Differences between the State and Other Associations

The State, too, is a group of human beings. It comes into existence, like other groups, to satisfy human needs through concerted action. While each group has its distinctive character and problems, yet  all pursue their activities to secure a happy and good life. In spite of this close resemblance between the State and other associations, there are some fundamental differences between the state and other associations.

Nature and Kinds of Associations:-

The state, as we have seen, is an association of human beings. It is not, however, the only such association. Within the territorial limits of every highly civilized state are to be found an almost bewildering number of other associations, such as churches, labor unions, political parties,  professional associations of various kinds, scientific bodies, learned societies, associations of public functionaries, and countless others.

One of the striking facts of modern life, in fact, has been the tendency of men to unite themselves into group associations for the advancement of common social, scientific, religious, educational, political, economic, and other interests, with the result that to-day society is a veritable network of such associations. The state is no longer a mere sand heap of individuals, all equal and unrelated, except to the state.

Some of these associations embrace Within their membership a large proportion of the adult population of the state, many of them are international in scope, cutting across boundary lines and including in their membership persons of many countries.

Large numbers of men (and women) are members of more than one such association. All of them are organized many of them have treasuries and budgets, own property both real and personal, have statutes, by laws, and rules of discipline, and exercise a certain control over their members.

Many of them have charters of incorporation from the state and therefore possess what the lawyers call a juristic personality, but whether they have been thus recognized by the state or not, they have according to some writers a real, as contra distinguished from a hypothetical or fictitious personality.

Some of them, such as religious, charitable, and educational bodies, are occupied with interests in the advancement of which the state is itself concerned. Indeed, in some cases the state recognizes the fact that they are, in a sense, cooperating partners with it in the pursuit of a common task and aids them by means of subventions from the public treasury.

Differences between the State and Other Associations :-

But while there are striking similarities between the state and many other human associations, there are fundamental differences which distinguish them to their constitution their functions, their power, and their ends. In the first place, membership in all Such associations is a purely voluntary matter and a member is free to withdraw whenever he elects to do so, whereas membership in the state is compulsory and the citizen can throw off his membership only by expatriation.

In the second place, a man may belong to as many voluntary associations as he wishes, provided he can secure an election, but he cannot ordinarily be a recognized member of more than one state.

In the third place, the association known as the state is confined within the circumscribed limits of a particular territory, whereas other associations are not territoriality restricted but may, as stated above, extend beyond the political frontiers into foreign countries-indeed, they may extend over the entire world.

In the fourth place, the purpose of a voluntary association is limited to the pursuit of one, or at most, a few particular interests, whereas the state is concerned with a great and ever-increasing variety of interests. In short, it is charged with the care of general rather than particular interests.

In the fifth place, many voluntary associations have only a temporary existence. They are formed for the accomplishment of particular ends and when these are achieved the association goes out of existence. Others disappear as a result of dissension or other causes. The state, on the other hand, is a permanent and enduring association. It is immortal governments may come and go the sovereignty may shift from one center to another, but the association continues forever. In this connection it may also be added that the state is a necessary association while the others are not. Men may and many-do live without belonging to any one of the numerous voluntary associations, but they cannot live outside the state.

Finally, in the sixth place, and this is the most fundamental distinction of all, voluntary associations lack the legal power of coercion the supreme power to command and enforce obedience  in short, the power of sovereignty. They cannot enforce their decisions upon recalcitrant members or punish them for disobedience. At best they can only employ the pressure of social disapprobation or expulsion. They cannot arrest, fine, imprison, or confiscate the goods of a statute breaking member, whereas the state can do all this, and more, in case its commands are disobeyed or its authority defied.

In this connection it is also important to remark that the Legal right to form voluntary associations is not without limits. No civilized state would permit the formation or continued existence within its borders of an association for criminal or highly immoral purposes or one whose objects were contrary to the public , policy of the state. Examples of such prohibitions have not been lacking, and instances in which associations have been dissolved by command of government have occurred in every state.

Voluntary Associations Subject to the Control of the State :-

All voluntary associations are subject to a certain control and regulation on the part of the state, even the churches and religious bodies. Some of them, naturally, are subjected to a more stringent control than others, among other reasons, for the purpose of protecting their members against the unlawful coercion of their governing bodies. In the United States we have seen the political parties, one of the most conspicuous examples of purely voluntary organizations, brought under strict state control, although for a century or more they were regarded as being entirely outside the sphere of state regulation.

To day their form of organization, the dates of their primary elections, their expenditures, their methods of voting, and even the qualifications for party membership are all regulated by the law of the state summing up, we may Say that the policy of the state toward voluntary associations may be one of absolute prohibition, toleration, recognition (by conferring upon them a corporate capacity), regulation, or financial assistance.

What the policy of the state ought to be in respect to voluntary associations cannot here be discussed. It is sufficient to say that from the standpoint of law they are subject to the control of the state equally with individuals they can exist only with the consent of the state and their activities may be regulated and controlled by it in the interest of and for the protection of the rights of the community.

So-called Pluralistic Theories :-

The traditional doctrine of the unlimited and exclusive character of state sovereignty, and its corollary, the complete subjection to its authority of all other associations and groups within its territorial jurisdiction, has in recent years become an object of attack by a certain class of writers, known as pluralists, guild socialists, syndicalists, and others.

Briefly and generally stated, their argument is this in consequence of the enormous multiplication of voluntary associations and groups for the promotion and care of industrial, political, and other interests, society has become more and more an aggregation of groups and less and less an association of individuals. It is, we are told, no longer the old individualistic principle of man versus the state, but the group versus the state.

The individual who belongs to one of these groups possesses a double allegiance and loyalty,one to the state and one-to the group of which he is a member,and in case of conflict each may assert a superior claim to his allegiance. These groups, they argue, should be recognized as possessing distinct natural corporate personalities independent of any creative act on the part of the state.

Many of them are engaged in the pursuit of interests identical with or closely related to some of those-which the state is pursuing. Indeed, the sum total of their organized corporate action greatly exceeds that of the state and it is denied that the state is necessarily a more important association than some of the others found within its territorial limits.

The state ought not, therefore, to be regarded as if it were the sole all sufficing, indispensable association over and above the others and to which the latter are completely subject. It is merely one of a number of associations, and has no superior claims to the individual’s allegiance they are both, as Maitland said, species of the same genus.

The state, it is admitted, is in some respects an association  but its role should be rather that of an umpire for deciding conflicts between the other associations than a common regulator of their particular affairs. A wide autonomy should therefore, be recognized as an inherent natural right of all such associations.

As Barker and Laski phrase it, society should be federally organized, that is, the power of regulation as now asserted and exercised by the state should be, in large measure at least, surrendered and divided among the groups themselves, each being allowed to legislate for itself within the ambit of the general level at which the society broadly aims. The state should have no right to decide producers questions or to exercise direct control over production.

In the matter of  industry, there should be a division of function between the state, as the representative of the organized consumers, and the trade unions, representing the organized producers. The legislative power,so far as it relates to industry, should be exercised by two co-equal parliaments, facing each other, one representing the state, the other representing the producers, each being supreme Within its sphere. This latter is the solution proposed by the Guild Socialists.

The Pluralistic Theory Criticized :-

The pluralistic conception necessarily involves a denial of the sovereignty of the state, and those Who hold it declare that the theory of sovereignty should be abandoned, that in practice it has broken down, that it is a superstition or useless fiction, and no longer corresponds to the facts of modern life,  etc.

It will readily be admitted that voluntary groups or associations have come to play a role in the local and national life of civilized peoples such, as was formerly unknown, that many of them are performing or endeavoring to perform services of great public value to society, and that consequently they may well be encouraged and in some cases even aided by subventions from the state. Much might also be said in favor of a system of representation which should take them into account.

But it is submitted that any theory which seeks to place them on the same level with the state, Which maintains that there is no essential difference between them and the state, which suggests that the individual may have two or more allegiances or loyalties, one to the state and one or more to the groups to which he is attached, and that the former is not necessarily superior to the latter, which Would throw overboard the principle of the sovereignty of the state and parcel out its powers and functions between the state and a multitude of other associations, cannot stand the test of criticism.

It would mean a return, in large measure, to the semi anarchy of the Middle Ages, when sovereignty was divided among various contending rulers or bodies the church, the state,the feudal lords, clans, guilds etc. The vision of a working class organization building up for itself an economic state, says an able English writer, governed by the Workers, and for the workers, within the political state, but virtually independent of that state for the regulation of economic life, is a dangerous fantasy.

If the theory were put into practice it would, in all probability, lead to innumerable conflicts of jurisdiction the authority of the state, con fronted as it would be by competing and rival associations, Would shrivel up, and its power to maintain order and security Would be materially impaired.

The very recognition of the autonomy demanded by the pluralists for the other associations would only intensify the need of a superior power, such as the state to protect society against the consequences of the inevitable conflicts between them,as well as to protect their own members against the possible tyranny and oppression of their own governing bodies.

One of the most important services which the state renders, in fact, is keeping within proper limits the classes and struggles between competing groups, and performing the role of a sort of referee or umpire in adjusting or reconciling their conflicting interests.

Conclusion :-

While it is possible to conceive a better organization, in some respects, of the state, it is an exaggeration to say that the monastic sovereign state has become discredited, that experience has demonstrated its inadequacy and in adaptability to the conditions of modern life, and that it should be replaced by a pluralistic type. The burden of proof is upon those who advocate the change and as yet they have not succeeded in discharging the obligation.