Tuesday, June 18, 2024


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Define the concept of State.

The State is the most universal and most powerful of all social institutions. The state is a natural institution. Aristotle said โ€˜Man is a social animal and by nature she is a political being. To him, to live in the state and to be a man were identical. The modern term โ€˜stateโ€™ is derived from the word โ€˜statusโ€™. It was Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527) who first used the term โ€˜Stateโ€™ in his writings. The state is necessary because it comes into existence out of the basic need of life. It continues to remain for the sake of good life. The aims, desires, and aspirations of human beings are translated into action through the state. Though the state is necessary institutions, no two writers agree on its definitions. This disagreement makes the study of state more creative and interesting. For instance, we have social contract theory in political science. The three main thinkers associated with social contract theory are Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and Jean Jack Rousseau. The three thinkers collectively agree that humans need to be controlled by the state. At the same time, they disagree on to that extent the control can be exercised by the State on humans.

Aristotle defined the state as a Union of families and villages having for its end a perfect and self-sufficing life by which it meant a happy and honourable life.

To Holland the state is a numerous semblage of human beings generally occupying a certain territory amongst whom the will of the majority or class is made to prevail against any of their number who oppose it.

Burgess defines the state as โ€œ a particular portion of mankind viewed as an organised unit.

According to Garner, state is a community of people occupying a definite form of territory free of external control and possessing an organised government to which people show habitual obedience.

Essential Elements

The state is a set of institutions which has an unquestionable authority over people. Hence all modern states have their own Constitutions that moderates the freedom and privileges of the citizens of the state with the coercive and unquestionable power of the state. Hence Constitution is considered as a limiting agent on the overwhelming authority of the state.
The Montevideo Convention on Rights and Duties of States held in 1933 gave the fundamental understanding of State. A state must have a permanent population, a defined territory and a government that can control the territory and its people and conducts international relations with other States. Consequently, the recognition of a state by other States becomes crucial for the legitimacy of the State from an external point of view.

  1. Population:
    It is the people who make the state. The population is essential for the state. Population was a definite asset for a state in earlier days when physical power was the main stay of the production process as well as for defence of the country. The importance of population cannot be minimized. But a population disproportionately larger than the resources of a state is certainly a liability. Keeping such a balance is one of the main problems being faced specially by the states of Asia and Africa, that have gained independence during the last four decades. Population pressure is one of the most vexing problems faced by many modern states. No wonder programmes aimed at population control have gained such an importance in governmental policies. Besides the size of population, the functioning of the state is conditioned by the qualities of character and patriotism on the part of its citizens.
    Variations in size, either in terms of territory or of population, do not affect the legal status of a state. Big or small, they are recognised as states by citizens within its own territory, as well as by the states. So far as the legal status is concerned, both Vatican city and China, are regarded sovereign States.
  2. Territory
    People need territory to live and to organise themselves socially and politically. It may be remembered that the territory of the state includes land, water and air space. The modern States differ in their sizes. The territory is necessary for citizenship. As in the case of population, no definite size with regard to extent of the area of the state can be fixed. There are small and big states. In the words of Prof. Elliott, โ€œTerritorial sovereignity or the superiority of states, overall within its boundaries and complete freedom from external control has been a fundamental principle of the modern State life.
  3. Government
    Government is the working agency of the state. It is the political organisation of the state. Indian political scientist Prof. A. Appadurai defined government as the agency through which, the will of the State is formulated, expressed and realized. According to C.F. Strong, in order to make and enforce laws, the state must have a supreme authority. Government is a fixed structure.
  4. Sovereignty
    The essential element of the State is sovereignty. The word โ€˜sovereigntyโ€™ means supreme and final legal authority above. No legal power can exist beyond sovereignty. The concept of sovereignty was developed in conjunction with the rise of the modern state. The term Sovereignty is derived from the latin word โ€œsuperanusโ€ which means supreme. In a traditional understanding, the characteristics of sovereignty are absoluteness, permanence, universality, indivisibility, exclusiveness and inalienability.
    The father of modern theory of sovereignty was Jean Bodin (1530-1597) a French political thinker. According to Harold J. Laski, it is by possession of sovereignty that the state is distinguished from all other forms of human association. Human association would mean anything from family, society and even voluntary organisation similar kinds through which humans identity themselves together.

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