Explanation of David Easton's System Theory | Political System | Input Output Model

Explanation of David Easton's System Theory | Political System | System Analysis | Input Output Model | 2019

David Easton's System Theory is one of the most significant theories in comparative politics. A system is characterized as a set of inter-related units, which interact with each other on a continuous basis. 

The overall interactions within the units of the system allows the system to function and thus an equilibrium is attained.

David Easton is the first political thinker to use the system analysis to understand the political process. He has explained system theory in his book ‘A Framework for political analyses’. 

Easton defines the political system as ‘a set of interaction as abstracted from the totality of the social behavior, through which values are authoritatively allocated for society.


According to David Easton, any political system has two components

  • Input
  • Output

    The input comprises of demand and support. Demand refers to a set of claims, desires, needs and wants made by the citizens or a particular group before the government. The demand can take the form of appeals, agitations, elections, etc.

    Like demands, there is also a support mechanism which is very essential for the system to sustain. Supports refer to political obedience or values or ideologies or belief system that people have towards the system. 

    The support mechanism gives authenticity to the system. It can be symbolic like waving the flag or singing National Anthem or substantial like participating in a political meeting or casting vote regularly.

    Easton argues, outside of a political system there exists another system that creates the environment of the political system.

     This environment can be classified into two parts

    1. intra societal and
    2. extra societal.
    The intra societal system incorporates the economy or financial system, culture, social structure, etc. These components are part of the society of which the political system itself is a part. They shape or influence the conditions under which a political system must perform different functions.


    The extra societal system incorporates all the systems, which exist outside a given society. They are the part of rising International society which may be regarded as Supra society. The International political framework and worldwide monetary frameworks would be in the classification of extra cultural frameworks, which additionally shape the political arrangement of society.

    According to David Easton political system is isolated from another system by means of boundaries. But these boundaries are difficult to distinguish because the political system interacts with other systems through means of exchange on a continuous basis.

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    David Easton argues a political system starts working when it receives inputs from the environment. When the input is received by the political system it begins processing the inputs. The process of processing the inputs is known as the conversion process. 

    This process turns the input into output in the form of rules to be enforced and policies to be implemented. The output influences the environment and can even change or modify the input. 

    One thing is noteworthy here that not all that enters into the political system as input, flow in the output unit. In every political system, there are certain instruments or mechanisms that chooses what valid and invalid demand is. 

    In a democratic system, political parties assume the job of gatekeeper mechanism. Political parties pick certain demands raised by the citizen as valid, authentic and legitimate and reject other irrelevant demands.

    One of the integral parts of David Easton’s political system is his concept of feedback. This is fundamentally a Communications procedure. It is a process through which information about the performance of the political system is conveyed back to it, which influences the subsequent functions and behavior of the system.

    Buy- The Political System, An Inquiry Into the State of Political Science  by David Easton 
    At- Amazon.com


    Merits of David Easton's system theory:

    1. First, it provides a framework for logical and scientific analysis of political procedure.
    2. David Easton's system theory is dynamic and can clarify the change that that spot in governmental issues.
    3. David Easton's system theory has normative dimensions
    4. David Easton's system theory is unified that can be utilized in the study- both national and worldwide governmental issues.

    Criticism of David Easton's System Theory:

    David Easton's system theory suffers from several inadequacies and shortcomings-
    1. It has been scrutinized for being excessively theoretical. It said to be too far from observational reality.
    2. It can't clarify certain exceptional political occasions like revolution or ethnic clash.
    3. It does not provide a clear idea about how conversions or feedback mechanism performs its functions.
    4. It is said that David Easton's system theory supports the stability or status quo of the system. It is status quoits and rigid in nature, which may not accommodate itself with the change in society.
    5. The third world countries energetically look for a change in all aspects of economic, social and cultural life but David Easton's system theory can't grasp the pace, scale, and nature of progress in them.
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