By Shaun Best
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Extra resources for A beginner's guide to social theory
1997: 310) Even a more informed text such as Fulcher and Scott (1999) maintains that `The main problem was that the suicide rates on which he [Durkheim] based his study were calculated from of®cial statistics' (1999: 9). This is followed by a 27-word evaluation of the Douglas and Atkinson position. In their discussion of Durkheim's study of suicide, Barnard and Burgess similarly argue that: Durkheim's (1897) analysis of the of®cial statistics is regarded by positivists as a masterpiece of sociological enquiry.
It is, Luhmann 39 A Beginner's Guide to Social Theory argues, the construction of problems that makes functional analysis an essential element of systems theory. Systems are ®rmly attached to meaning and can never be free from meaning. Meaning is used to constitute the boundary between the system and the environment. Moreover, it is meaning that we use to de®ne and analyse complexity, system and the self-reference of the system. Meaning has to be absorbed and processed to generate stability; this is done by what Luhmann refers to as the `use of differences for connective information processing' (Luhmann, 1995: 65, italics added).
In the eyes of many people Parsons had `oversolved the problem of order' within the social system. This means that Parsons found it dif®cult to explain why a social system should change when everyone had a function and every function had a purpose, and all the people were socialised into a common value system. In 1951, when Parsons published The Social System, he stated clearly that he had no theory of social change: a general theory of the processes of change of social systems is not possible in the present state of knowledge .
A beginner's guide to social theory by Shaun Best