By Talcott Parsons
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Additional resources for Action Theory and the Human Condition
First it seems to me that there are at least two main types of which the especially salient characteristic is a presumption of symmetrcal equality, though perhaps the list should be extended to three. An historic example has been that of the relations between participants in a competitive economic market. Participation in market translations is held to be basically voluntary, and the doctrine of economic rationality suggests that people participate only so long as they can see it to be to their economic interests to do so.
The patient who is sufficiently sick to be bedridden is, in a sense, devoting his whole attention for the time being to coping with the state of illness and to goals of facilitating recovery. These circumstances, however, do not apply literally to the whole range of illness. Many of the cases of chronic illness require only a very partial attention on the part of the patient as well as the physician to take the appropriate measures which a management regimen requires. Thus, in the case of diabetes, for the relatively mild case, sufficient care to take the medication prescribed according to the regimen, some attention to testing of sugar level in urine, and some attention to diet are daily routine obligations of the patient.
Though the status of physician in our general scale of stratification is rather a high one, it is not at all infrequent that physicians will have patients who in general social status are their superiors, not their inferiors. This, for example, would be the case when very high officials of government become ill, including presidents and prime ministers. With respect, however, to the complex of health and illness, there can be no doubt of the institutionalized superiority of the health care agent, notably the physician.