Talcott Parsons, 1902–79, American sociologist, b. Colorado Springs, Colo., educated at Amherst College (B.A., 1924), London School of Economics, and Univ. of Heidelberg (Ph.D., 1927). He was on the faculty at Harvard from 1927 until his retirement in 1974. He is known for his attempt to construct a single theoretical framework within which general and specific characteristics of societies could be systematically classified; it is known as structural-functional theory. Parsons was also interested in medical sociology and the professions in general. In recent years he has been criticized for understating the importance of social conflict. Among his writings are The Structure of Social Action (1937), The Social System (1951), Structure and Process in Modern Societies (1960), Social Structure and Personality (1964), Societies (1966), Sociological Theory and Modern Society (1967), and Politics and Social Structure (1969).
See studies by W. C. Mitchell (1967), H. Turk and R. L. Simpson, ed. (1971), and J. Alexander (1984).