State can be defined as the centralized, law making, law enforcing, and politically sovereign institution in the society.
In other words, it is useful to understand and define the State in terms of the functions it performs. The State has been described as’:
i. Comprises a set of institutions with ultimate control over the means of violence and coercion within a given territory;
ii. Monopolizes rule-making within the territory;
iii. Develops the structures for the implementation of the rules;
iv. Regulates market activity within the territory; and
v. Ensures the regulation and distribution of essential material goods and services.
In modern times, that are to say during the last three hundred years or so, a whole new set of functions have been added to this. It has been argued that the major task of the modern state system in Europe was to enable the development of industrialism.
It was also under industrialism that the modern State came to enjoy tremendous powers. It also became so omnipotent that it became virtually impossible to think of human life outside the framework of the State.
Living in modern times we tend to take the State for granted as if it has always been a part of human society. Moreover, we also tend to take some of the features of the modern State – national, representative, centralized, interventionist-for granted. We need to recognize that not only were these features not always a part of the State, the State itself was not always there.
Therefore the question on the life of the State can-be answered by suggesting that although there is nothing exclusively modern about the State, it nonetheless does not have a very long life in human history it is therefore best to look upon State as a contingency and not a perennial feature of human life.
If we were to divide the entire human history into three phases – pre-agrarian, agrarian and industrial – then the State certainly did not exist in the pre-agrarian phase 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 centralization. However, once humans took to agriculture and consequently to a more settled life, a division of labour and a more complex form of human organization began to emerge.
It was then that gradually a State came into being to extract surplus, regulate the division of labour, maintain exchange mechanism and settle disputes whenever required.
All the agrarian societies had a State. Small, primitive, simple and elementary agrarian societies could still manager their affairs without a State. Although the State had arrived in the human world at this stage, it was still an option and not inevitability. Some agrarian societies had a state and some did not.
It was however in the third phase of human society, i.e., under industrialism that the State ceased to be an option and became an integral and necessary part of human society. With a limitless increase in the division of labour and an increasing complexity of human life, people have found it impossible to manage without a State.
So it would be fair to say that in the beginning, i.e., in the pre-agrarian stage of human life there was no State. Then, under agrarian condition, some human societies had a State and some did not. Under industrial condition there is no choice but to have a State. State under modern conditions is no longer an option but a necessity.
Thomas Hobbes offers a brilliant analysis of the State and related issues. He represents a point of transition, between a commitment to the absolute State and the struggle of liberalism against tyranny.
In a nutshell, liberalism can be explained as that worldview which gives central importance to the idea of choice, this choice is to be exercised across diverse fields like marriage, education, enterprise, work and profession and of course political affairs.
This ability to choose is what characterizes a rational and free individual and politics is about the defense of these rights and any interference whatsoever is to be limited and through the State based on a constitution.
Hobbes in his book ‘Leviathan’ acknowledges clearly the development of a new form of power, public power characterized by permanence and sovereignty. However, he combines many profoundly liberal and at the same times many illiberal arguments, not in coherence with the modern theories of the stall.
He suggests that free and equal individuals should surrender their rights by transferring them to a powerful authority that can force them to keep promises and covenants, then an effective and legitimate private and public sphere, society and State can be formed.
This would be done through a social contract wherein consenting individuals hand over their rights of self-government to a single authority, authorized to act on their behalf. The sovereign thus created would be permanent and absolute.
At this point it is interesting to note the liberal in Hobbes emphasizing that this sovereign would be so only as a consequence of consenting individuals, who in turn are bound to fulfill their obligations to the sovereign. It would be the duty of the sovereign however, to protect the people and of course their property.
Thomas Hobbes considers the State to be pre-eminent in social and political life. According to him it is the State that gives to the individuals the chance to live in a civilized society.
The miserable life in the state of nature is altered by the emergence of the State, and then follows the creation of a civilized society Thus, it is the State that in Hobbes’ conception constructs society and establishes its form and codifies its forces.
The State is legitimate and represents the sum total of all individuals enabling them to carry on with their businesses and lives in an uninterrupted manner. To do all this, a giant and powerful State is envisaged, and this vision is remarkably close to the image of a modern all pervasive State that we are familiar with. His conception of individuals as being nothing more than self-interested is also a depressingly modern and familiar view.
Hobbes’ political conclusions emphasizing on an all powerful State does make him profoundly illiberal, and this tension in his writings between the emphatic claims on individuality on the one hand, and the need for an all powerful State on the other hand make his arguments very exciting.
Locke is not prepared to accept the idea of an absolute sovereign, and this is a major point of departure from where he then establishes his theory of the State. For Locke the State exists as an instrument to protect the life, liberty and estate of the citizens.
Locke like Hobbes saw the establishment of the political world as preceded by the existence of individuals endowed with natural rights to property, which includes life, liberty and estate.
Thus Locke paved the way for a representative government although Locke himself advocated constitutional monarchy and was clearly not articulating any of the now routinely accepted democratic ideas of popular government based on universal adult franchise. Yet there is no denying that it was his idea that the State should be for the protection of the rights of the citizens which made the transformation of liberalism into liberal democracy possible.
Locke’s ideas that there must be limits upon legally sanctioned political power, Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), and James Mill (1733- 1836) developed a systematic account of the liberal democratic State.
In their account the state would be expected to ensure that the conditions necessary for individuals to pursue their interests without risk of arbitrary political interference, to participate freely in economic transactions, to exchange labour and goods on the market and to appropriate resources privately.
In all this the State was to be like an umpire while individuals went about their business as per the rules of the free market, and periodic-elections determined who would be in power.
The modern liberal democratic State which we are familiar with can be traced to the writings of Bentham and Mill. However they stopped short of advocating universal suffrage (for instance workers and women were kept out of the charmed circle), finding one reason or the other to deny the vote to all individuals.
For the utilitarian’s, democracy was not an end in itself only a means to an end. Democracy was seem as the logical requirement for the governance of a society freed from absolute power and tradition, inhabited by individuals who seek to maximize their private gains, constituted as they are by endless desires.
John Stuart Mill (1806-73) is perhaps one of the first and strongest advocates of democracy as an end in itself who saw its primary purpose as the highest and harmonious development of the individual.
John Stuart Mill was deeply committed to the idea of individual liberty, moral development and the rights of minorities. He was concerned with the nature and limits of the power that could be legitimately exercised by society over the individual. Liberal democratic government was necessary not only to ensure the pursuit of individual satisfaction, but also for free development of individuality.
While he conceded the need for some regulation and interference in individual’s lives, but he sought obstacles to arbitrary and self- interested intervention. To ensure all of this, Mill proposed a representative democracy.
However despite the firm commitment to liberty and democracy that Mill makes, he too believed that those with the most knowledge and skills should have more vote?
Than the rest, inevitably this would imply that those with most property and privilege would have more votes than the rest. Of course it needs to be mentioned that deep inequalities of wealth, and power bothered Mill who believed that these would prevent the full development of those thus marginalized.
Thomas Hobbes (5 April 1588 – 4 December 1679), in some older texts Thomas Hobbs of Malmesbury, was an English philosopher, remembered today for his work on political philosophy His 1651 book Leviathan established the foundation for most of Western political philosophy from the perspective of social contract theory.
Thomas Hobbes was born in Wiltshire, England on 5 April 1588, some sources say at Malmesbury. Born prematurely when his mother heard of the coming invasion of the Spanish Armada, Hobbes later reported that “my mother gave birth to twins: myself and fear.” His childhood is almost a complete blank, and his mother’s name is unknown. His father, also named Thomas, was the vicar of Charlton and Westport.
Thomas Sr. abandoned his three children to the care of an older brother, Thomas junior’s uncle Francis, when he was forced to flee to London after being involved in a fight with a clergyman outside his own church.
Hobbes was educated at Westport church from the age of four, passed to the Malmesbury School and then to a private school kept by a young man named Robert Latimer, a graduate of the University of Oxford.
Hobbes was a good pupil, and around 1603 he went up to Magdalen Hall, which is most closely related to Hertford College, Oxford. The principal John Wilkinson was a Puritan, and he had some influence on Hobbes.
Main interests Political, philosophy, history, ethics, geometry Notable ideas modern founder of the social contract tradition; life in the state of nature is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”
John Locke; (29 August 1632 – 28 October 1704), widely known as the Father of Liberalism, was an English philosopher and physician regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers.
Considered the first of the British empiricists, he is equally important to social contract theory. His work had a great impact upon the development of epistemology and political philosophy.
His writings influenced Voltaire and Rousseau, many Scottish Enlightenment thinkers, as well as the American revolutionaries. His contributions to classical republicanism and liberal theory are reflected in the American Declaration of Independence.
Locke’s theory of mind is often cited as the origin of modern conceptions of identity and the self, figuring prominently in the work of later philosophers such as Hume, Rousseau and Kant. Locke was the first to define the self through a continuity of consciousness.
He postulated that the mind was a blank slate or tabula rasa. Contrary to pre-existing Cartesian philosophy, he maintained that we are born without innate ideas, and that knowledge is instead determined only by experience derived from sense perception.
Rapid and far-reaching technological, economic, political changes apart from a good numbers of years separate John Locke from Hobbes.