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Science and action in the work of Talcott Parsons 1928-50

Proctor, Ian (1977) Science and action in the work of Talcott Parsons 1928-50. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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A science of action has traditionally been associated with a range of methodological problems. Parsons' exposure to German idealism gave him an awareness of such problems. The question examined by this study is how Parsons addresses and attempts to resolve three methodological problems in a science of action; the nature of subjectivity, the relationship of normative entities and action and the place of values in knowledge. Central to the argument pursued here is that Parsons formulates and answers these problems within the interrelated framework of his analytical conception of science and his voluntaristic metaphysic. Chapters II and III are concerned with The Structure of Social Action, In the first, Parsons' general methodology of science is outlined leading up to his understanding and reasons for 'structural analysis': the importance of systematically articulated schemes of general elements of action. In chapter III Parsons' voluntarism is analyzed before examining the three problems noted above and showing their relationship to the analytic/voluntaristic framework. Chapters IV and V follow through these themes into Parsons’ work between 1938 and 1950 when he explicitly adopts a structural functional approach. Chapter IV returns to general methodology and Parsons’ rationale for structural functionalism but notes a number of anomolies in this which lead to chapter V in which structural functionalism is considered in the light of methodological problems of a science of action. Here the close relationship between voluntarism and structural functionalism is stressed. In conclusion alternative interpretations of voluntarism are critically assessed and a closing comment on Parsons’ contribution to sociological theory is offered.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Date:1977
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:18 Sep 2013 09:30

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