Carmen Gebhard, Structuring Social Action – Structural Functionalism by Parsons in:

Carmen Gebhard

Unravelling the Baltic Sea Conundrum, page 211 - 216

Regionalism and European Integration Revisited

1. Edition 2008, ISBN print: 978-3-8329-4084-3, ISBN online: 978-3-8452-1239-5

Series: Nomos Universitätsschriften - Politik, vol. 164

Bibliographic information
211 The finality of this ‘functional regionalisation’ process would be a “networked Europe”. One of the related scenarios or variations could be a functional flexibilisation with regional clusters building on and allowing for open intersections (offene Schnittmengen). It may be assumed that functional considerations on either side produce certain agglomeration forces that encourage geo-political clustering of political and socio-economic activities. This clustering may result in the build-up of “functional regions”, i.e. groupings of actors on either state or sub-state level according to their positive interdependence. These agglomeration forces thus lead to sectoral clustering: one policy sector leads to clusters in a certain position, another sector in another a.s.o. The geo-political distribution of political activities is thus very concentrated in each sector but dispersed at the level of all sectors together.739 E. A Short Ride into the Field of Comparative Theory After consulting the bulk of EIT and taking a short excursion into the field of traditional IRT, this study will eventually turn to the “third” camp, the set of comparative models and system theory. There are various different practical considerations to support the methodical choice of calling on Comparative Theory (CT) while analysing an instance of (sub)regional integration. In fact, theorists like Ernst Haas have produced significant contributions in the field of European studies, obviously viewing the analysis of the European case as a distinctly comparative-historical enterprise. In his early contributions, Haas composed systematic comparisons between various forms of regional integration that were emerging in the immediate post-war setting (including the Nordic Council, the Council of Europe, NATO, and, as yet another instance, the European Communities).740 From a methodological perspective, this short ‘ride’ into the field of CT is intended to function as a showcase as for how alternative (and for some, probably also absurd) theoretical choices can offer an added value when it comes to the analysis of an empirical phenomenon as complex and multifaceted as the “Baltic Sea 739 For a detailed discussion of regional clustering in BSR trade affairs, see WIDGRÉN Mika: Trade potential, intra-industry trade and factor content of revealed comparative advantage in the Baltic Sea region. In: Elinkeinoelämän tutkimuslaitos (ETLA): Discussion papers, No. 1034. Helsinki 2006. 740 HAAS Ernst B.: International Integration: The European and the Universal Process. In: International Organization, No 4/1961, pp. 366-392. And HAAS Ernst B.: The Study of Regional Integration. Reflections on the Joy and Anguish of Pretheorizing. In: LINDBERG Leon N./SCHEINGOLD Stuart A. (eds): Regional Integration. Theory and Research. Cambridge 1971, pp. 3-43. This very different methodological approach strongly inspired the formation of the neo-functionalist approach, which ironically, became an integral part of the bulk of self-restricted and euro-centric EIT. Figure 16: Networked Europe – Functional Regionalisation functional region/ sectoral cluster 212 Conundrum”. This exercise should help to foil the counterproductive tendency in European studies of being close to autistic i.e. EU-centric, limiting the analysis of issues related to European integration to this single European case of regional integration. European integration has often been perceived as a unique case. Despite Giovanni Sartori’s warning that ‘he who knows only one knows none’ many EU scholars have been reluctant to consider the EU as one case within an n larger than one.741 This chapter tries to illustrate the explanatory potential of traditional and allegedly remote approaches. It will be shown that the concept of “interlocking social systems” is also capable of reconciling the application patterns identified earlier in this section.742 I. Structuring Social Action – Structural Functionalism by Parsons Talcott Parsons (1902-1979), an US sociologist with a strong European background, focused his work on the concept of “social systems” and “subsystems”. Parsons is one of the most significant scholars that modern comparative theory has brought about. Building on a structural-functionalist foundation, he established one of the most prominent models in classic system theory. Keeping the scope of this study in mind, the following outline is merely intended to introduce the trial application to the Baltic Sea case. Therefore it will not be able to give adequate credit to his significant theoretical achievements.743 The major question underlying Parsons’ intellectual work was that about social order. What actually inspired him to develop a model to explain social action was the puzzle that seemed to emanate inherently from the fact that society produced order where, telling from the prevalence of individual self-interest, nothing but disorder could be expected.744 This focus on the systemic foundations of social organisation makes his theoretical accomplishments highly relevant for a series of thematic aspects addressed in this study. Parsons aimed to offer a single theoretical model that could grasp the constitutive structures of “society” in terms of the abstract concept without limiting the model to certain empirical references or to certain specific examples taken from social reality. System theory perceives society as a system of social structures. These structures have to be functional in order to make the society work. Society is perceived to have needs, which have to be met in order to secure its persistence. The society as a macro-system is maintained by the contributions (social action) accomplished by social subsystems. Social action is thought to define, create and maintain the social system.745 One of Parsons major theoretical accomplishments is the so-called AGIL scheme, which he developed as a sociological paradigm to explain and analyse the complex constitution of social systems including the ways different system elements interact with each other. The term “AGIL” appeals to four different functions that are thought to shape social action. They must be performed within all social systems if they are to persist. 741 HOOGHE Liesbet: Prologue. In: Id. (ed.): The European Commission and the Integration of Europe. Cambridge 2001, pp. vi-xii, here p. vi. 742 See chapter “Applying Integration Theory to the Baltic Sea Case: Application Patterns”, p. 162-. 743 For more details, see PARSONS Talcott: The Structure of Social Action. New York 1937. And PARSONS Talcott: The Social System. New York 1951. And PARSONS Talcott: Sociological Theory and Modern Society. New York 1967. 744 See ADAMS Bert N./SYDIE R.A.: Sociological Theory. Pine Forge 2001, p. 349. 745 Ibd., p. 343. 213 adaptation goal-attainment integration latency function Figure 17: The AGIL pattern by Parsons Starting out from the AGIL scheme, Parsons tried to draw up a complex raster about the structural constitution of society. He did not only focus on the processes occurring within each of these functional elements; he was also particularly interested in the connection between them. Parsons identified various different types of social organisations that match with these four functions in a way that the overall social performance of a system is jointly secured. Each of the four functions is thought to stand for an organisational ability within society. ability to A G I L react to the changing external conditions secure the achievements of goals ensure the maximal level of cohesion and inclusion in the society/social system guarantee the maintenance of minimal social structure and order Table 24: Organisational Abilities According to the AGIL Pattern, Parsons Organisational structures with different orientations for action together cover the set of functions that account for the persistence of the system. organisations A G I L with economic orientation (e.g. business firms) pursuing political goals (e.g. government agencies) with integrative orientation (e.g. social-control agencies, political parties) aiming at pattern maintenance (e.g. museums, religious associations) Table 25: Organisational Structures According to the AGIL Pattern, Parsons The four functions also build the constitutive character of each out of the alleged four social sub-systems, of which in turn, each represents a particular institution in society. The outputs of each subsystem are perceived to serve as inputs for the neighbouring subsystem. To put it briefly, the quadrinomial scheme is thought to shape the entire social system, being mutually reflected in all structural and procedural parts of it.746 746 Figure generated on the basis of WILLKE Helmut: Systemtheorie. Stuttgart/Jena 2000, p. 232. 214 Figure 18: Interlocking Input-Output System, Parsons Recurrent references to other abstract elements that comply with this basic AGIL pattern suggest the analytical incorporation of this systemic model by way of a schematic overview. The following raster seeks to outline how the single elements of the system are thought to be connected and in which horizontal and vertical continuing lines they are arranged.747 747 The scheme has been generated on the basis of PARSONS Talcott: Sociological Theory and Modern Society. New York 1967. A GI LA G I L A GI LA G I L su bse ct io n m ed iu m fo rw ar ds fu nc tio na l su bs ta nc e su bsy st em ea ch fo rm s p ar t o f t he ‘p ro gr am m e’ sy st em c om po ne nt s co ns tit ut e t he re sp ec tiv e s ub -s ys te m fu nc ti on s fu lfi lm en t d et er m in es th e pe rs ist en ce o f t he sy ste m pr oc es se s op er at io n or tr an sa ct io n th at fu lfi lle d fu nc tio ns le ad to ec on om y bu si ne ss m on ey bi ol og ic al -o rg an ic in di vi du al p er sis tin g in h os til e s ur ro un di ng , h as to st an d up to sy ste m ic a na rc hy ; a da pt at io n in o rd er to h an dl e th e or ga ni c w or ld ; i nc lu de s t he p ro gr am m e el em en ts th at re la te to th e or ga ni sa tio n of b eh av io ur a nd c on du ct , e .g . co nt ro l o f o rg an ic e ffi ci en cy a nd a ch ie ve m en t p ot en tia l. ro le de te rm in es in di vi du al s w ho se m ut ua l ex pe ct at io ns m ak e th em fo rm a sp ec ifi c e nt ity w ith in so ci et y ro le s bu ild th e lin k be tw ee n (v irt ua lly im ag in ed ) se lfsta nd in g sin gl e ac to rs an d th ei r s oc ia l c on te xt (e nt ity ) ad ap ta tio n to ex te rn al ci rc um sta nc es m ai nt ai ni ng th e b as ic va lu es an d at tit ud es m ax im isi ng st an da rd s en ha nc es ac ce ss ib ili ty po lit ic s pe rs on al ity sy ste m no p er so na lit y sy ste m is se lfsta nd in g po w er ps yc ho lo gi ca l-m ot iv at io na l th e hu m an b ei ng d ev el op s w ith in p er so na lit y an d ps yc he . Th e pr og ra m m e el em en ts th at c on tro l b eh av io ur a t t he le ve l o f m ot iv at io n bu ild in g, co ns tru ct io n of p er so na lit y an d in tra pe rs on al o rg an isa tio n of so ci al c on du ct ; de te rm in ed th ro ug h di sp os iti on s o f t he in di vi du al . M ai n dr iv in g fo rc e of a ll ac tio n pr oc es se s a nd th e m at er ia lis at io n of cu ltu ra l p rin ci pl es ; p ub lic ac ce pt an ce o f th e s ta te co ns tit ut io n is re ac he d th ro ug h so ci al isa tio n an d in te gr at io n; en fo rc em en t o nl y w ith u nc on tro lle d ac tio n. so ci al en tit ie s ar e so ci al g ro up s (a gg lo m er at io ns o f ro le s) w ith c le ar h ie ra rc hi es a nd a cl ea r i nt er na l d ist rib ut io n of ro le s an d fu nc tio ns ; se rv e t he at ta in m en t o f g oa ls. go al at ta in m en t al ig nm en t of a ct or s ac co rd in g to in di vi du al o r co lle ct iv e g oa ls di ffe re nt ia tio n (in te rn al ) in cl ud in g pl ur al isa tio n so ci et y co m m un it y so ci al sy ste m in flu en ce so ci al -in te ra ct iv e pr og ra m m at io n on a n in te ra ct iv e l ev el , d er iv at io n of re al so ci et y; th is pa rt of th e pr og ra m m e co nt ro ls ac tio n in th e co nt ex t o f i nt er -a ct io n, m ea ni ng th at th er e i s a m ut ua l el em en t t ha t e na bl es an d co nd iti on s r ec ip ro ci ty a nd co m pl em en ta rit y. S oc ie ty d oe s n ot e xe rt in flu en ce b y w ay of fo rc e bu t t hr ou gh sy ste m ic co nt ro l a nd d isc ip lin at io n. no rm s co nt ai n sp ec ifi c w ay s o f a ct io n fo r sp ec ifi c e nt iti es an d ro le s i n ve ry sp ec ifi c s itu at io ns ; t he y se rv e a s a n in str um en ta l b as is fo r i nt eg ra tio n; in te gr at io n so ci al isa tio n of ro le ho ld er s ( to ta lit y of in di vi du al s) in te gr at io n of th e ac tio n sy ste m in cl us io n of n ew en tit ie s an d m ec ha ni sm s so lv es p ro bl em s o f in te gr at io n oc cu rri ng in co m pl ex sy ste m s cu lt ur e co m m itm en ts no rm at iv ecu ltu ra l th e s en se o f s oc ia l a ct io n (v al ue le ve l), g en er at io n of pr og ra m m es , r ul es a nd n or m s. Cu ltu re e na bl es re as on ab le or ie nt at io n in th e s oc ia l r ea lit y as w el l a s s el ec tio n. A ny ac tio n on ly g ai ns se ns e an d m ea ni ng th ro ug h cu ltu re . N or m m ai nt en an ce as w el l a s c re at iv e ch an ge ar e p rio rit y fu nc tio ns co nt ex t. Cu ltu re en ab le s t he id en tif ic at io n an d cr ea tio n of in str uc tio ns fo r t he c od es a nd sy m bo lic g ro up s bu ild in g th e b as is fo r i nt er -a ct io n. va lu es re pr es en t d es ira bl e ty pe s o f s oc ia l sy ste m s, w hi ch g ov er n th e en te rin g of co m m itm en ts th ro ug h so ci al en tit ie s. Th ei r m ai n fu nc tio n lie s i n m ai nt ai ni ng n or m s t ha t f or m th e ba sis of so ci al sy ste m s. la te nc y m ai nt en an ce o f ba sic cu ltu ra l pa tte rn s o f or ie nt at io n so ci al iz at io n of v al ue s th e m or e co m pl ex th e ne tw or k of so ci al ac tio ns , t he h ig he r t he le ve l o f g en er al isa tio n of va lu es ; t hi s e ffe ct se rv es to st ab ili se so ci et y T ab le 2 6: S ch em at ic O ve rv ie w o f th e C om pl ex S ys te m T he or y, P ar so ns 215 216 II. Reconciling Application Patterns: Trial Application to the Baltic Sea Case One of the major specificities of classic system theory is its claim to offer models with global applicability. Certain procedural flows are claimed to be common to all levels of social action. This universalist claim opens the scene to trial applications, such as the one to a complexly networked region like the BSR. The employment of the Parsonian AGIL scheme for the explanation of Baltic Sea social and political reality certainly imposes a series of methodological and operational problems. Chosing a very direct way of application one could discuss the various forms of how AGIL controlled and structured systems and subsystems are distributed in and across the region, and how they relate to their broader systemic framework. Concerning abstraction, this kind of theorisation has clearly reached the level where the identification of examples from the ‘real’ world becomes difficult. One could just take the complex of Baltic Sea Regionalism, pick out certain actors (“roles”) or processes and try to identify in each and every case of ‘what this very element is an instance.’ Adjacent internationalism or regionalist activism, as identified earlier, is a formative element in Swedish foreign policy towards its immediate neighbourhood. It could be interpreted, for example, as part of a social interaction with the allegedly hostile surrounding and a reaction to the redoubtable supranationalist pressure coming from the European core. The functions maintaining the Swedish system of reluctance are performed by several parts of the social system and reproduced at the sub-system level (see figure below). social systems (not specified) A G I L A G I L ADAPTATION GOAL L ATTAINMENT INTEGRATION LATENCY Figure 19: Complex social systems, Parsons

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Seit 1989 ist es im Ostseeraum zu einer explosionsartigen Entstehung einer Vielzahl von regionalen Initiativen und Zusammenschlüssen gekommen. Der Ostseeraum weist bis heute eine europaweit einzigartig hohe Konzentration an kooperativen regionalen Strukturen auf. Diese bilden gemeinsam ein enges Netzwerk von Vereinigungen, die unter dem Überbegriff der "Ostseezusammenarbeit’ interagieren.

Diese Studie analysiert die Hintergründe dieses regionalen Phänomens oder so genannten „Ostsee-Rätsels“ auf Basis eines Vergleichs zwischen den Regionalpolitiken zweier staatlicher Schlüsselakteure, Schweden und Finnland, wobei der europäische Integrationsprozess als übergeordneter Bezugsrahmen für die Untersuchung dient.