Almond and Coleman have expressed the belief that their structural-functional approach, if studied empirically, can generate a probabilistic theory of political systems. It can tell a lot about them in a probable manner. It can explain their present operations, demarcate stage of development, and show path for future course of action. Use of formal logic and mathematics in collecting relevant data can make the studies even more valid, precise, definite and factual.
Till then, we can make or formulate probabilistic statements. David Truman in his studies of groups, and V.O. Key for political parties have also used words like, ‘by and large’, ‘in general’, ‘if … then’, ‘with greater-frequency’, ‘more or less’ while making their theoretical statements. In their probabilistic theory, they have begun with seven functional categories requisite for the maintenance of a political system. Assuming a system underlying all functions, they have divided them as inputs and outputs.
Their approach separates political structures from political functions. The two are not essentially related to each other. Still, the functions are more important. They can be empirically known through indices and indicators which can further be validated by observable data and information. Analysis of functions leads to certain structures, which ultimately take us to specific structures performing specific functions. Such finding is a mere probability.
Probability of association between specific function and structures can indicate another probability of particular style of functioning, and implications for the maintenance of the system. Thus, we can analyse political systems, and compare them empirically on the basis of seven categories of functions, specialised structures, and their styles of functioning. Eventually, certain probabilistic statements can be made about those systems.
They can further be tested and verified with the help of a wide range of available data and information. Though the value of such probabilities is not known and exact prediction cannot be made, still comparative analysis can be made on the basis of frequency of functions performed by particular structures, and their style of working.
On these three bases, Almond and Coleman who accept the influence of Parsons and Shils on their approach, point out that innumerable patterns or matrices of political systems can be discovered, compared, and empirically verified. However, in the light of these matrices or theoretical hypotheses, in a limited manner, some performance-indicators of functions performed by structures can be selected. These performance-indicators can further be supported by quantitative evidence. But they believe that everything can be proved by statistical or quantitative evidence in due course of time.
The empirical analysis on the basis of structural-functional approach has marched ahead towards the formation of a probabilistic theory. Equilibrium, on the pattern of advanced political systems, is maintained by efficient performance of functions categorised under seven functional requisites. This requires specialised structures, along with their style conducive to equilibrium. At the lowest in traditional oligarchies, there is no autonomous operation of functions under seven categories.
The system in many cases performs little functions. Dynastic monarchy along with other feudal elements is only immutable structure operating in a primordial style. At the next stage, comes the totalitarian oligarchy with its structure dominating the whole societal system by force. Such structures, if not shattered by other forces, breakdown under their own weight. Functions and structures lose their interconnections. Functional requisites lose their identity in that system.
In the modernising oligarchy, there are structures, but some structures, like the army and the bureaucracy, in the name of paving way to modernization or democracy, monopolise all-important functions. Rest of the structures lose their validity, legitimacy, and influence. Their declarations claim to be system-oriented, but in reality lead to a dead end.
When one rises higher on the path of political developments and observes tutelary democracy, he finds structures of democracy exist there but are unaware of its own functions, or ‘appropriate style’. Someone like the director of a drama or film teaches and exhorts the roles to operate, but, under the weight of primary and informal structures, remains unable to move. The next highest stage of development is political democracy, which has both structures and functions but lacks style. They operate in a formal manner, and remain deprived of appropriate socio-economic, and cultural base. Most often, their orientation is anti-equilibrium.
Thus, their probablistic theory implies the path of political development on the basis of seven functional categories. Political development relates to efficiency of these functional variables. It goes from functional requisites to specialised structures, which have to operate in favour of maintaining systemic equilibrium. Greater the specialisation or differentiation of structures regarding various functions, and their appropriate orientation towards systemic equilibrium, greater is the likelihood of political development. Even modern political systems are afflicted with multi-functionality of structures as well as quality of culture.
They can get rid of them (a) if they have specialised autonomous structures, which should have their own boundaries and regulate the performance of their function: these structures should have the capacity to maintain their boundaries; and (b) ‘traditional’ idioms of particularism, specificity, ascription, and affectivity are penetrated by ‘rational’ idioms of universalism, achievement, neutrality and diffuseness.
Indicators relevant to such functional regulation and cultural penetration can be discovered. In that case, a formal theory of political modernization can possibly be developed. It can be used in making prediction for developing countries regarding their direction of political development. Formulation of such a probabilistic theory is difficult, but not impossible.