Easton’s Conceptual Framework on the Modern Political Theory

“Conceptual framework is related to the formation of a broad-gauge theory for the whole discipline. It is a sieve to sort out, select or reject observed facts: a compass for indicating direction, a gauge reporting the state of development of a science at a particular time”-David Easton.

David Easton should be regarded as the greatest advocate of the need of a general theory in Political Science. From the very beginning, he has been contributing to it from all sources.

His own ingenuity to develop an empirical theory of political life is unique. Some of his works are: The Political System, 1953; A Framework of Political Analysis, 1965; Systems Analysis of Political life, 1965; and Varieties of Political Theory (ed.), 1965- Besides, he is editing Contem­porary Political Theory series of books on theory. For his contribution to a general political theory, he has been rightly called as Talcott Parsons of Political Science. He has really redeemed American Political Science from fruitless hyper factualism, speculative thinking, and valueless theorising.

He wants an empirical grand political theory which would bring about integrity, unity and coherence in Political Science, and be able to give direction and set goals for society. Easton’s concept of theory contains both values and empirical study of facts and events. His anguish concerning hitherto prevalent theories is that they are history-ridden, speculative, and unaware of contemporary problems of society. It is devoid of creative values and factual data. His eyes are mainly set on defence of values, a task which can be done properly by pursuing behavioural studies.

However, he himself has not been able to produce an explanatory empirical political theory. He has provided an outline or a theoretical framework which would guide and help scholars to produce a theory so as to provide an autonomous identity for the discipline. Easton calls it a conceptual framework. It is a set of mutually Exclusive exhaustive categories.

According to Easton, it is a system of working hypotheses adopted and used only as long as it helps to orient political research in such a way that socially significant problems are better understood. Duverger observes that all scientific research ‘is conducted within conceptual framework. This, in the first place, implies a classification of facts, and a more or less precise typology. This, in turn, supposes an accurate idea of the phenomena studied and the relations between them – in other words hypothetical ‘theories’ and ‘systems’.

In fact, Easton uses political theory for conceptual framework, and vice versa. Either of them (i) enables the researcher to identify the significant political variables and describe their mutual relations; (ii) provides categories for comparison and fills up the gaps where more empirical research is needed; and (iii) makes research more reliable and fruitful for other researchers. For interpreting the life processes of the political system, one requires a scheme of symbolic representation called by Easton as the ‘conceptual framework’ or the ‘structure of analysis’ which is different from concrete political system or structure of institutions, popularly known as government.

Conceptual framework is related to the formation of a broad-gauge theory for the whole discipline. It is a sieve to sort out, select or reject observed facts: a compass for indicating direction, a gauge reporting the state of development of a science at a particular time. It is a flexible conceptual apparatus, in a state of constant flux, and can be changed in the light of collected facts. One requires an analytical framework or a conceptual scheme prior to the collection or selection of facts, and to put them in order for drawing out empirical generalisations.

The key variable in Easton’s frame of reference is ‘polities’, which consists in the interactions pertaining to authoritative allocation of values for society. He looks at these interactions in the form of a system which persistently performs the task of allocating of values. He likes empirically to observe the system and the way in which it persistently performs its task. For this purpose, he presents the concepts of ‘input’ and ‘output’ along with ‘feedback’ and others.

As his framework deals with political processes, it is dynamic. The framework, on the one hand, keeps away the researcher from concentrating on too-narrow a field, while on the other, stops him from being lost into a field too wide. Along with disciplining the subject of politics to a higher level, it provides all important dimensions and parameters for the development of an empirical theory. However, it may be made clear that his conceptual framework is not a theory, and totally lacks explanatory power.

SAKHRI Mohamed
SAKHRI Mohamed

I hold a Bachelor's degree in Political Science and International Relations in addition to a Master's degree in International Security Studies. Alongside this, I have a passion for web development. During my studies, I acquired a strong understanding of fundamental political concepts and theories in international relations, security studies, and strategic studies.

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