David Easton’s ‘systems theory’, though developed for ‘constructivist’ purposes and is a conceptual framework for analysing politics, yet it is useful for constructing an empirical theory of Political Science as well as using it in understanding actual forces operating in a political system. The political actors and citizens can know ‘what’, ‘where’ and ‘how’ of political operations, and take remedial actions. Third world countries can gain a lot from its study and actual use, avoiding many risks, crises, and difficulties. Advanced countries already make use of it in one form or other.
Easton presented his conceptual framework in his The Political System (1953). He elaborated it further, in 1965, in his two books, A Framework for Political Analysis, and A Systems Analysis of Political Life. In the first, he has presented an outline of the conceptual framework of systems analysis. In the next, he has further developed it in detail, but its title is misleading as he has not done therein any actual empirical analysis.
Besides, he has written a large number of articles, and edited many books. He is a proclaimed spokesman of two academic revolutions – behavioural and post-behavioural. The centre of his attention is in bringing about disciplinary integration in Political Science through the evaluation of a general theory. He believes that systems framework can serve his purpose. Later on, it has come out in form of input-output analysis which has proved useful for empirical and practical purposes.
Easton’s input-output analysis is also known as the ‘flow model’. It can be regarded as a form of functionalist analysis. Young finds his framework as ‘the most inclusive systemic approach so far constructed specifically for political analysis by a political scientist’. It is a product of an original insight of a political scientist. It is neither borrowed nor smuggled from other disciplines.
Easton, according to Meehan, is the most consistent and systematic functionalist of Political Science, though he may not agree to that categorisation. He attempts to provide a ‘general’ functional theory of politics. ‘System’ is the broad unit of his analysis. But his ‘system’ is inter- meshed with many ‘inter’ and ‘intra’ systems.
In this matter, he comes closer to the general systems theory. But he is interested in the ‘constructivist’ aspect of the approach, as he does not make its use in conducting empirical research. His concept of ‘system’ is conceptual, analytical, and abstract.
He wants to explicate a conceptual framework which may ultimately emerge as a general theory of totality of political life. Thus, he is the Talcott Parson of Political Science. He is committed to stability, order, and persistence of ‘systems’ but his perspective is political. The concept of ‘system’ takes on towards integration of various disciplines.