Society may be defined as an association of human being which includes the whole complex of the relations of man to his fellows. It consists of all organised institutions and associations within the community. The state is one such institution and even though it is the most important group, it is not identical with society.
The difference between state and society are many:
1) The society is a bigger whole, the state is just a part to it; society comes first and the state is created from it.
2) The state is a territorial organisation. It comprises a definite territory in which it is supreme. But society has no territorial limits. It may extend from a village to the whole world.
3) Society may be organised or unorganised but a state must have an organisation, viz., government.
4) The authority of society mainly finds expression through customs while the state exercises its authority through laws enacted and enforced by Government.
5) Whereas society can use moral persuation and influence, the state is the only institution which can legitimately use coercion or force. As Earnest Barker puts it, the area of society is voluntary co-operation, its energy that of goodwill, its method that of elasticity. While the area of the state is rather that of mechanical action.
But to distinguish between the state and society is not to deny their mutual relation. The state regulates through laws, the external conduct of men in society and provides the broad framework of social order. Society, in its turn, nourishes the state with economic, cultural, religious and humanitarian activities.