13 Most Important Weakness of Almond’s Structural-Functional Approach to Political Science

The critics point out several weaknesses of Almond’s Structural-Functional Approach:

(1) Fails to define an Independent Society:

Almond defines political system as a “set of interactions to be found in all independent societies. “He, however, nowhere explains which society is or can be treated as an independent society.

(2) Gives no place to Sub-systems:

It ignores the study of para-political systems which are at work in each society at large.

(3) Wrong to define Political Communication only as an Input Function:

Almond arbitrarily classifies political communication as an input function. Political communication is at work at all the three levels: input, conversion and output.

(4) No mention of Feedback Process:

Almond’s model of political system ignores the importance of feedback functions. He assumes feedback as a part of the communication process.

(5) First Model was static:

Almond’s first model is a static model with status-quo commitment. The concept of Equilibrium is inadequate.

(6) Can be used only for studying Developed Political Systems:

Almond’s approach can be applied more to the developed political systems of the West and less to the developing political systems of Asia and Africa.

(7) Definition of Political Development not objective:

Almond’s concept of political development is biased because he has used variables and concepts drawn from the theory of Western liberal democratic political systems for conceptualising political development.

It is writ large in conceptualising it as structural differentiation, sub-system autonomy and secularisation. It completely ignores the study of economic variables of development. Further, Almond and Powell arbitrarily classify systems as traditional, developing and developed.

(8) Gives no places to the study of Crises and Revolution:

It fails to take into account such issues as political decay, crisis, and revolutions. Change is wrongly conceptualised as development.

(9) Cannot be used for studying Non-democratic Political Systems:

Holt and Turner opine that Almond’s approach cannot be used for studying totalitarian and authoritarian political systems because in such systems, the seven functions of the political system cannot be identified and analysed.

(10) Too many Variables:

Almond’s structural-functional approach is very complex. Its operationalisation demands analysis of a large number of functions, structures, capabilities, development and other variables.

(11) Admits only Macro Studies:

Almond’s approach has a weakness insofar as, like the systems approach in general, it can be applied more for macro-analysis and less for micro­analysis.

(12) Less Importance to the study of Structures:

While talking about the study of structures and functions of the political system, Almond concentrates and places all emphasis upon the study of functions. The study of structures finds little importance in his approach.

(13) Can lead to Contra Dictionary Results:

When Holt and Turner applied this approach for comparative politics studies, they found that it produced opposing results. When they compared the (erstwhile) Soviet Political System with the Indian Political System, they found the latter to be a developed system but when they compared it with the US Political System; they found the Indian Political System to be, at best, a transitional political system.

Thus, the structural-functional approach, in general, and the one used by Almond and his associates, in particular, has been severely criticised by the critics.

Despite these shortcomings, the Structural-Functional Approach has a great merit. In the words of Young, It is quite attractive for comparative analysis of political systems, it deals for the most part with the manageable collection of variables and it provides a set of standardised categories that can be applied successfully over widely disparate political functions.”

Its categories and concepts are less broad in terms of scope than those of the general systems theory, but they provide considerable richness for the purpose of orientation and data selection in their own domain.

“The greatest strength of the Structural-Functional Approach lies in the area of pattern- maintenance and systemic regulation. Here, the essentially static elements of the approach display themselves to the best advantage.”

Almond’s structural-functional approach has definitely helped and improved the use of Structural-Functionalism in Politics, Comparative Politics and Political Sociology studies.