An association is a group of persons, having common views, associated or organized for a common end. The main feature of an association is that it is meant for certain definite purpose or purposes which are realized through the co-operative efforts of its members.
An association cannot do everything. The main purpose of its organizations is the achievement of certain limited purpose through combined action. In short, all associations or social organizations exist to satisfy some important human wants. Man is a bundle of instincts but his social instinct is the most dominant.
It is on account of this instinct that man has evolved various types of associations to satisfy his craving for associating with his fellow beings. Apart from social instinct, a modem man has political, economic, religious, recreational, cultural, aesthetic and educational needs as well.
It is for the satisfaction of these needs that various associations have come into existence. Political parties and the state are examples of political associations. Trade Unions, Church, the Arya Samaj the Sanatan Dharma Sabha are expressive of religious instinct.
A tennis club exemplifies a recreational association. School, colleges, libraries, literary societies, universities etc., are some of the examples of cultural associations. A dramatic club represents an aesthetic association and the Red Cross Society, St. John Ambulance Corps etc. are indicative of philanthropic instinct.
State as an Association:
As indicated above, the state is one among many associations. Like other associations it came into existence because of the social instinct of man and is meant for the achievement of definite ends.
Maclver along with other Pluralists refers to the state as an association but he regards it as the fundamental association meant for maintenance and development of external conditions of social order. Its purpose is to make social life possible. It is not society itself but a condition precedent to social existence.
State – Supreme Type of Association:
Pluralists are of the view that the state is also an association and it is in no way superior to other associations. It is illogical to reduce the state to the position of an ordinary association. The state is an association of associations. It is superior to all associations.
It maintains external conditions of social order so that other associations can function without interference and pursue their ends. Man lives his life through economic, social, cultural associations. These associations will not exist unless the state were to maintain law and order.
It keeps the various associations within their respective sphere. The various religious associations could exist only because the state allows them equal rights. The Indian Constitution grants fundamental right to form associations and organizations. The state guarantees this right.
The state does not create or destroy associations but it makes it possible for people to form associations of their choice. Not only it makes it possible to form associations and allows them to realize the purpose for which they are formed but also the state brings about harmony between them and is thus a cementing factor in society. Very often it suppresses some associations or organizations if they function against the interests of society or violate its laws. State thereby assures healthy social life.
So long as an association pursues socially desirable aims and that too through peaceful means, the state does not interfere with it. The association is supreme within its sphere. But once it oversteps these limits the state immediately steps in and stops it.
Sometimes the state, particularly in case of economic associations, lays down general regulative rules. For example, joint stock companies can be formed only if they satisfy certain conditions. Thus we find that state is an association of associations or a supreme association.
Aristotle rightly pointed out that state is the highest form of human association. It brings into existence those external conditions of social order through which man can develop his best self.
The state came into existence for the sake of life and continues for the sake of good life. Its purpose is common welfare. It performs activates even in the economic or other spheres which private individuals or associations cannot or do not but which arc necessary for common welfare.
The supreme aim of the state is the highest good of each and the highest good of all and the state must create opportunities towards that end.
Points to Remember
An association has been defined as a group of persons associated or organized into a unity of will for a common end. Its main purpose is the achievement of certain limited purposes through combined action. Formation of associations is instinctive to man.
In modern society there are a variety of associations like the state, political parties, trade unions, church, recreational clubs, universities, dramatic clubs, social service organizations, etc.
All of them satisfy the various needs of mankind. State is an association, but it is an all inclusive comprehensive and supreme association of all.