Evaluation of Structural and Functional Approach

Structural-functional approach, after its exposition by Almond and Coleman, became very popular in the field of political analysis and compar­ative studies. The approach raised high hopes to develop an empirical political theory. Morton A. Kaplan applied it in the field of international relations. Karl Deutsch, Holt and others spoke of its fruitfulness, in a large number of fields. In Political Science, it has been one of the most popular and empirical approaches. It has given a standard category of comparable concepts which help us in collecting data, events, activities and processes relevant to develop a political theory.

As this approach emphasises interdependence or interaction as the basic unit of a political system, it counterbalances the prevailing trends of atomism and radical individualism. It is empirical in its orientation, and has further been enriched by Merton, Levy and others.

Concepts like en-functional, dysfunctional, nonfunctional, functional and structural requi­sites and prerequisites, intended and recognised functions, unintended and un-recognised functions, pattern-variables, structural differentiation, subsystem autonomy, etc., have proved very useful in the conduct of empirical research. They have provided a standardised terminology for developing a middle-range theory.

Some of the charges raised against early structural-functionalism of Almond and Coleman have also been done away with. Almond and Powell have reformulated their functional perspective as a ‘developmental approach’, aspiring to make an empirical theory of political change. They have gone beyond their early classificatory scheme of functional requisites of developing areas. They have adopted systems perspective in full, and put more emphasis on structure and culture.

Their development syndrome involves the variables of structural differentiation, subsystem autonomy, and secularisation which enable them to describe, explain, and compare all political systems at the levels of maintenance, conversion, and capability. The analysis is spread over to all types of political systems – both developed and developing. They have classified political systems at their performance levels associated with role differentiation, subsystem, independence and secularisation.

In his later exposition, Almond does not suffer from excessive ethnocentrism or Anglophobia, as he accepts that there can be several paths of development, and a system can go back in reverse order. His perspective is now much wider as it enables him to compare capability of political systems at international level. His approach even while acknowledging its limitations is able to deal with, what, how, and why of political change.

Almond is able to earmark a system’s development-problems of state and nation building, participation, and distribution, and point out how struc­tural and cultural changes are made at the three interrelated levels. By and large, his classification-scheme can be empirically analysed and supported by factual data.

His most important contribution is his concept of ‘political investment strategies’ or ‘political development planning’, which would prepare various alternative development programmes keeping leadership patterns and prevailing conditions and environment of the political system in view.

Investment programmes in political development would give preference to various goals and system development-problems, and be able to know the outcome of all available alternatives. It would certainly be helpful in the development of Engineering Branch of Politicology or Political Science.

SAKHRI Mohamed
SAKHRI Mohamed

I hold a bachelor's degree in political science and international relations as well as a Master's degree in international security studies, alongside a passion for web development. During my studies, I gained a strong understanding of key political concepts, theories in international relations, security and strategic studies, as well as the tools and research methods used in these fields.

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