Functions of political system (David Easton)

What are the functions of political system according to David Easton? David Easton was one of the earliest scholars who studied the political system. According to Easton, politics is the authoritative allocation of values These values include: input and output. Inputs (demands) flow into the system and are converted into outputs (decisions and actions) that constitute the authoritative allocation of values.

This article will therefore discuss the functions of political systems. But before that, there is need to define the key terminologies that have been identified.

Politics is the general terminology that defines this question. As earlier defined, politics is the authoritative allocation of values. This is according to David Easton. Easton (1953) that the political system is the integration of all activities through which social policy is formulated and executed. In other words functions of political system according by David Easton, explains how politics is concerned with the activities of Government that happens in a particular country. Harold Lass well (1963) defined politics as who gets what, when and how.

Bernard Crick (1972) stresses that politics is a distinctive form of rule whereby people act together through institutionalized procedures to resolve differences, to conciliate diverse interests and values and to make public policies in the pursuit of common purposes.

Top 4 Functions of political system according to David Easton

Now having understood what politics is all about, it’s important to know the functions of the political system as ascribed by David Easton.

1.Political system formulates policies

The first function of the political system is to formulate policies. These policies are basically laws that defines how a society will be governed. These policies are values that determines what the people want at a particular time. For example, there is a Constitution crisis in Zambia and the people have been calling for the completely abolishment of the document and enactment of a new law that will be in line with their aspirations.

In order to do this, the political system must respond and enact laws that will decide the future of the people and bring forth a new Constitution.

2. Policy implementation

The other function of the political system is policy implementation. This is a critical stage after policy formulation. This stage requires the use of available resources to ensure that the people are provided with the best services. This stage is completely different from policy formulation because most of the policies fail to push through at this stage.

For instance, in most African states what has been hindering development is failure to implement what has been planned. The reason could be that this sage requires the allocation of more resources and most African countries still lack the capacity to organize and generate more of that.

Further, the political system should be able to aggregate the interest of every citizen, interest group, political party and any other organization that exists in the political realm of that society. The aggregation of interest is what brings forth better policies that represent the interest of all citizens. This stage is critical in the policy formulation phase.

Meetings, debates and important discussions are usually held to try and see how best different policies that responds to the needs and aspirations of the people are enacted.

3. Political system are important for political adjudication

Furthermore, the other critical functions of a political system are political adjudication and communication. To adjudicate is basically to preside over something while to communicate is to send over information through different channels. It’s important for Government to communicate policies through a well-established channel of communication. It’s communication that binds the activities of the government and the general public.

Meanwhile, political adjudication deals with deciding which policies should be implemented first. It basically deals with the prioritization of the available resources to achieve the best results. This part is critical during the decision making process.

Functions of political system according by David Easton explain how decision makers should be able to know which policies should be prioritized first, and which ones must come later. This can be achieved through the help of the decision making theory. The decision-making theory is based on systems theory but also borrows from game theory, which was devised by mathematicians during World War II.

Decision making theory supposes that actors behave rationally to achieve goals by selecting the course of action that will maximize benefits and minimize costs. This assumption has been contradicted by some studies, such as Graham Allison’s Essence of Decision (1971), which found that the decision-making process of the administration of U.S. President John F. Kennedy during the Cuban missile crisis could not be adequately explained in terms of a strict rational calculation of costs and benefits; instead, decisions often depended on the standard operating procedures of organizational actors and the information that subordinates fed to their superiors, which itself was skewed by “bureaucratic politics.”

4. Political socialization

Nonetheless, the other critical component of the political system is political socialization. In any country, the political system should be entrenched in the values of the people. It is these values that should be inculcated in citizens through a well-defined framework. This framework can comprise of important institutions such as churches, health institutions, universities and any other place. Political socialization also entrenches how various political parties, interest groups and other important groups in the society.

It talks about the various functions of political system according to David Easton and freedoms and rights that these groups must enjoy in order to fully participate in the affairs of the society. What mostly hinders participation of citizens in the affairs of the society is lack of freedoms and respect for human rights.

In order to have an effective political system, there is need to have strong regulations. These regulations are what constitutes a strong legal system. A society cannot thrive without a strong legal system. A strong legal system is one that is rigid but has some form of flexibility to respond to the dynamics of the society.

In conclusion, Easton’s understanding of politics as being the authoritative allocation of values has helped in shaping today’s democratic society. Functions of political system according to David Easton helped to promote democratic tenets. It has also helped political actors to devise the best decisions that are anchored on providing the general citizenry with the best services.

Answer: Functions of the political system mentioned by David Easton for studying the policy-making process: input, conversion, output, feedback and environment.


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