T LCOTT PARSONS ''An Outline of the Social System'' Parsons is a FUNCTIONALIST, as big and nasty as they come. Also, everything in this article, including all of the systems typologies and process schemas, are meant in the ''analytic'' sense. Parsons is primarily interested in how a social scientist can analyze a social system.
I. General Outline
This essay is an attempt by Parsons to outline an action frame of reference. This attempt is based on the conviction that there are two essential reference points for this type of systematic analysis; a classification of the functional requirements of a system and the arrangement of these with reference to processes of control in the cybernetic sense. Parsons posits that the most empirically significant sociological theory must be concerned with complex systems, that is, systems composed of many subsystems. The primary empirical type-reference is to society, which is highly complex. The basic functional classification underlying the whole scheme involves the discrimination of 4 primary categories: pattern maintenance, integration, goal-attainment, and adaptation, placed in that order in the series of control-relations. More generally, Parsons is also interested in making a fundamental distinction between the morphological analysis of the morphological structure of systems and the ''dynamic'' analysis of process. Neither has special priority over the other except that, at a particular level, stable structural reference points are necessary for determining generalizations about process.