After Parsons: A Theory of Social Action for the Twenty-First Centuryby Renee C. Fox
Pub. Date: 08/28/2005
Publisher: Russell Sage Foundation
Esteemed twentieth-century sociologist Talcott Parsons sought to develop a comprehensive and coherent scheme for sociology that could be applied to every society and historical epoch, and address every aspect of human social organization and culture. His theory of social action has exerted enormous influence across a wide range of social science disciplines.
Esteemed twentieth-century sociologist Talcott Parsons sought to develop a comprehensive and coherent scheme for sociology that could be applied to every society and historical epoch, and address every aspect of human social organization and culture. His theory of social action has exerted enormous influence across a wide range of social science disciplines. After Parsons, edited by Renée Fox, Victor Lidz, and Harold Bershady, provides a critical reexamination of Parsons' theory in light of historical changes in the world and advances in sociological thought since his death.
After Parsons is a fresh examination of Parsons' theoretical undertaking, its significance for social scientific thought, and its implications for present-day empirical research. The book is divided into four parts: Social Institutions and Social Processes; Societal Community and Modernization; Sociology and Culture; and the Human Condition. The chapters deal with Parsons' notions of societal community, societal evolution, and modernization and modernity. After Parsons addresses major themes of enduring relevance, including social differentiation and cultural diversity, social solidarity, universalism and particularism, and trust and affect in social life. The contributors explore these topics in a wide range of social institutions—family and kinship, economy, polity, the law, medicine, art, and religion—and within the context of contemporary developments such as globalization, the power of the United States as an "empireless empire," the emergence of forms of fundamentalism, the upsurge of racial, tribal, and ethnic conflicts, and the increasing occurence of deterministic and positivistic thought.
Rather than simply celebrating Parsons and his accomplishments, the contributors to After Parsons rethink and reformulate his ideas to place them on more solid foundations, extend their scope, and strengthen their empirical insights. After Parsons constitutes the work of a distinguished roster of American and European sociologists who find Parsons' theory of action a valuable resource for addressing contemporary issues in sociological theory. All of the essays in this volume take elements of Parsons' theory and critique, adapt, refine, or extend them to gain fresh purchase on problems that confront sociologists today.
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Table of Contents
PART I SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS AND SOCIAL PROCESSES Chapter 1 Parsons's Economic Sociology and the Development of Economic Sociology 31 NeilJ. Smelser Chapter 2 Looming Catastrophe: How and Why "Law and Economics" Undermines Fiduciary Duties in Corporate Law 44 Mark Gould Chapter 3 Social Order as Communication: Parsons's Theory on the Move from Moral Consensus to Trust 66 Harald Wenzel Chapter 4 Affect in Social Life 83 HaroldJ. Bershady PART II SOCIETAL COMMUNITY AND MODERNIZATION Chapter 5 Contradictions in the Societal Community: The Promise and Disappointment of Parsons's Concept 93 Jeffrey C. Alexander Chapter 6 How Different Can We Be? Parsons's Societal Community, Pluralism, and the Multicultural Debate 111 Giuseppe Sciortino Chapter 7 God, Nation, and Self in America: Some Tensions Between Parsons and Bellah 137 Robert N. Bellah Chapter 8 Modernity and Its Endless Discontents 148 Donald N. Levine PART III SOCIOLOGY AND CULTURE Chapter 9 Culture as a Subsystem of Action: Autonomous and Heteronomous Functions 169 Helmut Staubmann Chapter 10 Rationalists, Fetishists, and Art Lovers: Action Theory and the Comparative Analysis of High Cultural Institutions 179 cJremy Tanner Chapter 11 The Weberian Talcott Parsons: Sociological Theory in Three Decades of American History 208 Uta Gerhardt Chapter 12 From Amherst to Heidelberg: On the Origins of Parsons's Conception of Culture 240 Charles Camic PART IV THE HUMAN CONDITION Chapter 13 Parsons and the Human Condition 267 Edward A. Tiryakian Chapter 14 What Do American Bioethics and Medecins Sans Frontieres Have in Common? The Relevance of Talcott Parsons's Theory of Universalism, Particularism, and Modernity 289 Renee C. Fox Chapter 15 "Social Evolution" in the Light of the Human-Condition Paradigm 308 Victor M. Lidz
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