Parsons drew on elements from the work of several European writers..to develop a common systematic theory of social action” (171).

In the book, he investigated the theorists views and compared and contrasted between them. And he always centered his focus on morality’s place in social action. Soon, Parsons became a full professor in Sociology and began relating other fields to hi own. Two years later, Parsons attended a psychology institute, where he focused on Freud’s theories. Parsons started paying attention to anthropology and psychology, and he formed an in depth analysis of the Freudian theory.

In 1946, Talcott helped create the department of social relations, in which he was nominated as chairperson. To add, he became the president of the American Sociological Society in 1949. By the 1950’s, he became the most celebrated sociologist in academic life (International Encyclopedia of Social Science 616). Parsons’ second book, The Social System, looked at his theses on a much bigger scale, and included many altered thou …

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