The Anthem Companion to Talcott Parsons

The Anthem Companion to Talcott Parsons

Edited by A. Javier Treviño

Anthem Companions to Sociology

The Anthem Companion to Talcott Parsons offers the best contemporary work on Talcott Parsons, written by the best scholars currently working in this field. Original, authoritative and wide-ranging, the critical assessments of this volume will make it ideal for Parsons’s students and scholars alike.

Hardback, 234 Pages


June 2016

£70.00, $115.00

  • About This Book
  • Reviews
  • Author Information
  • Series
  • Table of Contents
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About This Book

This collection of eleven chapters, written by scholars who have frequently made Parsons’s ideas a central component of their work, is set in two parts. In Part I, consisting of chapters 1 through 6, a variety of issues that were of particular empirical and theoretical concern to Parsons at various points in his career are analyzed, critiqued and updated: German totalitarianism, political power in liberal democracies, the student protest movements on U.S. college campuses, the therapist–patient relationship in psychotherapy, the phenomenon of death and the reception of his ideas on the social system. Together these chapters point to some of Parsons’s interests in political and humanist matters, all of which, at one time or another, were—if not always tidily, at least satisfactorily—subsumed within and addressed by his general theory of action as it continued to develop. Thus, Nazism as a totalitarian social structure could be explained by the pattern variables, the notion of power became one of the generalized media of interchange, the expressiveness inherent in the 1960s campus unrest and in the therapeutic relationship was understood in terms of the AGIL schema and death was considered in connection with the telic order. 

Part II, which includes chapters 7 through 11, focuses on two interrelated themes that characterize the late phase of Parsons’s work: progressive evolution and the societal community. Beginning in the mid-1960s the process of evolution—both in its societal and cultural aspects—was given primary of place by Parsons in further explaining social differentiation and integration—but also, and more fundamentally, in dealing with the problem of social change. For Parsons, evolutionary development, with crucial cultural innovations taking place in the “seed-bed” societies of Israel and classical Greece, had culminated in modern society, which in the Western context brought about the industrial, democratic and education revolutions, and in the American context led to the development of an “institutionalized individualism” reinforced by the core value of “instrumental activism.” Both of these latter concepts are given extensive treatment in Parsons’s last book, the posthumously published American Society. Of special significance in this work is the notion of the societal community—particularly of the American variety—that Parsons contends contributes to internal integration though citizenship and the normatively defined obligations that citizenship engenders. In short, Part II demonstrates the importance that Parsons gave to modern civil society in general as well as to the exceptional status that he attributed to American society in particular.


The Anthem Companions to Sociology offers wide ranging and masterly overviews of the works of major sociologists. The volumes in the series provide authoritative and critical appraisals of key figures in modern social thought. These books, written and edited by leading figures, are essential additional reading on the history of sociology. — Gerard Delanty, Professor of Sociology, University of Sussex, Brighton

This ambitious series provides an intellectually thoughtful introduction to the featured social theorists and offers a comprehensive assessment of their legacy. Each edited collection synthesizes the many dimensions of the respective theorist’s contributions and sympathetically ponders the various nuances in and the broader societal context for their body of work. The series will be appreciated by seasoned scholars and students alike. — Michele Dillon, Professor of Sociology and Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, University of New Hampshire

The orchestration and emergence of the Anthem Companions to Sociology represent a formidable and invaluable achievement. Each companion explores the scope, ingenuity, and conceptual subtleties of the works of a theorist indispensable to the sociological project. The editors and contributors for each volume are the very best in their fields, and they guide us towards the richest, most creative seams in the writings of their thinker. The results, strikingly consistent from one volume to the next, brush away the years, reanimate what might have been lost, and bring numerous rays of illumination to the most pressing challenges of the present. — Rob Stones, Professor of Sociology, Western Sydney University, Australia

The Anthem Companions, those that have appeared already and those that are to come, will give every sociologist a handy and authoritative guide to all the giants of their discipline. — Stephen Mennell, Professor Emeritus, University College Dublin

Each volume of the Anthem Companions to Sociology examines comprehensively not only a theorist’s distinct approach and unique contributions, but also situates each in reference to the major parameters of mainstream theoretical schools and traditions. This remarkable Series in addition throws into high relief the singular features of modern societies. It promises to set the standard for discussions of Sociology’s long-term development and belongs on the shelves of every social scientist.— Stephen Kalberg, Professor of Sociology Emeritus, Boston University 

This valuable series covers both familiar figures in the history of sociology (such as Max Weber and, prospectively, Marx and Durkheim) and less often treated ones such as Arendt and Troeltsch who are also highly relevant to sociology, broadly conceived. In these books, leading scholars explore important but often neglected aspects of their subjects’ work. — William Outhwaite, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, Newcastle University, UK

Author Information

A. Javier Treviño was a research fellow in sociology at the University of Sussex, England, and a Fulbright Scholar to the Republic of Moldova. He is the author or editor of several books including The Sociology of Law, Talcott Parsons Today: His Theory and Legacy in Contemporary Sociology and George C. Homans: History, Theory, and Method. He has served as president of the Justice Studies Association and of the Society for the Study of Social Problems.


Anthem Companions to Sociology

Table of Contents

Contributors; Introduction -A. Javier Treviño; Part I: Political and Humanist Concerns ; 1. Fighting the Deadly Enemy of Democracy: Sociology against National Socialism -Uta Gerhardt; 2. Parsons’s Critique of the “Power Elite” Thesis: Foundations for a Comprehensive Theory of Power -John Scott; 3. The Expressive Revolution and the University: Parsons vs. Gouldner -James J. Chriss; 4. Parsons, Psychoanalysis and the Therapeutic Relationship -A. Javier Treviño; 5. Meanings of Life and Death: Insights of the Human Condition Paradigm -Victor Lidz; 6. Luhmann’s Reception of Parsons -Sandro Segre; Part II: Social Evolution and the American Societal Community; 7. Explaining Modernity: Talcott Parsons’s Evolutionary Theory and Individualism -Matteo Bortolini; 8. Talcott Parsons’s Historical Analysis and the Cultural-Political Freeze in China: A Reinterpretation -Jens Kaalhauge Nielsen; 9. Talcott Parsons and American Exceptionalism -Frank J. Lechner; 10. American Society and the Societal Community: Talcott Parsons, Citizenship and Diversity -Giuseppe Sciortino; 11. Parsons and Nisbet: Two Versions of Sociological Communitarianism -Hon-Fai Chen


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