The Protestant ethic — a moral code stressing hard work, rigorous self-discipline, and the organization of one's life in the service of God — was made famous by sociologist and political economist Max Weber. In this brilliant study (his best-known and most controversial), he opposes the Marxist concept of dialectical materialism and its view that change takes place through "the struggle of opposites." Instead, he relates the rise of a capitalist economy to the Puritan determination to work out anxiety over (...) salvation or damnation by performing good deeds — an effort that ultimately discouraged belief in predestination and encouraged capitalism. Weber's classic study has long been required reading in college and advanced high school social studies classrooms. (shrink)
This book brings together, in systematic and generalized form, the main outlines of a conceptual scheme for the analysis of the structure and processes of social systems. It carries out Pareto's intention by using the "structural-functional" level of analysis.
With the publication in 1937 of his first book, The Structure of Social Action, Talcott Parsons (1902-79) established himself as one of America's most important social theorists. Yet Parsons's essays from the decade preceding 1937 are virtually unknown to theorists and historians of sociology. By gathering the majority of Parsons's articles and book reviews published between 1923 and 1937, Charles Camic supplies the first comprehensive selection of the writings of the "early Parsons." In his superb introductory essay, Camic situates Parsons's (...) early writings in their sociointellectual and biographical context. Drawing upon extensive historical research, he identifies three overlapping but relatively distinct thematic phases in the early development of Paron's ideas: that on capitalist society and its origins, that one the historical development of the theory of action, and that on the foundations of analytical sociology. Camic correlates the emergence of these phases to Parsons's experiences at Amherst College in the early 1920s, in London and Heidelberg during the mid-1920s, and at Harvard University in the important period from the late 1920s to the mid-1930s. Reproducing in full each of twenty-one selections, this volume charts the changes and continues in the early development of some of Parsons's most fundamental ideas. (shrink)
Talcott Parsons wrote this paper as a basis for discussion at the General Session: Analysis of the Sociological Profession organized within the frame of annual meeting of the American Sociological Society in Chicago. He sketched here some of the most urgent problems facing sociological profession. These problems can be broken down into four basic questions. The most central of these concerns the extent to which the canons of scientific objectivity have come to be established as the working code of the (...) profession in dealing with defined intellectual subject matters. The second concerns the present clarity of the differentiation from and relation to neighboring scientific disciplines, so that we can speak with certain definiteness about what, as distinct from other scientists, a sociologist does. The third question concerns the differentiation of sociology as a science from sociological “practice” and its proper relation to applied field. Finally, there is a problem of sociology’s differentiation as a scientific discipline and a relation to the non-scientific aspects of the general culture. (shrink)
The paper approaches the problem of rationality on the basis of the theory of action elaborated in ParsonsParsons, Talcott’ The Structure of Social Action of 1937. The voluntaristic action frame of reference, as it was called, implies the opportunity of choice in the course of actions. Predictability of the consequences of a course of action, as a prerequisite of choice, requires rational empirical knowledge and logical consistency. Choices are also dependent on norms and values, as well as on affective meanings, (...) the balancing of which requires complex calculations of costs and advantages or utilities. Appreciation of rational knowledge implies – and depends upon – a commitment to norms of rationality. The limits of rationality are set by irrationality in the sense of deviance from normative standards, but also by non-rational and non-logical factors such as tradition, religion, or art. The work of ParetoPareto, Vilfredo is taken as an important reference point as it is acknowledged to be “the most ambitious attempt to achieve a generalized formulation of a total social system of rational action.”. (shrink)