State And Other Associations

An association is an organized group of people which seeks to achieve some specific objectives through joint efforts. An association has, therefore, three features :

  1. organization of the people;
  2. some common/specific objectives;
  3. joint efforts.

Examples :

  • Family is an association. Its people are organized through ties of blood; all the members of the family work together to attain objects common to the family.
  • Other examples of the association are Cricket Club, the Church, the Red Cross Society, the Residents’ Welfare Association and the like.


Associations make up the society.



The state is also an association which exists, along with other associations in the society. But the state as an association is different from other associations. These differences may be explained as under :

(a) All the associations, including even the state, consist of people. But while the membership of the state is compulsory, that of the other associations is voluntary. A person has to be a member of a state: no person, as he/she becomes adult, is a member of two states; his/her membership of the state is a matter of compulsion. The membership of an association, say a Church, Cricket Club, the Red Cross Society is voluntary i.e. it depends on the will of the person: a person may join an association or may not.

(b) A person is a member of one state at one time; he/she can not be a member of two or three states at the same time. But a person may be, a member of numerous associations at the same time. Mr. X is a member of the Cricket Club, the Church and the Residents Welfare Association – all at the same time.

(c) All associations function on territory. But while for a state as an association, territory has to be definite, the other associations do not have permanent territory. The other associations must have place to conduct their activities but that place need not be definite: that place may be Green Avenue today, Blue Avenue the next month. The state’s territory does not change, it is fixed for all times.

(d) All associations, including the state, exist to perform and achieve certain ends. While for the state, the purpose is always general (maintenance of law and order for example) for the other associations, the purpose is usually specific, particular. The Cricket Association exists for playing cricket, a specific and a particular purpose. We can say that the sphere of state’s activity is all inclusive while that of any other associations, is always limited.

(e) The character of the state is national. The character of other associations may be local, provincial, national and even international.

  • The INC, BJP, etc., for example, are national political parties, and therefore it are of national character;
  • The Residents’ Welfare Association is local in character;
  • The Government Teachers Association of Haryana is a provincial association;
  • The United Nations Educational Scientific Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is international in character.

(f) The other associations differ from the state in so far as they are not sovereigns while the state is. The other associations may be and actually always are autonomous but they have to work within the rules of the state. The state is sovereign because it is supreme over all other associations and is independent of all other states.

(g) The violation of the state’s laws is accompanied by punishment like imprisonment. No other association has the power to punish its members physically. At best they can only employ pressure or expel a defiant member.


The relationship between the state and other associations is significant in many respects.

  • The other associations help the state reduce its burden; they perform functions even greater than those of the state; some of them, (for example, the family, friendship groups, church) have been in existence much before the state.
  • The state need not take away their powers; it need not dominate them. What at best, the state can do and in fact, should do is that it should supervise their activities; should co-ordinate their activities, and should see that the other associations function properly within their spheres.
  • Important as these other associations are in their internal domains and in their functions, they need not override the authority of the state, and should never challenge the state’s sovereignty.
  • The state, on the other hand, need to ensure the other associations their autonomy.



Bibliography : NIOS – Political Science

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