The last chapter examined the development of a humanist sociology centred on the notion of a creative human subject. Symbolic interactionism and sociological phenomenology are sociologies which reject the large-scale systemic objectivism of positivism and functionalism. One of the major weaknesses, however, of this subject-centred sociology lies in its failure to explicate, both theoretically and historically, the relation of objective structure — society as a system — to human action and human agency. In Parsons’s work, for example, the voluntaristic component of the theory of action is ultimately assimilated to the underlying needs of the social system. Similarly, some forms of Marxism focus on the structural determinations of social systems and objective laws of social development to the detriment of the active subject and a voluntaristic theory of action. Both functionalism and Marxism are characterised by an insistence on the objectivity of social structure: societies are not simple aggregates but structures consisting of elements which have their meaning only in relation to the whole.
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