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Structural Fuctionalism

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    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, ixed 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 referred to as “developmental” processes.

    Admittedly, all this is a classification scheme, but here’s how it works: According to Cammack (1998), in order for a political system to run smoothly and enjoy a healthy autonomy or boundary maintenance between polity and society, there must be a way to avoid any rush of unprocessed claims or demands without direction or control by the political system. Citizen demands must be selected, channelled, and controlled.

    Any “rush” or “eruption” of diverse claims by the citizenry is to be avoided; otherwise the political system will become overwhelmed by direct societal pressures. This kind of predicament can be avoided not simply by the presence of interest group, political parties, and mass media of some kind, but by having specific types of these institutions: associational interest groups, secular, pragmatic, and bargaining parties, and free and neutral mass media (such as those found in the U.

    K. or U. S. ). An ideal political system utilizes such unregimented and differentiated structures for interest articulation, and the political parties, for example, are not overly politicized nor tied to particular ideologies or interests. These institutions do not monopolize the function of interest articulation, but they help to regulate it. A free and neutral mass media, for instance, also helps to “regulate the regulators. Further, because autonomous structures are helping with regulation of this important function (interest articulation), the political system is freer to exercise control over capability functions involving “enforcement” of the overall boundaries which enables “cultural penetration” — the fusion of modern and traditional through penetrating the “traditional” styles of diffuseness, particularise, ascription, and affectivity by more “rational” styles of specificity, universalism, achievement, and affective neutrality.

    In other words, a perfectly functioning political system would be modernizing, not necessarily because of any direct government effort, but by the process of encouraging increased subsystem autonomy and rationality. He went further to classify his postulations into two namely; •Input •Output Under the input there are five categories namely; •Political recruitment and socialization •Political communication •Interest aggregation •Interest articulation POLITICAL RECRUITMENT AND SOCIALIZATION: In every society, new members must be inducted into the political culture to sustain the set of attitudes necessary for the system to survive.

    Socialization into this culture may be manifest or latent. If latent, then some non-political attitudes will be cultivated, but that is the nature of socialization. It’s never perfect, and always involves some degree of risk. Recruitment is more direct, involving the hiring and training of individuals for specific roles. Every political system, whether Western or non-Western, have to perform the function of political recruitment and socialization. The actors here are the families, schools, political parties and the media POLTICAL COMMUNICATION: While it is true that all functions are performed by means of communication, t is the content and not the form which matters most. In modern systems, the media have developed a vocational ethics of neutrality and therefore perform a function separate and autonomous from other types of adjective communication. There must be a free flow of information from society to polity and from one political structure to another as well as an open feedback mechanism. Almond (2007) holds that one can compare the political systems of different countries quite well by only looking at the political communications. The actors here are the mass media, interest group and the political parties.

    INTEREST ARTICULATION: Demands for political action need to be formulated and expressed properly, and it normally occurs at the boundaries of various subsystems. The structures which help perform this function also make up environmental boundaries for the system as a whole, separating the polity from society. In Almond’s classification, there are four main types of interest articulation structures: institutional interest groups, non-associational interest groups, anomic interest groups, and associational groups. The institutional interest groups include legislatures, political executives, bureaucrats, armies, and churches, etc.

    Non-associational interest groups include kinship and lineage groups, ethnic, regional, and religious, status and class groups (such groups often only perform the articulation function intermittently or sporadically). Anomic interest groups are also sporadic and explosive too, since they only want to press their demands through riots or demonstrations. Associational groups (the best kind) consist of specialized structures like trade unions, business and professional associations, civic associations, and educational associations.

    If groups do not find open channels to express their interests and needs, their demands will go unsatisfied and they may erupt in violence, requiring suppression by the elite. The manner of expression can also either mitigate or intensify an ongoing conflict. (Almond et al 2007) INTEREST AGGGREGATION: Somehow, demands must be converted into policy alternatives, and political parties are the main instrument for this, but in some instances, the aggregation function may be performed by the legislature, the bureaucracy, the mass media, and interest groups of a civic type.

    The bureaucracy, for example, often consists of persons with experience at working out whatever regulatory codes are needed to elaborate upon some general policy, within limits of how much interpretation the bureaucracy is given. Under the output are three classifications namely; •Rule making •Rule application •Rule adjudication RULE MAKING: Sometimes in some countries it’s not called legislation, so the word “rule-making” is preferably used. However, rules must be made in a certain way and by specific institutions with certain kinds of limitations.

    What’s important is the way people interact to make the rules. In other sense it is commonly referred to as the legislature. (Almond et al 2007) RULE APPLICATION: Rules are made to be enforced, and it is up to the bureaucracy to do this. A bureaucracy is at the core of modern government. However, there also needs to be some central, decision-making authority to offset the inevitable trends toward inertia and decentralization. The presence of differentiated and well-developed rule application structures greatly expands the capability of a political system to manipulate its environment.

    This is also referred to as the executive. RULE ADJUDICATION: It is the duty of the judiciary to interpret the laws and determine guilt or innocence. An independent judiciary also works best for resolving conflicts which break out between citizens. An ideal judiciary operates on a certain set of settled rules which have been applied to past conflicts in society. Almond’s structural functionalism has been criticised. Some of the drawbacks are: 1. The conservative ideological bias and preference for status quo. . Lack of methodological clarity. 3. A failure to deal with social change. 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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