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By Keith Tester

"Civil Society" discusses a number of the meanings and preconditions of freedom, accountability and social order.

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Theoretical reductionism of all kinds was to be avoided. Societal process was to be conceptualized in multidimensional, multifactorial terms at every point. But to give shape to such a complicated theoretical project remained, even after the work of the previous decade, a daunting task. As the 'Tentative Outline' shows, Parsons approached this task by relying on what for him was a firm theoretical reference point: Max Weber's analysis of the Protestant ethic and its social consequences (Weber, 1930).

Their book had a very comprehensive chapter outline, but only the treatment of the American value system in relation to the complicated exigencies of pattern maintenance functioning ever approached completion. The draft materials on the economy and the polity were less fully realized, and the treatment of integrative functioning remained fragmentary. But the discussion of the American value system ran to 300 typewritten pages (Parsons Papers). It encompassed a long historical chapter demonstrating the relation between American instrumental activism and the values of Western civilization generally as well as the continuities in American values from the colonial era to modern times.

At the theoretical level, there were new developments in what he called 'general action theory', that is, the theory treating the overall relationships among cultural, social, and psychological systems. At the empirical level, the student disturbances of the late 1960s and the sometimes ill-planned reactions to them on the part of college and university authorities led him to believe that his studies of institutions of higher education and research held national importance. He (and his collaborator Gerald M.

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