Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

The concept of social control in Talcott Parsons’ theory of social systems


This article is devoted to the problems of social control, with a special emphasis on the complexity and multilevelness of its mechanism. There is an ambiguous interpretation of social control functioning mechanisms within the conceptual boundaries of substantially opposing theories of structural functionalism and social conflict. Based on the theoretical analysis of Talcott Parsons` objectivistic theory of structural functionalism, emphasis is placed on the constructive measurement of the social control functioning. Its essence is revealed as a process of internalization of social values and internal stimulation to conformal behavior; as a process of external value-normative regulation of behavior and support of social order.

The structural peculiarities of exercising power over other people based on the occupied social position is depicted. In the process of analysis, a system of concepts that reveals the content of social control, such as “social status”, “social role”, “sanction”, “value”, “norm”, “power”, etc. is developed.

These concepts within the institutional theory explain the processes of structural differentiation of the social system through the institutionalization of values and norms in the system of statuses and roles; organization of social order through the use of social control coercive forms of economic, political and cultural-symbolic order; social integration through the formation of loyalty to society and its institutions in the course of socialization and institutional intergenerational transfer of values.

  1. Parsons, T. (2000). The structure of social action. Moscow: Akademicheskii Proekt [in Russian]

  2. Parsons, T. (1998). System of modern societies. Moscow: Aspekt Press [in Russian]

  3. Parsons, T. (1965). General theoretical problems of sociology. Moscow: Progress [in Russian]

  4. Rapoport, A. (1964). Strategy and Conscience. New York: H&R

  5. Parsons, T. (1994). Concept of Society: the components and their interrrelations. Sovremennaya zapadnaya teoreticheskaya sotsiologiya – Modern Western theoretical sociology, 2, 94-122 [in Russian]

  6. Parsons, T. (1972). General review. Amerikanskaya sotsiologiya: perspektivy, problemy, metody – American sociology: perspectives, problems, methods, 4, 360-378 [in Russian]

  7. Davydov, Yu.N. (1990). Modern Western sociology: dictionary. Moscow: Politizdat [in Russian]

Full text