Explanation of David Easton's System Theory And Input Output Model


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

The system theory is an important theory in comparative politics. A system is defined as a set of 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 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. 


Easton said that any political system has two components -

  1. Input
  2. Output

The input comprise of demand and support. Demand refers to a set of claims, desire, needs and wants made by the general public or a particular group before the government. The demand can be in form of appeals, agitations, elections etc.

Like demands there is also support mechanism that sustains the system. Supports refer to political obedience or values or ideologies or belief system that people have towards the system. 

The support mechanism provides legitimacy to the system. It may be symbol symbolic like waving the flag or singing National Anthem or substantial like attending political meeting or voting regularly. 

Easton argues, out of the political system there exists another system that constitute the environment of the political system. 

This environment can be divided into two parts - intra societal and extra societal.

The intra societal system includes economy, culture, social structure or personalities. These segments are the part of the society of which the political system is itself a part. They shape or influence the conditions under which a political system itself must operate. 

The extra societal system includes all the systems, which lie outside a given society. They are the component of emerging International society which may be called Supra society. 

The International political system and international economic systems would be in the category of extra societal system, which also shape political system of a society. 

Eastern argues political system is separated from other system by means of boundaries. But this boundaries are difficult to identify as political system interacts with other system through means of exchange and interaction.

David Easton argues a political system begins functioning as a result of inputs receives from the environment. Once input is received by the system it begins processing the inputs which is known as conversion process

The conversion process convert input into output in the form of rules to be enforced and policies to be implemented. The output affects the environment and even modifies the input. 

Not all that goes as input, flows in the output unit. In every political system there are certain gatekeepers’ mechanism that decides what valid and invalid demand is. 

In democratic system political parties play the role of gatekeepers, they choose certain demands made by public as valid and legitimate and other demands gets rejected. 

Central to David Easton's system theory is his concept of feedback. This is basically a Communications process. It is a dynamic process through which information about the performance of the system is communicated back to it, which affect the subsequent behavior of the system. 

Merits of David Easton's System Theory :

  1. First, David Easton's system theory offers a framework for scientific analysis of political process.
  2. David Easton's system theory is dynamic and is able to explain the change that that place in politics.
  3. It has normative dimensions 
  4. David Easton's system theory is unified that can be used to study both national and international politics. 

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1. Indian Polity and Governance - Pratiyogita Darpan 

2. Public Administration - Pratiyogita Darpan 

3. Political Science - Extra Issue Pratiyogita Darpan 

Criticism of David Easton's System Theory 

 System analysis suffers from several weaknesses and shortcomings-

  1. David Easton's system theory has been criticized for being too abstract. It said to be too far from empirical reality.
  2. It is not able to explain certain drastic political event like revolutions or ethnic conflict.
  3. David Easton's system theory  does not clearly articulate how conversions or feedback system work or function
  4. It is said that David Easton's system theory supports the status quo. It is status quoits and conservative in nature.
  5. The countries of third world passionately seek change in all spheres of economic, social and cultural life but systems model cannot comprehend to the pace, scale, and nature of change in them.

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