What is this “STATE/Nation”, where you live ?

India is fighting its 17th Lok Sabha election presently. Numerous election speeches, promises and jumlas are equally being propagated in the world’s biggest democracy. Rhetoric speeches on the name of the country, nationalism and its integrity, remains to be the highlights of the ‘meant to be ‘ attractive slogans. But the clamouring and the fights slips the idea of a state and subjects of least concern take the stage sidelining the welfare and idea of state and its people. To understand the welfare of the state/country, first it is required to understand the meaning of a “STATE/country/nation”.

So, What is a state and how it actually came into function ?

State today is the basic identity of a human and cannot be denied that its indeed an integral part of everyday life. Different historical experiences have led to differing perceptions and practices of the state. Yet all the states do have a territory, legal system, judiciary and monopoly of force and so on. State can be defined as the centralised law making. law enforcing, politically sovereign institution in the society or, it is useful to understand and define the state in terms of the functions that it performs.

Living in modern times, we generally take state for granted as if it has always been a part of human society however it is not true. If we divide the human history in three phases : pre agrarian, agrarian and industrial – then the state certainly did not exist in the pre agrarian phase of human life. It is therefore best to look upon state as a contingency and not a perennial feature of human life.

In the elementary situation of the hunters and gatherers, there was no surplus and no division of labour. AS a result there was no need for any political centralisation. And once humans took to agriculture and consequently to a more settled life, a division of labour and a more complex form of human organisation began to emerge. However not all agrarian societies had state. It was only during the industrialisation phase that the state ceased to be an option and became an integral part of human society.


Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527), Jean Bodin (1530-96) and Thomas Hobbes (1588-1642) were amongst the earliest writers to articulate the new concerns of State.

Hobbes : Hobbes defines liberalism as the idea of choice in the field of marriage, education, enterprise, work and profession etc. and this ability to choose is what characterises a rational and free individual and politics is about the defence of rights and any interference is to be limited through state based constitution. In his book “Leviathan”, he explains human society is ‘war of all against all’. He suggests that consenting individuals hand over their rights to self government to a single authority. According to him, it is the state that constructs society and establishes its form and codifies its forces. Self seeking nature of individuals leads to anarchy and violence and hence state has to be powerful and strident enough to resist this and maintain order.

John Locke :

For Locke, state exists as an instrument to protect the life, liberty and estate of the citizens. According to him consenting individuals have to agree to form a contract to create a society over a state.

Rousseau :

One, who is described as a champion of the direct and participatory model of democracy. In his book “social contract”, he describes it essential for the people to come together and co-operate through a law making and enforcing body. For Rousseau, the sovereign is the people themselves in a new form of association and the sovereign’s will is the will of each person. The government is thus the result of an agreement among the citizens and is legitimate only to the extent to which it fulfils the instructions of the general will and obviously should it fail to do so it can be revoked or changed.


Marx (1818-1883)

Marx argued that individuals by themselves do not tell us much, its is the interaction between the individuals and the institutions and the society that makes the account worthwhile. He contents that the state has t be seen as a dynamic institution circumscribed by social forces and always changing. Thus the key to understanding the relationships between people is the class structure. Thus the key to understanding the relations between people is the class structure. Classes they argue ae created at a specific conjecture in history. With the creation of surplus produce a class of non producers that can live off the productive activity of others which gives birth to the classes in society. Those who succeed in gaining control over the means of production from the ruling class both economically and politically. This leads to the intense, perpetual ad irreconcilable conflicts in society. State according to Marx exists to defend the interests of the ruling classes and is deeply embedded in socio economic relations and linked to particular class interests. 

Gandhian Perspective on the state :

Gandhi (1869-1948)

After enough of western philosophers, its time to dig into the theories of one of the greatest Indian philosophers, Gandhi.

Gandhi argued that increasing state interference is immoral and opens up ever increasing possibilities of violence and corruption.  Gandhi described swaraj  as the ideal state. This would imply not only self rule as is commonly understood but it implies governance of one’s self, self control and self regulation. A situation where each individual is able to govern and control himself or herself thus making the state redundant. 

Gandhi denounced the modern state as a soulless machine, which even while engaging in ostensibly egalitarian acts unwittingly leads to violence, and in the last instance a destruction of the individual. Gandhi expected the state to ensure internal peace and external security. He has however extremely sceptical of the modern state’s claims to act on behalf of something described as autonomous ‘national interest’.

By and large, state has been termed as the concoction of the idea of “development of all” by “all the sections ” put together. Welfare or concern of any particular section of society destroys the harmony of society and the welfare of its being.

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