Talcott Parsons (13 December 1902 – 8 May 1979) was an American sociologist of the classical tradition, best known for his social action theory and structural functionalism. Parsons is considered one of the most influential figures in sociology in the 20th century. After earning a PhD in economics, he served on the faculty at Harvard University from 1927 to 1929. In 1930, he was among the first professors in its new sociology department. Later, he was instrumental in the establishment of the Department of Social Relations at Harvard.
|Died||May 8, 1979 76) (aged|
Helen Bancroft Walker
|Doctoral advisor||Edgar Salin|
|School or tradition||Structural functionalism|
Based on empirical data, Parsons' social action theory was the first broad, systematic, and generalizable theory of social systems developed in the United States and Europe. Some of Parsons' largest contributions to sociology in the English-speaking world were his translations of Max Weber's work and his analyses of works by Weber, Émile Durkheim, and Vilfredo Pareto. Their work heavily influenced Parsons' view and was the foundation for his social action theory. Parsons viewed voluntaristic action through the lens of the cultural values and social structures that constrain choices and ultimately determine all social actions, as opposed to actions that are determined based on internal psychological processes.
Although Parsons is generally considered a structural functionalist, towards the end of his career, in 1975, he published an article that stated that "functional" and "structural functionalist" were inappropriate ways to describe the character of his theory.
From the 1970s, a new generation of sociologists criticized Parsons' theories as socially conservative and his writings as unnecessarily complex. Sociology courses have placed less emphasis on his theories than at the peak of his popularity (from the 1940s to the 1970s). However, there has been a recent resurgence of interest in his ideas.
Parsons was a strong advocate for the professionalization of sociology and its expansion in American academia. He was elected president of the American Sociological Association in 1949 and served as its secretary from 1960 to 1965.