The Nature of the State: Juridical, Organic and Marxian Theories


The State has been envisaged from various points of views. Theorists conceive and define the state in terms of their own science. Each gives his own theory regarding the origin, nature, sphere, function and ends of the state. These theories often differ from one another in form and substance. Here we shall make an attempt to deal with the various theories regarding the nature of the state.

I. The Juridical Theory:

The Personality of the State:


The problem regarding the personality of the state has raised a good deal of controversy among the jurists and other political writers. It has been a topic of prolific discussion whether the state may be regarded as a “person” in legal sense or not; whether the state may be regarded as a juridical creation having a personality of its own, an individuality, a self-consciousness and a will of its own.

In nineteenth century a group of German writers notably Stahl, Stein, Gerber, Lasson, Gierke, Treitschke, Rehm, Bluntschli, Jellinck and many others conceived the state as a legal personality. Gierke severely condemned the justices of the middle Ages. He criticised them because they failed to attribute legal personality to the state.

Gierke has attributed legal personality not only to the state, but to other institutions also. Professor Maitland, one of the most eminent legal scholars, has also supported the views of Gierke, Bluntschli, likewise, conceived the state as per excellence a person in the sense of public law, having a legal will of its own distinct from the sum of wills of the individuals composing the state, and a capacity for expressing its will in words and acts and as the creator and possessor of rights.

Its personality is not merely a juristic function or metaphor but reality”.’ The supporters of this theory are also of the opinion that the interests of the state may differ from the interests of the individual because the state is permanent and the individual is temporary.


The state pays due attention to the interests of the people not only in the present, but it thinks about the future of man also. The state possesses the property of its own and it can dispose of that property. The state reserves, the right to dispose of its property and keep purchased property at its disposal. So state has a separate legal existence.


The Judicial Theory regarding the nature of the State has been severely criticised by Duguit and Le Fer. “The notion”, declares Duguit, “rests upon a metaphysical, a prior conception” and upon “old scholastic concepts which have no value” and moreover, it is unscientific.

Significance of this Theory:


The only significance of this theory is that this theory enables us to follow the nature of the state easily. It regards the state as a legal personality and as a matter of fact, the state is similar to a person in many respects. There is no doubt about it that the state possesses the qualities of an individual.

For example, the state is empowered to own its property, purchase the land and dispose of its property. The state reserves the right to file a suit against others and others can file a suit against the state. The state chalks out its plans and operates accordingly. Therefore, we have to admit that the state has a personality of its own.

II. Organic Theory:

(a) State as Living Organisation:


The organic theory regarding the nature of the state represents the anti-thesis of the juridical theory. The juridical theory conceives the state to be the “legal person”, a purely mental concept of jurists. But the organic theory pictures the state as a real person and a living organism.

Dr. Garner has very aptly remarked in this regard, “The organic theory goes to the other extreme and pictures the state as a real person, a living organism possessing organs which performs functions analogous to those of an animal or plant. It is a biological conception which describes the state in terms of natural science, views of the individuals who compose it as analogous to the cells of a plant or animal, and postulates a relation of inter-dependence between them and society such as exists between the organs and parts of a biological organism and the whole structure”.

As the animal body is composed of cells, so the state is composed of several individuals and as is “the relation of the hand to the body or the leaf to the tree, so is the relation of man to the society. He exists in it and it in him”.

The state is a living whole of which each individual is a constituent part. Just as our body has the natural unity, so has our society. Our hand lives and moves only as a part of an organic whole and will cease to function as soon as it is amputated from the body an organic whole. The state is like a living organism and there is a complete inter-dependence among the individuals who constitute it.


It is not the sum-total of the individuals but a biological unity can be found in a living organism. The state without individuals has no meaning and the individual.” divorced from the state have no meaningful role to play, the state according to Bluntschli, “is a living organised entity, not a lifeless instrument.

Its organism, describes Bluntschli, is a copy of a natural organism, particularly in the following respects:

(a) “Every organism is a union of soul and body, i.e., of material elements and vital forces”.

(b) “Although an organism is and remains a whole, yet in its parts it has members which are animated by special motives and capacities, in order to satisfy in various ways the varying need of the whole”.

(c) “The organism develops itself from within outward and has an external growth”.

Bluntschli goes to the extent of saying: “As an oil painting is something more than a combination of drops of oil as a statue is something more than a combination of marble particles, as a man is something more than a mere quantity of cells and blood corpuscles, so the nation is something more than a mere aggregation of citizens and the state something more than a mere collection of external regulations”. Thus, the state is a living entity and not a lifeless instrument.

(b) Views of Herbert Spencer:

In nineteenth century, Herbert Spencer adopted this theory and drew in his famous hook “Principles of Sociology” (1878-1880), an elaborated analogy between society and a natural organism. According to him society is an organism. As a living body grows and develops, so does society.

Spencer asserted that society is organism and it differs in no essential principles from other biological organisms. The attributes of an organism and the society, he maintained, are similar and t he permanent relations existing between their various parts are also the same. Both exhibit the same process of development.

Herbert Spencer says. “The animal and social bodies begin as germs, all similar and complex in structure.” Spencer further maintained, “As the lowest type of animal is all stomach, respiratory surface or limb, so primitive society is all warrior, all hunter, all builder or all tool-maker. As a society grows in complexity, division of labour follows, i.e., New organs with different functions appear, corresponding to the differentiation of functions in the animal, in which fundamental trait they become entirely alike. “There is so much dependence of one on the other that the distress of one paralyses the rest of the society.

“If the iron worker in the social organism stops work, or the miner or the food producer, or the distributor fails to discharge his natural functions in the economy of the society, the whole suffers injury just as the animal organism suffers from the failure of its members to perform their functions.” He further points out that just as cell tissues and blood corpuscles in the animal organism wear out and are replaced by new ones, in the same manner, old, infirm, and diseased persons die, giving place to newly born persons.

His arguments can be summed up in the following manner:

(a) Society is an organism. The .permanent relations existing between the various parts of body are similar to those of society.

(b) Both society and organism begin as germs, and as they grow, they become more complex.

(c) Each has its organs-the animal its organ of alimentation; society its industrial structures.

(d) Just as the hand depends on the arm, the arm on the body and head, so do the parts of social organism depend on each other. Every living body depends for its very life on the proper co-ordination and interrelation of the units. The life of society depends on exactly similar conditions.

(e) In the social as in the individual organism there are various systems. These are (a) the sustaining system, (b) the distributor system, and (c) the regulating system. The first constitutes the means of alimentation in the living organism and production in the state. The second is the circulatory system in the organic body and trasporation in the state. The third is the nervous-system in the living organism and in the body politic, it is the government military.

Despite all these points of similarity. Spencer admits, however, that there is one dissimilarity in the structure of body politic and that of the living organism. The living organism is concrete in structure; while the social body or the state is discrete.

The units of a living organism are bound together in close contact while the units of body politic are free and more or less widely spread. No doubt this difference is fundamental yet “upon close examination”, says Spencer, “it will not put comparison out of the question”, for it can be shown that “the social aggregate, though discrete, is still a living whole.”

(c) Criticism and Organic Theory:

Organic Theory has been criticised on the following grounds:

(1) Difference between Structure:

There is a great difference in the structure of the state and of the living organism. A living organism is concrete in structure whereas the state is discrete in structure. The units of a living organism are bound together in close contact whereas the units of the state are free and more or less widely spread.

(2) This theory does not give a satisfactory clue to the origin or nature of the state:

Professor Gettell has rightly observed that organic theory does not give a satisfactory clue to the origin or nature of the state. A few scholars have used this theory in support of socialism, while others have used it in support of individualism.

(3) There is no definite span of existence of the state:

The span of existence or the duration of every living organism is almost definite but the span of existence of the state is not definite. No guess can be made regarding the span of existence of the state.

(4) The principles of the origin and development of the state or society are different from those of the individual:

The principles of the origin or the development of the state or society are different from those of the individual. Man is born of the union of man and woman but the state is not the product of any such union. The development of the state is different from the development of the individual. The functioning of human body and its growth is different from that of the state.

(5) Individuals are not just like cells in an organism:

Numerous cells found in an organism have no existence of their own. Their existence depends on the existence of the organism. They work in the body just like the parts of a machine. The individual has got his independent existence and he has got I lie power to think. His ideas and actions exercise their effect on the whole of society.

(6) If the organs of body are amputated, they become lifeless. Amputated from the body, the organs of body have no existence; whereas an individual does not cease to exist even when he is separated from the state. He can live or exist in the absence of the state or society.

(7) ‘The body of a living organism grows and develops naturally whereas the state develops with the co-operation of the individuals.

(8) This theory supported Dictatorship. It shows that just as an organ is insignificant and useless in the absence of the whole body, so an individual has no importance of his own in the absence of society.

(9) The state is only an imaginary concept; it is not a living organism.

III. The Marxian or Communist Theory:

The exponents of this theory are Karl Marx and his close associate Frederick Engles, Karl Marx was the founder of Scientific Socialism or Communism. He has given details of this theory in his renowned work ‘Das Capital’ He has given details of this theory of Economic Interpretation of History and Class-struggle and closely related with these theories is the Marxian theory about the nature of the state.

Marx and his friend Engels believed that the state originated at a certain stage of economic development. The society broke into classes, and the state which arose, was controlled by slave-owners and property owners who exploited the slaves and the poor mercilessly. This created a wide gap between the haves and the have-not’s and as a result a terrific class-struggle ensued. The state is an instrument of exploitation and coercion, and is the product and manifestation of the irreconcilable class antagonism.

At every stage of its development, a single class is dominant and this dominant class controls the state and uses its machinery to further its exploitation of the exploited class, which is, indeed, the poorest class.

So under capitalism, the State becomes an instrument of the capitalist to exploit fully the poor working class (the proletariat). Consequently the Marxian theory totally rejects the prevalent view that the State is a natural institution and slowly and gradually arose because of the needs of man.

Frederick Engels throws ample light on this point by stating that “The state has not existed from all eternity. There have been societies that did without it, that had no conception of the State and State power. At a certain stage of economic development, which was necessarily bound up with the cleavage of Society into classes, the State became a necessity owing to cleavage.”

Lenin, the founder of the Communist Party in Russia and first Socialist State of the world in that country, further clarified this point by saying that “State is an organ for the oppression of one class by another and it creates order which legalises and perpetuates this oppression by moderating the collision between the classes.”

The Ancient and Medieval states were instruments in the hands of the Ruling Class for the exploitation of the slaves and the serfs. In the ancient times there were two classes in Greece, the Masters (property owners) and the slaves. Similarly in Rome there were two classes Patricians (the land owners) and the Plebians (the poor class).

There was exploitation of the poor class by the rich class, as a result of which struggle ensued between them off and on. In the medieval times, feudalism prevailed in Europe which led to the exploitation of the serfs (landless labourers working on the fields). In modern times after the Industrial Revolution in Europe, there was the sharp cleavage of classes. The capitalists exploited the working class.

This resulted in the French Revolution. Due to similar reasons, there occurred historic Communist Revolution on November 7, 1917, under the leadership of Lenin, so the exploitation of the working class was ended and the state became an instrument for the welfare of the labour class.

Karl Marx believed in the classless and stateless society. He said that after the communist revolution, dictatorship of the Proletariat Class will be established, the capitalist or bourgeoisite class will be liquidated and the State will wither away, and a classless and stateless society will emerge.


Karl Marx believed that the Capitalist State can be ended only with the help of force. Therefore, he wrote in the Communist Majifesto’, that “Let the capitalists tremble at the Communist Revolution.” So following the lead given by the founder of communism, the communists brought about revolution in Russia, China, East Germany, Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Rumania, Yugoslavia and Vietnam by means of force.

Communism, however ended in Hast European countries in 1989/1990 and in former U.S.S.R. on December 25, 1991. The Communist parties in other non-communist countries are also conspiring to bring about revolution by similar methods which are considered highly objectionable by the existing governments. Moreover, teaching of class-war by the communists will lead to the wide-spread hatred in the society and will hamper its harmonious growth.

The Marxian theory completely ignores the contribution of the non-economic factors that gave rise to the state. It fails to explain the true nature of the state judges everything in the terms of money and ignores the claims of forces that helped in the development of the state.

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