Parsons Social Action Theory is a sociological theory developed by Talcott Parsons in the 1950s. It focuses on the actions of individuals within a society and how these actions contribute to the overall functioning of the society. This theory has been influential in shaping our understanding of social structures and their impact on individual behavior.

Key Concepts

One of the key concepts in Parsons Social Action Theory is that individuals are rational actors who make decisions based on their own interests and values. Parsons argued that these individual actions are guided by social norms, which provide a framework for how people should behave in different situations.

Another important concept in this theory is that of social systems. According to Parsons, society is made up of various systems – economic, political, legal, religious, etc.

– that work together to maintain social order. Each system has its own set of norms and values that guide behavior within it.

Role Theory

A major component of Parsons Social Action Theory is role theory. This concept refers to the idea that individuals occupy different roles within society (e.g. mother, son, employee) and that these roles come with certain expectations and obligations.

Parsons argued that individuals must balance their various roles in order to maintain social order. For example, a mother must balance her role as a caregiver with her role as an employee or community member.


Despite its influence on sociological thinking, Parsons Social Action Theory has been subject to criticism over the years. One common critique is that it places too much emphasis on consensus and stability within society at the expense of understanding conflict and inequality.

Additionally, some scholars have argued that this theory doesn’t adequately account for issues related to power and oppression within society. Critics argue that Parsons’ focus on functionalism ignores important structural inequalities like racism and sexism.


Despite its limitations, Parsons Social Action Theory remains an important contribution to sociological thought. By emphasizing the importance of individual actions and social norms, this theory has helped us better understand how societies function and how we can work to maintain social order.