The Goal-Attainment Paradox: The second domain that Parsons identifies concerns goal-attainment. This is the political and governmental subsystem in a society—and in an interpersonal relationship. What are the goals of this relationship and how is this relationship guided toward these goals? The goal-attainment paradox consists of the pull between explicitly stated goals and strategies in the relationship, on the one hand, and the implicit, tacitly-held goals and strategies of the relationship, on the other hand. This is the tension between the explicit convening task of a relationship or group, and the implicit “basic assumption” task of the relationship or group.
The explicit task may be to design a new software program (group) or choose a piece of recorded music to play (interpersonal relationship). The implicit, basic assumption task might to demonstrate (once again) that members of this group can’t do anything (such as design a software program) without the group’s wise and benevolent leader (a group-based assumption of dependency). Similarly, the two parties to the relationships are always in disagreement about their musical tastes and their selection of a recorded piece of music. Thus, each of them must firmly hold their ground or be run over by the “bad tastes” of their loved one.
The paradox is that members of the group or the two parties in the relationship must repeatedly reaffirm their basic assumption—even if it is no longer (or never has been) valid. The software design group may no longer need the wise leader, yet its viability depends of the group members’ yearning for the leader. Similarly, the conflicting couple might discover that their musical tastes have actually become quite similar in recent years; yet, their relationship is vitalized by their seeming differences in musical taste. Thus we see a paradox of goal-attainment manifest in both the group and relationship.
The Integration Paradox: Parsons’ third domain is integration. This is the judicial subsystem in a society or relationship. This domain enables the social system to operate in a balanced and consistent manner. This domain concerns equity, fairness and values. The paradox of integration, in turn, concerns the source of interpersonal justice in both the explicit (Quad One) and implicit (Quad Four) norms of the relationship. The third stage in relationships and groups concerns the setting of norms and values in a relationship. What do we both want in this relationship? How do we go about ensuring that these needs are met? What happens when one of us feels that their personal needs aren’t being met in the relationship? This is Parsons’ domain of integration.
Yet, there is a paradox here, for we don’t wait for this third stage in a relationship to set norms. We don’t operate without norms and values until we feel free to be open with one another. Obviously, some norms and values—guidelines if you will—exist from the first moment two people (or members of a group) meet one another. These guidelines, however, are usually implicit. They are externally derived or even imposed. Furthermore, they tend to reside in Quad Four, being unavailable, in explicit form, to either party. This is the paradox of integration: where do the relational guidelines reside and how are they influenced prior to the stage of norming and openness?1K Club