Meaning of the State:
There are different opinions as to the connotation of the term ‘State’. It has been erroneously used as a synonym of ‘country’; nation”, ‘society’ and ‘government’. In ordinary language, the word ‘State’ may mean many things. It may mean “condition”. But in Political Science, the term ‘State’ has scientific and definite meaning.
In its scientific sense, it means a collection of human beings, occupying a definite territory under an organised government and subject to no outside control. It is the most universal and most powerful of all social institutions.
Where ever human beings live together for any length of time there exists some type of organization and authority and this constitutes the nucleus of the State. Laski has rightly said that the study of politics “concerns itself with the life of men in relation to organised States”. Hence, politics is nothing but a scientific study of the State.
There are different views regarding first emergence of the concept of the State. The Greeks used the word “Polis” which corresponds mostly to the English term “State”. The Greeks used the word “Polis” for “City-State”.
The term was appropriate because at that time there were “City-States” in ancient Greece “Political Science” says Seeley “was for the Greeks largely municipal science “. The Romans used the term “Civitas” which also means the same thing. The Teutons employed the term “Status” which means existence.
The modern term “State” has been derived from the word “Status”. It was Niccolo Machiavelli (1969-1527) who first of all seems to have used the term “State” (the State) in Political Science. Thus, it becomes very clear that the term “State” was not very popular until the sixteenth century.
The concept of modern State was not known to the people living ir a greater part of the Mediaeval Age. In the course of time, the concept became popular and “acquired the neutral sense of authority, pure and simple or constitution whatever its principles or direction.”
Definitions of the State:
The term “State” has been defined by a number of political scientist in different ways. A few popular definitions are given below:
1. Aristotle defined the State as “union of families and villages having for its end a perfect and self-sufficing life by which we mean a happy and honorable life.
2. Bodin writers “A State is an association of families and their common affairs, governed by a supreme power and by reason.”
3. ‘Burgess defines the State as a “particular portion of mankind viewed as an organised unit”.
4. Blunstchil says “the State is politically orgnised people of a definite territory”.
5. Woodrew Wilson writes: “The State is the people organised for law within a definite territory.
6. Laski defined the State as “a territorial society divided into government and subjects, claiming within its allotted physical area, a supremacy over all other institutions.”
7. Maclver writes, “The State is an association which, acting through law as promulgated by a government endowed to this end with coercive power, maintains within a community territorially demarcated, the universal external conditions of social order”.
8. According to Oppenheim, “The State exists when a group of people settled in a country under its own sovereign government.”
9. Max Weber writes “The State is a human community which successfully claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory”.
10. Garner defines the State as ” a community of persons, more or less numerous, permanently occupying a definite portion of territory, independent or nearly so; of external control and possessing an orgnised government to which the great body of inhabitants render habitual obedience”.
Among all the above definitions, Maclver’s definition is considered to be a good definition of the State, because it emphasises ‘law’, ‘government’, coercive power’, ‘communal unity’, ‘clearly marked territory’ and ‘the universal external conditions of social order’ – the elements which should be there in order to constitute the State.
However, Garner’s definition of the State is still better, clear and precise. It is one of the best definitions of the State, as observed; the important elements which Garner has emphasised are persons permanently occupying a definite portion of territory; complete or nearly complete independence; and an organised government.
In other words, one can say, that the State is a political association with four essential elements-Population, Territory, Government and Sovereignty. Although, from the time of Aristotle to the present day.
Various writers have defined the State in different ways, there now seems to be a near unanimity of opinion that the State must have four essential elements or characteristics, viz, Population, Territory, Government and Sovereignty.
Need for the State:
The State is regarded as the central theme of Political Science. It is the most universal and most powerful of all social institutions. The Aristotlean dictum that man is a political animal implies that man cannot live without the State. One who lives without the state is either a beast or God.
The State is a natural, necessary and universal institution. It is natural because it is rooted in the reality of nature of human being. It is necessary, because it is continuing in existence for the “good life”. As Aristotle writes, “the state originated in the bare needs of life but continues for the sake of good life.”
Thus man needs the state to satisfy his diverse wants and to be what desires to be. Without help of the State he cannot develop his personality at the best level. The State is also universal institution. It has existed wherever and whenever man has lived in an organised society. Stateless existence is considered to be an impossibility Hence the State is said to be a universal institution.