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Talcott Parsons on Preferences - Dictionary of Arguments

Habermas IV 336
Preferences/Parsons/Habermas: ParsonsVsWeber: Example: The "social action" of the entrepreneur represents only one of several types of purposive and value-rational action: The modern doctor typically acts as universally and functionally specified as the businessman of the capitalist economy, but at the same time he/she is subject to the rules of professional ethics that prevent him/her from pursuing his/her economic interests by all legally permitted means. (1) See Terminology/Parsons: pattern variables.
Habermas: the pattern-variables are suitable for describing the fact that modern societies may consciously adopt contrary decision patterns for different areas of life and switch from a combination of preferences to the opposite. (See Decisions/Parsons).
Habermas IV 337
Preferences/Professions/Parsons: the instrumental activism from which Parsons reads the action orientation of American businessmen and doctors in the 1940s and 1950s and which he sees as being determined by basic decisions for an emotionally neutral attitude, universalism, performance orientation and a field-independent, cognitive style directed towards the specific, is simultaneously depicted on three levels, namely in structurally analog motives for action, professional roles and cultural values. (2)
HabermasVsParsons: Problem: the scope of decision regulated by preference patterns is not filled by interpretation performances of the actor. The model does not permit any initiatives that could then be investigated in terms of how the various resources of the lifeworld, acquired competences, recognised norms and traditional cultural knowledge converge and form a reservoir for action orientations.


1.Talcott Parsons, The Professions and the Social Structure; The Motivation of Economic Activities, in: T. Parsons, Essays in Sociological Theory, Rev. ed. NY 1949.
2. Talcott Parsons, The Social System, NY 1951, S. 78


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.

ParCh I
Ch. Parsons
Philosophy of Mathematics in the Twentieth Century: Selected Essays Cambridge 2014

ParTa I
T. Parsons
The Structure of Social Action, Vol. 1 1967

ParTe I
Ter. Parsons
Indeterminate Identity: Metaphysics and Semantics 2000

Ha I
J. Habermas
Der philosophische Diskurs der Moderne Frankfurt 1988

Ha III
Jürgen Habermas
Theorie des kommunikativen Handelns Bd. I Frankfurt/M. 1981

Ha IV
Jürgen Habermas
Theorie des kommunikativen Handelns Bd. II Frankfurt/M. 1981


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