structural functionalist theory

Topics: Political parties, Politics, Elections Pages: 5 (1724 words) Published: January 18, 2014
This essay is an attempt to discuss the problems political parties in Zambia are facing by using structural-functionalist and their contributions to liberal democracy. The academic piece shall begin by defining the key terms; those being, structural-functionalist, political parties and liberal democracy. This will be followed by a comprehensive discussion of political parties, focused on, with examples, the Zambian scene. Lastly, a brief conclusion based on the discussion will be outlined. “Functionalism holds that society is a complex system whose various parts work together to produce stability and solidarity” (Giddens 2006:20). It also views society in terms of their functions. Merton (1968), made an important distinctions between manifest and latent functions. The manifest functions of an institution are open, stated, conscious functions. They involve intended, recognized consequences of an aspect of the society such as the university’s role in classifying academic competence and excellence. By contrast, latent functions as unconscious or unintended functions and may reflect hidden purposes of an institution. Structural-functionalist acknowledges that not all parts of the society contribute to its stability all the time. This function refers to an element or process in society that may actually disrupt as social system or lead to a decrease in stability” (Schaefer, 2004: 14). Social life depends on unity and cooperation of a group. The functionalist points out that for society to be stable the different parts of the society must contribute to the stability of society. For instance, the teachers should teach the society to reduce illiteracy, the doctors are making sure that society is healthy, and the police maintain order. Hence society becomes stable since everyone is contributing. According to MacIver (1962), a political party is an association organized in support of some principles or policy which constitutional means it endeavors to make the determinant of government. Not only that, a political party consists of a group of citizens, more or less organized, who act as a political unit and who by the use of their voting power, aim to control the government and carry out their general policies. Similarly, a political party is different from a pressure group, though in some cases the distinction between the two is almost blurred. According to Ball (1976), It may be said that a political party is an organization of numerous people who are openly committed to broad matters of public policy and who want to assume direct responsibility for their policies by seeking monopolize power or share it with other parties in a position of political power. According to Barker (1951), the panorama of a party system is so fluid that a good number of pressure groups behave like political parties. The cases of fragmentation and polarization of political parties may also be taken note of. It is also possible that some minor political organizations emerge at the time of elections and then they disappear. But the most essential fact remains that three, four even more parties manage to share power. For instance, in Zambia before voting is taken place, there are many parties heard like Movement for Multiparty Development (MMD), United Party for National Development (UPND), Patriot Front (PF) and Heritage Party (HP). But at the end of elections only few will be available to be strong holding oppositions party for example the UPND and MMD. Political parties act as a check against the tendency of absolutism and totalitarianism, ideologies also known by names such as ‘Caesarism’ and ‘Bonapartism’ (CITE). When one party forms government or few form coalition to hold power, other parties play a role of opposition. It not only keeps the government vigilant, it also prevents it from being arbitrary and irresponsible. The leaders of the opposition expose acts of corruption, nepotism, scandals and maladministration in which great men in power are...

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