Considering the development of an all-inclusive and universal or abstract theory as unattainable by empirical methods, political scientists have adopted the limited perspective of ‘ systems theory’. Several disciplines have contributed to its making and development. It represents interdisciplinary nature of modern Political Science. ‘Systems’ concept makes empirical and comparative study possible even of those political institutions, apart from the state, such as, international political system, city, political party, etc.
The concept is helpful in studying changes like transformation, feedback, exchange, tension, conflict and development. Besides Easton, Gabriel Almond, Talcott Parsons, Karl Deutsch, Morton Kaplan and others have made such studies. Systems theory analyses interactions, structures, institutions, and processes pertaining to politics. Politics involves power, authority, physical coercion, and allocation of values for society.
In all shades of politics, political processes, and structures are enmeshed with several other elements, factors, and considerations. As such, a ‘political system’ cannot be physically separated from its non-political aspects, and is, therefore, usually understood and studied in an analytical manner. Society as a whole makes up the general social system, which contains many subsystems.
Political system is one of these subsystems. When the political system is to be studied as a whole along with its intra-subsystems, then, it is treated as a ‘system’. Besides that, ‘system’ can be considered as a part of environment. Thus, the concept of ‘system’ both in interlocking micro and macro forms saves us from the error of considering ‘systems’ as isolated, separate, or independent entities.
Besides throwing light on their interconnections, one can examine their discrete nature, and separate empirical existence. According to Almond, the political system in a society, is ‘legitimate, order maintaining’ or transforming system’. Wiseman maintains that every political system involves political structures, actors, or roles performed by their agents, interaction-patterns existing between individuals or collectivities, and political processes. In the ‘political system’ of Kaplan also, there are recognisable multivariate interests.
Instead of always being opposite, sometimes they are complementary to each other. There are regular structures and channels to reach the decisions and judgments related to particular interests. General rules are prescribed to govern the actors and activities relating to particular decisions and judgments. Easton, therefore, regards the political system engaged in decision-making and implementing the authoritative allocation of values for society.
A political system, according to Michels, has the following features:
(a) It is a permanent entity, existing amidst a broader environment and includes many other units;
(b) It consists of an identifiable and measurable set of interdependent elements or variables;
(c) It has boundaries which keep it separate from general environment;
(d) It is constituted around certain problems, objectives or goals, and builds up certain structures;
(e) Along with the increase of specific problems and evolution of goals, it develops specific structures and processes, leading to more and more differentiation.
Still political scientists, sociologists, and political sociologists have analysed political systems with varying frames of references and different goals. More important among them are Talcott Parsons, David Easton, Gabriel Almond, and Morton Kaplan. Perspectives of Parsons and Easton are more conceptual. Almond and Kaplan have gone towards empirical research and theory making. Thus there are many variations among them.