Theories of the Family: Talcott Parsons Scheduling Change • Original Plan – Becker and Parsons today – Two Prominent Critiques on Tuesday • New Plan (Today) – Parsons – Critiques • New Plan (Tuesday) – Becker – Critiques • Readings – DO NOT READ THE ASSIGNED READINGS – Instead read “Feminism and the Family” I will scan it and post it on Blackboard and the course website tonight. – IF YOU HAVE ALREADY READ THE POSTED READINGS I WILL ACCEPT A RESPONSE BASED ON THEM INSTEAD Lecture Outline • Structure of Sociological Theory • Structural Functionalism: 3 Components of the social system • Connections among components • Functional Requisites of a Social System (AGIL) • Latent Pattern Variables • Volunteeristic Action • Equilibrium and Change • Critiques Comparing Sociological Perspectives • Four main categories: 1. 2. 3. 4. Subject matter Assumptions about social action Methodology Theoretical Objective Subject Matter • Macrosociology: the unit of analysis is a higher order than the individual – Characteristics of social structure • Institutions • Inequality • Microsociology: the unit of analysis is the individual or interaction between individuals • Communication • Face-to-face encounters • Decision-making processes Assumptions about social action • Actors are Predictable Predictable • Actors are Creative Values OR • Motivated by Values OR • Motivated by Interests Interests Parsons Becker Creative Methodology Deductive (Top-Down) Theory Hypothesis Pattern Observation Inductive (Bottom-up) Theory Hypothesis Pattern Observation From Research Methods Knowledge Base at: http://www.socialresearchmethods.net/kb/dedind.php Reality – A more Circuitous Approach Theory Hypothesis Pattern Observation Objectives Describe Explain A Sociological Theory is a Special Case of a Sociological Perspective Sociological Theory: • Begins by systematically defining concepts – Also frequently lays out the underlying assumptions • Puts forth empirically testable general propositions about the concepts – A theory must be falsifiable Talcott Parsons (1902-1979) • Did his undergraduate work in Biology at Amherst College – Important to the development of his organic perspective of social systems • Studied with Malinowski at LSE – European Structuralist Anthropologist • Did an exchange at Heidelberg – Influenced by Max Weber’s theory of action • Later translated most of Weber’s works to English • Taught at Harvard between 1927 and 1973 Structural Functionalism • ‘The main guiding line of the analysis is the concept that a complex social system consist of a network of interdependent and interpenetrating subsystems, each of which, seen at the appropriate level of reference , is a social system in its own right, subject to all the functional exigencies of any such system relative to its institutionalized culture and situation…” (Quoted from Calhoun et al. 2007 p.431) • Society is a set of mutually dependent systems • Studies how each subsystem contributes to the system’s maintenance (the subsystem’s function) – Biological analogy 3 Components of the Social System 1. Cultural System: shared symbolic meanings – – – – – Religious beliefs National values Language Fashion Cuisine 2. Personality System: elements of identity • The basic unit is the individual – Social needs, motivations and attitudes • Gratification motivation: close to a utilitarian principle • Behavioural organism – Biological needs and constraints • Central nervous system • Physical capabilities – Strength – Fecundity 3. Social System: modes of interaction among actors – Within the social system people act according to the principle of “optimization of gratification” – All relationships in the social system are mediated by the cultural system (roles) Connections Among Systems Cultural System Personality System Social System Socialization (roles) Connections Among Systems: An Example of how Socialization Makes the Family “Work” Cultural System (Values) Produce Children Social System Socialization (roles) Mother/Father Personality System (needs and biological capacities) (1) Healthy Childishness, Sexual Gratification (2) Fecundity Parsons’ Four-Function Paradigm Applied to the United States as a Social System: AGIL Adaptation Economic Goal Attainment Political Education, Religious, Family Latent Pattern Maintenance/ Tension Management Legal Integration Reproduced from Wallace and Wolf 1995 pp. 41 Adaptation • The system’s adaptation to the material environment – Concerns the production and distribution of resources – The economy performs these functions in USA Goal Attainment • Establish system goals and mobilize resources to fulfill them – Concerns the distribution of decision-making power in society – The political institutions perform these functions in USA Integration • Provides social cohesion and solidarity – Regulates social interactions and prevents the mutual interference of systems – Also regulates conformity through the use of social control – The legal institutions perform these functions in USA Latent Pattern Variable Maintenance • Sufficiently motivates actors to fulfill their social roles • Upholds the social system by transmitting values and invoking commitment to those values – Family, education, and religion perform these functions in USA Family as a subsystem with its own needs Adaptation Goal Attainment Economic: Father (Breadwinner) Political: Father (Decision-Maker) Value Transmission: Mother (Housewife) Legal: Father (Co-ordinates and adjusts family relationships) Latent Pattern Maintenance/ Tension Management Integration Latent Pattern Variables • A series of orienting dichotomies – The meaning of a situation is determined for an actor by the side (s)he chooses on these dichotomies – Once the meaning is determined action can take place Pattern Variables Expressive Ascription Diffuseness Affectivity Instrumental Achievement Specificity Neutrality Particularism Universalism Collective Private Individual Action: Volunteeristic Action • Balances utilitarian elements of motivation with normative ones Internalized Culture Actor Alternative Means S GOALS Family as a Subsystem with its own Pattern Variables • Within the family subsystem – Status is ascribed: based on age, gender and generational rank – Distribution of goods is based on collectivist principles “to each according to his needs” – Relationships are diffuse rather than specific – Familial relationships are imbued with high levels of emotional gratification – The general orientation of family members is expected to be based on collectivist principles rather than personal gain Equilibrium Assumptions • Systems tend toward equilibrium • The four systems (AGIL) must perform their functions to maintain system equilibrium • If the system is functioning equilibrium will be maintained through Malfunction! 1. Socialization 2. Social Control Social Change in StructuralFunctionalism • Changes are gradual • No great disharmony • Societies become more complex/differentiated as they must re-adjust to solve more problems – Similar to Durkheim’s idea of how the division of labor develops • Very close analogy to evolution 1950s as a period of Re-equilibrium • The nuclear family became more isolated – Wider kinship (beyond the household) lost its functions • Physical separation of households – Economic and social independence from kin – Love and physical attraction became important Structural Functionalism: A Theory? • Deductive, macro theory of society • People’s actions are predictable and motivated by both values and interests (although perceptions of interests are heavily shaped by values) • Empirical evidence of function could be brought to bear BUT • What would Constitute Contrary Evidence? Critiques of Structural Functionalism: Internal Structure of the Theory • Teleological argument – Assumes that social structures in and of themselves have purposes and goals that benefit the system • Tautological (Circular) reasoning – Uses a concept in both the cause and effect • Inhibits comparative research Critiques of Structural Functionalism: Substantive Validity • Lacks a power dimension generally – Built on a consensus model of social order – Can’t account for rapid social change • Socially conservative because change is dysfunctional (if as he assumes, the nuclear family is functional) – Rigid Gender Roles • The assumption that the instrumental and expressive functions in a family must be carried out by two separate people Reading Assignment • Which of the feminist arguments do you find most compelling and why? What kinds of critiques apply to Parsons and which to Becker?