Action Theory and the Human Condition by Talcott Parsons

By Talcott Parsons

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With certain exceptions there is no institutionalized obligation to transmit information, especially when one considers this at a particularized level; though, for example, a member of the faculty of a high-standing university may have an obligation to publish the results of research, it is not inherent in his role that he is obliged in advance to publish any particular content. One has a certain choice as to what newspapers to read and what parts of any given issue of a newspaper, what periodicals to read, what books to read, and what radio or television programs to tune in on or to shut off.

This, probably even more conspicuously than the health-illness case, has recently been a subject of passionate polemical disagreement, with one school virtually taking the position that the relation between teacher and student, notably at the level of higher education, must be a fully egalitarian one with no special authority or privileges on the professional side. It seems to me that this position is basically wrong and rests on inadequate understanding of the nature of the functions of teaching and its conditions.

It is significant that among these laymen two groups figure prominently, namely lawyers and clergymen, who in general have a rather high reputation for readiness to assume such responsibility. Research with Human Subjects and the "Professional Complex" 41 These specialized functions range widely-from dealing with the spiritual welfare of persons by the clergy (the original contrast with "laymen"), through the ordering by law of the relations of people to one another and to public authority, the management of conditions of health and illness, and the control of the physical environment through technology.

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