Talcott Parsons: Biography,Theories and Contributions

An American sociologist named Talcott Parsons worked in the field of social action theories. He was one of the most influential Sociologists during his time. He was welcomed into this world on 13th December 1902 and passed away on 8th May 1979. He acquired his Ph.D. in economics and was the first sociology professor. He was a professor at Harvard University and served for a long time.

talcott parsons theories

Talcott Parsons on Stratification:

Talcott Parson says that if one has to have stability, order, and uniformity in society there must be a mutual understanding among people by having certain values that should be acceptable by everyone in society and viewed as good for all. He says that stratification takes place from these common values and through these values a person is judged and positioned in society at certain ranks. So one who performs well and follows all the common values of society will be ranked at the top and one which performs badly will be placed at the bottom.

Parson believes that stratification is unavoidable it is found in all societies irrespective of any human society. If value consensus is an essential component of all societies, then it follows that some form of stratification will result from the ranking of individuals in terms of common values. Parsons somewhere view that the stratification is not a bad thing as it is said to have arrived from the common values shared by society and that is why he says it is not wrong.

Parsons looks at social stratification as both unavoidable and functional for the society.it is unavoidable because it drives from the shared values which are the necessary part of all social systems. It is functional because it serves to integrate various groups in society. Finally, inequalities of power and prestige benefit all members of society since they serve to further collective goals which are based on shared values. Parsons has been strongly criticized on all these points. Another sociologist has seen stratification as a divisive rather than an integrated force.they have seen it as an arrangement whereby some gain at the expense of others. They have questioned the view that stratifications systems drive ultimately from shared values.

Talcott Parson on Education:

Drawing on Durkheim’s ideas, the American sociologist Talcott Parsons outlined what has become the accepted functionalist view of education.writing in the late 1950s Parsons argues that after primary socialization within the family, the school takes over as the focus socializing agency. Preparing the child for future adult role school is an essential institution. It serves as a connecting point for society and family.Parents treat the child as a particular child rather than judging him in terms of standards or yardsticks which can be applied to every individual.

Parsons believes that schools help children to develop themselves for future adult roles and he says that educational system helps children utilize these human sources rightly. Schools help children to get to know their skills, talents, uniqueness so that when they turn an adult they choose the jobs which are well suited according to them. But parsons fails to give adequate consideration to the possibility that the value is transmitted by the educational system may be those of the ruling minority rather than of society as a whole. His view that schools operate on meritocratic principles is open to question.

Talcott Parson on Family:

Parson says that The isolated nuclear family is the typical family form in the modern industrial society.it is structurally isolated because it does not form an integral part of a wider system of kinship relationships.obviously, there are social relationships between members of nuclear families and their kin but these relationships are more in a matter of choice than binding obligations. Parsons view that emergence of the isolated nuclear family in terms of his theory of social evolution .the evolution of society involves the process of the structural differentiation.this means that the institutions involved which specialize in fewer function. In this sense no longer do the family and kinship group perform a wide range of functions.instead specialist institution such as business firms, hospitals, schools, churches and police forces take over many of the functions.this process of differentiation and specialization involves the transfer of a variety of functions from the nuclear family to other structures of the society. Hence in industrial society with the transfer of the production of goods to factories, specialized economic institutions became differentiated from the family. The family ceases to be an economic unit of production.

As a consequence of this structural isolation of the nuclear family, the conjugal bond the relationship between husband and wife is getting stronger. Without the support of kin beyond the nuclear family, spoused are increasingly dependent on each other, particularly for emotional support.

Women in society by Talcott Parson:

Parson looks at the isolated nuclear family in modern industrial society specializing in two basic functions first the socialization of the young and the stabilization of adult personalities. For socialization to be an effective, close, warm and supportive group is essential.the family meeting this requirement. Parsons states that the family or something very much like it is essential for this purpose. Women play a vital role in the family for children as they carry and nurture the children so she is closer to them and strongly attached to them. As in a nuclear modern family, women play an essential part as she is sharply targeted to take the responsibility of the children completely. So that is why an adult woman is significant. Most of the time due to the absence of father or husband makes a woman a significant member of the family.

Parsons believes that for effective and socialization of a child it is necessary for a woman to facilitate the child with warmth, tenderness, and support (emotional). Same should also be applied to her husband because it also helps in the better socialization of the husband. This is said to be a major contribution in stabilizing the personalities of an adult. It serves as a second function of the isolated nuclear family.

Religion and Talcott Parson:

Parson says The cultural system provides more general guidelines for action in the form of beliefs, values, and systems of meaning, not the norms which direct action Are not merely isolated standards for behavior, they are integrated and patterned by the values and beliefs provided by the cultural system. Religion is a part of the cultural system. In this way, religious beliefs provide guidelines for human actions and standards against which mans conduct can be evaluated.if you talk about Christian society there the ten commandments operate in this way These norms direct these areas of behavior and always work on the same religious commandments. In this way, religion provides general guidelines for conduct which are expressed any variety of norms, therefore, Parsons believes religion is necessary for order and stability in society. As part of the cultural system, religious beliefs give meaning to life.Parsons argues that one of the major function of religion is to make sense of all experiences, no matter how meaningless or contradictory they appear.

Parson also says that a major function of religion as the provision of meaning to an event that man does not expect of feels ought not to happen, events that are frustrating and contradictory. Religion makes sense of these events in terms of the integrated and consistent pattern of meaning.

Talcott Parsons has contributed in all the fields such as societal stratification, education, family and kinship, religion, women in society etc. He is also been criticized but stopped giving his best in the development of society. Therefore he was a prominent and influencing sociologist in 20th century.