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Identify the main differences between the systems theory as formulated by David Easton and the functionalist theory as set out by Gabriel Almond. Show how each of these theories promote our understanding of comparative politics.

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Identify the main differences between the systems theory as formulated by David Easton and the functionalist theory as set out by Gabriel Almond. Show how each of these theories promote our understanding of comparative politics. Comparative politics is a field of study that enables the systematic study and comparison of the world's political systems. There are various theories associated with the studying and comparing of political systems all which have their strengths and weaknesses. The theories aim at identifying and exploring the various processes, patterns and regularities that are present in and amongst different political systems the world over. The two main theories which will be examined in this essay are the systems theory as proposed by David Easton and the functionalist theory which was developed by Gabriel Almond. The systems theory was devised by David Easton as a response to the much criticized and outdated traditional political approaches of the mid 1950's which mainly revolved around the concepts of 'historicism and empiricism' (Fuchs and Klingemaan, 2003). Easton has been renowned for viewing political processes as being dynamic within which stability is achieved via the establishment of equilibrium between the various inputs and outputs Susser, 1992:181-183). ...read more.


Almond uses this example: 'interest groups provide the mechanism through which political issues are articulated; political parties then address them in a coherent and meaningful way; government in turn enacts public policies to address them; and bureaucracies finally regulate and adjudicate them' (London, 2008). However, political systems are extremely dynamic and are therefore always undergoing change in order to adapt to the changing conditions in the contemporary political landscape. Almond also underlines the role that political culture plays in shaping political systems (Wiseman, 1971:23). Political socialization, recruitment and communication are all ideas that should be taken into account in order to conduct an accurate comparison between two political systems (Monroe, 1997:227). Almond's theory can be seen as a very important approach to comparing political systems. However, like Easton's theory, it has various weaknesses that affect its credibility. Both theories have played pivotal roles in establishing an understanding of the modern political landscape. However, the creation and introduction of the functionalist approach by Gabriel Almond was a major step up from the slightly out dated theories of David Easton and others which had primarily been derived and based around different concepts. ...read more.


The use of models, paradigms and frameworks in comparative politics are beneficial in simplifying ideas thus allowing for an easier understanding of political phenomena (Wiarda, 2005:24). It has been said that 'Comparison is the engine of knowledge', international comparison is critical in ensuring an accurate explanation of political phenomena (Wierda, 2005:37). It is theories such as Easton's and Almond's that allow us to conduct such comparisons in order to enhance our understanding of political systems. For example, Almond emphasizes the idea that in order to compare two political systems one must look further than just what institutions the two countries have in common and more so as to how the various institutions within the countries function (Johari, 1982:77). This differs from Easton's theory which only takes into consideration political systems structural components. Almond's theory provides the mechanism through which a more accurate comparison of political systems can be made due to the fact that it not only takes a political system's structural components into account but also its institutions and how the institutions function within the system (Munck and Snyder, 2007:63-64). It is through such theories that we are able to more effectively analyse and enhance our understanding of political systems as we can directly compare different political systems and identify strengths and weaknesses. ...read more.

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