7 Differences between State and other Associations

Though the State is regarded as the highest of all human associations, yet there is a marked distinction between the State and other associations.

An association is defined by MacIver, an eminent political thinker of America, as “A group of persons or members who are associated and organized into unity of will or a common end”.

Cole defines it like this, any group of person pursuing a common purpose or system or aggregation of purposes by a course or co­operative action extended beyond a single act and for the purpose, agreeing together upon certain methods of procedure and laying down in, however rudimentary a form, rules for common action.

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State is also a group of human beings. Like other groups it also exists to satisfy human needs through the concerted action of the government. Despite this close affinity between the State and other associations, there are marked differences between the State and other associations.

The seven distinction between state and other associations are as follows:

(1) State possesses Sovereignty but other Associations do not:

According to MacIver, “An association denotes a group of persons or members who are associated and organised into a unity of will, for a common end”, like other associations the state is also a human institution. But the marked difference between the State and other associations is that the State possesses sovereignty whereas other associations do not possess it.


The will of the State rules supreme. The collective will of the State is expressed and executed through the government. All the citizens of the Slate are bound to obey the commands of the State. The State can make the use of power also. For this purpose the State has Army, Police and the Court of l-aw at its disposal.

The State can impose taxes and can make use of power for this purpose. But other associations do not have any such power. They cannot forcibly impose their decisions on the people nor can they get their will executed with force.

The only strictest step which they can take is to cancel the membership of the person concerned. These associations do not reserve any legal right to impose taxes on their members. They can only collect the monthly or the annual subscription from their members.

(2) Membership of the State is compulsory but not of Associations:


Another marked difference between the Slate and other associations is that the membership of the State is compulsory but not that of associations. Automatically we become the member of the State in which our ancestors had been living and in which we took birth. This marks it very clear that the membership of the State is compulsory.

But the membership of other associations is quite optional It entirely depends upon the w ill of the people to become the member of other associations or not. For example, it depends upon our will to become the member of a political party, club, dramatic club or professional association like a Gold Smiths’ Association, Postal Employees’ Association, etc. If we join an association willingly it depends entirely upon our will to quit that association, whenever, we like”.

(3) State is national in character generally but the area of an association can be local, national and also international:

These days States have become Nation-State and, therefore, their area has been extended to the Nation. But this cannot be applicable to other associations. These associations may be local, national, international.

For example, different dramatic clubs are local. While some political parties like Indian National Congress, Jana Sangh, and B.L.D., etc. claim the status of National-level parties. Akali Dal, Forward Bloc, Hindu Mahasabha, D.M.K. and Ram Rajya Parishad, etc., claim the status of Provincial-level associations, while the Red Cross is an international association.

The branches of the Communist Party are in action all over the world and important general meetings are generally held in Moscow or in any other prominent city of Communist countries. In these meetings the plans and schemes for promoting the welfare of the labour class are discussed. In this way Communist Party is an international party.

(4) One can become the member of many associations at one time but one cannot become the member of many states at the same time:

Anybody can become the member of more than one association at the same time but he cannot be the member of more than one state at the same time. For “ample, if we wish to become the member of Indian National Congress, Arya Samaj. Tennis Club or any other association at the same time, we are entitled to do so.

But we cannot become the member of various states at the same time. If one desires the membership of U.S.S.R., U.S.A., China, India and Pakistan at the same time, he cannot obtain it because no state permits him to become the member of any state other than its own. If he seeks the citizenship of the state other than his own, he has to give up the citizenship of his own state.

And this condition is applicable to the political parties also. If we wish to become the member of various political parties like Indian National Congress, B.J.P. and the Communist Party at the same time, we are not permitted to do so. But if w^ wish to become 4he member of any one political party, religious association or Recreation Club or Dramatic Clubs at the same time, we can do so.

(5) Definite Territory is essential for the State but not for the associations:

Fixed Territory forms an essential constituent of the State. No State can exist without the fixed territory. Every State requires fixed territory for its existence. The State cannot go on changing its territory. Sometimes greedy states extend their territory by committing aggression on weaker states.

For example, before the Second World War, Hitler attacked Austria, Poland, Belgium and Norway. As a result, the Second World War broke out and the Germany was defeated. On the other hand, fixed territory does not form an essential element of other associations.

If these associations have no fixed territory, they can hold their meetings any where they like. For example, many dramatic clubs and Recreational Clubs do not have any fixed territory. They seek the permission of the concerned state and give their performances.

(6) The aim of the State is broader than that of the Associations:

The State aims at promoting the common welfare of the people. The ultimate end of the State is the common good of its population. The size of the population of the State may be big or small. The number of its people may exceed millions. The State always aims at the welfare of the whole of its population.

It chalks out plans and makes schemes for the all-round progress of its people social, economic and political. The aims of the state are not limited to the progress of a particular class or association. Its ultimate end is to promote the general welfare of the State as a whole.

The membership of other associations is very limited and, therefore, their aim is particular and not general. For example, the aim of the Tennis Club is to produce notable champions and make its members good players.

Similarly, the ultimate end of the Association of History is limited to make its members aware of history. But the aims of the state are not as limited and particular as the aims of other associations. The State always keeps in view the common welfare of its people as a whole.

There is no denying the fact that the State is a permanent human associations. So long as it enjoys sovereignty, it remains a State. The State ceases to exist only when it looses its sovereignty. The other three essential constituents of the state continue to exist. But in the absence of sovereignty, it cannot exist.

Thus, it is quite clear that the State is permanent and it continues to exist for centuries. But this cannot be true about other institutions and associations. Sometimes some associations are organised with a view to attaining certain ends.

For example, when femine breaks out or a certain area is affected by deluge, relief committees are organised and when the relief work is over, these relief committees also cease to exist. Other institutions which are not so temporary are also not so permanent as the State is.

(7) The State is superior to all other Associations:

The State is regarded as superior to other institutions and associations because it aims at promoting the general welfare of the people. This is the reason why the State enjoys sovereignty and rules supreme over all other associations and institutions.

All the institutions and associations have to carry out the directives of the State; otherwise the State can file a suit against them in the Court of Law. But a democratic state does not aim at invading the authority of various associations and institutions. Barker has very aptly remarked, “The State, as a general and embracing institution of life, must necessarily adjust the relations of associations to itself, to other associations and to their own members”.

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