Almond has divided the seven functional requisites into two broad categories:
(a) Inputs, and
Both have functional sub-divisions in the following manner (see diagram).
(a) Input Functions:
(i) Political socialisation and recruitment
(ii) Interest articulation
(iii) Interest aggregation
(iv) Political communication
(b) Output Functions:
(vi) Rule application
(vii) Rule adjudication
In the context of developing areas, Almond finds greater role of input functions. They are also called by him as ‘political’ functions, and are mostly performed by non-governmental structures, relating to society, culture, and others. But they are not performed in a specialised, recognised, and orderly manner. Output or ‘governmental’ functions are performed by governmental structures.
Consequences or effects of the operations of these functions-inputs and outputs can prove eu-functional or dys-functional to the system. Their performance may lead toward the maintenance of equilibrium or cause maladjustment or decay. In the latter eventuality, functions operate in a particular, specific, ascribed, affective and self-oriented manner. Agrarian societies described by W.F. Riggs contain all such traits. In Western societies formal structures are more differentiated, effective, and powerful, than informal or primary structures, whereas reverse order is found in non-Western societies. However, such arrangement is rarely available in ‘pure’ form.
(a) Input Functions:
(i) Political socialisation and recruitment:
Political socialisation is the process of ‘induction into the political culture’. Members of the system inculcate values, goals, norms and attitudes pertaining to the political system. Political socialisation can be undertaken in manifest or latent manner, and can be universalistic or specific. There can be some specialised or differentiated structures for this purpose. It can be left to chance or to voluntary agencies. It can be planned leading to accelerated pace of development and efficiency, as in case of former USSR, China, and other countries. India presents the ‘mixed’ pattern, partly planned and partly voluntary.
The main agencies of socialisation with varying forms and effects are: family, school, church, peer-groups, work-groups, office, service associations, political parties, governmental structures, media etc. All tend to prepare individuals for appropriate roles. These roles interact, and make up the political system. Socialisation expands the cognitive maps of individuals and groups, and can be drawn out and measured to a certain extent.
This can be done on the basis of measuring one’s responses, reactions, and behaviour. In view of its impact on the present and future course of system, it becomes important to know who controls the socialisation process and with what purpose. It may aim at maintaining the status quo (as in Pakistan and Bangladesh), development (in India), revolutionary change (in Cuba), or military grandeur (in China).
Obviously, except in a democracy, the ruling elite controls the form and content of socialisation. But at the family level, it is latent, informal, and affective. Later, it becomes manifest, formal, and intellectual. One can study it from many angles, of form, content, style, impact, scope, and volume.
It is political socialisation which determines the form of political recruitment. It decides who would take up what roles. Some of the people, by law or otherwise, may be debarred from undertaking particular political roles. Recruiting individuals to appropriate political roles bears a direct relationship with the maintenance of a political system.
(ii) Interest Articulation:
Interest articulation determines the boundary-lines of a political system. It is the process of joining issues and problems, or making of common interest among small scattered groups. What interests would enter the political system is conditioned by its political socialisation, which, again, is controlled and directed by the political culture. The demand of establishing an agricultural university or an industry may not become the ‘political interest’ of a populace. In a different context, many people may not be ready to accept that demand as their political interest.
Articulation of interest can take place by and through many structures:
(i) Institutions, e.g., legislature, services, army, etc.
(ii) Non-institutional interest groups, e.g., tribes, racial groups, priests, community, etc.
(iii) Anomic-interest groups, e.g., spontaneous rioting, demonstrations, etc.
(iv) Associational -groups, e.g., civic, cultural, and other commercial associations, trade unions, etc.
Interest articulation maintains the boundary-line between society and the political system. Anti-equilibrium style of functions, according to Parsons, tends to be particularistic, specific, affective, and self-oriented.
(iii) Interest aggregation:
A political system can cope with innumerable interest or diversities if they again are aggregated or grouped at higher levels. Various interests, demands, pressures, wants, etc., have to be combined and expressed in the form of broad policy decisions. Aggregation can be realised in two forms (a) by accommodating various interests into wider policies, and (b) by recruiting persons belonging to various particular interests into the decision-making body.
Interest aggregation enables the system to operate in a simplified, acceptable, responsive, accountable, and efficient manner. It becomes easy for it to jump from input to output stage. Aggregation makes it possible to act in a measurable and calculated way. However, distinction between interest articulation and interest aggregation is subtle and flexible. Sometimes, the ministers in a coalition cabinet, begin to act and perform articulation functions. In tribal, traditional, and developing societies, some of the functional categories are and often get mixed up.
Structures specialised to perform aggregation-functions are political parties, council of ministers, bureaucracy, national convention, etc. The political parties are particularly suitable to do this job. They can be classified on the basis of (i) type of organisation, and (ii) style. From the viewpoint of organisation the political parties can be (a) authoritarian, (b) dominant non-authoritarian, (c) competitive bi-party system, and (d) competitive multi-party system.
Their style can make them (a) secular, pragmatic or bargaining; (b) absolute-value oriented or ideological; (c) particularistic, and, (d) traditional. In fact, they can be further sub-divided in many other ways. Aggregation of multiplicity or myriad of interests by political parties generates effective control by the system over groups, bureaucracy, and other associations. Their demands can be selectively met and channelised.
(iv) Political communication:
Communication is the medium through which all other functions are performed. Almond equates it to circulation of blood in human body. Its scope and form is wider than conventional terms like public opinion, mass media, press, etc. It is sharing of ideas, information, and values by various means, and expressions thereof. Communication when revolves around ‘legitimate physical compulsion’ takes the form of political communication. It performs the function of boundary-maintenance by deciding on the issues as political or non-political. Political communication interconnects society and polity directly and through feedback, and saves the latter from man-made calamities.
Communication ferets out the secrets or underworld happenings to come into the open, making the latent manifest. If communication system has specialised structures, and operates in an autonomous and neutral manner, it can compel other functions to confine themselves in their specific spheres. If it has evolved its own vocational ethics, it may not allow aggregation-structures to dabble in articulation-functions, and vice versa. That way, though it is one of the seven functional requisites, yet it becomes a ‘regulator of regulators’, by disallowing structures to transgress their boundaries.
But communication itself can prove obstructive to the maintenance of a political system. It is always necessary to find out the decontrolling of the communication system. They can be money-bags, ruling elites, press lords, and dictators. In closed systems, minds are moulded by these elements, and communication transforms into propaganda, indoctrination, or interest articulation, for a group or clique. Every form of non-official communication is forbidden by law. In open or democratic societies, communication, to a large extent, remains free. Its structures are multi-dimensional, neutral and their functioning is smooth, speedy, flexible, and expanding. Open communication system strengthens inputs of the system towards equilibrium.
However, as a process, it can be studied and compared on the basis of:
(a) homogeneity, (b) mobility, (c) volume, (d) cost, and (e) direction. It can also be related to levels of education, literacy, language, class, caste, and values. In such analysis, roles of interpreters, analysts, spokesmen, and intellectuals cannot be neglected.
(b) Output Functions:
Almond has analysed input functions in detail owing to their dominating role in the developing countries. They have also been called political functions. The political system converts them into outputs. Because of their transformation through formally recognised mechanisms. They have also been designated as ‘governmental functions’. Though they have been classified into three in a traditional manner, yet he separates them analytically from traditional structures, namely, legislature, executive, and judiciary. The three outputs – rule-making, rule applications and rule adjudication – are functions which can be performed by any formal or informal structures. As their content-part is widely known.
The concept of ‘rule’ is broader than ‘law”. Interests after being articulated and aggregated have to be given formal recognition, and legitimate expression. In ancient times, it was divinely ordained or oracled through some godly person, priest, or saint. Religion and religious persons expanded it further. As the people had faith in them and their divine origin and destination, they accepted and obeyed them almost unthinkingly. Traditions, taboos, usages etc. along with divine laws left little room for ‘rule-making’ by man. Later, kings and lords, took over this function.
With the rise of democracy and expansion of state activities, specific structures like legislature, legislative committees, executive, higher bureaucracy and judiciary began to perform this job, i.e., rule-making by man. Rule-making too has two levels – higher, and ordinary. At the higher or governing level, there is superior law or Constitution or unwritten rule of law embodying the basic elements of values and culture. The lower house, which is directly elected by the people on the basis of adult franchise legislates ordinary laws.
All laws or rules actually represent human interests, which operate through political parties, pressure or interest-groups, elite, and other vested interests. Functions performed by some of them may go against the maintenance of a political system, as in case of committed party leaders or money-bags, who operate through costly election system in India and other such countries. Rule-making formalises the accepted part of the demands or claims made by the people through their representatives. At times, rule-making or its specific part can be dysfunctional or non-functional.
(vi) Rule application:
After making of rules, or formal recognition of the will or interests of the people, the next category of functional requisites is ‘rule application’. It is putting of rules into actual practice. In modern times, it is the biggest part of outputs. In olden times, most of these functions were performed by society or community, and various religious bodies. Functions left with the political system were performed by army or aristocracy. Citizens or subjects themselves were responsible for many operations.
With the increasing role of the political system, more and more functions are made over to it. It requires specialised and expanded structures to deal with the situation. State’s monopoly over coercive power appears in the form of rise of bureaucracy. Originally it was a sub-structure, but, later on, has became a formidable autonomous structure or system. Its functioning requires an independent study.
To what extent is it carrying out the rules or wishes of the people in practice? Does it serve the purpose for which it was instituted and developed? Does it have its own interests and purposes to serve? Rules, it may be noted, unless implemented faithfully can cause much frustration and decay in the system.
(vii) Rule adjudication:
Rule application functions broadly apply rules or will of the people equally to all in equal situations. But there can be individual or specific situations wherein it is difficult to apply or if applied, it can cause injustice or grevious injury to some persons. Such difficult situations require specialised functioning by expert, experienced, intelligent, neutral, and independent structures. Apart from individual cases non-application or improper application of rules, it has to be observed and analysed whether other functions – both inputs and outputs – are operating in accordance with the basic rules formulated and accepted by the political system.
It is necessary that rule adjudication structures – courts, tribunals, popularly selected judicial bodies etc. – remain free from the influence of other structures, and are able to do their job well. Their function is to keep structures and sub-structures within the given confines, and see that the system operates on expected lines. However, functioning of the rule adjudication structures itself is hypothetical, and can prove dysfunctional to equilibrium of the system, on account of its incapacity, favouritism, inexperience, cost, delay, lengthy procedure, and non-implementation of their decision.