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Consensus Theory

  Consensus theory refers to the branch of sociology that emphasizes the role of shared values as the basis of any persisting social order. The problem of social order is a central one in sociology: what is the basis of the tendency for societies to cohere in a stable pattern of relationships, expectations and social structures, rather than disintegrating into the chaotic pursuit of individual self-interest?

Within sociology a distinction can be made between those who emphasize coercion as the basis of social order and those who emphasize a consensus of shared values and expectations. In practice most sociological theories recognize the role of both. The school of sociology which follows the ideas of Parsons, however, provides the central explanation for the problem of social order in terms of a consensus of values, which are adopted and shared by all members of the population as a result of common experiences of socialization.

The nature and extent of consensus has been a subject much debated within sociology. Research suggests that dominant social values are not entirely accepted by large sections of the population. Even when common values are accepted this may be only pragmatic and partial. DA

See also assimilation; authority; conflict theory; culture; discourses; dominant ideology; functionalism; hegemony; ideology; internalization; legitimation; norms; power; social control; social integration; social movements; subculture.Further reading P.S. Cohen, Modern Social Theory.



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