Adaptation (Sociology)

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  • The manner in which social systems react to their environment. Any social system— a nation-state, a corporation, or a family—must adapt to its environment, or it will break down. Talcott Parsons popularized this sociological meaning of the term in the middle of the 20th century. Adaptation is a component of Parsons's theory of social system survival. Adaptation is one of four “functional prerequisites” (the others being goal attainment, integration, and pattern maintenance) that any social system must exercise in order to prevail.

    Parsons asserts that specialized subsystems develop to fulfill these functional prerequisites. The subsystem that corresponds to adaptation is the economy.

    10.4135/9781412972024.n40

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