Methodology

The Theory of Social Action: The Correspondence of Alfred by Richard Grathoff

By Richard Grathoff

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It is not our task to consider these logical problems here. But it is important for Pareto's as well as Parsons' system that the (philosophically) naive identification of scientific knowledge and scientific logic as such with the rational element of action is not tenable. " This tenet leads Pareto to his theory of residues and derivations as non-logical elements, and Parsons to his concept of normative values of action, which we must now discuss. But first of all, we should show that the above conception of scientific knowledge is incompatible with the subjective point of view which Parsons correctly proclaims to be a fundamental element of the theory of action.

Following Professor Parsons, the views of the authors concerning the essential features of the relation between empirical social facts and social theories may be condensed as follows. Within the scientific field there are no purely empirical phenomena which are not referred to and modified by an analytical theory. 2 The facts science deals with and is interested in must be important for or relevant to the theoretical problem under investigation; moreover, these facts are subject to verification, and for this purpose must be formed by the logical structure of the theoretical system, which itself must be logically closed.

1. CONCRETE AND ANALYTICAL LEVELS IN THE STRUCTURE OF SOCIAL ACTION [ED] The distinction between two different levels of the conceptual scheme of action, the concrete and the analytical, is fundamental for Parsons' theory. On the concrete level all systems of action can be broken down into unit acts with concrete actors, concrete means and concrete ends. " Moreover, on this level the action scheme safeguarding the subjective point of view takes on a different meaning from that which it has as a descriptive schema; its elements have causal significance and it turns out in the end that the action categories are not analytically significant.

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