The state is the most powerful of all social institutions. It has become one of the important factors in our social life today. When we take birth in our family, the government takes notice of our birth and it registers it. State has framed regulations regarding health and sanitation in order to save us during childhood.
It has made arrangement for our education. Some portion of our income is paid in form of taxes to the state through the government. It is the state which controls the prices of different commodities. It protects us from our enemies. It provides us medical facilities.
It takes care of the old and invalid. If the state is in danger we fight for it. Not only our birth but also our death get registered with the state or the government.
In case we are unable to afford money for our burial it is the state which bury us. Thus, from the moment of our birth till our death we come in contact with the state directly or indirectly in every day life.
The term state may means condition of health or economic condition. The term is sometimes loosely used by people to mean estates of India, or “the United States of America”. Sometimes mean ‘nation’ or ‘society’ or ‘government’ or ‘country’.
These uses of the term are not correct at all from the scientific point of view. It has in fact, a specific meaning which is completely different m its various uses noted above.
Different scholars have defined state differently according to their individual view point. Some of the important definitions of the state are mentioned below.
Woodrow Wilson defines “state as a group of people organised law within a definite territory.” Burgess defines state as “a particular portion of mankind viewed as organised unity.”
Bluntschil says that, “the state is a combination or association men in the form of Government and governed, on a. definite territory, united together into a moral organised masculine tonality, more shortly person of definite territory.” Prof. Laski defines state as “a territorial society divided into Government and subjects claiming with its allotted physical area of supremacy over all other institutions.
J.W.Garner gives a very comprehensive definition of the state, holds the view that the state as a concept of political science public law, is a community of persons, more or less numerous, permanently occupying a definite portion of territory, independent, nearly so, of external control and possessing an organised government to which the great body of inhabitants render habitual obedience.” It is considered to be the best definition of the state.
It can be summed up as “the state is a collection of human beings occupying a definite territory under an organised government d is subject to no outside control.”
The above mentioned definitions of a state reveal four characteristics or elements. They are- (a) population, (b) territory, (c) rganisation or government and (d) sovereignty. A state cannot be formed at all in the absence to any one of these characteristics.
The most basic characteristic of the state is population. As a human organisation the state cannot be formed without some people. A desert in which human beings do not live cannot be regarded as a state. However, there is no limit prescribed as to the size of population.
For an ideal state it should be 5,000 and, Aristotle thinks that it should be 10,000 minimum and 100,000 maximum. In modern times, the maximum and minimum size of population has not been prescribed. It means that there is no hard and fast rule about the size of the population of the state.
In fact, population varies from few thousands as in case of Monacol, Guatemala and Leech Tenstein to the millions as in China and India. Although the modern tendency is in favour of large population of state, it is unwise to have a very large population when its resources are scarce.
The second characteristic of the state is territory or a fixed geographical area, on the earth. In the absence of a fixed territory a state cannot be constituted. As for example, the nomadic tribes like Gipsies and others cannot form a state of their own owing to the absence of a fixed territory, to reside in.
Similarly, the Jews did not from a state till, they definitely settled down in Israel in 1948. Like population, there is no limit set for the territory of a state. It may vary from a few square miles as in the case of Monacol and few million square miles as in the Soviet Union and the United States.
In the modern world today, small states as well as big states exist. From the administrative point of view small states are always better than big states but from the point of view of defense, they are not good all.
The state must possess an organized Government. It is the machinery through which the state must exercise its supreme power. It constitutes the brain of the state. A state cannot be thought of without some sort of Government.
The state performs its various functions through the Government. J.W. Garner says, Government is the agency or machinery through which common policies are determined and by which common affairs are regulated and common interests are promoted.”
The fourth and the most important element, or characteristic of the state is sovereignty. Sovereignty means supreme power or ultimate authority against which there can be no appeal. Externally, the state claims final and absolute authority. It is independent of any foreign control.
Internally, the state is supreme over all of its citizens and associations within its jurisdiction. All the individual within the state must submit to its will obediently.