The goal of Easton’s political system is to maintain ‘persistence’ and not ‘equilibrium’. He is a critic of equilibrium-approach. His system converts demands and supports into outputs through feedback mechanisms. It is not a routine operation, but a complex cyclic process with a dynamism peculiar to it. The system has its own goal which it tries to reach by facing problems of stress and maintenance.
His analytical framework is based on two critical variables:
(i) Sources of stress and persistence of the system, and
(ii) Regulating processes or mechanisms of regulating these stresses.
Persistence stands for continuity of the capacity of the system to allocate values to the members in a binding manner and implement them. In Easton’s words, it is ‘the continuation of the capacity of a system to make and execute binding decisions of allocations on its members.’ It is a unique trait of political systems. It maintains the system with all modifications and changes entering into its environment. It transforms inputs into outputs, which influence the environment, and creation of inputs. The feedback mechanisms communicate reactions and responses to the outputs of the environment to the system.
The latter are interlocking cycles within the systematic cycle, and there is endless, interlinked, and interactive flow of operations which constantly change, and subsequently change the behaviour of the system. Thus, Easton presents a flow model of political system. It has an extraordinary capacity to adjust to, and sometimes even to transform the environment. For this, there operate so many processes and mechanisms, unlike other systems. Apart from regulating its own behaviour and maintaining itself amid changes, it transforms its own structure, even reformulate its goals.
In equilibrium approaches, scholars, mostly sociologists, give all importance to: (i) stability or maintenance of the system as it is; and (ii) neglect the environment or processes bringing about change in the system itself. They overlook the system’s capacity to cope with the problems coming from environment. A system, beyond the assumptions of these scholars, can have goals other than maintaining its equilibrium. At times, it may like to destroy an already existing equilibrium or wish to acquire a new pattern of equilibrium. It may, as Easton opines, like to change its environment so that transactions between the environment and the system are not stressful.
It may seek to insulate itself against undue pressures from the environment, and, the members ‘even fundamentally transform their own relationships and modify their own goals and practices so as to improve their chances of handling the inputs from the environment.’ Easton’s system has the capacity for creative and constructive regulation of disturbances. It is both open and adaptive to environment and liking of its own members. Thus Easton’s model is different from equilibrium models which neglect their changing environments.
Their goal is survival or maintenance of the status quo. Easton’s political system does not operate merely to face stresses, crises or change for maintaining itself. It is creative, innovative, forward-looking, persistent, goal-determining, and capable to cope with crises. However, the goal of persistence is bound up with problems of systematic survival and the preservation of essential variables within the critical range. Goal-attainment is restricted by the needs of system’s maintenance. As such, the theory contains little beyond the question of persistence.