Addressing Parsons in Sociological Textbooks: Past Conflicts, Contemporary Readers and Their Future Gains
Dr. Sci. (Sociol.), Ass. Prof. of the Institute of Sociology, University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria Bettina.Mahlert@uibk.ac.at
The paper provides insights on the contemporary relevance of Talcott Parsons’s writings by analyzing 20 textbooks from Austria, Germany, Great Britain and the United States, published in 1999–2019. Whether having knowledge of Parsons is helpful to today’s students and other interested readers, and what knowledge, deserves consideration. Therefore, the paper asks: Which future gains of readers did textbook authors envision when they chose, in their own present, to discuss (or not) sociological writings from long ago? In order to understand what future opportunities authors wanted to create for readers, as well as how they chose to discuss Parsons to this end, the paper draws on Niklas Luhmann’s notion of memory. The analysis reveals several key competencies that student and other interested readers might acquire through having knowledge of Parsons’ writings and its critiques. These potentials would have gone unnoticed if authors had assessed Parsons’s relevance only according to whether he adequately considered conflict or not, as has been done in many debates about his work until today. Moreover, through analyzing how authors remembered Parsons, I distilled two key selective criteria: First, what must be remembered in order to enable readers to acquire those competencies? Second, which memories would be impeding for readers and thus be better left out? These criteria are relevant for research, as well. Looking at the future, it would be desirable that sociologists let Parsons assist them in their research in many different ways, if possible. As a result, we might see a revival of Parsons that enables genuine advancement.
Albrow M. (1999) Sociology: The Basics. London; New York: Routledge.
Alexander J. (1984) The Modern Reconstruction of Classical Thought: Talcott Parsons. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Baker P. (1988) Sociology Textbooks: Managing Clones or Writing Works of Distinction. Teaching Sociology. Vol. 16. No. 4: 281–282. DOI: 10.2307/1318144.
Ballantine J., Roberts K. (2015) Our Social World. Thousand Oaks: Sage.
Bourdieu P. (1984) Distinction. London: Routledge.
Bourdieu P. (1998) Is a Disinterested Act Possible? In: Bourdieu P. (ed.) Practical Reason: On the Theory of Action. Stanford: Polity Press.
Chambliss W., Eglitis D. (2019/2014) Discover Sociology. Thousand Oaks: California.
Charon J. (2013) Ten Questions: A Sociological Perspective. Belmont: Wadsworth.
Coser L. (1956) The Functions of Social Conflict. Glencoe: Free Press.
Cuff E., Sharrock W., Francis D. (2006) Perspectives in Sociology. London: Routledge.
Dahrendorf R. (1958) Out of Utopia: Toward a Reorientation of Sociological Analysis. American Journal of Sociology. Vol. 64. No. 2: 115–127.
Esser H. (1999) Soziologie: Allgemeine Grundlagen [Sociology: General Principles]. Frankfurt am Main: Campus. (In Germ.)
Fleck L. (1979) Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Giddens A., Sutton P.W. (2013) Sociology. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Go J. (2016) Postcolonial Thought and Social Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Gouldner A. (1970) The Coming Crises of Sociology. New York: Basic Books.
Haggart B., Henne K., Tusikov N. (eds) (2019) Information, Technology and Control in a Changing World: Understanding Power Structures in the 21st Century. London; New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Hobbs A.H. (1951) The Claims of Sociology: A Critique of Textbooks. Harrisburg: Stackpole.
Joas H., Knöbl W. (2004) Soziologie: Zwanzig einführende Vorlesungen [Sociology: Twenty Introductory Lectures]. Frankfurt a.M: Suhrkamp. (In Germ.)
Kruse V. (2018) Geschichte der Soziologie [History of Sociology]. Konstanz: UVK. (In Germ.)
Kuhn T. (1979) The Essential Tension: Selected Studies in Scientific Tradition and Change. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Kuhn T. (1996) The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Luhmann N. (1997) Gedächtnis [Memory]. In: Luhmann N. Die Gesellschaft der Gesellschaft [The Society of Society]. 1st vol. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp: 576–594. (In Germ.)
Manza J., Sauder M., Wright N. (2010) Producing Textbook Sociology. European Journal of Sociology. Vol. 51. No. 2: 271–304. DOI: 10.1017/s0003975610000135.
Münch R. (2013) Academic Capitalism: Universities in the Global Struggle for Excellence. London: Routldeg
Nassehi A. (2011) Soziologie: Zehn einführende Vorlesungen [Sociology: Ten Introductory Lectures].
Wiesbaden: VS. (In Germ.) Parsons T. (1951) The Social System. Glencoe: Free Press.
Schneider W. (2008) Grundlagen der soziologischen Theorie [Fundamentals of Sociology]. Vol. 1: Weber – Parsons – Mead – Schütz. Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag. (In Germ.)
Wagenaar T. (ed.) (1988) Special Issue on Textbooks. Teaching Sociology. Vol. 16. No. 4.
Wenzel H. (1991) Die Ordnung des Handelns. T. Parsons’s allgemeines Handlungssystem [The Structure of Social Action: T. Parsons’ General System of Action]. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp. (In Germ.)
Wright R. (1995) Was there a “Golden Past” for the Introductory Sociology Textbook? A Citation Analysis of Leading Journals. American Sociologist. Vol. 26. No. 4: 41–48. DOI: 10.1007/BF02692354.