The limits of transcendental sociology
The basic message conveyed by the recent revival of interest in Parsons (Alexander 1983, 1987a; Münch 1987, 1988; Holton & Turner 1986; Mouzelis 1995; Holmwood 1996) is that, cleansed of its more crass misrepresentations and distortions, Parsons' conceptual scheme offers a still unsurpassed theoretical synthesis of significant insights from the classical sociological legacy – notably from the work of Durkheim and Weber – which is highly appropriate for understanding differentiated, specifically 'modern' societies. As Alexander (1987a) has pointed out, the whole of sociological theory since 1945 has effectively developed in a dialogue with Parsons, who provided the point of departure for so many subsequent efforts. His work cannot be avoided and has to be reckoned with. There are enough neoParsonians in the present period to constitute a tendency. In Chapter 8 I will address their significance as part of a trend towards theoretical synthesis in contemporary sociology, as well as try to explain sociologically why the criticisms of his work took the form that they did.