THE subject matter of this volume is the exposition and illustration of a conceptual scheme for the analysis of social systems in terms of the action frame of reference. It is intended as a theoretical work in a strict sense and systematic treatment of its empirical uses will have to be undertaken separately. The fundamental starting point is the concept of social systems of action is the interaction of individual actors, that is, takes place under such conditions that it is possible to treat such a process of interaction as a system in the scientific sense and subject it to the same order of theoretical analysis which has been successfully applied to other types of systems in other ...view middle of the document...
In the Parsons view "Action" is a process in the actor-situation system which has motivational significance to the individual actor, or, in the case of a collectively its component individuals.
As a result social system is only one of three aspects of the structuring of a completely concrete system of social action. The other two are the personality systems of the individual actors and the cultural system which is built into their action. Each of the three must be considered to be an independent focus of the organization of the elements of the action system in the sense that no one of them is theoretically reducible to terms of one or a combination of the other two. Each is indispensable to the other two in the sense that without personalities and culture there would be no social system.
Therefore the action frame of reference is common to all three and this fact makes certain "transformations" between them possible. But on the level of theory here attempted they do not constitute a single system, however this might turn out to be on some other theoretical level.
Before going further into some of these broad methodological problems of the analysis of systems of action with special reference to the social system, it is advisable to say something more about the more elementary components of action in general. In the most general sense the "need-disposition" system of the individual actor seems to have two most primary or elementary aspects which may be Called the "gratificational" aspect and the "orientational" aspect.
* The first concerns the "content" of his interchange with the object world, "what" he gets out of his interaction with it, and what its "costs" to him are.
* The second concerns the "how" of his relation to the object world, the patterns or ways in which his relations to it are organized.
The crucial point for the present is that the "learning" and the "living" of a system of cultural patterns by the actors in a social system, cannot be understood without the analysis of motivation in relation to concrete situations, not only on the level of personality theory, but on the level of the mechanisms of the social system. Personality is the relational system of a living organism interacting with a situation. Its integrative focus is the organism-personality unit as an empirical entity.
According to Parsons, the system of social relationships in which the actor is involved is not merely of situational significance, but is directly constitutive of the personality itself.
Therefore, It follows from these considerations that both the structure of social systems and the...