Structural Fuctionalism

Topics: Political science, Politics, Sociology Pages: 5 (1698 words) Published: May 6, 2013
Gabriel A. Almond (January 12, 1911 – December 25, 2002) was a political scientist from the United States best known for his pioneering work on comparative politics, political development, and political culture. Almond broadened the field of political science in the 1950s by integrating approaches from other social science disciplines, such as sociology, psychology, and anthropology, into his work. He transformed an interest in foreign policy into systematic studies of comparative political development and culture. Almond's research eventually covered many topics, including the politics of developing countries, Communism, and religious fundamentalism. It is pertinent to note that most of Almond’s ideas were procured from Easton’s system’s theory. He applied a similar typology in his ‘structural functionalism’. Easton and other comparative political scientists put forward a new formulation, utilizing the political system as a base and turning to a set of concept related to structure and function. Hence, Almond started using the terms like 'structure' and 'functional' and set forth a new formulation called the Structural Functional Analysis in the political system. Almond argued that in order to understand a political system, it was necessary to understand both institutions or structures and their respective functions, and further, that institutions must be studied in their dynamic and historical contexts because it is possible for essential functions to be carried out by different, but similar, structures in different settings. These ideas stood in marked contrast to David Easton's (1953) systems approach which prevailed at the time, consisting of state-society theory and dependency theory, both viewpoints which saw all political systems as essentially the same, subject to the same laws of "stimulus and response" (inputs and outputs) while paying little attention to the unique context of systems. Yet, Almond's (2007) structural-functional approach only recognized context to a limited extent because it largely disregarded culture which provided freethinking openings. According to Almond, a political system operates by performing two basic types of functions. The first four functions are called "input" functions (recruitment and socialization, communication, interest articulation, and interest aggregation). Of these, interest articulation is probably the most important, involving what Easton (1953) called "demands" which consist of such things as calls for more wages, fixed working hours, open educational institutions, provision of recreational facilities, well-maintained roads, and law and order. The last three are called "output" functions (rule-making, rule application, and rule adjudication), and it is readily apparent they are other words for the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government. Almond and Powell (1966) have also classified functions into three types: capability functions; conversion functions; and communication functions. The capability functions include those with extractive capability (to extract taxes and obedience from people), regulative capability (how far the system is allowed to go to enforce law and order), distributive capability (how goods and services are distributed), symbolic capability (whether the political system is in a position to get love for its symbols such as the national flag, or the national anthem, etc.), and responsive capability (how responsive the system is as perceived by citizens). The capability functions play a role in how a political system conducts transactions between its domestic and foreign environments. The conversion functions are the same as interest articulation and interest aggregation, and are simply called conversion functions because they convert inputs from the environments to outputs in the environments. The communication functions are also the same as socialization and recruitment and communication, but they are also sometimes...

References: Almond, G. & Powell, B. (1966). Comparative politics: A developmental approach. Boston: Little Brown.
Almond, G., Powell, B., Dalton, R. & Strom, K. (2007). Comparative politics today, 9e. NY: Pearson Longman.
Cammack, P. (1998). Capitalism and democracy in the third world. London: Cassell Publishers Limited.
Easton, D. (1953). The political system. NY: Alfred Knopf.
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