The main difference between state and society are :
1. Society is defined as “a collection of individuals held together by certain enduring relationship in Pursuit of common ends.” The State, on the other hand, is defined as “a particular portion of society politically organized for the protection and promotion of its common interests”. Thus, the state is a part of society The State is necessarily a political organization but society is not.
2. The society regulates all forms of social conduct the State regulates only the external relationship of men in society. While the State derives its strength mainly from laws, societies derive its strength from traditions, customs and conversions.
3. The State possesses the power of coercion. Disobedience to its law is followed by punishment. Society, on other hand. does not enjoy the power of coercion Disobedience to its rules may not be followed by any physical punishment. Thus, the only basis of the authority of society is social customs, convention and morality. Society secures the co-operation of its members by persuasion and not by coercion. The State alone possesses sovereignty.
4. The State is a territorial organization. It has well defined territory of its own. But society is not limited to any geographical area. The Jews, for example, constitute a society as they are spread all over the world. So is the case with the Hindu society or the Christian society. It has thus no territorial jurisdiction as the State always has. Its scope may over the entire world crossing the boundaries of various nations. Within a State, the people may be organized into different societies having different social traditions. Thus, society may be narrower or broader than the State.
5. The State is a compulsory organization where as society is a voluntary organization.
In spite of above differences, the State and Society have some common features as well. The State and society sometimes include practically the same persons and in most cases, an overwhelming majority of the members of a society may be included in the same State.
Hence, the State and Society go hand in hand. They help each other. Progress of society depends upon the progress of the state and the working of the state is in influence by social customs and traditions. Barker has summed up the distinction between the State and Society in the following words. “The Slate and society overlap, they blend, they borrow from one another. But roughly we may say that the area of the one is voluntary co-operation, its energy that of good will, its method that of elasticity, while the area of the other is that of mechanical action, its energy, forces, its method, rigidity.