Community and institutions are two terms that are frequently used in Political Science and yet Without a definite meaning attached to them. We defined society as a group of people living interdependently, attempting to solve their problems through common action. There are large societies, and small Local societies are usually referred to as communities. Indeed, society itself may be defined as a gregarious community.
By community, says MacIver,
“I mean an area of common life, village or town, or district or country, or even wider area.”
Community and Institutions
Common life and common consciousness ate the two distinctive features of a community, regardless of the area they refer to. The men who live together on a common land develop in some kind or distinctiveness common characteristics, manners, traditions, mode of speech, and so on. Once this distinctiveness from others is realized, they constitute a community. There are in a community suggestion of common values and homogeneous culture. It is evident that the smaller a community is, the more common and firm are its social values Conversely, the larger the community, the less agreement there will be upon social values, whether they may be ideological, religious, political, cultural, etc. India is a huge country inhabited by different religious communities like the Hindus, the Muslims, the Sikhs, the Christians, and many others. Then, the people of India speak different languages and constitute linguistic communities. Communities based on the conception of language like Maharashtra, Bengali, Punjabi, Haryana embrace all people living in their respective areas and professing different religions. There may also be a commercial community and a community of intellectuals.
In both these cases, neither the bonds of religion nor the bonds of language intervene. They constitute a community of interest. Every country and every nation presents such crossing and recrossing currents of common life. The conception of a community may thus be a conception of the machinery of wheels within wheels. It may be a conception of a geometrical problem in Which the lines bisect and insect from several directions.
Thus, a community may be a part of the wider community, and, in fact, all community is a question of degree. The whole world makes a community, and it is the largest of all. Family is a community of blood, and it is the smallest of all. The nation is also a community. A nation is a real unity that defies all other apparent diversities, like religion and language. Small communities exist within the great communities, and this process is the natural outcome of civilization, But the object of a small or great community is the same. It is a group of people tied by common affinities and aiming at a common good life. It is a circle within a circle, and we need the smaller and larger circles of community. The great community brings us an opportunity, stability economy, the constant stimulus of a richer, more varied culture. But by living in the smaller community, we find the heater, more intimate satisfactions. The larger community provides peace and protection, patriotism, and sometimes war, automobiles, and radio. The smaller provides friends and friendship, gossip and face-to-face rivalry, local pride, and abode. Both are essential to the full life process.
Two points mark the difference between a community and an association. A community comprises all the people in a given area bound together by ties arising out of the neighborhood. It suggests strong ties of recognized interest but no organization. An association must be organized. When a group provides itself with an organization to achieve its stated purpose, it becomes an association. An association is not bound by the limits of neighborhood and ties arising therefrom. It may have world-wide roots that combine diverse people who engage themselves in pursuing a common purpose and fulfillment.
Society is a honeycomb of associations, but no association can function without an institution. An institution is a form, the structure, or the framework of an association. It is a means by which an association’s purpose is realized, the instrument through which common interests are realized, the mechanism based on the success or failure of an association, or to put it simply. An institution is a group of people working towards a common aim. A university is an association. Its common aim is realized through the agencies of its various teaching departments, colleges affiliated to it, and the administrative office working under the Registrar’s control. Similarly, the government is the institution of a political association, the State. It is through the mechanism of government that the State fulfills its purpose.
An institution is not always a mere framework. It is as living as an association, and a smaller institution is by itself an institution of a large association. Thus a political party, a judicial tribunal, a legislative body, an administrative bureau are all institutions like the government itself is the institution of an association, the State. The people who comprise them may come and go as time passes, but the institutions, once established, endure, though they may be molded and shaped by the people who comprise them according to the changing needs. Monarchy in Britain is an institution, but it is not the same today as during the Tudors or Stuarts or even during the Victorian era. Similarly, the British Parliament is an institution, and it took more than eight Centuries to transform it into its present position and stature. The leaders of a political party will rise or fall over a period of years, but the party continues as an institution unless it disintegrates.
Moreover, the common aim that an institution pursues can be a very general one. The members of a legislative body, for example, will not always agree on bills which should be passed or in what form. Nor will the judges of a judicial tribunal always hand down unanimous decisions, But they agree on when to meet, Oh how to handle their business, and what they are supposed to be doing. Thus, all Parliament members in India Know that they assemble in New Delhi on appointed dates to pass laws. All Justices of the Supreme Court know that it is their job to decide cases. The President of India knows his job and performs his functions following the provisions of the Constitution. An institution, thus, consists of individuals, general goals, and rules for reaching those goals.
There can be a one-person institution as the Presidency in India, America, and France or Monarchy in England. It may consist of a score of them as the cabinet or hundreds of them as Parliament or a Congress or a multi-million-member institution as a political party. Some institutions have limited goals, whereas others have more comprehensive.
In some, the institution members are strong in their loyalty to its aim, While in others, they are apathetic or even obstructive. Parliament in India and Various Assemblies Of her State legislatures stand as a clear testimony of obstruction. To sum up, politics cannot function without institutions, and understanding politics requires an awareness of how they operate.
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