Parsons and Bales: The AGIL Scheme

so we've talked now a little bit about Parsons systems levels and we've also talked a little bit about the connection between Parsons and Tony's Tony's Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft model and how that was used by Parsons to make some assumptions about the characteristics of modern contemporary societies we need to turn now to Parsons work on the angel scheme now his work here was accompanied by an associate of his Robert Bales this is another one of Parsons ways of trying to categorize society he has to come up now that he's got all of this sort of structural stuff in place he's now got to come up with why people are going to be motivated to behave a certain way why and how is it that people decide what they're going to do and how is what they're deciding reflective of the structures of society so it comes up with this angel scheme now you often hear this referred to as the age-old paradigm or the four functions perspective either way we're talking about the same thing here so let's take a look at exactly what he meant by the angel scheme so make no mistake here before we even get into discussing these four components of the age-old scheme there are a lot of criticisms of this analysis of how society works feminist theorists of late particularly have really taken exception with the explanations that parsons and bales came up with as an explanation for individuals to decide to adhere to the goals of society so here parsons is really trying to reduce the amount of variability to reduce the lack of uncertain tea in his work regarding how people would behave now remember he's a systems theorist so he talks about these big structural forces and how those forces are going to cause us to conform to the goals of society so he comes up with these four ideas adaptation goal attainment integration and latency and he says all four of these things function together to motivate a person to behave in a way that is expected that is normal and he thinks that with this model he's solved the problem of why people decide to behave towards a common orientation with regard to action in society now to my thinking I believe Parsons was really moving again back towards his sociobiological roots here what I believe he's really trying to do here is to take away the component of individual decision making and instead tell us that there are four aspects of society that determine the avenue that we're going to take and so we come back again to that original discussion that we had about agency versus structure do you make decisions just on your own or are your decisions always guided by the structure of society and Parsons would say that the structure is the determining factor in the decisions that you make so what exactly is it that Parsons means by these concepts of adaptation goal attainment integration and latency well he sees these components of society as essential components to the smooth functioning and further with this theoretical notion he's attempting to ensure that we understand that decisions not made in a vacuum that the structure of society is really the determining force in our decision-making process so let's look at each one of these individually and we'll start with adaptation so adaptation and we can think about this in terms of the United States as our economy the system of our economy adaptation is concerned with our ability to get resources from the environment and it's concerned with our distribution of those resources throughout the system and so one of the basic questions that the area of adaptation is concerned with is how is wealth produced what is it in the system that is functioning if a system is going to survive parson says then it has to be able to have structures in place that help it to adapt to the environment and so perhaps this is mining of natural resources perhaps this is the creation of power or the creation of structures that help us overcome physical barriers whatever that is here he's talking about how we use our natural environment to produce things that are beneficial to us ie wealth money fortune how we use the natural environment to produce things that are beneficial to us as groups and further how when we do that it helps to keep society cohesive now when I'll even go a little bit farther to assert to you that probably for Parsons adaptation worked smoothly that it seldom had any kinds of bumps in the road so to speak or dysfunctions you remember now he thought that society was like an organism all of those pieces working smoothly together to keep the organism functioning properly and so if we look at society from his perspective it's kind of a little bit of rose-colored glasses in at the assumption is that things are working smoothly for the vast majority of people second persons and bails start talking about goal attainment now so here are some questions that we would need to ask ourself with regard to goal attainment how does the system use resources to meet its goals and how does the system use power to make decisions and for the United States we can look at goal attainment as our political system does the political system use its resources to attain goals and establish priorities for all of us so this would be directing those resources to the appropriate people making sure that those resources are being used to their fullest potential this is the function of decision-making bodies in our society and it's the essential component of the use of power in a society this notion of goal attainment so now we've got two components we've got adaptation how does the economy work for us and we've got goal attainment how do politics work for us and further how are these two components driving the decisions that we as individuals are making and are these components driving the bus essentially are these components making our decisions for us talking about the L component the latency component here we find the moral commitment to society this piece has to function to keep the system intact it also has to function to ensure our conformity to all of the other aspects of society alright so how do we do this how do we make a moral commitment to society we think of making moral commitments to ourselves to our family we may also think of making a moral commitment to the church or to some religious institution and that sort of concept of moral commitment to a family moral commitment to our co-workers is exactly what Parsons was trying to get at with this idea of latency he said that we have a moral commitment to society to make the right choices for society to to make sure that we contribute to the smooth functioning of our structure and he said we achieve this via our social institutions now one of those is religion does religion function to help keep us on a straight and narrow and does it function in America in particular to help us attain our goals with regard to the structure of society and the answer to that is probably an overwhelming yes does the system of education our social institution of Education function to help us have a moral commitment to society absolutely yes you may go to school to get educated but one of the important components of school is to teach you how to be an appropriate behaving adult in American society so this notion of latency brings in now how our ideas of morality and values are very very strongly influenced by the structure of society we often discount this idea we think that we've come up with ourselves the concept of doing the right thing but the right thing is often different across different societies and cultures and so we have to think to ourselves then we'll how have we decided what the right thing is and Parsons response to that would be the structure has determined what the right thing is for you so you'll notice I took he's a little bit out of order and there was a reason for that I wanted to talk about integration last because this is really seen as the the major component of this four function model because for functionalist for many years the notion of solving the problem of why we integrate has really been a problem and there really hasn't been a good answer to the question of why we choose to integrate to society even when some of those decisions that we make to integrate may not be in our own best interest and so here with the integration aspect of this model Parsons tries to get at that question he says we can think of integration as our legal systems he says that there's a need for the system to control and regulate our individual actions and so he comes up with the notion of the legal system working as a safeguard working as a stopgap to control bad or unappealing behaviors and to allow behaviors which are positive or seen as helping to maintain the system maintain the structure this particular aspect integration is the closest one we have to meeting our needs for social control it helps us with the question of how our norms get developed and implemented alright so let's go back and just look again at these four components adaptation the capacity of society to interact with the environment gathering resources and producing things that can be socially redistributed for the benefit of society goal attainment the capability to set goals for the future and to make decisions this is our political entity and the purpose of this aspect is to set the objectives for society latency how our social institutions help to integrate us into the rest of society how our social institutions help to mediate our belief systems and our values among generations from the older to the youngest and then finally integration how society has to exist in a state of harmony and how the values and norms of society can be solidly and sufficiently converged together so that we will all work together so with these four things Parsons and bales assert that the decisions that we make can somewhat be predicted by the structure and recalling some of the main functions of a theory we remember that one of the things a theory must do is predict behavior so Parsons hopes that this theory does that very very well all right I hope this helps we'll talk again soon take care you

  1. "Integration" comes before "Latency" but you did it the other way. Our Integration is further ensured by Latency i.e. norms and values which sustain our cohesiveness. Good video though!

  2. Latency is most important. Importance order goes in opposite order-LIGA. Latency is the cultural system to refine motivation; is the heart the circulates the blood of "moral."

  3. Thanks for your video!
    In fact I guess I see what you're meaning but… that seems so abstract to me :/ Don't you have a concrete example showing how a system is using these 4 procedures? because I see on so many websites That Adaptation = economy Goal Att.= Politics Integration=social Latency= Culture.

    But my teacher told us that for example a politician should take their resources in the population to try to be elected!… So adaptation isn't only a matter of economy, right? so why does it figure EVERYwhere?

    Thank you so much for your help 🙂

  4. really nice! I'm studying in Germany and my English is not so good, but u was talking slowly, so I could understand more than from the class. thanks!

  5. You did an excellent job! I believe you should have mentioned that Parsons model was developed from the previous works of french sociologist Emile Durkheim, Parsons critiqued the many shortcomings of Durkheims funcionalist theory. This model can then be described as a neo-functionalist perspective.

  6. Hello Debra. I don´t understand something and I'd really like you to help me, ¿What is the relationship between Systems Levels and the AGIL? I am not sure, but I think that maybe the Systems Levels are the representation or the solución to the AGIL. Thanks!

  7. does Parsons mean society influences and SHAPES individuals? therefore, we are the PRODUCT of our society.

  8. Thanks! Parsons focus left little room for dysfunction (think of dysfunction as the functional theorist’s explanation of conflict). Merton does explain rebel groups-see my video “Merton’s Typology.” Much of Merton’s work was in response to Parsons. Merton studied under Parsons–Parsons was caught up with GRAND theory; Merton was focused on MIDDLE RANGE theories. Where Parsons thinks grand theories explain complex societies, Merton concentrates on how complex systems do NOT function for all.

  9. Hello Debra, I really liked your lecture. I was wondering if there is anything written about how Parsons and Merton's theories interact to explain conflict and rebel groups.

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