Almond (with Coleman) was not satisfied with his structural-functional approach as propounded in The Politics of the Developing Area, 1960. He found the concept of equilibrium, harmony or maintenance as static and conservative. The developing countries do not opt for the status quo, but seek change, even rapid and radical transformation of their societies.
He realised that their scheme of seven-functional requisites, was enough for describing systems, but does not explain ‘how and ‘why’ systems change. The approach paid little or no attention to conversion processes or within puts. It was unaware of the interaction of a political system with its international environment. Treating Western political systems as ‘ideals’ or ‘models’, they kept themselves away from ground realities.
As usual, Almond, along with Powell, aims at developing a comprehensive and empirical theory of political systems explaining how and why do they change. For this purpose, Almond with his co-author improved upon his previous approach incorporating concepts from Easton’s systems theory, Deutsch’s communication theory, and the perspectives of other development-theorists. Their new or modified framework can be called as systemic-structural-functional approach.
Almond and Powell’ have designated it as ‘developmental approach’ and also called it ‘probabilistic functionalism’. Their purpose is broader as they realise that fuller understanding of political change requires to know its ‘how’ and ‘why’. Simple knowledge of ‘what’, is not enough. In his new perspective, Almond replaces ‘equilibrium’ by the concept of ‘interdependence’ or ‘interactional functions’.
He analyses political systems from three directions:
(b) Outside and
(c) Adjustment and Maintenance.
In other words:
(i) How are conversion functions being performed?
(ii) What is the capability of a political system, as an ‘individual’ and its environment? and
(iii) How is the system adapting and maintaining itself amidst various pressures for bringing about change?
The ground basis is the transformation process-conversion of inputs into outputs. Its operation involves the capacity to do so, enabling it to survive as an ‘entity’ or ‘individual’ amidst changing environment. This is what the system does by performing adaptation and maintenance functions. The first explains ‘what’ and ‘how’, and, the second and third processes ‘why’ of political change. These questions are separate but related to each other. The focus of approach, therefore, is on ‘interdependence’ of the various parts of the system.”
As usual, the concept of ‘political system’ is associated with the use or threat of use of legitimate physical force in society. Their central theme is the interdependence of structures and parts, and a boundary between the system and its environments. Interdependence involves change in the characteristics of a system and its parts when there is change in one of its parts.
Boundary is the line where the system starts or stops. Boundaries of political systems go on changing. Functions of political systems operate at three stages: inputs, conversion, and outputs. In his re-formulated conceptual scheme. Almond has given more importance to ‘structures’ and ‘culture’. Structures consist of roles, institutions, subsystems, etc.
Structures are analysed on the basis of specialisation and differentiation. Recruitment and socialisation functions provide roles to operate the structures. Socialisation functions involve inculcation of political culture. Political culture provides values, faith, motivation, cognition, emotions, criteria, attitudes towards participation or apathy, etc., to the individual. Political culture can be rational or traditional. Rational political culture imbues secularisation or secularism. Secularisation or rational culture is directly related to specialisation and differentiation of structures.
Reason or intellect demand specialisation for efficiency and differentiation for better division of labour in the functioning of structures. Individuals assimilate political culture through socialisation process. Thus, political culture, through socialisation of the individuals and their roles, influences all the structures and the functions of a political system.