Normative Integration moderner Gesellschaften als Problem der soziologischen Theorie Talcott Parsons'

Gerhardt, Uta
July 1998
Soziale Systeme;1998, Vol. 4 Issue 2, p281
Academic Journal
The article rectifies the erroneous view that Parsons’ social theory can be charged with normative determinism. To demonstrate Parsons’ view on normative integration, three phases of his œuvre are discussed. In the 1930s, he held that normative integration meant democracy as he contrasted it with anomic society beset by coercion and disintegration. In the 1950s, he took the view that integration characterizes all types of societies but he distinguished between integrated and deviant systems; among the latter was National Socialism, among the former Anglo-Saxon democracy; in this era of his thinking, he proclaimed socialization as a process of improvement of normative integration in the modern world. From the 1960s onwards, he connected his theory of interaction media, based on a four-function scheme, with his idea that modern society becomes more and more differentiated when it needs the balancing power of integration in two realms, namely societal community and “polity”; he thus arrives at a theory of society apt today to explain phenomena of globalization as well as polarization in the “one world.” The paper’s concluding part asks the question whether these three different perspectives on normative integration can be reconciled into a unitary concept. The answer is that the three perspectives take views salient in the three phases of Parsons’ life, the 1930s when Nazism was a world threat, the 1950s when Communism and McCarthyism were prominent, and the 1960s when the Civil Rights Act opened up life-chances for all American citizens to participate as equals in American social and political life. In this vein, normative integration in Parsons’ social theory can be seen to vary with the historical situation of the society in which it occurs.


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