State: It’s Perspectives

As early as 5th century BC an Ancient Greek philosopher Plato stated “State is an individual writ large” considering state as an organism and individuals beings it’s organs, supported ‘The organic theory of state’. In Plato’s view the existence and the worth of the organs depend upon the existence of the organism, so the existence and the worth of individuals depends upon the existence of the state. Plato’s disciple Aristotle has also supported ‘organic theory of state’ he said “state is prior to man”, chronologically man is prior to state but logically state is prior to man. This theory is Criticized for; it subordinates man to state and has a distorted view of freedom.

Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and J.J. Rousseau believed that state is an artificial creation and they all are the important thinkers in “The mechanistic perspective of state”. All three thinkers believed that there was a social contract, by which state was formed. In Thomas Hobbes social contract, all the people deposit their rights to a person who has absolute power of sovereignty (king or absolute monarch) and the contract is eternally signed and cannot be revoked. Here the sovereign (king) is a product of the contract but not a party to the contract. In John Locke’s social contract, king is a party to the contract and bound by the contract and if he breaches it people has the right to throw him away. Here king doesn’t have Absolute sovereignty and must act according to a constitution, i.e. constitutional monarchy. Rousseau like Hobbes postulated a singe contract. He propounded a theory of Popular sovereignty (people are supreme). Here king follows the general will of the people, which is the convergent point of all the real will’s of all the members of the society.

Adam Smith, Jeremey Bentham and Herbert Spencer are the main proponents of “The liberal individualistic perspective of state”. This concept is developed out of the classic liberalism which started taking shape in 18th century and was systematically formatted in 19th century. Smith widely spoke about the concept of “An invisible hand”. Bentham believes in a state which leaves individuals freely to pursue their interests through which they derive maximum pleasure. Spencer spoke about the limited role to be played by the state in every aspect of life.

Gandhian perspective of state: Gandhi believes in decentralization of power. If every village becomes a republic (Grama Swarajya), state will become redundant. Gandhi did not like authority or over powerful states this made him an enlightened anarchist. Gandhiji believed in moral force of the soul of every individual and he should be self regulated than coerced by the state.

Marxian perspective of state: Karl Marx said that state is an instrument of exploitation in the hands of rich to suppress the poor. State is an in charge of Bourgeoisie committee (rich class or Capitalist class) state only serves the interests of the capitalists. “If state exists freedom do not exist if freedom has to exist then state should cease to exist”. Marx visualized a classless and stateless society.

These are some of the interesting perspectives of the state from historical intelligent minds. All the above perspectives helped to form the present day state in different parts of the world. Which of the above perspective do you think we are closely associated with….THINK (refer article 12 of the Indian constitution)


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Satya Pranav

Interested in fiction, history, philosophy, politics, sports, culture and law.