There are following characteristics of political system:
(1) Use or threat of use of legal force:
The first characteristic of political system is that it allows the legal authority to use force. If David Easton speaks of “authoritative allocation of values”, Dahl of “Power, “rule” and authority”. All these definitions imply that legal authority can use force to compel anybody to obey its orders.
It possesses legitimate and heavy sanctions and rightful power to punish. Consequently, we have to agree with Max Weber that legitimate use of force is a distinct feature of political system, giving it a special quality and importance, and its unity as a system. When the state or governments extends certain facilities then at the same time it possesses power to impose taxes upon the people and punish those who violate those orders.
Almond in his book, “The Policies of Developing Areas”, writes: “Political system is that system of interactions to be found in all independent societies which perform the functions of integration and adaptation (both internally and vis-a-vis other societies) by means of the employment or threat of employment or more or less legitimate physical compulsion”. Thus the political system not only includes governmental institutions such as legislatures, executives, courts, administrative agencies but all structures in their political aspect.
Among these are included formal organisations like parties, interest groups, and media of communication; traditional structures such as kinship ties, caste groupings anomic phenomena such as associations, riots an demonstrations.
Consequently, the political system includes interaction between all the formal and informal institutions. The process of interaction is divided into three phases – input, conversion and output. The Indian Constitution reflects the various interactions as many amendments were brought about to bring out Zamindari abolition and socialism and remove poverty.
(3) Interdependence of Parts:
Interdependence means that when the properties of one component in a system change, all the other components and the system as a whole are affected. In political system the political parties having a wider base and mass media (Television, radio and newspapers) change the performance of all other structures of the system and affect the general working of the system.
Not only that but the emergence of trade unions and pressure groups affect the working of the political parties, the electoral process, the legislature, the bureaucracy and the judicial system. For example, if the government is unable to check the ever rising prices or inflation, then the labourers are bound to demand more wages.
In case the demand is not met by the employers, then the labourers may resort to strike which may become violent in the long run. In that case the employers may call the police and the police may resort to firing in order to quell the disturbances.
In such cases the mill-owners will close the mills. In order to solve this problem the government will have to intervene by appointing a tribunal consisting of the representatives of the labour, the management and the State.
If the dispute is not solved out by the tribunal, then the government will have to pass the legislation fixing the minimum wages and increase the dearness allowance according to the corresponding increase in the price index. The government will fix the bonus etc. All this amply demonstrates how a happening of a great magnitude affects the entire political system.
Political System is comprehensive because it includes all the interactions from the formal as well as informal institutions in the society. For example, it includes the interaction of regionalism, religious upheavals, inflation, party-politics, tactics of pressure groups and social changes brought about by modernisation.
(5) Change of Boundary:
Yet another aspect of the concept of the system is the change of boundary. The political system consists of interacting roles of nationals, subjects, voters, the legislators, bureaucrats and judges. The same individuals who perform role in social and economic system also play their notable role in political systems. When the individuals form interest groups, vote or pay taxes, they change their role from non-political to political ones.
For example, on the Election Day, the citizens leave their farms, plants and offices to go to the polling stations. In this way they are crossing the boundary from economy to politics. Similarly, during the war time the large fluctuations in the boundaries of political system take place. Therefore the boundaries of political system frequently change.
However Almond has given yet another set of characteristics of a political system. These are:
(1) There is universality of political system. It means that political system exists everywhere.
(2) Every political system performs the same functions, though there may be differences in the different political systems and their structures.
(3) Every political system has some structures. It is possible that there may be some specialised structures which may perform more functions than the less specialised structures.
(4) Every political system is mixed in the sense of culture because the system can be more advanced or less advanced.
(5) Every political system is multi-functional and performs a number of functions irrespective of the degree of specialisation.
Functions of the Political System:
A political system performs two types of functions:
(1) Input functions (political functions); and
(2) Output functions (Governmental Functions)
1. Input Functions:
David Easton classifies input functions into two types of demands and supports.
Almonds and Powell classify Demands into:
(1) Allocation of goods and services such as demands for more wages and fixation of working hours, opening of educational institutions, provision of recreational facilities, roads and transportation;
(2) Participation in the political system, such as the right to vote, to hold office, to petition Government bodies and officials, and to organise political associations such as pressure groups and political parties.
(3) Regulation of behaviour such as provision for public safety, control over markets and rules pertaining to marriage, health and sanitation.
(4) Communication and information, such as demands for the affirmation of norms ,the communication of policy intent from policy elites or the display of majesty and power of the political system in time of threats or on ceremonial occasion.
Similarly, the examples of supports which the people get in the political system are:
(1) Material support such as the payment of taxes or other levies and rendering services as labour on public works or military services;
(2) Attention paid to Government communications and the manifestation of respect to public authority, symbols and ceremonials.
(3) Obedience to laws and regulations.
(4) Participatory supports such as voting political discussion, and other forms of political activity:
While David Easton divides Inputs into Demands and Supports, Almond calls them:
(1) Political socialisation;
(2) Political Recruitment;
(3) Interest Articulation;
(4) Interest Aggregation;
(5) Political Communications.
(1) Political Socialisation:
Political Socialisation refers to the process of recruiting individuals into political roles and to give them training in citizenship, political Socialisation acts through various agencies such as family, church, schools, work groups, voluntary associations and media of communications. It is a process of inducting individuals into political culture.
All political systems not only continue but also make their permanent cultures and structures through political socialisation. Due to political socialisation the members of society begin to possess a particular attitude.
(2) Political Recruitment:
Political recruitment starts where political socialization’s role ends. It recruits members of the society out of particular sub- cultures-religious, status, class and the like-and introduces them into specialised roles of political system, trains them in appropriate skills, gives them political values, expectations and effects. So its main concern is to recruit the citizens to enable them to play their special role.
(3) Interest Articulations:
Almond has defined interest articulation as “the process by which individuals and groups make demands upon the political decision-makers. It is the first functional set-up in the conversion process.”
If certain groups within the society do not find sufficient democratic means to ventilate their grievances and satisfy their demands, then their dissatisfaction and utter discontent may erupt into violence. Under such circumstances the government which is the runner of the political system may satisfy their demands or curb their violent activities by force.
(4) Interest Aggregation:
It means that interests, claims and demands of various groups in the society are aggregated or combined. Interest aggregation or combination is achieved by the recruitment of political personnel who are more or less committed to particular pattern of society.
In some systems the legislature, the executive, the bureaucracy, the media of communication, the various political parties and interest groups from the interest aggregation because they reconcile the various interests.
(5) Political Communication:
“Political Communication”, according to Almond, “Is the crucial boundary maintenance function,” autonomy in the media of communication can help the free flow of information from the society to the government. It can communicate the articulation of interest emanating from political parties, legislatures and bureaucracies which themselves can correct the actions of interest groups.
2. Output Functions:
These are the functions performed by the Government in response to the input (political functions):
Rule-making was previously known as legislation. Rule-making has been preferred over legislation because it refers to a specialised structure and explicit process as legislation. Rule-making goes on in every type of government whether democracy, dictatorship or monarchy.
Now-a-days in a democratic set-up the rule-making power is exercised by the legislature or parliament.
(2) Rule Application:-
Rule making was previously known as the execution. The rules made by the legislature or the Executive are enforced by the bureaucracy, therefore its role and importance have considerably increased.
Moreover, rule application also implies that the established goal:, of the society are fulfilled. It also sees their interaction of the laws on the society. Effective implementation of the laws can fulfill the present laws and help in achieving new targets.
(3) Rule Adjudication:-
Rule adjudication was previously known as judicial functions, it is the duty of the judiciary to interpret the laws and punish the guilty .judiciary also resolves the conflicts between the government and citizens and the citizens themselves.