The Hidden Political Agenda of Talcott Parsons’s The Structure of Social Action

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 17:00
Location: Hörsaal 21 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Uta GERHARDT, Heidelberg University, Germany
When Parsons wrote The Structure of Social Action, in the years 1933-1937, National Socialism had come to power in Germany, the European nation that he knew and appreciated from his sojourn at the University of Heidelberg, from which he had received his Dr. phil. in the 1920s. That Structure based its interpretation of modern capitalism on the work of “four European writers’”, among them Émile Durkheim and Max Weber, stood as an antidote against contemporary American sociology’s adoption of the principles of “survival of the fittest” and “struggle for survival”, then the taken-for-granted credo of social theory. The pro-democracy anti-Darwinism perspective of Structure is used as a backdrop to understand how sociology in the 1930s and until today, embracing the Weberian methodology of “value freedom”, is opposed to authoritarianism and totalitarianism.