Almond and Powell specify five types of capabilities of the Political System:
(1) The Extractive Capability:
It refers to the range of the system’s performance of drawing material and human resources from the domestic and international environment. Its study means the study of the flow of resources into the political system.
(2) The Regulative Capability:
It refers to the political system’s exercise of control over the behaviour of individuals and groups. This is, in fact, the distinguishing capability of political systems, the employment of legitimate coercion to control behaviour.
A study of the regulative capability requires the consideration of the questions: What individual and collective actions are affected? What frequency or intensity of intervention is exercised?
(3) The Distributive Capability:
It refers to the allocation of goods, services, honours, statuses and opportunities of various kinds from the political system to individuals and groups in society. It means the study of the activity of the political system as the dispenser or distributor of benefits among individuals and groups.
(4) The Symbolic Capability:
It refers to the rate of effective symbol flow from the political system into the society and the international environment. It includes the study of the affirmation of values by elites, display of flags, troop and military ceremonies, visits by the royalty or high officials, and statements of policy or intent of political leaders.
(5) The Responsive Capability:
It refers to the relationship between inputs and outputs. “Responsiveness is of great concern for political scientists in their normative, explanatory and predictive analysis of political systems.”
It refers to the responsiveness of the political system to internal or external pressures and demands. Its study involves answers to such questions as: To whom is the system responsive? In what political areas is it responsive? How does it manage to sustain a pattern of responsive behaviours?
Almond and Powell also specify the possible factors which can challenge the capabilities of the political system. Four such factors have been identified by them:
(1) The goals and actions of the political elite
(2) The material resources required for the performance of the political system
(3) The organisational apparatus of the political system, and
(4) The levels of support.
By analysing the capabilities and these factors which can challenge the capabilities of the political system, we can describe, explain and even predict about such issues as political change, stability, and development of the political system
The study of the capabilities of the political system can help us:
(i) To empirically study and compare the actual activities of the political systems, i.e., their performances in their domestic and international environments;
(ii) To classify and compare political systems more effectively;
(iii) To deal more directly and effectively with the problems of political change; and
(iv) To enhance not only our capacity for scientific prediction and explanation, but also our capacity to talk about policies as they may affect political change in desired directions.
With all these variables, Almond’s Structural-Functional Approach definitely offers a comprehensive and systematic way of analysing political systems. It can be used both for analysing and comparing the actual functioning of political systems. On the basis of such a study we can attempt to classify political systems and analyse the possible directions in which various political systems can develop.