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The State Is A Central Theme Of Political Science

Updated: Nov 13, 2022

The State, Elements of State, Distinguish State with Society, Association, Government and Nation

Explain Meaning of State

The state is a central theme of political science. It Is the be all and end all Of Political science and the study of political science revolves around the state. It Is the super organization in society which controls and coordinates the activities of individuals and associations within Its territorial domain. The state came into existence for the bare necessities of man and it continues to exist for the sake of the good life. Here, it is to be pointed out that the state exists in and through law. The main responsibility of the state is to provide security peace, order, and good governance to its people, who continuously and habitually obey its laws In short, the term state refers to the permanent institution which exercises sovereign power within a definite territory.

Definitions of State:-

1)According to Woodrow Wilson:- The state is a people organized for law within a definite! territory.

2)According to Aristotle.- The state is a union of families and villages having for its end a

perfect and self-sufficing life, by which we mean a happy and honorable life.

3)According to J. W. Garner:- State is a community of persons, more or less numerous,! permanently occupying a definite portion of territory, independent or nearly so, ofI external control and possessing an organized government to which the great body of inhabitants render habitual obedience.

Personal observation:- The study reveals that the state exists when people settled in the country under its own sovereign government. It has also been observed that the state is; a politically organized community of people, which is occupying a definite portion of territory and is exercising sovereign power through its government over all the persons and places falling ii its territory and is not under any external control.

Elements of State:- The statement of different political scientists on four (4) elements of the state. They are:-

1) population :- the state is a human institution. There, the population is an essential element of the state .without population there can be no state. a population can be more or less but it has to be there. However, the population can constitute a state only when it is united by the condition of interdependence by the condition of interdepends consciousness of common interest and for common rules of behavior and institutions. Lastly, an uninhabited territory cannot be called a state.

(A)What should be the size of population? How many people are needed to make a state?

There is no hard and fast rule as to what should be the ideal number of population for a state. But there is a controversy among political thinkers presiding the numerical strength of the population which a state should possess.

The Greek philosopher Plato suggested that an ideal state should have a population of 5040. Whereas the French philosopher Rousseau fixed the population of an ideal state at 10,000. Aristotle said that the population of a state should neither be so small as to become a source of insecurity nor should be so large as to create problems for a peaceful life. He was in favour of optimum population.

In modern times, it is difficult to put limits on the size of population. In our time. The population of states varies greatly from the few thousands to the many millions. For example-China and India as the most populous state having more than 100 crores of population and Monaco and San Marino with a population of some thousands.

(B)Population of a state can both be an asset and liability for the state:- Large population is an asset in some extent. However, it can be a liability if the resources of the state are not adequate for its maintenance. One of the main problems faced by developing countries is overpopulation. Thus, there should be a happy balance between the size of the population and material wealth of the state.

(C)Lastly, mere size of population dose not determine the national power of a country. Material progress depends on the quality of population.

(2)Fixed territory:- International law demands the possession of a fixed territory as the essential attribute of the state. The enforcement of such international obligations entails the demarcation of state boundaries for finding out their real identity. Therefore, fixed territory is also regarded as an essential element of the state. Because state is a territorial unit. It cannot exist in the air or at the sea.

Territory is usually a geographical phenomenon, dividing different states by sea, mountains or other big natural barriers. Without territory, a state cannot be visualized. For example-Nomads who wander from place to place and do not settle down on a particular piece of land permanently do not constitute a state. It is an evidence which has proved that fixed territory is an essential attribute of state.

Territory of a state Includes the land, water and air space within its boundaries, it al^ extends usually a distance of 12 miles Into the sea from its coast is known as territorial waters. It Is to be pointed out that two states cannot co-exist on the same territory.

There Is no definite limit of territory of a state. A state can have a large or small territory. According to International law, all states are equal in status and right, no matter how unequal they are In population and area. It is claimed that smaller states are good for efficient administration and inculcating among the people a sense of unity and love for the state. However, the truth is that a small state is at a disadvantage in its relation with larger ones. Small states are less secure than big states and remote possibility of attaining economic of the availability of resources they are economically self-sufficient.

(3)Organized government:- People occupying a definite territory cannot form a state unless they are politically organized unless they are politically organized i.e,, unless they possess a government. The government is the concrete and visible instrument of state power. The authority of state is exercised by the government; functions of the state are performed by the government. The laws of the State are made, declared and enforced and enforced by the government; justice is dispensed by the judicial organ of the government. The government is responsible for the maintenance of law and order and for the provision of public utility services. Therefore, without government the population would be an incoherent, unorganized, anarchic mass with no means of collective action. Professor Garner describes government as the agency through which common policies are determined and by which common affairs are regulated. The study points out that without the government there would be lawlessness and anarchy and ultimately the state would be dissolved. All key national to sign, what military action to take etc. are taken by the government. In short; government is that group of individuals who control the operation of the state at any particular time.

From the study, it has been observed that the government and state should not be treated as co-terminus. The government may rise and fall without disturbing the identity of state. Lastly, the government is dynamic in nature.

(4)The Sovereignty:- Sovereignty is the most important attribute of state. Sovereignty implies the supreme power of the state which distinguishes state from all other associations. Sovereignty denotes the ultimate power of the state to make laws or take political decisions, resolving conflicts and also enforcing such laws and decisions by the use

of legitimate force. In fact, sovereignty denotes the final authority of the state over its population and its territory.

By virtue of sovereignty that a state declares its laws, decisions and issues commands which are binding on all citizens and punishes offenders and also a state deals independently with other states. It is to pointed out that sovereignty provides the basis on which the state regulates all aspects or the people who live on its territory.

Sovereignty has two aspects-lnternal External, Internally viewed, the state has supreme power over all individuals and associations within its fixed area. It can compel obedience of its people to its laws and commands. Externally viewed, the state is from control of any foreign state or alien rule. It should be noted that a state continues to exist so long as it is armed with sovereignty. The will of state cannot be challenged by any other power outside the state.

No state can really become a state without sovereignty. India become a state in 1947 when it became independent. It was after her independence that India got the power to exercise sovereignty internally as well as externally.

Relationship between State and the Association

Intimate social relationship for achieving certain ends or purposes gives rise to the formation of associations. And the association is a group organized for the pursuit of an interest or a group of interest is in common. There is a definite purpose behind associations realized through cooperative efforts of its members. The principal motive behind Association is to create a field of co-operation and ideal friendship among the individuals and to look to their interests and fulfilment of common ends.

The relationship between the two:-The state is the most powerful and most universal of all social institutions. It is the supreme organization which regulates and coordinates the activities of individuals and associations within its fixed area. Thus, the state is an Association of associations". In society, we have Association of seven kinds namely, Kinship, Religious, Cultural, Recreational, Philanthropic, Vocational and Political. Like other associations, the state is an association. But it differs from other associations in many respects.

Firstly, State is a sovereign institution out other associations are non-sovereign institutions:- State is the only association which possesses and exercises supreme power. The exercises of sovereignty distinguishes it from other associations. The state can compel the individuals and associations within its jurisdiction to carry out its orders or to conform to its laws and regulations. In other words, the laws of the State are binding on its members. While other associations cannot compel their members into submission. Their power of punishment is limited. Even, other associations have no power to command obedience.

Secondly, Membership of state is compulsory but that of an_association is voluntary membership of a state is compulsory. It does not depend upon the will of a person. Every individual is bound to be a member of the state. If he is born into the state, no doubt, one may renounce the citizenship of a state and take up that of another but it involves procedural, technical and legal deals, and one has to living in a state for a certain number of years before becoming eligible for its membership. On the other hand, the membership of an association is purely voluntary in nature. No one can be forced to become a member of an association. He is free to decide to join an association or any time withdraws from it. It is to be pointed out that "an individual is a member of one state only at one point of time but he may be at the same time a member of various of various association".

Thirdly, The state is essentially territorial organization may or may not be territorial:-

The state is the territorial association. It must have a fixed territory. Its authority is confined to that area only. A person living within the territorial jurisdiction of a state is subject to its legal jurisdiction. But an association can work within a limited territory or it may encompass the entire world. There are several associations of international character whose activities transcend the boundaries of a state. For example-Red Cross society is an Association having its branches all over the world. Therefore, the jurisdiction of an association is limited to its respective members and has no relation to territorial boundaries.

Fourthly, State is permanent and associations are a temporary:- State is permanent so i long as it possesses sovereignty. But this is not the case with associations. Some of the associations came into existence for a particular purpose and with the achievement of that purpose they become defunct. Some other associations may be dissolved because of internal1 conflicts and differences.

Fifthly, The scope of state activity is wider than that of an association:-The state maintains peace and order along with it, tries to promote economic, moral, cultural and social welfare of the people. So a modern welfare state perform innumerable functions for the overall well-being of the community. As against it every association is organized to serer a limited set of objectives. Some associations have just one objective. The field of activity of each association is limited and it is concerned only with the promotion of the interests of its members. For example-a-Labour union attempts to safeguard the economic interests of its members.

Lastly, State is the association of associations:-The state of the political Association! which enjoys sovereign power but no other association possesses it. The state by exercising this sovereign power controls and regulates the activities of other associations. Every association is organized to satisfy a few or some requirements of individuals but the state fulfils all the requirements for which it is called an association of associations.

Relationship between State and Society

In ancient times, no difference use to be made between the state and society. The Greek philosophers like Plato and Aristotle made no distinction between state and society because city state was co-extensive with society. Many idealists and monistic writers on politics have not made any distinction between the two. But liberal writers like Locke came forward to recognize that the state was different from society. Hence, both are two different concepts and came to be regarded as separate and distinct institutions. They differ from each other in many respects.

1)Society is prior to the state:- Society is must older than state. Man by nature is a social animal and different forms of society have existed from time to serve familiar with the state. But in course of time, the need for protecting the social relationships as well we the need for law and order gave raise to the need the state. Many of the political scientists observed that some form of social organization existed before the state came into being. In other words, society originated much earlier than the state did. Hence, it is to be pointed out that society is anterior to the state whereas state is posterior to the society. In short, State is developed form of social organization and is a later growth. State is the result of political consciousness among men.

2)State possesses sovereignty but society does not:- Sovereignty is the hallmark of the

state. The state operates through the instruments of compulsion and coercion. The state applies force to implement its laws and policies. The state by virtue of sovereignty commands obedience compulsorily from all within the state. The laws are binding on men and institutions and the legal sanction behind its laws stipulates punishment for their violation. But society has no coercive power comparable to that of the state. Authority in based on custom convention, moral persuasion or pressure of public opinion. Unlike state, the society cannot punish individuals who power comparable to that of the state. Authority in based on custom convention, moral persuasion or pressure of public opinion. Unlike state, the society cannot punish individuals who violate the laws of the society. It is clear that society is non-sovereign body. In brief, the state rules by law and force whereas society is based on customs and traditions.

3)State controls are external relations and so slightly influences our inner motives:- State is concerned with external activities of man not with the internal. State has made laws to regulate external conduct of the individual. State can take action against the activities of the individual but what a man thinks, State has nothing to do with that. But society is concerned with all aspects of human behaviour in society. Social customs and traditions, and rules of morality govern all type of social relations at all levels-lndividual, Family, Community, Neighbourhood, Regional, and National.

4) The State possesses the power to levy taxes and raise revenue but the society does not possess such power. The society has to defend on voluntary donations, subscriptions fOr the necessary collection of funds to meet its expenses.

5)The state is highly organized institution whereas society may even be unorganized Political organization is very essential for a state. Without political organization there can be no state. Because, State acts through political organization. But political organization is not necessary for the society. From the study, it has been observed that when there was no state men lived in family and in tribes and these tribes wandered from place. In spite of that there was society though it was unorganized. Even certain groups of Eskimos do not have any political organization but they do live in a society of! their own. It clearly indicates that in the absence of political organization society may be :

formed but never state.

6)Society is wider than state:- The sphere of state is much narrower than society. State is j the servant of society and it is within society. In other words the state is only a part of j society and covers only political aspects of man's life. But society is a wider concept which covers the entire life of man. It includes social, economic, educational, cultural, political, religious, recreational, and in fact all type of relations. Therefore, territorially, I structurally and functionality the scope of society is wider than state.

a)Territorially:- The size of the state is small in comparison to the size of society. ] The state has a definite territory. The territory of a state is fixed, but it is not the case 1 with society. A society may be broader or narrower than state. It is neither refers to any I territorial area nor has any territorial limits. For example-The Red Cross Society, Rotary I club, YMCA and YWCA are international societies and cut across the territory of the 1 large number of states.

b)Structurally:- The aim of the society is to develop all aspects of individual life. I Society covers the whole range of human activities and relationships such as religious, fl educational, cultural, social, economic, political, recreational, domestic etc. But the I state is concerned only with certain type of human relationship, particularly those which I involve power, rule and authority. So, it is to be pointed out that there is no aspect of I life with which society is not concerned.

c)Functionally:- The purpose of society is wider than the state. Society regulates f every form of society conduct and action and performs innumerable functions to fulfil I all the purposes in life. All such purposes do not fall in the domain of a state. The state is J only a political association and its primary purpose is to regulate the external relationship of men by maintaining law and order. In short, social relationship can extend beyond the state.

d)State is only a part of society.

The Relationship between State and Government

The terms state and government are used interchangeably in everyday life. Many of the political scientists declare that state and government are synonymous terms. Thomas Hobbes, Louis XIV, H. J. Laski, G. D. H. Cole failed to mark any distinction between state and government. But government is never identical or coterminous with state. It was John Locke who for the first time distinguished state from government and said that state and government are two different terms having altogether different meanings.

After having understood the meaning of state and its four elements, one of which is government, it becomes quite easy to make out the difference between state and government. It has been observed, the state is represented by the government. The government exercises all authority and functions on behalf of state. However, the terms ’state’ and ’government’ should not be used synonymously.

The Difference between State and Government

•Government is the agent of the state:- The government is the agent of the state which acts on its behalf and works to fulfil the objectives of the state. It is the machinery which formulates, enforces and realizes the will and purpose of the state. The coercive power resides in the state but government as the agent uses it to carry out the aims of that power. Garner state that ’’the government is the machinery through which common

interests promoted.

•The state is an abstract where as the government is concrete:- The state is abstract institution. We can only imagine all conceptualize it. It is like the soul of the body which cannot be seen but understood. Whereas government has a physical existence which can be seen in action. It is made by the people of the State. It is formed by the representatives of people or by a person, who formulates, express and execute the will of the state. It can be seen as a team of people exercising the power of the state. The people come into direct contact of the government which includes Ministers, Legislators and Officials. In other words, it is an organized group of a limited, number of people which can be seen and interact with. In short, state is subjective and government is


•state possesses sovereignty but government does not: - Sovereignty is the hallmark of the state. All powers belong to it. It enjoys supremacy within its territorial limits. But governments exercise all authority and functions on behalf of the State, government can do those things and perform such functions which are specialty authorized by the state. In short, state Is the principal body having original powers with the government Is a subordinate body enjoying only delegated powers. The government draws its powers from the constitution of the state.

•The state Is more stable than government: - The state Is more or less permanent but cannot be called Immortal; It ceases to exist when it loses its essential attribute of sovereignty. Whereas the government is transitory. The government keeps on changing from time to time. Changes In government will not affect the state. In other words, so long as state maintains Its identity and independence, the governments may be framed or dissolved according to established procedure without affecting the character of the state. The government come and go but state continues for ever. The office holders of government are changed are changed. It is quite possible that the rule of one party j$ changed by another party. Eve death of the head of the state does not affect the status of statehood. It is in the context that the British use the maxim, the King is dead; long live the King. The above discussion clearly indicates that changed in the government do not constitute a change in the state.

•Government has many forms whereas the state does not have these:- The state is uniform throughout but government are of different types and may vary from state to state. All the states are alike in the sense that they possess the same four elements. All states are identical in character. In other words, the state is a universal institution having one single form with its four essential characteristics. But government is not the same anywhere. It differs from country to country. Governments have several forms like unitary and federal, parliamentary and presidential, democratic and dictatorial and the like.

•Membership of the state is compulsory but not of government: - The state consists of the whole body of people such as the rulers as well as ruled. But the membership of government is very small because it includes only the rulers. In other words, the government consists of a small part of the population who had chosen to conduct the affairs of the state. From the study, it states that each one gets the membership of a state automatically right at the time of one's birth and continues to live life as each. However, membership of the government is not an automatic. No one can be forced to become its part. Anyone can voluntarily seek an election, get elected as a representative of the people and become a part of the government. Only some persons form the government. The finding fact is the membership of government is an optional matter.

•People may have grievances against the government but not against the state: - Every citizen has to be loyal to the state but it is not necessary for him to be loyal to the government. He has the right to criticize the acts of omissions and commissions government. It is to be pointed out that people have the right to revolt or criticize the government but they have no right the state. If they go against state, it will amount to going against themselves. The government may commit mistakes or blunders and for its lapses people may criticize it.

From the above discussion, it is clear that distinction between state and government is more of the theoretical nature than of any practical value. Because in practice, all actions of the state and perform by government and whatever government does, it does in the name of the state. The laws which express the will of the state are framed and given effect to only through the government.


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