After the behavioural revolution, political scientists have replaced ‘state’ by ‘political system,’ considering the former as formal, inadequate and unsatisfactory. Still it is not clear which is the central element of political system. Classical political thinkers had found knowledge, reason, natural land religion or conventional law as the basic element of state. Most of the modern political scientists find ‘legitimate physical compulsion’ as the key variable of political system. For Easton, it is ‘authoritative allocation of values for society”.
Lasswell and Kaplan regard ‘severe deprivations’ as the basic material of political system. Dahl relates it to power, government and authority. Catlin discovers ‘control over wills’ as the basis. Almond defines the political system, more or less, as ‘the legitimate, order-maintaining or transforming system in the society’. All the scholars have called its various organs and processes in varying terms.
Easton has put them in the two broad categories of ‘inputs’ and ‘outputs’. A ‘political system’ cannot be physically separated from its non-political aspects, and is, therefore, usually understood and studied in an analytical or conceptual manner. Society as a whole makes up the general social system, which contains many subsystems.
Political system is one of these subsystems. When the political system is to be studied as a whole along with its intra-subsystems, then, it is treated as a ‘system’. Besides that, ‘system’ can be considered as a part of environment. Thus, the concept of ‘system’ both in interlocking micro and macro forms, saves us from the error of considering ‘systems’ as isolated, separate, or independent entities. Besides throwing light on their interconnections, one can examine their discrete nature, and separate empirical existence.
According to Almond, the political system in a society, is ‘legitimate, order maintaining’ or transforming system, Wiseman maintains that every political system involves political structures, actors, or roles performed by their agents, patterns of interaction existing between individuals or collectivities, and political processes. In the ‘political system’ of Kaplan also, there are recognisable multivariate interests. Instead of always being opposite, sometimes they are complementary to each other. There are regular structures and channels to reach the decisions and judgements related to particular interests. General rules are prescribed to govern the actors and activities relating to particular decisions and judgements.
A political system, according to Michels, has the following features:
(a) It is a permanent entity, existing amidst a broader environment and includes many other units.
(b) It consists of an identifiable and measurable set of interdependent elements or variables.
(c) It has boundaries which keep it separate from general environment.
(d) It is constituted around certain problems, objectives or goals, and builds up certain structures.
(e) Along with increase of specific problems and evolution of goals, it develops specific structures and processes, leading to more and more differentiation.
However, political scientists, sociologists, and political sociologists have analysed political systems with varying frames of references and different goals. More important among them are Talcott Parsons, David Easton, Gabriel Almond, and Morton Kaplan. Perspectives of Parsons and Easton are more conceptual. Almond and Kaplan have gone towards empirical research and theory making. Thus, there are many variations among them. Before we discuss it in detail, ‘General Systems’ would be taken up first.