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Talcott Parsons on Communication Media - Dictionary of Arguments

Habermas IV 385
Communication media/Parsons/Habermas: Question: 1. What is the conceptual status of money as a medium that occupies the internal systemic exchange between real variables such as labour and consumer goods?
2. Do the other social subsystems also regulate the exchange in their environments via similar media? (1)
Parsons later regarded his attempt to see power as a control medium anchored in the political system with structural analogies to money as a successful test for the generalizability of the media concept. (2)
Habermas IV 386
In the order of money, power, influence and value retention, Parsons has analyzed four media in broad lines, each of which is assigned to one of the social subsystems:
Money: the economic,
Power: the political system,
Influence: the system of social integration
Value retention: the system for the preservation of structural patterns.
Habermas: in another round of generalization, Parsons introduced four more media: Intelligence, performance, affect and interpretation. (3)
HabermasVsParsons: the analogies to the medium of money become less clear and even metaphorical during the course of theory formation. This applies all the more to the media that Parsons recently assigned to the subsystems of the all-encompassing system of the human condition:
transcendental order, symbolic meaning, health and empirical order. (4)
Habermas IV 387
In the end, money is for Parsons only one of 64 socio-theoretically remarkable media. Problem: then one cannot know which of the structural characteristics read off the money medium are characteristic of media at all.
Habermas IV 388
Problem: are we dealing here with an overgeneralization, i.e. with the thesis that there is something like a system of control media? See Double Contingency/Parsons.
Habermas IV 393
Media/Parsons/Habermas: serve not only to save information and time, and thus to reduce the effort of interpretation, but also to cope with the risk that the action sequences will break off. Media such as power and money can largely save the costs of dissent because they uncouple the coordination of action from the formation of linguistic consensus and neutralize it against the alternative of agreement and failed understanding.
They are not specifications of language, they replace special language functions.
Habermas IV 394
Lifeworld/Parsons/Habermas: the conversion of the coordination of actions from language to control media means a decoupling of the interaction from lifeworld contexts.

1. T.Parsons, Social Systems and the Evolution of Action Theory, NY 1977, S. 128
2. T. Parsons, On the Concept of Power, in: Social Theory and Modern Society, NY 1967
3. Talcott Parsons, Some Problems of General Theory, in: J.C. McKinney, E. A. Tiryakian (Eds.), Theoretical Sociology, NY 1970 S. 27ff.
4. T. Parsons, Action, Theory and the Human Condition, NY 1978, S. 393.

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.
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

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

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

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Ed. Martin Schulz, access date 2021-03-02
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