What are the perspectives of public policy ?

To find out how a political system can realize its goal, David Easton would seek answers to these questions: “What are the actual authoritative policies adopted by a society ? How are they determined and how are they put into effect?” Thus all activities involved in the formulation and execution of social policy i.e. the policy-making process would constitute the political system.

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Policy is not just a decision of legislature or government because its implementation will depend on an administrator, who can reformulate or even destroy it. The study of policy includes an examination of the functioning and determinants of both the legal and the actual policy practices. Easton says: “If the law directs that all prices shall be subject to a specified form of control, but black markets take root and the appropriate officials and the society as a whole accept their existence the actual policy is not one of price control alone. It also includes the acceptance of black markets.”

Almond discussed public policy in terms of the capabilities of a political system. The novelty in the capabilities approach is that it explains public policy in empirical terms. It is incorrect to say that democratic system follows a particular course of domestic and foreign policy. We know that some democracies have followed social welfare and economic nationalization policies, while others have been committed to the policy of non-intervention in economic and social life more rigidly. The United States before the depression followed a policy of limited intervention, which was changed by President Roosevelt into a “New Deal” welfare policy.


The extractive capability of a political system refers to the range of policies and system performance in drawing material and human resources from the domestic and international environments.

The regulative capability refers to the political system’s policies for controlling the behaviour of individuals and groups. In the United States, the political system now regulates many sectors of economic life, it protects consumers from monopoly pricing, trade unions from suppression or businessmen from unfair practices.

The distributive capability refers to the policies regarding the allocation of goods, services, honours, statuses and opportunities of various kinds to groups and individuals in the political system.

Marxist theory has argued that the class structure of a society determines the structure and process of the political system and also its policies and performance in society and in the international environment. Marxist theorists believed that the capitalist form of society produced a political system dominated by the bourgeoisie, acting in its own interest and following a policy of international aggression in order to maximize market and profits.


Ralph Miliband speaks of the state system within the political system. Implemented at six different levels of the state system : (1) the government (2) the administration (3) the military and police (4) the judicial apparatus (5) the units of sub-central government and (6) parliamentary assemblies. The state elite, represented by presidents, prime ministers, cabinet ministers, top military men, judges of the higher courts, high civil servants, a few parliamentary leaders, control the policy — making process in the political system.

Of course, the state system is not synonymous with the political system, which includes parties and pressure groups, even giant corporations, other capitalist firms, Churches, the mass media, etc. Both Ralph Miliband and C. Wright Mills have asserted that power elite consisting of (a) top capitalists (b) top military leaders and (c) top political leaders control the policy-making process and wield real decision – making power in all political systems of advanced capitalist countries.

Analyzing the relationship of the political system of advanced capitalism to the economically dominant class, Ralph Miliband concludes, “It may well be found that the relationship is very close indeed and the holders of state power are, for many different reasons, the agents of private economic power – that those who wield that power are also, therefore, and without unduly stretching the meaning of words, an authentic ‘ruling class’.”

While David Easton and Gabriel Almond regard the formulation and execution of policies as a liberal, pluralistic process based en demands and supports of interest groups engaged in competition, C. Wright Mills and Ralph Miliband believe that policies in the political system of advanced capitalist countries are dictated by the leading members of a power elite drawn from three segments: corporate capita!, top military generals and senior political leaders working as close allies.

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