Nation and State | Sociology for CUET by Vikash Ranjan | Sociology Guru

Nation and State

(Relevant for Sociology optional for UPSC CSE)
Paper-1 ,Unit-7 : Nation and State

Nation and State

State and Nation:

Aristotle defined state as a union of families and villages having, for its end, a perfect and self-sufficing life, which means happy and honourable life. According to MacIver the state is an association, which acting through law as promulgated by government, endowed to this end with coercive power, maintains within a community territorially demarcated universal external conditions of social order. It can otherwise be said that when a group of people are permanently settled on a definite territory and have government of their own, free from any kind of external control, they constitute a state and it has sovereign power upon its people.

According to Maciver’s definition, the following elements can be considered as the important ones for state:

  • A specific region and its inhabitants(ii) The region free from outer control
  • Requirement of a sovereign Goventernmt.
  • The state applies power to control and unify the people and the means are: legislature, judiciary and executive and armed forces.

Normally, four elements are universally accepted:

  1. Territory
  2. Population
  3. Government
  4. Sovereignty

State uses power as a mechanism to keep the society bound together. The state uses power as legislative, judicial, military and planning function. Through legislative function it enforces the norms of the society, judicial function uses power to exert physical force for the protection of citizen’s lives and property military function uses power to establish relations with other societies and planning function is
related to the allocation of scarce goods and resources.

Concept of state as elaborated in different theoretical models:

Karl Marx on state:

Although Marx had no fully developed theory of state, he did discuss it in various ways throughout his writings. Marx traces the development of the state of the division of labour in the society. Primitive societies are simple and less complex. So state is non-existent in primitive Societies. With change in forces of production, surplus wealth and private propert appears in society. And there arises some central organizing agency to control. This ultimately leads to the formation of state. His views on state are closely related to his classification of society.

  1. For Marx the state is force and state exercises power and authority for promoting the interests of the dominant class and suppressing and exploiting the weaker classes who are collectively called as proletariat in the context of capitalist society. He views state as a manmade institution rather than a natural institution. The Marxists look at the state as a product of class struggle and as an instrument of class rule. Thus, for Marx, the state is essentially as class structure, an organization of one class dominating over other classes. He views that state as originated at a certain stage of economic development in the history of humanity, when society was broken into two classes, namely ‘haves’ and have-nots’.
  2. In Marxist theory the most important activity of human beings is economic activity. According to him understanding the way a society organizes its production is the key to understand the whole of its social structure. His view is that the production of the means of subsistence forms the foundation upon which various institutions; the legal conception, art and even the ideas on religion of the people concerned have been evolved. Marx stresses economic production as they key structural feature of any society and he called the way it organizes it production as its Infrastructure.The rest of its social organization – its noneconomic activities such as ideas, beliefs and philosophies, legal system, the state etc. – he called Superstructure.The super structure of any form of society is affected by its infrastructure i.e., the economic activities of the society. State according to Marx is a noneconomic institution and hence a part of superstructure. The formation and functioning of the state is therefore depend on the way the society organizes its economic production. (Marx called the different ways of production of goods in the society as Modes of productionAnd based on the modes of production Marx distinguished five historical epochs in the development of humanity. These in chronological order are primitive communist, ancient, feudal, capitalist and communist, each depicting its own characteristic state and government.
  3. Apart from the first and last modes of production i.e. the primitive communist and communist mode, each mode of production has one crucial characteristic in common. Each of them produces goods based on class. In each of the historical epochs there are two classes; one is the minority dominant class, the one which owns the modes of production and the other majority subordinate class, the class that does not own means of production or the exploited class which do the productive work.
  4. Those who own means of production control the state. Whenever there is change in the mode of production in a society, the government (the physical form of state) also undergoes simultaneous change. And irrespective of the form of the society (ancient, feudal or capitalist) the state invariably is, according to Marx, an instrument for exploitation in the hands of dominant class.
  5. Marx’s deliberation of state as an institution is mainly based on the capitalist form of society. For him state is a centralized organizing agency, which was necessarily involved in the domination of one class over the others. The prominent classes Marx talks about in relation to capitalist society are bourgeoisie and proletariat. According to Marx, capitalism is an inherently expanding system and the social class at its helm (bourgeoisie) is carried into political power not because of any deliberate or conscious action but because that is the way the society develops.
  6. It is argued that Marx believed the state to be a sort of conspiracy against the working class, or that the wealth of the bourgeoisie could be used to ensure that whoever is in power pursues its interests (Miller 1991). For Marx, the concern of the state of individual liberty could be seen as an attempt to enforce the right of the individual property owner (bourgeoisie) against those without property (Proletariat) whose only power lay in their banding together to take collective action. The political struggle for trade union rights represents the collective action of proletariat.

Max weber on state:

Marx Weber suggested in Politics as a Vocation that the state is a human’s community or a special kind of institution that claims the monopoly of legitimate use of physical force within a given territory. By this he meant not only that the state had the ability to ensure the obedience of its citizens but also the acknowledged right to do so. A monopoly of legitimate violence is therefore the practical expression of the state sovereignty. He saw the state as the most powerful institution in modern society it has gained the legitimate monopoly of force over a given territory.

Characteristics of modern state:

  • First, it has a legal and administrative order, which is subject to change by legislation only. It has an administration which works in accordance with legislation. This means that civil servants and judiciary do not make up their own rules but implement those formed by the legislature.
  • Secondly the state has binding authority on all its members and over the acts carried out in its territory.
  • Third the membership is usually given by birth.
  • Finally state can use force if that is legally prescribed and permitted.
  1. For Weber the ‘political society’ is one whose existence and order is continuously safe-guarded within a given territorial area by the threat and application of physical force on the part of the administrative staff. And a ‘political Society’ becomes a ‘state’ where it is able to exercise successfully a legitimate monopoly over the organized use of force within a given territory.
  2. Weber opposed to Marx’s economic determinism. According to Weber legal, religious and political institutions and their inter relationship has decisive significance to economic structures and economic development not vice-versa as seen by Marx. He took concentration of the means of administration as most important factor in the state. This in turn has close association with his typology of domination. Weber talks about three types of domination: charismatic, traditional and legal-rational. According to him these three types of domination coexist in any situation but it is likely that one or other will be domination. Weber says-rational domination is more predominant in modern state.
  3. According to Weber the modern state is legitimate if people believe in its legitimacy. Any three kind of domination can exist in modern state. We cannot choose between the three on any rational ground, each can be justified on its own ground. Each system justifies on itself; traditional domination justified by tradition, charismatic domination by charisma and in rational legal domination laws are legitimate if they are enacted according to the law. There is no overall or superior set of values by means of which we choose better or worse system.
  4. Weber believed that in modern state any norm could be enacted as law with the expectation that it would be obeyed; government and government apparatus are bound by the abstract system that these laws comprise and justice is the application of this laws. In such a system of governance people hold authority, doing so by virtue of being temporary office bearers rather than possessing personal authority and people obey laws not the office bearers who enforced them. The state with a rational legal authority could not interfere with individual rights without the consent of the people through the duly elected representatives.
  5. For Weber bureaucracy is the organizational apparatus of the modern state and the modern capitalist state is completely dependent upon bureaucratic organization for its continued existence. Weber describes the state as gaining its power in modernity by concentrating the means of administration in the hands of an absolute monarch. Bureaucratic set up developed, for example in ancient Egypt, when the monarch needed a permanent army, to ensure supplies of arms and military equipment.
  6. According to Weber these developments were the most important factors promoting the emergence of the modern state in which the expert officialdom, specialization based division of labour is wholly separated from ownership of its means of administration. Officials in modern, rational bureaucracies have little or no control over what they do since the rules and procedures of bureaucracies take on a life of their own, restricting the activities and decisions of those who work in them to the functions of the offices they fill. The bureaucracy become the ‘steel-hard housing’ in modern state.
  7. This growth of modern-rational state, which has its corpus of bureaucratic officials, is not wholly derivative of economic rationalization, but to some extent preceded the development of capitalism as well as created condition, which promoted its rise. The head of the system of the legal authority or bureaucracy is the head of the state. And it can hold a position through appropriation, election or designated by succession. But even then his or her power is legally limited.
  8. According to weber, though rationalization is evident in economic life, cultural life etc. Of a society it is fundamentally evident in the modern institution of administration, more especially bureaucracy. He says neither capitalism with its connection with liberalism nor state socialism with its formal commitment to social justice, can avoid the use of bureaucratic means of administrative domination. The impersonality and calculability characters of the bureaucracy are seen not only as constraining but also as extremely efficient in securing the popular compliance with the structures of domination. They are for Weber a key instance of the typical modern form of legitimate domination that is replacing the appeal of tradition as society’s predominant legitimating principle.

Emile Durkheim on state:

Durkheim discusses the nature and features of the state in his work Professional Ethics and Civic Morals. According to him the opposition of governing and the governed is central in political life. His views on state are very much associated to his explanation of division of labour and types of solidarity. Durkheim traced the development of the state to the division of labour in the society, as societies became more complex there occurred the distinction between governing and governed, which in turn resulted in the formation of state.

For Durkheim the function of state was to mediate between different interests and in particular to protect the individual against the power of smaller groups. That is how state protects individual and balance group interests.

  1. Mechanical solidarity is the trademark of less developed or primitive society where division of labour is very little. Whereas societies with highly developed division of labour are held together by organic solidarity. For Durkheim there was no politics or state existed in primitive societies because there was no or little division of labour and hence no grouping into government and governed.
  2. At the same time he argues that the division of a social group into governing and governed to not only exist in states; there is a similar division in the patriarchal household as well. Durkheim tries to make a distinction between state and such organization. The size and control of a determinate territory will distinguish state from such organization.
  3. For Durkheim the crucial feature of a state is that It controls not necessarily large numbers of people but a number of different secondary social groupings. The state is the organization of officials concerned with governing these secondary groups. It is not an embodiment of society as whole, but specialized institutions.
  4. Durkheim next takes up The relationship of the state of the individual. This according Durkheim, is not an issue in societies where Mechanical solidarity dominated where individuals were absorbed into the social whole; But as Organic solidarity develops, the power of the state develops so also the rights of the individuals. The growth of the state does not threaten but enables the rights of individuals.
  5. Durkheim makes a clear distinction between Society and the state. Every society is dynamic. As societies become more complex, then there is a need for individuals to move from one group to other group and need to prevent the secondary groups exercising despotic control over its members, it is the function of the state to provide this need. Durkheim’s argument was that the individual members of society felt their commitment to society, the function of the state was to create and protect the space where the individuals could exercise such responsibility.
  6. For Durkheim society is ‘sui generous’. His notion of society dominated everything else’ society exists over and above the individual over whom it exercises an immense power. This notion of society reflects in his idea about state also. For Durkheim state essentially is a Mediator between individual and secondary groups. The secondary groups are developed in society, as the division becomes more sophisticated as in modern society. The secondary groups mediate between society and the individual just as state mediates between the individual and secondary group.

The Nation

In modern times the nation is The largest effective community which is permeated by a consciousness of a common kind. Some writers equate nation with statehood and opine that people of a state are a nation. Hans Kohn, Frederick Hertz, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels have recognized that the nation is distinctly an historical phenomenon. All these writers and thinkers agree that the nation is an historical and sociological phenomenon and the nation evolved out of the amalgam of various racial and kinship groups after the break up of slavery and feudal societies.

  • Nation is defined as A group of people cohesively attached with each other by the fact of Belonging to one race, language, religion, culture, geographical location etc. and have similar political ambitions and uniform historical development. The feeling attached with it is called nationality.
  • But this definition connotes a narrow meaning, which when applied in the state as a whole, divides it in different nations which eventually create many bad consequences. For example, emergence of many conflicting and separatist activities and related demands, subsequently the state faces many serious problems, e.g., in India, demands of Khalistan, Kashmir, North-East states etc.
  • Such Problems have been seen worldwide. Therefore some symbols were used as a solution to bring uniformity so that a nationality could develop for the whole state, eg., national emblem, national anthem, national language, national game, animal and bird etc. to develop one culture in a state.

Factors responsible for emergence of nation:

There are some objective factors whose presence has been helpful in evolving the nation. It is at the same time asserted that the presence of each or any of them is not absolutely indispensable. The more important of such factors are: the community of common language, geographical and common economic ties and common history and traditions. But there is no unanimity even in respect of them. According to professor MacIver there are scarcely any two nations which find their positive support in the same objective factors

  1. Race and kinship: While it is true that ‘unity of race and kinship helps in cementing people together’, to argue that ‘such unity is an indispensable objective factor is unacceptable’. F.Schuman points out if pure races ever existed they have long since disappeared as a result of migrations, wars, conquests, travels over thousands of years. All modern nations have been formed out of peoples of diverse racial and tribal groups. India’s unity in Diversity and America’s ‘Melting Pot’ theories are the best examples.
  2. Community of religion: Unity of religion has been and can be a great cementing force and has played a significant role in the past in consolidating nations. The modern nation is a territorial community. It includes and embraces all persons of ethnic stock and religious faith residing on a permanent basis on the same territory and therefore also participants in the history and traditions of the land. In this age of democracy and secularism to advance religion as an objective factor indispensable for the formation of a nation is to encourage religious bigotry and persecution and thereby to undermine the very foundations of secular democracy.
  3. Common history or traditions: The possession of a common language, geographical contiguity and common economic ties are bonds which make the people living together share same experiences and develop a certain amount of common outlook and also have common aspirations. This creates among them a common psychological make-up or character. The character of people is a reflection of the conditions of life they have lived and led together. The reference to national character does not negate the existence of individual variations.
  4. Community of economic ties: This point was emphasized by Karl Marx. Since then its significance has been realized. When it was conceded that the nation was a historical and a sociological phenomenon, attention began to be paid to the conditions under which nations arise. A nation as a territorial community could not exist in the ancient period or in the ages of slavery and feudalism. The nation arises out of the fusion of clans, tribes and ethnic groups. It is the growth of exchange between regions and the creation of a home market which leads to the creation of nationalities.
  5. In Modern society, viewing nation and state separately would keep on creating anomalies, its realisation led the thinkers and planners to Integrate the two to understand the real meaning of these two concepts. In this way, the concept that developed, would understand state in reference to nation and nation in reference to state as Nation-state. Therefore, no step would be taken to create regional and so cultural imbalance. Finally, integration would be the best effort to tackle any problem related with unadjustment. In this context, India’s unity in Diversity and America’s ‘Melting Pot’ theories are the best examples.

Nation- state:

  1. A nation is a nationality which has organized itself into a political body either independent or desiring to be independent. The state is a territorially organized people. Nationis a group of people who feel their uniqueness and oneness which they are keen to maintain. If this group of people happen to organize themselves on a particular territory and desire independence or are independent they form a nation state.
  2. The members of a state may belong to different nationalities.
    • Nationality is subjective, statehood is objective.
    • Nationality is psychological, statehood is political.
    • Nationality is a condition of mind whereas statehood is a condition of law.
    • Nationality is a spiritual possession whereas statehood is an enforceable obligation.
    • Sovereignty is emphasized as an essential element of state but not of nation.
  3. Nation signifies consciousness of unity prompted by psychological and spiritual feelings which may or may not be sovereign. The physical element of sovereignty is not as important as the psychological element of the feeling of oneness.

The Growth of Nation State- Competition and Conflict Theory:

Nation state was born of competition and conflict. The Hundred Years War gave rise to two rival groups across the English Channel each feeling a consciousness of kind –the English and the French. The War of Roses gave rise to a united English nation under the Tudor dictatorship. Rivalry in discovery and piracy on the high seas cemented national solidarity among the participants –the English, the French, the Portuguese, and the Spaniards. The American nation was born of conflict. Liberty, Equality and Fraternity of French Revolution overran most of Europe and thereby sowed the seeds of national consciousness among the defeated countries. The German nation was born of conflict of war with France. The Italian nation under Mazzini and Garibaldi came into being as a resurgent movement in protest against Austrian domination.

The Growth of Democratic Nation State:

The idea of democratic nation state is of recent growth. Politically the first step was the unification of all authority in the hands of powerful centralized independent monarchies. which took the place of ineffective and petty feudal authorities. After innumerable conflicts the principle of state absolutism became supreme in Europe. All the great reformers of enjoined on their followers passive obedience to the state. They held that the rulers to whom obedience was due ruled by divine right. In England their teaching paved the way for Tudor and Stuart despotism.

  1. Such despotism however did not remain unchallenged. The people with the growth of enlightenment and realization of their power and importance slowly started obtaining certain rights from the rulers. The monarch lost his status of a superior being with divine rights. Royal absolutism was no longer necessary once the object of bringing order and unity was fulfilled. Political parties grew stronger and developed into open organizations representing liberal attitudes on various questions of interest to the constitutional group.
  2. The democratic movement started in some countriessomewhere it was violent whereas in some monarchs willingly yielded to the popular will and were content to remain as figureheads under a democratic government. The sovereignty of the people became recognized and the democratic nation state came to be established.

Nationalism: Nationalism is a state of mind that seeks to make the nation an effective unity and the object of man’s supreme loyalty. It has developed in the western world and is today growing in the other parts of the world. It has prepared the way for modern democratic nation states. It has extended the area of national liberty and individual freedom. Nationalism serves as a source of integration within the state but it is dangerous when it denies the common interest that binds nation to nation. Then it becomes ethnocentrism or chauvinism which is intolerant or imperialism which seeks territorial expansion and political domination. When nationalism cuts one people from another ,it impedes the development of harmonious intergroup of international relations and sows the seeds of international rivalry and wars. In its pure form, nationalism may be binding ideal but in its narrow form it becomes a cause of serious division between nations. Nationalism is a long historical process with strong sentiments attached to it. In the words of Hayes: nationalism when it becomes synonymous with the purest patriotism will prove a unique blessing to humanity and to the world.

Nationality is a psychological disposition or sentiment. According to Zimmermann nationality like religion is subjective psychological, a condition of mind, a spiritual possession, a way of feeling, thinking and living. Nationality is an instinct. It is a cultural concept. It springs from a heritage of memories whether of great achievement and glory of disaster and suffering. Maclver defined nationality as a type of community sentiment created by historical circumstances and supported by common psychological factors to such an extent and so strong that those who feel it desire to have a common government peculiarly or exclusively their own.

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