evolutionary universals

In his later writings, Talcott Parsons tied his functionalist theory (notably the four so-called ‘systems problems’) to an evolutionary perspective, exemplified in his twin volumes onSocieties (1966) and The System of Modern Societies (1971). He argued that, like biological organisms, societies progress through their ‘capacity for generalized adaptation’ to their environment . This is achieved mainly through processes of structural differentiation ; that is, the development of specialized institutions to perform the social functions necessary to meet increasingly specialized needs. However, this increasing complexity then requires new modes of integration, in order to co-ordinate the new and more specialized elements. This is achieved via the principle of the ‘cybernetic hierarchy’ -increased information exchange or the growth of knowledge. (In this way culture comes to be the dominant influence on the social system in Parsons's work.)
Evolution is then from traditional to modern societies, and progress can be charted via the development (structural differentiation) of evolutionary universals such as bureaucratic organization, money and market complexes, stratification, and the emergence of generalized universalistic norms. Each of these enables a society to adapt more efficiently to its environment (see’Evolutionary Universals in Society’, American Sociological Review, 1964). Critics have argued that, at this level of abstraction, Parsonsian theory is simply a vast taxonomy, is therefore untestable, and says little more than the obvious.

Dictionary of sociology. 2013.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Evolutionary educational psychology — is the study of the relation between inherent folk knowledge and abilities and accompanying inferential and attributional biases as these influence academic learning in evolutionarily novel cultural contexts, such as schools and the industrial… …   Wikipedia

  • Evolutionary linguistics — is the scientific study of the origins and development of language. The main challenge in this research is the lack of empirical data: spoken language leaves no traces. This led to an abandonment of the field for more than a century [for about 12 …   Wikipedia

  • Evolutionary musicology — Not to be confused with Evolutionary music. Evolutionary musicology is a subfield of biomusicology that grounds the psychological mechanisms of music perception and production in evolutionary theory. It covers vocal communication in non human… …   Wikipedia

  • logical universals — A term sometimes applied in the secondary literature to the major analytical concepts in the writings of Talcott Parsons : that is, the pattern variables, systems problems, and evolutionary universals (all of which are discussed separately in… …   Dictionary of sociology

  • Criticism of evolutionary psychology — From its beginning, evolutionary psychology (EP) has generated substantial controversy and criticism.[1] Criticisms include 1) disputes about the testability of evolutionary hypotheses, 2) alternatives to some of the cognitive assumptions (such… …   Wikipedia

  • ЭВОЛЮЦИОННЫЕ ВСЕОБЩНОСТИ — (evolutionary universals) определенные Парсонсом (1964) шаги в направлении социального изменения, которые увеличивают адаптивную способность человеческих обществ и без которых дальнейшие важнейшие шаги по развитию были бы блокированы . Согласно… …   Большой толковый социологический словарь

  • evolutionism — evolutionism, evolutionary theory In the nineteenth century, evolutionism was a current of thought based on a biological analogy , but distinguished from Darwinian theory by its deterministic nature. Darwin s general theory of evolution claims… …   Dictionary of sociology

  • Parsons, Talcott — (1902 79) For some twenty to thirty years after the Second World War, Talcott Parsons was the major theoretical figure in English speaking sociology, if not in world sociology. An American who worked all his life in the United States, apart from… …   Dictionary of sociology

  • culture — When social scientists use the term culture they tend to be talking about a less restrictive concept than that implied in everyday speech. In social science, culture is all that in human society which is socially rather than biologically… …   Dictionary of sociology

  • Linguistic relativity and the color naming debate — Linguistic relativity stems from a question about the relationship between language and thought, about whether one s language determines the way one thinks. This question has given birth to a wide array of research within a variety of different… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.