The structural-functional theory postulates that political systems are comprised of various structures that are relatively uniform in the sense that they are found in most political systems throughout the world. The theory asserts that each of these structures has a particular function that supports the establishment of an orderly, stable system of governance within which individuals and other societal structures fulfill roles of their own. Typical political structures include: legislative bodies, courts, bureaucratic organizations, executive bodies, and political parties. (Powell, Dalton, Strom, pg 35)
Because this structural-functional approach designates universal components of political system without dictating what those structures should be or how they should function, the theory allows for analysis of various types of systems without ethnocentrism. An individual system can be analyzed with this approach when the political scientist identifies the various structures and their functions. The political scientist can also evaluate that individual system for efficiency and effectiveness in the degree to which the various structures actually fulfill their functions. The political scientist can also compare political systems by identifying their structures and seeing to what degree the systems share characteristics. The degree of actual difference between political systems can be less than one thinks by reading their ideologies alone. Additionally, the comparative technique using the structural-functional approach can reveal which of the analyzed systems has structures that fulfill their functions best.
Example: when the congress in the United States votes on a policy, there is debate, discussion, and voting outcomes can vary depending on support for the legislation at hand. In this structure the voting function is important and can potentially change the outcome of policy.
This entire approach need not be ethnocentric. An ethnocentric...
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