All schools of political thought with the exception of Anarchists, recognize the need of state for human development and social progress. The primary purpose of the state is to establish and maintain peace, order and security. It is in and through the state that an individual can achieve the highest ends of his existence.
There are various schools of philosophy which hold different views regarding the purpose of the state. To the Greeks the purpose of the state was self-sufficiency. For them, it was a community of well-being.
The Social contract theorists like Hobbes & Locke thought that the purpose of state was to maintain life and property. Rousseau thought that the end of state was to make good life possible for an individual. Bentham put the end of state as the genera] happiness. Many writers think justice as the end of the slate. In fact, slate is not an end but only means to an end.
What should be the precise purpose of the state is a matter of great controversy among the political philosophers. In main there are two schools of philosophers, views of which are discussed as follows:
State is an end and Individual is a means to that end: The Idealist philosophers deify and glorify the State and declare that Sale is an end in itself and individual is only a means to that end. The stale should be omnipotent and Omni competent. It should perform all possible functions concerning the individuals.
The State should control all the activities of the individuals—may these be social, economic, spiritual, or political. State is a moral organism or an ethical substance having a will and personality of its own. As Hegel put it, “the state is the march of God on earth. It represents the social consciousness and to obey the state is to obey your best self’.
The individual, according to Idealists can achieve the end of his existence in and through the State. As such the individual should completely identify himself with the state. He should render unflinching obedience to the state. He has no meaning outside the state.
In the words of T.H. Green, “State is indispensable to the fullest growth of personality of man.” Idealists feel that State is an end and individual is only a means to that end, which fact implies that state is every thing and individual is just born to obey the State and thereby satisfy the needs of his existence. It is by unhesitating obedience to the laws of the state that man can achieve moral perfection.
The pseudo-personality of man is merged into that of the state. Whatever state does, it does for the good of the individual. State has got full authority and individual has got no rights against the state. He is supposed to perform duties towards the state and therein lies his real liberty.
This view that state is an end and an individual is a means to that end was pushed to extreme by the Nazis and Fascists in Germany and Italy. All the people in Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy were completely subordinated to the state. The states were developed into dictatorships and people were denied even fundamental civil liberties.
In the opinion of Nazi and Fascist leaders, the state is like a tree and individuals arc like its leaves. The leaves wither away while the tree stands. They said, “State is an imperishable organism whose life extends beyond that of the individuals who are its transitory elements.
These are born, grow up, die and are substituted by others, while the state always retains its identity and its patrimony of ideas and sentiments, which each generation receives from the past and transmits to the future. In their opinion, the individual’s happiness or individual’s welfare is not the end or purpose of the state, on the other hand, welfare and existence of the state is the supreme end or aim of the individual’s life.
He should willingly sacrifice his life and happiness for the sake of the state. He must subordinate his wishes to the state. It is emphasized that state has its own purposes of preservation, expansion and perfection and these are superior to the purpose of the individuals who at any time compose it.
It sounds grandiose to say that the state has ends superior to those of the individual composing the state. But what are those ends? Why should an individual subordinate his own ends to those of the slate? No conclusive answer has been given by the exponents of this theory.
Answers involving phrases that the state represents ‘Universal reason’, ‘spirit’, ‘idea’, ‘real will’ arc only evasions of the main issue. One doubts that these phrases are only meant to justify the acquisition of power and prestige for the state which in actual fact implies dictatorial powers and unbridled authority in the hands of the rulers and to commend to the people the sacrifices in the high sounding name of the state. The theory is but one way of justifying dictatorship and arbitrary authority.
The Individual is an end and the State is means to that end:
The theory of individualism advocated by J.S. Mill, Herbert Spencer and Adam Smith emphasizes the fact that state is only means to an end and the end is the individual’s happiness and his welfare. The individualist philosophers give maximum importance to the individual and they consider state to be subordinate to the interests of the people. This doctrine revolves around two points.
First is the curtailment of the function of the state to the barest minimum and second is the maximum liberty to the individual. The individualists consider the state to be a necessary evil. It is an evil because it encroaches upon the liberty of an individual. It is necessary to regulate human relations and safeguard individual liberty. They arc in favor of a negative state or a police state.
They want the state to perform only two functions; firstly to maintain internal law and order and secondly to defend the country against any external aggression. The functions of the state, they believe, arc negatively regulative. The function of the state is to redress evils and not to make men happier. Its main job is to protect and restrain; not to foster and develop. J.S. Mill defends the theory from ethical point of view.
He maintains that individual can realize the ends of his existence best when state interference is the least. It is only in an atmosphere of freedom that an individual can have a harmonious growth of his faculties and potentialities. State interference of any kind is likely to dwarf his inner faculties, weaken the sense of responsibility, destroy the power of self- help and kill initiative.
Adam Smith defends the theory from economic point of view. He is in favor of free economic competition between man and man. Any restriction imposed by the state on trade and industry disturbs the economic mechanism resulting in various malpractices like black-marketing, hoarding and profiteering. Herbert Spencer defends the theory from scientific or biological point of view.
In his opinion, there is a universal law of ‘survival of the fittest’ operating in the whole world. human society as well, free competition between man and man be allowed and the fittest be permitted to come to the top. The slate should Just be a silent spectator looking on what is being done. An individual should be allowed to stand or fall according to his worth without any artificial support of the state.
In nutshell, the Individualists declare the Individual to be the end and State a means to that end.Apart from the controversy of end and means there are certain other theories which throw light on the purpose and function of the State.
The Anarchists regard the State to be an unnecessary evil. They are enemy number one of the state. They believe that men have an inherent cooperative instinct in them. They are capable of regulating their affairs without the state interference in any shape.
This co-operative instinct has rather been curbed by the state and men have become vicious and criminal. They believe that both the individual and society will be benefitted if the institution of state is completely done away with. According to an Anarchist philosopher Kropotkin, “The state has no natural and historical justification. It is a great hindrance in the path of human progress.”
Mahatma Gandhi’s view:
Mahatma Gandhi viewed state as an embodiment of force. He felt that state was against the dictates of Ahimsa or non-violence. A true society in his opinion could only be built on the rules of Ahimsa.
State is the enemy of true freedom and morality. It is the embodiment of force and violence. True freedom consists in willing and self-imposed imperatives of duty.
The socialists advocate the widest possible extension of function of the state. The state should stand for the maximum advancement of the material welfare of all.
The state should be positive, service and culture state. The state should control and regulate economic competition and eliminate the profit motive by replacing it by the state.
The state should become a producer and distributor of goods as also a master and moral preceptor. It is the function of the state to see that the total income is distributed equitably among the people so that each individual receives his due share of the income in proportion to his labor and efficiency in work.
The basic idea underlying socialism is “From each according to his capacity and to each according to the quantity and quality of work put in.”
The socialist regard state as an agent for doing good to the community. The individual does not always know his interest best. The state has often to force him to do that what is best for him.
Thus the socialist state is not a police or a negative state as is conceived of by the individualists. It is a paternalistic state which regulates the individual’s life in all its aspects.
The Utilitarian view:
Jeremy Bentham and others point out that individual welfare should be main criterion and state is to be only a means towards that end. Briefly he says “that all men desire happiness, which may be defined as the surplus of pleasure versus pain.
Pleasure and pain are, therefore, the main springs of human activity. Greatest happiness of the greatest number, should be the aim or purpose of the state.” This is very valuable idea in politics. It supplies a slogan which gets imprinted in the popular mind and supplies a touch-stone for measuring the usefulness of any state action.
The basic idea of utilitarianism as distinguished from Idealism is that “all state actions must be judged from their results; by their fruitfulness in pleasure and this pleasure must find expression in the actual life of the people.” As Pollock puts it, “the formula of greatest happiness of greatest number can be made a hook to put in the nostrils of the monster of the state, that he may be tamed and harnessed to chariot of utility.”
General Welfare Theory:
This is the via media advocated by those who wish to avoid extremes of both socialism and individualism. According to this theory, the state should have three main objects to pursue:
(a) It should ensure the well-being of the individual.
(b It should bring about the well-being of the state or the collective interests of individuals in their associated capacity.
(c) It should promote the civilization.