Talcott Parsons' Grand Theory is based in the perspective which is commonly referred to as
"structural functionalism." Parsons himself, however, preferred the term "functional analysis"
after it was suggested by his student, Robert Merton(Coser 1975). For the most part, "structural
functionalism" is the preferred label. Its focus is on the functional requirements, or needs, of a
social system that must be met for the system to survive and the corresponding structures that
meet those needs. The social systems we are referring to tend to perform the tasks that are
necessary for their survival. Sociological analysis comes into play as a search for the social
structures that perform those tasks or meet the needs of the social system(Wallace and Wolf
1999). A basic definition of functionalism would be the study of the social and cultural
phenomena in terms of the functions they perform. The society conceived in functionalism is a
system of interrelated parts that are interdependent of one another. If a change in one part takes
place, then their is a change in the system and reorganization occurs in an effort to once again
achieve equilibrium(Wallace and Wolf 1999). It is this strive toward equilibrium that Parsons is
most concerned with in his Grand Theory. While Parsons' contributions are great, there were
many who paved the way before him.
Intellectuals such as Auguste Comte, Herber Spencer, Vilfredo Pareto, and Emile
Durkheim laid much of the ground work. Comte, Spencer, and Pareto contributed the concept of
the interdependence of parts of the social system, while Durkheim emphasized integration or
solidarity. Both ideas Parsons incorporated into his paradigm. It was Comte who...
... middle of paper ...
warrant the word "grand" in front of it.
Boskoff, Alvin. 1969. Theory in American Sociology: Major Sources and Applications. Emory
Univ., New York: Thomas Y. Crowel.
Coser, Lewis A. edt. 1975. The Idea of Social Structure: Papers in Honor of Robert K. Merton.
Stony Brook, New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
Mouzelis, Nicos. 1995. Sociological Theory: What Went Wrong?. New York, New York:
Parsons, Talcott. 1977. Social Systems and the Evolution of Action Theory. New York, New
York: The Free Press.
Sztompka, Piotr. edt. 1996. Robert K. Merton: On Social Structure and Science. Chicago,
Illinois: The Univ. of Chicago Press.
Wallace, Ruth A. and Alison Wolf. 1999. Contemporary Sociological Theory: Expanding the
Classical Tradition. 5t ed. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
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