- The economy -- societal adaptation to its action and non-action environmental systems
- The polity -- societal goal attainment
- The societal community -- the integration of its diverse social components
- The cultrual system -- the latency processes and units that function to reproduce societal culture
Parsons elaborated upon the idea that each of these systems also developed some specialized symbolic mechanisms of interaction analogous to money in the economy, e.g.., influence in the societal community.
Various processes of "interchange" among the subsystems of the societal system were postulated.
The most elaborate of Parsons's use of functional systems analysis with the AGIL scheme appear in two collaborative books, Economy and Society (with N. Smelser, 1956) and The American University (with G. Platt, 1973).
Parsons contributed to the field of social evolutionism and neoevolutionism. He divided evolution into four subprocesses:
1) differentiation, which creates functional subsystems of the main system, as discussed above;
2) adaptation, where those systems evolve into more efficient versions;
3) inclusion of elements previously excluded from the given systems; and
4) generalization of values, increasing the legitimization of the ever-more complex system.
This approach has been heavily criticized, mainly because it conflated modernization with Westernization. In this model, the modernization of a society required the destruction of the indigenous culture and its replacement by a more Westernized one.
Technically modernity simply refers to the present, and any society still in existence is therefore modern.
Proponents of modernization typically view only Western society as being truly modern arguing that others are primitive or unevolved by comparison.
This view sees unmodernized societies as inferior even if they have the same standard of living as western societies.
Opponents of this view argue that modernity is independent of culture and can be adapted to any society.
Japan is cited as an example by both sides. Some see it as proof that a thoroughly modern way of life can exist in a non-western society. Others argue that Japan has become distinctly more western as a result of its modernization.
In addition, this view is accused of being Eurocentric, as modernization began in Europe and has long been regarded as reaching its most advanced stage in Europe (by Europeans), and in Europe overseas (USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand etc).
What about modernization in the Middle East?