4 Important Input/Output Functions of a Political System

To quote Almond, “All political systems tend to perpetuate their cultures and structures through which the young pass, though the process continues through adult life.

These structures include the family, the church, the school, the work group, voluntary associations, and media of communication, political parties, and government institutions.”

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Political Socialisation can be either manifest, or latent. “It is manifest when it involves the direct communication of information, values or feelings towards political objects.

The civics course in public high schools exemplifies manifest political socialisation. Latent political socialisation is the transmission of non-political attitudes which affect attitudes towards analogous roles and objects in the political system.

Such latent political socialisation may occur with particular force in early experience. Latent political socialisation involves many of the most fundamental characteristics of the general culture which may in turn have a great effect on the political sphere.”

Political Recruitment is concerned with the recruitment of citizens into the specialised roles of the political system. It is the process by which politically socialised people get inducted in political roles. It forms the next stage of Political Socialisation.

(2) Interest Articulation:

Interest articulation is “concerned with the formulation and expression of interest claims and demands for political action.” In the words of Almond, “It is the process by which individuals and groups make demands upon the political decision makers that we call interest articulation.

It is the first functional step in the political conversion process.” Since it occurs at the boundary of the political system, the structures which perform this function determine the character of the boundary between politics and society.

Almond identifies four main interest articulation structures.

These are:

(1) Institutional interest groups

(2) Non-associational interest groups

(3) Anomic interest groups

(4) Associational groups

Institutional Interest Groups include legislatures, political executives, bureaucrats, armies, churches and the like. Non-associational Groups include kinship and lineage groups, ethnic, regional, religious, status and class groups.

These often perform the articulation function intermittently and informally. Anomic Groups spontaneous break through into the political system from the society, e.g., riots, demonstrations and the like.

Although anomic groups articulate interests, they may end up by transferring power (recruitment) changing the constitution (rule-making) and freeing political prisoners (rule application).

Associational interest groups include specialised structures like trade unions, business organisations, professional, civic, educational associations and the like.

They are formed to represent explicitly the interest of a group, to formulate procedures for expressing demands and channelling them to the other political structures parties, legislatures, bureaucrats.

In every Political system, Interest Articulation is particularly important because it marks the boundary between the society and the political system. Groups operate in Society and give rise to the process of creating inputs for the Political System. If groups within the society do not find open channels though which to express their interests and needs, their demands are likely to remain unsatisfied.

The resultant dissatisfaction can erupt into violence or may require suppression by the elite. It is through interest articulation, that the conflicts inherent in the political culture and the social structure become evident. The manner of expression can serve either to intensify the conflict or to reconcile or mitigate it.

(3) Interest Aggregation:

It is the third important input function. Interest Aggregation is achieved “either by the formulation of general policies in which articulates interests may be combined, accommodated and compromised or by the recruitment of political personnel who are more or less committed to a particular pattern or policy.”

Political parties constitute the main instrument of interest aggregation. Almond has also classified the party system on the basis of (1) organisation (they could be authoritative, dominant, non-authoritative, competitive two-party and competitive multi-party), and (2) style (they could be secular-pragmatic-bargaining, absolute-value-oriented or ideological, particularistic or traditional).

Interest Aggregation, thus, refers to the more inclusive levels of the combinatory process. “Pressure groups and parties in a developed modern system have distinctive and regulative functions, the first for articulation, the second for aggregation.

In some systems, however, the aggregation function may be performed by the legislature, the bureaucracy, the media of communication, and the interest groups especially of the general or civic type as well as by the political parties.

(4) Political Communication:

Political communication is the fourth input function. All functions, of course, are performed by means of communication. Almond has compared political communication with the circulation of blood which he describes as the medium through which other functions in the political system are performed.

To quote him, “It is not the blood but what it contains that nourishes the system. The blood is the neutral medium carrying claims, protests and demands through the veins to the heart, and from the heart through the arteries flow the outputs of rules, regulations and adjudications in response to the claims and demands.”

Political Communication determines the flow of information between the society and the political system. Political communications involve exchanges among all political structures and political roles, communications run in the whole of Political System and all its functions are characterised by it.

Almond holds that it is important that “in modern systems some media of communication have developed a vocational ethic of neutral or objective communication and perform their functions separately from the other political functions.

Political Systems with homogeneous political cultures and autonomous and differentiated structures of interest articulation and aggregation (e.g., U.K. and U.S.A.) have, to the greatest extent, developed autonomous and differentiated media of communication.”

It can communicate “the articulation of interests emanating from political parties, legislatures and bureaucracies which themselves can correct the actions of interest groups.