Number Theory

New PDF release: A beginner's guide to social theory

By Shaun Best

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Differentiation is the motor of social change for Parsons. It involves the establishment of more specialised and more independent units in social life. Neil Smelser (1959) de®nes differentiation as a process whereby one or more roles or organisations replace less well functioning roles or organisations. The new social units are structurally distinct, but taken together are functionally equivalent to the original unit. More generally, Smelser describes the process of modernisation as multidimensional in nature.

Simple: two black boxes, by whatever accident, come to have dealings with one another. Each determines its own behavior by complex self-referential operations within its own boundaries . . Each assumes the same about the other' (Luhmann, 1995: 109). In other words, participants in a social system have to understand each other in order to communicate. Parsons's solution to this was the socialisation of individuals into a common value system, which underpinned the social system. 40 Functionalist Perspectives Unlike Parsons, Luhmann argues that ego and alter need not be actual human beings.

In contrast, for Durkheim people participated in an intellectual and moral life that went beyond `the economic'. In addition, they existed within a society, and socialism could not predict what would happen if there was a destruction of capitalist society. To destroy capitalist society is to run the risk of destroying civilisation. Durkheim did want people to live in better societies. There was a need to provide welfare services to improve the position of the poor in society, but he could not accept the view that the destruction of capitalist society was the way forward.

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