Talcott Parsons (1902-82) was for many years the best-known sociologist in the United States, and indeed one of the best-known in the world. He produced a general theoretical system for the analysis of society that came to be called structural functionalism. Parsons' analysis was largely developed within his major published works:
Parsons was an advocate of "grand theory," an attempt to integrate all the social sciences into an overarching theoretical framework. His early work"The Structure of Social Action"reviewed the output of his great predecessors, especially Max Weber, Vilfredo Pareto, and Émile Durkheim, and attempted to derive from them a single "action theory" based on the assumptions that human action is voluntary, intentional, and symbolic. Later, he became intrigued with, and involved in, an astonishing range of fields: from medical sociology (where he developed the concept of the sick role to psychoanalysis-personally undergoing full training as a lay analyst) to anthropology, to small group dynamics to race relations and then economics and education.
Parsons is also well known for his idea that every group or society tends to fulfill four "functional imperatives".
Parsons contributed to the field of social evolutionism and neoevolutionism. He divided evolution into four subprocesses:
Furthermore, Parsons explored these subprocesses within three stages of evolution: 1) primitive, 2) archaic and 3) modern (where archaic societies have the knowledge of writing, while modern have the knowledge of law). Parsons viewed the Western civilisation as the pinnacle of modern societies, and out of all western cultures he declared the United States as the most dynamically developed. For this, he was attacked as an ethnocentrist.Parsons' late work focused on a new theoretical synthesis around four functions common (he claimed) to all systems of action-from the behavioral to the cultural, and a set of symbolic media that enable communication across them. His attempt to structure the world of action according to a mere four concepts was too much for many American sociologists, who were at that time retreating from the grand pretensions of the 1960s to a more empirical, grounded approach.