From 1968 to 1951: How Habermas Transformed Marx into Parsons

  • John Holmwood


The 1960s marked a major shift in theoretical sensibilities within sociology, evident in the increasing criticism of what was perceived as an ‘orthodox consensus’ within the discipline (Atkinson 1971).1 This orthodox consensus was associated with the structural functionalism of Talcott Parsons, which he had presented as the necessary framework for sociological analysis (Parsons 1954 [1950]), as well as at the ‘abstract empiricism’ of quantitative research (see Mills 1959; Willer and Willer 1973). What lay behind this shift in sensibilities, and grew in momentum, was the rise of new social movements to challenge the prevailing status quo, in particular the Civil Rights Movement in America and, waiting in the wings, second-wave feminism and the Gay Liberation Movement. Moreover, the USA — what Parsons (1966) had called the new ‘lead society’ — was embroiled in the Vietnam War and opposition to it was growing, while, in Europe, the events of 1968 appeared to be dramatic harbingers of radical social change.


Social Integration Sociological Theory Concrete System Functional Imperative Radical Social Change 
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© John Holmwood 2009

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  • John Holmwood

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