Toward A General Theory Of Action

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Overview

This new edition introduces the social science audiences of a new century to one of the classic highlights of the mid-twentieth century. This is the most general statement of the general theory of action as it was developed by its principle exponent, Talcott Parsons, and his close collaborators who formed the core of the fabled department of social relations at Harvard University. Toward a General Theory of Action is an extremely ambitious formulation of the ingredients, dimensions, and ranges that determine human behavior.

Parsons and Shils enunciate principles that are at the core of contemporary social science preoccupations-including the precarious balance between social integration and conflict. The volume is at once universal in intent and highly personal, an expression of Parsons' thought, one of the most notable sociological theorists of the century. Finally, the book symbolizes the interdisciplinary impulse that typified a widespread belief in the unity of the sciences. This edition includes the collaborative group's introductory statement, Richard Sheldon's essay on the theoretical and philosophical status of the general theory of action, and "Values, Motives and Systems of Action" by Parsons and Shils.

Guy Swanson, writing in the The American Sociological Review, noted that "Parsons and Shils have performed a major service in clearing away many old controversies, in showing the reasonableness of a behavioral foundation for general theory in social science as a whole and in sociology in particular, in clarifying the interrelations among many concepts, and in the insightful interpretation of particular pieces of data." It is testimony to this book's continuing significance that it continues to generate new lines of research and writings.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
<:st>Previous editions are cited in . Part of the publisher's "classics" series, this is an abridged edition of a work originally published by Harvard in 1951, with an introduction by one of Parsons' former students, Neil Smelser (behavioral science, Stanford U.). The original book was written to report on the influential social relations collaborative project carried out at Harvard by Talcott Parsons (deceased, Harvard) and Edward Shills (deceased, Cambridge U., UK), among others. The chapters chosen for this edition contain the consensus statement of the project, observations on theory in the social sciences by project member Richard Sheldon, and the theoretical basis of the project. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780765807182
  • Publisher: Transaction Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/2/2001
  • Series: Social Science Classics Series
  • Edition description: ABR
  • Pages: 308
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.69 (d)

Meet the Author

Edward Shils (1910-1995) was distinguished service professor in the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago. His books include Tradition, The Intellectuals and the Powers, and Toward a General Theory of Action. Talcott Parsons (1902-1979) was one of most influential and controversial theorists of twentieth-century sociology. He served on the faculty of Harvard University for forty-five years. He developed the concept of action theory, which was based on voluntarism and analytical realism. He is also responsible for introducing Max Weber’s work to America. Some of his many works include The Structure of Social Action, The System of Modern Societies, and Politics and Social Structure.

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Table of Contents

Introduction to the Transaction Edition
Preface
Pt. 1 The General Theory of Action
1 Some Fundamental Categories of the Theory of Action: A General Statement 3
2 Some Observations on Theory in the Social Sciences 30
Pt. 2 Values, Motives, and Systems of Action
Introduction 47
1 Categories of the Orientation and Organization of Action 53
2 Personality as a System of Action 110
3 Systems of Value-Orientation 159
4 The Social System 190
5 Conclusion 234
Index 277
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