Political Systems Theory
[I]t is highly useful to depict a political system as a set of interactions through which valued things are authoritatively allocated for a society.
-- David Easton ( 1965, p. 153)
Political activity characterizes not only decision making at the national, state, and local levels within the larger society; it shapes decision making in organizations as well.
The political frame views organizations as arenas of scarce resources where power and influence are constantly affecting the allocation of resources among individuals or groups. Conflict is expected because of differences in needs, perspectives, and life-styles among different individuals and groups. Bargaining, coercion, and compromise are all part of everyday organizational life. Coalitions form around specific interests and may change as issues come and go. Problems arise because power is unevenly distributed or is so broadly dispersed that it is difficult to get anything done. ( Bolman & Deal, 1984, p. 5)
Political science can be viewed as the study, in societies, communities, and even organizations, of the processes by which "valued things are authoritatively allocated" ( Easton, 1965, p. 153). The discipline of political science, with its historical roots in the moral philosophy of the ancient Greeks ( Easton, 1991; Scribner & Englert, 1977), is a changed and divided field of study. Waldo ( 1975) characterized political science in the 19th century in the following terms:
In a view of the entire period from the establishment of the first colleges to 1880, several evolutionary trends are evident. One is simply an increase in the stock of materials on which to draw for instruction, as well as increasing diversity in those materials. The works of Montesquieu, Guizot, Adam Smith, and de Tocqueville, for example, were drawn on to some extent when they became available. Another trend was toward differentiation and secularization. "Philosophy" was becoming differentiated and divided into separate pursuits. Not only was "natural" philosophy separat