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A cultural system is the interaction of different elements of culture. While a cultural system is quite different from a social system, sometimes both systems together are referred to as the sociocultural system.
A major concern in the social sciences is the problem of order. One way that social order has been theorized is according to the degree of integration of cultural and social factors.
Talcott Parsons, a major figure in sociology, who was the main originator of action theory in the early 20th century, based his sociological theory of action system is build up around a general theory of society, which is codified within a cybernetic model featuring four functional imperatives: adaptation, goal-attainment, integration, and pattern maintenance. The hierarchy of systems are, from least to most encompassing system, respectively, behavioral organism, personality system, social system, and cultural system. Ritzer and Goodman (2004) summarize Parsons view, "Parsons saw these action systems acting at different levels of analysis, starting with the behavioral organism and building to the cultural system. He saw these levels hierarchically, with each of the lower levels providing the impetus for the higher levels, with the higher levels controlling the lower levels." In an article late in life Parsons maintained that the term "functionalism" was an inappropriate characterization of his theory.
The British Sociologist David Lockwood argued for a contrast between social content and social transmission in his work on social structure and agency. Noting that social systems were distinct in structure and transmission. Lockwood's conceptual distinction influenced Jürgen Habermas' discussion in the classic Legitimation Crises, who made the now famous distinction between system integration and social integration of the lifeworld.
Margaret Archer (2004) in a revised edition of her classic work Culture and Agency, argues that the grand idea of a unified integrated culture system, as advocated by early Anthropologists such as Bronisław Malinowski and later by Mary Douglas, is a myth. Archer reads this same myth through Pitirim Sorokin's influence and then Talcott Parsons' approach to cultural systems (2004:3). The myth of a unified integrated cultural system was also advanced by Western Marxists such as by Antonio Gramsci through the theory of cultural hegemony through a dominant culture. Basic to these mistaken conceptions was the idea of culture as a community of meanings, which function independently in motivating social behavior. This combined two independent factors, community and meanings which can be investigated quasi-independently (2004:4)
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