Summary and Info
Theoretical Logic in Sociology represents a major attempt to redirect the course of contemporary sociological thought. In this four-volume work, Professor Alexander analyzes the most general and fundamental elements of sociological thinking about action and order and their ramifications for empirical study. He insists that sociological thought need not choose between voluntary action and social constraint. Indeed, to demonstrate how subjectivity can be preserved even while collective constraints are explained is the aim of the whole work.In this fourth and concluding volume, The Modern Reconstruction of Classical Thought: Talcott Parsons, Professor Alexander produces a detailed and systematic reinterpretation of the most important and controversial thinker of the post-classical tradition. Alexander argues that, from the beginning, Parsons' work was animated by his conscious reflection on the failure of the classical tradition to resolve the relationship between freedom and constraint. While building on the advances his predecessors made in articulating this interrelation, Parsons was intent on avoiding the errors that led them ultimately toward some form of one-sided emphasis. Alexander demonstrates that Parsons' theory must be understood as much as a polemic against the classical theories of Durkheim and Weber as an attempt merely to extend and elaborate them. Yet this conscious insistence on achieving a more inclusive, multidimensional theory must at every point be set against Parsons' equally powerful commitment to elaborating a more one-sided and idealist sociology. This profound ambiguity, Professor Alexander believes, permeates Parsons' work, which cannot be neatly divided into an early "action" theory and a later "systems" approach.This volume seeks to reconstruct not only Parsons' theory but the work of his followers, exegetes, and critics as well. Alexander demonstrates that only by appreciating the deep tensions within Parsons' own theory can the contemporary corpus of "functionalist sociology" be understood. Parsons' most distinguished followers and students sought to reduce this tension by offering critical, if largely implicit, revisions of Parsons' thought. In the extensive notes and appendix to this volume, Alexander explains how the vast commentarial literature on Parsons—both sympathetic and critical—can be seen as one-sided readings that are caused by, and serve further to obscure, this same internal tension.In setting out the failures and accomplishments of Parsons vis-a-vis the classical tradition, Professor Alexander not only clarifies sociological theory's relation to the past but articulates an agenda for the future as well.
More About the Author
Jeffrey Charles Alexander (born May 30, 1947) is an American sociologist, one of the main proponents of Neofunctionalism, and a central figure in the contemporary school of Cultural Sociology referred to as the "Strong Program".
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