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Talcott Parsons (1902-1979) – “To be insulted by these fascists, it’s so degrading…”

English: Talcott Parsons (photo)

Talcott Parsons – Wikipedia

Talcott Parsons (1902-1979) was an American sociologist who emphasized the functional role of social stratification, as well as a positive relationship between education and politics.

His work clearly rejects communism and fascist totalitarianism. In fact, he was impressed by Max Weber‘s idea that the supposed ‘Protestant Work Ethic’ contributed to the rise of Capitialism.

Despite his obvious disenchantment with communism and fascism, a paranoid circle during the McCarthy Era suspected him of having communist sympathies.

This was no idle game. Parsons was charged, hassled and had to defend himself for about three years. He was denied access to a UNESCO conference and wasn’t acquitted of the charges until 1955.

Parsons’ rejection of communist and fascist totalitarianism was both theoretically and intellectually an integral part of his theory of world history, where Parsons tended to regard the European Reformation as the most crucial event in “modern” world history and where he like Max Weber tended to highlight the crucial impact of Calvinist religiosity in the socio-political and socio-economic processes, which followed.¹

In his own words:

This allegation is so preposterous that I cannot understand how any reasonable person could come to the conclusion that I was a member of the Communist Party or ever had been.²

English: portrait of Murray Bookchin

Murray Bookchin – Wikipedia

Neither was Parsons a libertarian, socialist thinker like the charismatic Murray Bookchin (1921-2006).

I saw Bookchin in person at Trent University in the 1980s. His talk harkened back to a mythical golden age where everyone apparently prospered in a joyous, eco-friendly community filled to the brim with a spirit of cooperation.³

No, Parsons did not look back to a mythical past that most likely never was. Instead, he embraced modernity, seeing it as integral part of human development.

Critics of Parsons say his theories are too abstract and minimize the importance of power, conflict and deviance. However, his work has impacted anthropology, psychology, sociology and history.

Parsons taught at Harvard from 1927 to 1979. He was one of the first ‘sociology’ professors – a new discipline – to hit the scene in 1930. Today, he is probably found in every introductory sociology course given in North America, Europe and other ‘enlightened’ places around the world.


² Ibid.

³ Afterward, one of my more intelligent professors remarked that he found it fascinating how one man with a bit of charisma could so effectively spark up university students, despite presenting a facile argument. The young audience clearly loved Bookchin but the professor thought his argument was weak.

Related » Functionalism

† Quoted text within title is from David Bowie’s It’s No Game.

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Koestler, Arthur

Arthur Koestler with Mamaine Paget, Robie Maca...

Arthur Koestler with Mamaine Paget, Robie Macauley and Flannery O'Connor via Wikipedia

Arthur Koestler (1905-83) was a Hungarian-born journalist and author who initially favored communism and wrote against the Nazis.

Koestler joined the German Communist Party (KPD) and was interned in a concentration camp but escaped to England in 1940, where he spent the rest of his life. By this time he’d broken with communism and had begun to explore political, scientific and humanistic themes through fiction and learned works.

He had a definite interest in the human brain, envisioning it as inherently conflicted due to an incomplete process of evolution. This idea of inherited conflict might have been more about him, however, and not the vast majority of people. He apparently was a misogynist and has gone on record for raping one woman.

Koestler also became interested in possible links between sub-atomic physics and parapsychology. And he wrote about the idea of coincidence, forwarding ideas remarkably similar to C. G. Jung’s concept of synchronicity. While this may surprise some, one has to remember that synchronicity is an ethically neutral concept. Dangerous madpersons, troubled neurotics and suffering saints may all experience – or believe they experience – the alleged parapsychological phenomena that Jung called synchronicity.

An advocate of euthanasia, Koestler and his wife both committed suicide when he developed a terminal illness.

Related Posts » Unconscious

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Lenin, Vladimir Ilyich

Chinese poster featuring Marx, Engels, Lenin, ...

Chinese poster with Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao. Caption reads, "Long live Marxism-Leninism and Maoism" via Wikipedia

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (1870-1924) was a Russian politician and Marxist revolutionary who believed that, once communism was fully in place, existing bureaucratic structures would slowly disappear—hence his oft-quoted belief in the “withering away of the state.”

From observable history, however, it seems that communism has never been achieved as Marx envisioned it. And most, if not all, of the countries that have attempted communism arguably have exhibited authoritarianism, corruption and stagnant mediocrity, this often enforced by vulgar militarism.

Today, some writers suggest that Marx was right in saying that Capitalism “carries the seeds of its own destruction” by pointing to things like WikiLeaks as apparent proof of that position.¹

¹ See for instance, “The Destructive Role of WikiLeaks-o-phobia in World Politics” by Hasan A. Yahya:

Related Posts » Kardasians, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Orwell (George)