Political System in India: Origin, Meaning and Approaches

Political System in India: Origin, Meaning and Approaches are described below:

Origin and meaning on Political System:

Origin-Since the middle of the twentieth century the Indian Political Scientists have started to use more and more the term political system and they have discarded the terms like government, state and nation to indicate political system.

It was in 1956 that the Society for the Advancement of General System Research was set up. But the first earnest attempts were made by David Hasten and Gabriel Almond to study the political system on the basis of Systems Theory.

After this the other writers like Mitchell, Karl Deutsch, Richard Synder and Kaplan etc. made also efforts in this direction.

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Meaning of the Political System:


According to Friedrich, “When several parts that are distinct and different from each other compose a whole, bearing a defined functional relation to each other which establishes mutual dependence of these parts Upon each other so that the destruction of the one entails the destruction of the whole, then such a constellation shall be called a system”.

According to David Easton, “Political system is that system of inter-action in society through which binding and authoritative allocations of value are made implemented”. He further says that, “the idea of political system proves to be an appropriate and indeed unavoidable starting point in research.

Although there is ‘ten uncertainty about the unity of Political Science as a discipline, most students of Political Science do feel quite instinctively that research into political aspects of life does differ from inquiry into any other, sufficiently so to constitute a separate intellectual enterprise”.


Almond and Powell hold that, “the political system includes not only governmental institutions such as legislatures, courts and administrative agencies, but all structures in their political aspects. Among these, there are traditional structures such as kinship lies and caste-groupings and anomic phenomena such, is assassinations, riots and demonstrations, as well as formal organisations like parties, interest groups and media of communication”.

David M. Wood says that, political system is “as set of inter-related variables conceived to be politically relevant and treated as if they could be separated from other variables conceived to be politically relevant and immediately relevant to politics”.

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Almond offers more details about the political system and asserts, it is “that system of inter-action to be found in all independent societies which performs the functions of inter-action and adoption (both internally and vis-a-vis other societies) by means of the employment or threat of employment, of more or less legitimate physical compulsions.


The political system is the legitimate order maintaining or transforming system in the society. We use the term “more or less” to modify legitimacy because we do not want to conclude from our definition political systems, like the totalitarian ones, where the degree of legitimacy may be very much in doubt, revolutionary systems, where the use of legitimacy may be the process of change; or non-Western systems, in which there may be more than one legitimate system in operation”.

David Easton is of the view that in a system there is input and output functions. He has included in the political socialisation recruitment, interest articulation and interest aggregation. In so far as interest communications are concerned, he includes in them rule making, rule application and rule adjudication. In a political system, there is also a feed-back process. It is process with which decision makers in a system try to find out reaction of their decisions and what problems the decisions have created.

Robert Dahl is of the view that “A political system is a set of inter-action, abstracted from the totality of the social behaviour through which values are authoritatively allocated for a society”. He thus believed that political system was just a part of the wider social system.

Though different scholars have laid emphasis on different aspects of the political system in their definitions, they agree at least on one point, viz. They associate the political system with the use of legitimate physical coercion in societies.

For example, Dahl speaks of power, rule and authority, Lass-well and Kaplan talk of severe deprivations and David Easton speaks of authoritative, allocation of values. Max Weber rightly says that, the legitimate force is that which runs through the action of political system and imparts it a special equality and importance.

In short, in a political system, we also include all social and physical environments which the whole system works. David Easton holds the view that “the political system is the most inclusive system of behaviour in a society for the authoritative allocation of values.”

Characteristics of a Political System:

We have clarified the meaning of the political system according to modern American concepts. Almond has highlighted above three characteristics of a political system viz. comprehensiveness, inter­dependence and independent boundaries.

By comprehensiveness he means that it is not the legal structures alone like parliament, executives, bureaucracies and courts or even formal structures like political interests, groups and media of communication, but in it, is included all the social structures like kinship, lineage, status and caste groups as well as anomic phenomena like riots, street demonstrations and the like. It also means that the system as a whole works and if one component changes, the other components of the system are also affected and change accordingly.

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Almond and Powell have further clarified their point of view in the following words:

“In political systems the emergence of mass parties or of media of mass communication, changes the performance of all the other structures of the system and affects the general capabilities of the system in its domestic and foreign environments. In other words, when one variable in a system changes in magnitude or in quality, the other are subjected to strain and are transformed, the system changes its pattern of performance or the unruly component is disciplined by regulatory mechanisms”.

The two characteristics of the political system have been explained. Third characteristic of the political system is independent boundaries.

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Almond and Powell highlight this point thus:

“The boundaries of political system are subject to relatively large fluctuations. During war-time the boundaries become greatly extended as large numbers of men are recruited into military service, as business firms are subjected to regulations and as internal security measures are taken. In an election the boundaries again are greatly extended as voters become politicians for a day. With the return to more normal conditions, the boundaries of a political system contract”.

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There are different approaches to political science which are mentioned below:

Traditional Approach:

Traditional approach is also called historical approach. The philosophers who adopted this system are Plato, Aristotle, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Hegal, Kant, T.H. Green, Bentham, John, Stuart Mill, Austin and Dicey. These philosophers confined their studies mainly to the executive, legislature and judiciary as they believed that round these institutions every other political institution revolved. They studied these institutions not in isolation but studied their original and development etc. or the historical basis and how they assumed their present form.

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Moreover they compared the various institutions of the world and then came to certain conclusions. Their approach held goods till the behavioural revolution in political science in the middle of the 20th century. Their approach is not considered even now superfluous because their thought is still taught in the educational institutions and the universities.

Marxian Approach:

Karl Marx was a great dynamic political philosopher of the 19 the century. His ideas have influenced many countries and in practically half of the world, these have been revolutions due to his inspiring ideas. Lenin was a great follower of Karl Marx and he brought about a revolution in Russia in November, 1917.

After that Mao followed Karl Marx and brought about revolution in China in 1949. After the Second World War, there have been communist revolutions in Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, East Germany and Vietnam.

Karl Marx’s theory about the present system was based on this fact that the State was a capitalist institution which was always controlled by the . The capitalist class always exploited the labour class which was the real producer of Wealth.

The means of production and distribution were controlled by the capitalists. The capitalist class always exploited the labour class in its own interest its profits were based on depriving the labour4heir due. It will never give up its political and economic power until and unless it is thrown away by means of revolution. Therefore, he gave a clarion call to all the workers of the world to unit, as they had to lose nothing but their chains. They were brothers in common exploitation.

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He laid special emphasis on the materialistic or economic interpretation of history. According to him the capitalists by controlling the means of production and distribution also controlled not only the political but social and economic structure of the society as well.

He stressed economic aspect of life specially. According to him every other activity in the society revolved round economics. All social and political activities are based on economic activities. If by means of revolution, the workers control the stale, then the changes in the social and economic life can also be brought.

He was of the opinion that capitalism carried the seeds of its own decay and by establishing monopolies in the international markets; it was reducing the small capitalists to the status of workers.

Thus the ranks of the workers were swelling who after being united will throw away the State and the capitalists and living about a different socialist system, which will give the labourers their due and eliminate the exploiting class altogether. When there are no classes, the state will wither away. The State will be retained temporarily when the dictatorship which the dictatorship of the proletariat class will be established.


The Marxian approach to politics lays too much emphasis on economic aspect and ignores the rest of the factors.

Structural-Functional Approach:

It is closely related to the political system which we have already explained in detail. However, it is essential to understand as to what is structure and what is function and what is their mutual relationship. Oran Young in ‘Systems of Political Science’ has said that “A function is generally defined as the objective consequences of a pattern of action for the system in which it occurs. A function is thus concerned with a pattern of action. In other words it is related to a system. Closely related with function is functionalism”.

Now the question arises what is functionalism. Williuni Flanigan and Edwin Fogelman say that, “In its widest usage functionalism means simply that in analysing some phenomena, the political scientists will be concerned with, among other things, their junctions m the sense of purpose served by the phenomena”, Gariel Almond is closely associated with structural-functional approach.

He has stated five political functions namely political socialization, political recruitment, interest articulation, interest aggregation and political communication. Governmental functions have their parallel in three branches of the government and are rule-making, rule-application and rule-adjudication.

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All the branches of the government (legislature, executive and judiciary) perform important function. However, some extra-legal forces like political parties’ pressure groups, voters, social groups, castes and communities and professional groups are always active in society and they also influence the functions and the structure of the political system.

Almond and Powell further say, “A political system is made of the increasing roles of the nationals, subjects, voters, as the case may be with legislatures, bureaucrats and judges. The same individuals who perform roles in systems such as economy the religious community, the family and voluntary association. As individuals expose themselves to political communication, from interest groups, vote or pay taxes, they shift from non-political to political roles. One might say that on the Election Day citizens leave their farms, plants and offices to go to the polling places, they are crossing the boundary from the economic to the polity”.

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