The State and the Society are Distinct


Dr Chelikani Rao VBJ

            Living in a democracy, we have to gradually democratise all the institutions in the society, including our political institutions, so that all of them in which we are involved will be able to function sincerely and exclusively for social development and human development; and not for any other motives. Though a product of Society, we find that historically the State which monopolises force and Power, has not always been entirely working for social development and human development. The reason for this is that those who operate the state develop vested interests and resist complete democratization of all its organs. Hence, the citizens should always keep in mind the distinction between the state and the society; and watch that state does not dominate the society and does not use the citizens as cannon fodder or pawns to implement any other objective, policy or ideology or for the glory of its operators. Further, we should also watch that all actors on behalf of the state behave democratically and work in the interest of the society only.

What is a Society?

            A Society is a honey web, a comprehensive organization of all kinds of relations among all those people who are living together in families and communities. A society is a permanently evolving self-adjusting system of relationships naturally evolving with norms, usages and moral codes of behaviour, as well as customs and traditional practices, at all levels- individual, family, community, neighbourhood, regional, national and international levels. These relations form its culture and civilization. The purpose of a society is to harmonise all social, economic, cultural, political, moral, religious, and all other relations of the persons living in that community, which otherwise are not necessarily harmonious. Since each human being is unique and human groups are very diverse, constant challenges and changes are inevitable. The changes should be in an orderly manner in an open society and the society should not allow any of its institutions or groups to suppress the individual and collective rights of the people in it. Though there have been ups and downs in Indian societies during its long history, the Indians brought up in such a culture are able to manage very well their integration into any other tolerant society in the world.

What is a State?

            The state came into existence by an implicit contract or agreement or by tolerance by the members of the society, with the power to exercise force to ensure the safety and security of the people in a given territory from the internal disorder as well as from external threats. It is a political organization with a government and permanent employees such as police, army and officers. In order to do its mission effectively, it claims sovereignty which means absolute power over the life and death of the people within the territory. It is normally concerned with the external human behaviour of its citizens, only when the laws and rules are not respected, and is expected to use force in case of their violation. When the relations with other states are bad, it is expected to prepare itself for war.

The Problem:

             Thus, there are clear-cut and identifiable differences between State and Society in their purpose and objectives. But, there has always been a growing tendency on the part of the state to encroach upon many aspects of the society in the vested interests of its operators. There has never been a state till, now, that faithfully reflects and represents the total interests of the whole society in developing countries. However, there are some liberal social democratic states in developed countries that come close to our aspirations.

            We must admit that this has been happening right from the beginning of human social history when a chief of the tribe is accepted and later the kings came to enjoy these opportunities and powers of the state. Some parts of the territory and the people in it are disposed of as they deemed fit. Some parts of its territory are lost to another powerful king or on the contrary others' territories are annexed. The people in it were also transferred ipso facto and paid taxes to the new authority, without much resistance. Thus, the existing boundaries of most of the states have no sanctity. The life and death of the people living in those territories are dependent upon the new ruler and all national or sub-national groups in it are identified with the states.  Most of the kingdoms in India claimed divine right to rule, except a few self-governing republics during earlier times. However, by and large, in ancient India, the state with political activities and the societies with all its civil, civic, economic and cultural activities have co-existed with varying degrees of success. That was the reason why most of the indigenous rulers in India lost almost all the wars they fought, as they were not people's wars. People shared only the suffering that followed the defeat, as the invaders looted, demolished and killed.


            Well-structured model states are formed during modern European history. Some became nation-states which were completely obsessed with three Gs: for Gold i.e. to enrich the state, or for propagating the God of the choice of the state, or for the Glory and expansion of the power of the state. Thereafter, the world is clearly divided into states and colonies and at the end of the 2nd world war, and after de-colonisation, the totality of the world is divided into nearly 200 states on this earth.

            Since then, the society's progress is exclusively directed by the state in many aspects. Various revolutions starting from the French, Russian and Chinese have become essentially political, even though their original reasons were social, economic and cultural. The state has imposed itself as the transforming agent of the whole society. Though the Socialist revolutionary ideas that were expressed and experimented with for the first time in the world wanted to uphold the primacy of the social organization and envisaged even eventual withering away of the state ultimately. This has never happened; and on the contrary, all political changes ended in the dictatorship of the state. One party eliminated all other parties and one man eliminated all other rivals in that party. As consequence, the state has been swallowing and absorbing the society. The Communist Party of Chinese is the latest example of such a logical process. Some states continue to fall into the hands of dictators backed by religion or the military, after experiencing the disorder caused by the politicians in parliamentary democracies. Some states turned totalitarian backed by communist or fascist parties. Among the developing countries, claiming to be a welfare state, the leaders, sometimes elected, abuse power to deny basic human rights of their people and even carried out massive elimination of tribes, ethnic cleansing, genocide, etc. Even today, at least one-third of the world's population is living in the states qualified as 'failed' states. The lives of the people in those countries have no social progress. Some states treat arbitrarily their own people and minorities and claim that no other state should intervene in their internal affairs, not even the UN. In most countries, where there is only formal political democracy, the elected party nominees and the bureaucracy of the state promise, unsuccessfully, to take care of the whole of the human life and welfare of the whole of the society, though they are, not all, equipped to accomplish it.

The States in the World:

            The League of Nations was the first to attempt, in vain, to put order into the aggressive behaviour of the powerful states. Only at the end of the 2nd World War, the United Nations and its Charter for the first time in humankind's history could proclaim that the people have to be liberated from the arbitrary acts of the states and be protected from their war-mongering behaviour. Thus, for the first time, mankind has announced its vision for humanity on this planet, for which in India, we have been since a long time praying for: "vasudhaiva Kutumbakam.' But, the five dominating states that have formed the Security Council, are preventing the UN General Assembly from doing its best. Emperor Ashoka's example had not inspired many, not even in India. The Indian state is sparing no efforts to join them as one of the permanent members with Veto power. The UN Organisation is not able to assert itself as an impartial over-powering body to intervene even when there is a blatant aggression by one state against another state. It is not able to impose dialogue, negotiations and arbitration as the only way to solve inter-state disputes, and establish peace, understanding, friendship and cooperation among all peoples, setting aside the control of the states. The present boundaries of the states are arbitrarily fixed and are not ideal units for the development of their societies. The states are still continuing to deploy all human and material resources to fight wars and destroy others' resources, without realizing that all natural resources and all cultural heritages in the world belong to the entire humankind, as we are living in an interdependent world.

            . The current situation is that despite all, the states continue to play the politics of Balance of Power. Many irresponsible states also have acquired nuclear arms and inter-ballistic missiles to carry them to anywhere in the world, ready for mutual destruction of their peoples. Elite career diplomats are negotiating among themselves i.e. among the ambassador of the same rank, to defend the interests and powers of their respective states. External Affairs are a closely-guarded secret in which not many people's representatives are involved, let alone the people. Their primary objective has never been promoting people-to-people friendships and cooperation.


            Therefore, we need to understand that the state and the society are two different entities. Mankind’s future would ultimately depend upon the development of our societies and not the development of political states. In the European continent, the Europeans are considering their European Union as a union of regions and not of sovereign states. In liberal democracies of the occidental civilization, during the last three to four decades, many people, especially youth have protested against many of their states’ policies, like colonisation, racism, imperialism and nuclear arms build-up. They protested against Apartheid, and the war in Vietnam, demanded the implementation of the Helsinki Accord, participated in the Spanish civil war and fought against dictatorships in Portugal and Chile. They demonstrated and denounced the dictatorships of Stalin, Pol Pot, Idi Amin dada, Mobutu and many others in Haiti and African countries. Now, similar atrocities against humanity are being committed by some new power-mongers in some new states around us. Many countries which are democratic in form only are developing authoritarian tendencies. In the name of human solidarity, we have an obligation to be vigilant about the conduct of not only our state but also of other states in the world. We should work together in cooperation with NRI organisations. Above all, we should directly participate in global activities thanks to the access provided by the UN bodies and its numerous Agencies, in which many Indians are already present.      

            Governance of the state should not be left to the politicians alone. All citizens of all walks of life should participate, not only in voting once in five years but also be vigilant and watchful that our services, sacrifices, our patriotism and our tax money are used only for the welfare of the citizens. Only glorious citizens make a state glorious. Citizens should join civil society associations and professional associations in various fields, and not political parties to serve the society.

            Political parties are not a solution to human problems, as it cannot improve human relations. Only non-political actors in society can provide the software for Human Development, which consists of a culture of peaceful and cooperative attitudes towards others. The operators of the state, handling political power cannot create harmony in human relations. It is not the state but the society that can provide every individual adequate physical, psychological and social conditions so as to permit him or her to find fulfillment in one's life, without being dominated or overpowered by anybody else. All dynamic persons who excel in serving society in any field like business, management, education, health, research, sports or culture have to be encouraged and admired in exercising their soft power of influencing people around them. This should be done without craving for hero worship.


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