The Most Important Features of a Social System

1435 WordsJun 19, 20186 Pages
The Most Important Features of a Social System A social system as a concept in sociological theory is one of great importance and indeed necessary. As a theoretical concept and component of theoretical explanation, it highlights the intricate nature of the society we live in. (Craib 1992) Talcott Parsons, a dominant functionalist theorist, focused much of his work on the concept of a social system. (Water 1994) Such a concept is indeed synonymous with his work. Whilst there is no universal sociological definition of the concept, Parsons defined a social system as: "a plurality of individual actors interacting with each other in a situation which has at least a physical or environmental aspect, actors who are motivated in terms of the…show more content…
(Collins 1988) The structural elements of social system are treated as constants over certain ranges of variation. These four types of independently variable components include role (A), collectivity (G), norms (I) and value (L). (Waters 1994) These roughly cover the social structure from individual to social system and form the fundamental integrating principle in society. (Deflem 1998) Put simply, if members of society are committed to the same values, they share a common identity, which provides a basis for unity and cooperation, and common goals. Values provide a general conception of what is desirable and worthwhile. (Wallace et al 1999) Goals provide the direction in specific situations, while a common goal provides an incentive for cooperation. Role provides a means whereby values and goals are translated into action. The content of roles is structured in terms of norms which define the rights and obligations. (Wallace et al 1999) Norms are then seen as specific expressions of values which tend to ensure that role behaviour is standardised. These are referred to as 'system needs' and are essential to the functioning of the social system. (Wallace et al 1999) It is here that one can identify Parsons' use of many concepts. A feature of his theory is indeed the conceptual relationships he establishes. (Craib 1992) The interpenetrating and interdependency of the subsystems are imperative to Parsons' social system and evidently form an
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