Confusing and Inexact Use of the Word State: Definition and Its Derivation:
The Term “State” and its Definition:
The main concern of Political Science is the State, the greatest of all human associations. The word has often been erroneously employed as a synonym for “nation”, “country”, “society” and “the government.”
There is so great a diversity of the uses of the word “State that it creates confusion. There are diverse notions about the word “State” in Political Science.
The word has often been used indiscriminately to express a general tendency or an idea.
While in common usage we speak of the “state” of a man’s health, of his mind or of his economic conditions. In Political Science also it has been used in different shades. It has commonly been employed to express the idea of the collective action of community as distinguished from individual action.
The term has also been erroneously employed as a synonym of the word ‘government’. For example, when we speak of “State Regulation”, “State management” and “State aid”, etc., strictly speaking, we use the word “State” for government.
While in some countries which have the system of federal government the term “State” has been used to designate the federation as a whole and its constituent units. For example, we make the use of the term “state” for the Federation of the United States of America and at the same time we also use the same term for its constituent units like Hawaii, Alaska, Texas, California, and New York.
Similarly, we use the term ‘state” for the Federal Republic of India and at the same time we also make use of the same term for its constituent units like Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Rajasthan, etc. If we deal with this problem in detail we shall find that the use of the word “State” for the Federation of the United States of America or for the Federal Republic of India is appropriate but it is inappropriate for the constituent units.
The use of the word “state” for India is appropriate but it is inappropriate for its constituent units like Alaska, Hawaii, California and New York. In Political Science by the word “State” we mean a “politically organised people of a definite territory.”
If we closely analyse, we shall find that the United States of America or India possesses all the four essential elements of the “State”, i.e., population, territory, government, and sovereignty. But the constituent units of these countries possess population, government but not sovereignty. Therefore, they cannot be called States.
The Term “State” and its Derivation:
As has already been stated, Political Science deals with the State, the highest of all human associations. The Greek used the word “Polis” which corresponds most nearly to the English term “state”. The Greeks used the word “Polis” for “City States”.
The term was appropriate because at that time there were “city-states” in Greece. “Political Science”, says Seeley, “was for the Greeks largely municipal science.” The Romans used the term “Civitas” which also means the same. But the term ‘civitas’ employed by Romans implied not merely the idea of citizenship of a city but the notion of public welfare.” The Teutons employed the term “status” which forms only the part of the phrase. The modern term “State” has been derived from the word “status” earlier employed by the Teutons.
It was Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527) who first of all seems to have employed the term “State” (State) in Political Science. It was he, who first of all introduced this term in the modern literature of Political Science. Thus, it becomes very clear that the term “State” did not become very popular until sixteenth century. The concept of modern state was not known to the people living in a greater part of the Medieval Europe. In the course of time, the word became popular and “acquired the neutral sense of authority pure and simple or constitution whatever its principles or direction.”