Structural-functional analysis of Tolcott Parsons
Modern sociology is characterized bythe coexistence of different concepts of social knowledge. Continuity of sociological ideas at the moment is the basis of the very development of the teachings about society. A significant contribution to this progress was made by the concept - the structural and functional analysis of Parsons, which the distinguished American scientist formulated in the middle of the last century. Today, Tolcott Parsons is recognized in the scientific world as one of the classics of sociological science. He created a detailed concept - functional analysis, which is a necessary methodological tool for sociological knowledge of the modern world in all its diversity.
The center of this concept is the concept ofsystem, it is with him associated the whole range of ideas and problems in the subject area of research on issues of social equilibrium, conflict, consensus and the evolution of society as a system.
Parsons first deals with functional analysisas a methodological resource, exploring the theory of Henderson-Pareto, where the main place was given to the issues of economics and its role in the evolution of society. Then this topic was continued by Schumpeter, who approached the analysis of the economy precisely from the point of view of its systemic nature.
Summarizing the conclusions of the scientists, Parsons comes tothe belief that systematicity alone can not objectively explain social trends, so it is necessary to include in the system analysis the components of the study of social functions. So this complex theoretical education was born - "structural and functional analysis". Its essence lies in the universalism of approaches to the study of the laws and trends observed in modern social life.
Completely new in this theory was the studycybernetic aspects of society as "a system of cultural symbolic meanings." The cybernetic method has made it possible to deal more thoroughly with the previously unexplored problems of stability and entropy of society.
Parsons-substantiated functional analysis gavethe opportunity and a new look at the then popular problem of social conflict. The fact is that the spread of positivism and its methods created one-sidedness and a contradiction in the interpretation of the categories of stability and conflict. Therefore, the question was raised about the coexistence in society of chaos and order as dialectical aspects of social life. The then developing theory of the conflict, Lewis Coser - American economist and sociologist, in fact, complemented the idea of Parsons, arguing that society does not exhaust one stability of all possible states of its own. This conclusion was especially significant in substantiating the economic development trends, which experienced the processes of cyclical changes of its states - the periods of crises were replaced by periods of relative economic stability. Therefore, functional analysis in the economy today also acts as a necessary methodological method for studying economic processes, especially in the field of assessing the likelihood of risks, macroeconomic forecast, and others.
In Parsons' theory, the unit of analysis stands forconcrete action of the individual, and not an abstract society as a whole. Such a fundamentally new approach made it possible to analyze the society not from the point of view of individual traits of a man, what was accepted in psychology, but from the point of view of the behavior of an individual in a particular situation. According to Parsons - social action is a localized in time and space behavior, which is due to the fulfillment by a person in the surrounding society of certain functions. In the context of these functions, various structures, social mechanisms, value and cultural systems can intersect and all will influence human behavior and the performance of social functions.
This, a completely original approach, whichprovided functional analysis, and his new methodological paradigm laid the foundations and future of European sociology. Famous followers of Parsons' ideas here were Max Weber, Wilfredo Pareto, Robert Michels.
In general, although Parsons' theory contains in itselfsome abstractions and elements of formalism, it continues to be very popular and almost in demand in the analytic study of modern society.