Law is nothing but a command of the sovereign and is obeyed because of physical penalties. Sovereignty is universal. It can make or unmake any laws. It creates unity in society.

Whatever exists in society, is permitted by the state and hence commanded by it. People have no rights against the state; state creates both laws and rights. Rights are what sovereign sanctions. Hobbes compared the state to a “Leviathan”.

Idealists defined the state as “God” on earth. According to these writers, the citizen has to ask the state of his duties and perform them. It is in the performance of duties and obedience of law that he achieves his best self and reaches perfection.

Pluralists on the other hand, criticize this theory on the ground that society is not monistic but pluralistic and federal. State is not society. State is not the but an association in society.


Society is a web of associations and social processes. The state does not create one final unit in society but there are numerous units. The state does not comprehend the whole social life.

It only deals with, as MacIver says, “external conditions of social order. It does not and cannot deal with its internal life”.

According to Pluralists, each association is a real personality, inde­pendent of state. There are associations like family and church which came into existence even before the state. These associations have their own constitution, purpose and regulative institutions which the states cannot interfere with.

As Lindsay put it, “The state can have control corporations and associations within it only and in so far as the are prepared to give it such power.


The state is only one of associations and organizations which possess corporate personalities and which are occupied in the performance of various functions analogous to those performed by the state.

These associations are more important to life than the state. Man is an associative animal and lives his life through various associations like family, church, recreational club, economic organization where he earns his livelihood, a gossip circle, etc. They are more real to him and of greater significance than the state is.

The purpose of the state is to create external conditions whereby a citizen can choose his associations, freely and thereby develop his personality. They deal with his spiritual, internal moral and personal life.

They deal with those aspects of life which state is incapable of serving successfully. These associations are a thus limi­tation upon the powers of state and its sovereignty.


They also compete with the state for the allegiance of man. Very often an association or its members may defy the state and even over­throw it if the state does not fulfill the purpose they consider good and promote common welfare.

Moreover, an individual obeys to the associa­tions from his heart whereas he obeys the state only on account of fear. As Lindsay points out, “these associations attract deeper loyalties than the state and prove more effective agencies of social co-ordination.

” Ac­cording to MacIver.” Customs, religion, principles of morality and public opinion are a limitation upon the state.”

Laws are not commands of state but reflect the ‘sociological needs of the community. The function of the state is to maintain these laws and they are limitations upon the state, which it too must obey. State at the most brings them up-to-date according to the changing needs.


The laws are obeyed not because of fear but because they promote common welfare, “Force is not the essence but only differentia or criterion of state.” State only distinguishes it from other associations.

It possesses force because the performance of its functions, that is, maintenance law and order, demands it. The physical force is conditioned by the purpose.

Laski points out that there is no single unity in the state- associations are unities but they together form the society. Authority of the state is federal and conditioned by its purpose.

Speaking of the monistic theory of sovereignty he says, “It would be of lasting benefit to political science if the whole concept of sovereignty was surrendered.


” He further says that the state “does not exhaust the associative impulses of men.” The group is real in the same sense that the state is real. No association can legislate for the whole of self. Surely, least can the state.”

The laws made by the state are very often the result of the demands of various associations. Often the state presents the decisions of other associations as its own decisions and clothes them into law.

The state is thus only according to Figgis, “an agency of co-ordination and adjust­ment.” It is the supreme body because its commands are adhered but it cannot act arbitrarily and has to function within so many limitations.



1. The pluralistic conceptions of sovereignty have been criticized on many grounds. It is said that the logical conclusion of the theory of Pluralism is anarchism.

If every association is given a status equal to the state then there will be no co-coordinating agency. In the absence of such an agency there is bound to be complete anarchy.

2. The pluralists forget that the state is a unifying force.

3. Pluralists are not clear as to what is their goal.

4. It is in the interest of associations that more power is vested in the state. If the power and authority of the state are brought to the level of an association, no association will be able to grow, progress and achieve its aim.

We may sum up in the words of Garner, “not withstanding weakness of the Austin’s theory of sovereignty as a concept of strict legal nature of sovereignty, his theory on the whole is clear and logical and much of the criticism directed against it has been founded on misapprehension and misconception.”

Points to Remember

The political Pluralists including Figgis, Maitland, Barker and criticize the absolute sovereignty of the state . They lay particular emphasis on the sovereignty of different groups or associations flourishes in a society. They hold that the sovereignty of the state is neither absolute nor indivisible.

Laski calls sovereignty pluralistic,constitutional and responsible. He opines that the power of the state is in territorial and functional groupings. The state only co- ordinates the activities of the different, associations. Modern society aggregation of associations and not of individuals.

Every associate fulfills a particular need of mankind, the sum-total of the interest promoted by all these groups exceeds that of the state. Hence the state cannot claim any superior position. The Pluralists further attack the Austinian conception of law. According to them, laws are obeyed because of the force of public opinion, their utility and their social significance Lastly, the Pluralists criticize the external sovereignty of the state International law is a big limitation upon the external sovereignty of the state.