Theories on the Origin of State

Essay Contents:

  1. Essay on the Divine Origin Theory
  2. Essay on Patriarchal Theory as the Origin of the State
  3. Essay on Matriarchal Theory as the Origin of the State
  4. Essay on Force Theory of Origin of the State
  5. Essay on the Social Contract Theory
  6. Essay on Marxician Theory of Origin of the State

1. Divine Origin Theory:

The Genesis of Divine Origin Theory:

The oldest theory about the origin of the state is the divine origin theory. It is also known as the theory of divine right of Kings.

The exponents of this theory believe that the state did not come into being by any effort of man. It is created by God.

The King who rules over the state is an agent of God on earth.

The King derives his authority from God and for all his actions he is responsible to God alone. Obedience to the King is ordained to God and violation of it will be a sin. The King is above law and no subject has any right to question his authority or his action. The King is responsible of God alone.

History of Divine Theory:

The conception of the divine creation of the state may be traced back to remote antiquity. It was universal belief with the ancient people that the King is the representative of God on earth and the state is a bliss of God. Thus the King had both political and religious entity. In the religious books also the state is said to be created by God. In some religions this conception is explicit, but in others it is implicit.

The divine origin of the state is gleaned first the Old Testament of the Bible. There we find St. Paul saying- “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers; for there is no power but of God; the powers that be, are ordained by God. Whosoever resist the power, resisted the ordinance of God and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.”

In 1680 Sir Robert Filmer wrote a book entitled The Law of the Free Monarchies, where it is stated the Adam was the First King on earth and the Kings subsequent to him are the descendants of Adam. In the Manusmriti it is said that when the world was thick in anarchy, the people prayed to God to remedy the condition. God was pleased to appoint Manu to rule over the earth.

This theory prevailed in the old age when religion and politics were combined in the person of the King. In ancient India the Kings ruled over the people according to the injunction of the Dharma, which stood for both religion and politics. Laws fay deep in the profusion of the Sastras.

In the medieval period the Christians held the Pope in semi-God status. In the Muslim world the Caliph was the Priest-King. The Dalai Lama was the head of the Theocratic state of Tibet. He was considered there as the incarnation of the Buddhist god Avalokitesvara.

Both the church and the state in their mutual rivalry used the theory of the divine origin in the medieval age. The church asserted the supremacy of the church over the state. On the other hand, the state because of its divine nature emphasised on its supremacy over the church.

The Stuart King James I claimed that he derived his authority directly from God. According to him, the King is wise and intelligent, but his subjects are wicked.

Even if the King is bad, the people have no right to rebel against him. Even in the nineteenth century the Kings of Austria, Prussia and Russia formed the Holy Alliance under the notion that they were appointed by God to rule over their people. Anyway, the European Kings took shelter under the divine origin theory in order to justify their dictatorships.

Be that as it may, during a large part of human history the state was viewed as direct divine creation and theocratic in nature. The theory was in currency so long as religion was considered to be the chief motive force of all human activities.

In the twentieth century this, theory came under criticism being an incorrect explanation of the origin of the state. With the growth of scientific outlook this theory faded into oblivion. Today’s trend is that the state is a historical growth. We shall now discuss the causes of the decline of the theory.

Causes of the Decline of the Divine Theory:

In the first place, when a more acceptable theory like the social contract theory came out, the divine theory was dashed to the ground. The new theory suggested that the state is a handiwork of men, not a grace of God.

In the second place, the Reformation that separated the church from the state debased the coin of the divine theory. The post-Reformation period is a period of non-religious politics. Thus the secular outlook made the divine theory totally unacceptable.

In the third place, the emergence of democracy was a big blow for the autocratic dogma of mixing religion with politics and thereby it blunted the edge of identifying God with the King. Democracy not only glorified the individual but shattered the divine halo around the origin of the slate.

Last but not the least was the growth of scientific enquiry and materialistic view of the political mechanism. The result was that the erstwhile blind faith and superstition was no longer acceptable. The people began to accept only those things that stood the test of logic and reasoning.

Criticism of the Divine Theory:

There are seven lines of argument in the hands of R. N. Gilchrist levelled against the divine theory:

The first line of argument of Gilchrist is that the state is a human institution organised in an association through human agency. Modern political thinkers cannot accept the view that God has anything to do with the creation of the state. It does not stand the commonsense of the moderns that God selects anybody to rule over the state.

The second line of argument is that the divine theory is fraught with dangerous consequences, because a semi-divine King is bound to rule arbitrarily as he is responsible only to God and not bound to heed public opinion. Such a theory will make the ruler despotic and autocratic.

The third line of argument is that the divine theory is unrealistic because a bad ruler will continue to rule under the divine shield. There were some bad rulers like James II of England and Louis XVI of France, who were replaced by the people. This could not happen if the divine theory was to be accepted.

The fourth line of argument is that the New Testament of the Bible reversed the divine conception of the state as ingrained in the Old Testament. It is emphatically stated in the New Testament- “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s”, which gives the state a human character as against the divine coating.

The fifth line of argument is that the divine theory is unscientific. The anthropologists and sociologists after careful scientific analysis have discarded the theory as totally untenable as an explanation of the origin of the slate.

The sixth line of argument is that the divine theory runs counter to the universally accepted conception that the state is the result of a historical evolution. The generally accepted theory of the origin of the state is that various factors like religion, family, force and political consciousness were behind the growth of the state.

The seventh line of argument is that the divine theory is undemocratic. The inevitable implication of the theory in content and tone will make the King absolute and his government never democratic. So the theme of the theory is against the spirit of democracy.

Value of the Divine Theory:

Although the divine theory is totally discredited as an origin of the state, there are some good things in it. The summum bonum of the theory is that it stimulated discipline and law-abidingness among the subjects at a time when these were the needs of the hour in those anarchical conditions. This theory also created the moral responsibility of the rulers, because they were cast with a divine injunction to rule to the perfect satisfaction of the heaven.

Decline of the Divine Right Theory:

As an origin of the state, the divine right theory is no longer alive. It is a defunct dogma. The emergence of the social contract theory which held the wishes of the people in high halo dwarfed the godly wishes in the creation of the state. When human activities were considered the motive force of the state, the divine one receded to the background and finally vanished away.

The important role assigned to the man in the creation of the state by the social contract theory shattered all hopes for the divine right theory. The second factor in the decline of the divine right theory was the Reformation Movement in the sixteenth century Europe, which curbed the authority of the Pope and the Church and at the same time brought the monarch and the people in the limelight.

The scientific and logical thinking associated with the Renaissance and the Reformation enabled men to look into the theory of the origin of the state as something which must be created by non-church and non-god bodies. With the decline of the authority of religion declined the divine authority.

The final nail of the coffin of the divine right theory was the modern theory of Thomas Hill Green that democracy, i.e., will of the people was the basis of the state.

2. The Patriarchal Theory as the Origin of the State:

The principal exponent of this theory is Sir Henry Maine.

According to him, the city is a conglomeration of several families which developed under the control and authority of the eldest male member of the family.

The head or father of the patriarchal family wielded great power and influence upon the other members of the family.

His writ was carried out in the household. This patriarchal family was the most ancient organised social institution in the primitive society.

Through the process of marriage the families began to expand and they gave birth to gen which stands for a household. Several gens made one clan. A group of clans constituted a tribe. A confederation of various tribes based on blood relations for the purpose of defending themselves against the aggressors formed one commonwealth which is called the state.

Sir Henry Maine’s analysis of the growth of the state is- “The elementary group is the family connected by the common subjection to the highest male ascendant. The aggregation of families forms the gens or the houses. The aggregation of houses makes the tribe. The aggregation of the tribes constitutes the commonwealth.”

Edward Jenks who is the other advocate of the patriarchal theory is of the view that the foundation of the state was caused by three factors, namely male kinship, permanent marriages and paternal authority. Thus, the salient feature of the patriarchal theory is that the families grew through the descendants of the father, not the mother.

The male child carried on the population though marriages with one or several women, because both monogamy and polygamy were the order of the day. The eldest male child had a prominent role in the house.

Another important supporter of this theory was Aristotle. According to him- “Just as men and women unite to form families, so many families unite to form villages and the union of many villages forms the state which is a self-supporting unit”.

As for documentary evidence in support of this theory, there were twelve tribes who formed the Jewish nation as we gather from the Bible. In Rome, we are told that the patriarch of three families that made one unit exercised unlimited authority over the other members.

Criticism of the Theory:

The patriarchal theory as the origin of the state is subjected to the following criticisms:

In the first place, the origin of the state is due to several factors like family, religion, force, political necessity, etc. So by identifying the origin of the state with family, one makes the same fallacy as taking one cause instead of several causes. To say in the words of J. C. Frazer- “Human society is built up by a complexity of causes.”

In the second place, the theory is incorrect, because in the opinion of several critics the primary social unit was a matriarchal family rather than a patriarchal family. According to Meclennan, Morgan and Edward Jenks who are staunch supporters of the theory, the matriarchal family and polyandry were the basis of the state.

The kinship through the female line in primitive society was responsible for the growth of the state. The process was that polyandry resulted into matriarchal society and the matriarchal society led to the state.

In the third place, the patriarchal theory is built on the wrong premise that the patriarchal family was the origin of the state. Edward Jenks suggested the correct theory that tribe rather than family was the beginning of the state, on the basis of his studies in Australia and Malaya Archipelago.

In the fourth place, Sir Henry Maine over simplified the origin of the state by attribution it to the family alone. It is because of this over simplicity that the theory has to be rejected as untenable. The authority of the father over the children is only temporary, because his authority ends when the children grow in age. But the authority of the state over the population is perpetual.

3. The Matriarchal Theory as the Origin of the State:

The chief exponents of the matriarchal theory are Morgan, Meclennan and Edward Jenks. According to them, there was never any patriarchal family in the primitive society and that the patriarchal family came into existence only when the institution of permanent marriage was in vogue.

But among the primitive society, instead of permanent marriage there was a sort of sex anarchy. Under that condition, the mother rather than the father was the head of the family. The kinship was established through the mother.

Edward Jenks who made a thorough study of the tribes of Australia came to the conclusion that the Australian tribes were organised in some sort of tribes known as totem groups. Their affinity was not on the basis of blood relationship but through some symbols like tree or animal. One totem group men were to marry all the women of another totem group. This would lead to polyandry and polygamy also.

This matriarchal system continued until the advent of the pastoral age when the permanent marriage was introduce. We find the existence of the Queen ruling over in Malabar and the princesses ruling over the Maratha countries. These are examples of the matriarchal systems of life.

Criticism of the Theory:

The matriarchal theory is attacked on the following grounds:

First, the state was created by several factors, of which the family was one. So this theory makes only a partial study of the origin of the state. Force, religion, politics, family and contract were all there to contribute to the growth of the state.

Secondly, like the patriarchal theory, this theory also mistakenly analyses the origin of the family as the origin of the slate. The state is something more than an expanded family. They are quite different in essence, organisation, functions and purposes.

Thirdly, the theory is historically false. It is not a fact of history that the matriarchal system was the only system at a particular time. As a matter of fact, both patriarchal system and matriarchal system prevailed side-by-side. There was a parallel development of both the systems. We may conclude with the words of Stephen Leacock- “Here it may be a patriarchal family; there it may be a matriarchal family, but there is no denying the fact that family is at the basis of the state”.

4. Force Theory of Origin of the State:

Another early theory of the origin of the state is the theory of force.

The exponents of this theory hold that wars and aggressions by some powerful tribe were the principal factors in the creation of the state.

They rely on the oft-quoted saying “war begot the King” as the historical explanation of the origin of the state.

The force or might prevailed over the right in the primitive society. A man physically stronger established his authority over the less strong persons. The strongest person in a tribe is, therefore, made the chief or leader of that tribe.

After establishing the state by subjugating the other people in that place the chief used his authority in maintaining law and order and defending the state from the aggression from outside. Thus force was responsible not only for the origin of the state but for development of the state also.

History supports the force theory as the origin of the state.

According to Edward Jenks:

“Historically speaking, there is not the slightest difficulty in proving that all political communities of the modern type owe their existence to successful warfare.”

As the state increased in population and size there was a concomitant improvement in the art of warfare. The small states fought among themselves and the successful ones made big states.

The kingdoms of Norway, Sweden and Denmark arc historical examples of the creation of states by the use of force. In the same process, Spain emerged as a new state in the sixth century A.D. In the ninth century A.D. the Normans conquered and established the state of Russia.

The same people established the kingdom of England by defeating the local people there in the eleventh century A.D. Stephen Butler Leachock sums up the founding of states by the use of force in these words: 

“The beginnings of the state are to be sought in the capture and enslavement of man-by-man, in the conquest and subjugation acquired by superior physical force. The progressive growth from tribe to kingdom and from kingdom to empire is but a continuation from the same process.”

History of the Theory:

This theory is based on the well-accepted maxim of survival of the fittest. There is always a natural struggle for existence by fighting all adversaries among the animal world. This analogy may be stretched to cover the human beings.

Secondly, by emphasising the spiritual aspect of the church the clergymen condemned the authority of the state as one of brute force. This indirectly lends credence to the theory of force as the original factor in the creation of the state.

Thirdly, the socialists also, by condemning the coercive power of the state as one bent upon curbing and exploiting the workers, admit of force as the basis of the state.

Lastly, the theory of force is supported by the German philosophers like Friedrich Hegel, Immanuel Kant, John Bernhardi and Triestchki. They maintain that war and force are the deciding factors in the creation of the state. Today in the words of Triestchki – “State is power; it is a sin for a state to be weak. That state is the public power of offence and defence. The grandeur of history lies in the perpetual conflict of nations and the appeal to arms will be valid until the end of history.”

According to Bernhardi-“Might is the supreme right, and the dispute as to what is right is decided by the arbitrement of war. War gives a biologically just decision since its decision rest on the very nature of things.”

Criticisms of the Theory:

Following criticisms are levelled against the theory of force. In the first place, the element of force is not the only factor in the origin of the state; religion, politics, family and process of evolution are behind the foundation of the state. Thus to say that force is the origin of the state is to commit the same fallacy that one of the causes is responsible for a thing while all the causes were at work for it.

This has been rightly pointed out by Stephen Butler Leacock- “The theory errs in magnifying what has been only one factor in the evolution of society into the sole controlling force.” A state may be created by force temporarily. But to perpetuate it something more is essential.

In the second place, the theory of force runs counter to the universally accepted maxim of Thomas Hill Green- “Will, not force, is the basis of the state.” No state can be permanent by bayonets and daggers. It must have the general voluntary acceptance by the people.

In the third place, the theory of force is inconsistent with individual liberty. The moment one accepts that the basis of a state is force, how can one expect liberty there? The theory of force may be temporarily the order of the day in despotism as against democracy.

In the fourth place, the doctrine of survival of the fittest which is relied upon by the champions of the force theory has erroneously applied a system that is applicable to the animal world to human world. If force was the determining factor, how could Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violence triumph over the brute force of the British Imperialists?

Lastly, the force theory is to be discarded because political consciousness rather than force is the origin of the state. Without political consciousness of the people the state cannot be created. This is so because man is by nature a political animal. It is that political conscience that lay deep in the foundation of the state.

We may conclude with the words of R. N. Gilchrist- “The state, government and indeed all institutions are the result of man’s consciousness, the creation of which have arisen from his appreciation of a moral end.”

Merits of the Theory:

The theory of force, though untenable as an explanation of the origin of the state, has some redeeming features:

First, the theory contains the truth that some states at certain points of time were definitely created by force or brought to existence by the show of force. When the Aryans came to India they carried with them weapons of all kinds and horses to use in the war against the non-Aryans and by defeating the non-Aryans they carved out a kingdom in India.

Later on, the Aryans sprawled their kingdoms and broad-based their government and ruled with the backing of the people.

Secondly, the other silver lining of the theory is that it made the slates conscious of building adequate defence and army to protect the territorial integrity of the state. That is why we find commanders of war or Senapati as an important post in the ancient kingdoms.

In the modern state, we find a substantial amount of money used on defence budget. Every state in the modern world has got a defence minister which unmistakably recognises the use of force in modern statecraft too.

5. The Social Contract Theory:

Genesis of the Theory:

The most famous theory with regard to the origin of the state is the social contract theory. The theory goes to tell that the stale came into existence out of a contract between the people and the sovereign at some point of time.

According to this theory, there were two divisions in human history – one period is prior to the establishment of the state called the “state of nature” and the other period is one subsequent to the foundation of the state called the “civil society”. The state of nature was bereft of society, government and political authority. There was no law to regulate the relations of the people in the state of nature.

There were three exponents of this theory. They were Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau who differed about the life in the slate of nature, reason for converting the state of nature to civil society and the terms of the contract. They all, however, agreed that a stage came in the history of man when the state of nature was exchanged with civil society to lead a regulated life under a political authority.

The net result of this changeover was that the people gained security of life and property and social security, but lost the natural liberty which they had been enjoying in the state of nature.

The crux of the social contract theory is that men create government for the purpose of securing their pre-existing natural rights – that the right come first, that the government is created to protect these rights. These ideas were based on the concepts of a state of nature, natural law and natural rights.

According to John Locke, prior to the establishment of society, men lived in a “state of nature”. Thomas Hobbes, an anti-democratic philosopher, emphasised, that in the state of nature there was no government to make and enforce laws, men made war on each other and life was “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”.

But Locke argued that even in a state of nature there was a law governing conduct-there was the “natural law”, comprising universal unvarying principle of right and wrong and known to men through the use of reason. Thus Locke would have us believe that if an Englishman was to meet a Frenchman on an uninhabited and ungoverned island, he would not be free to deprive the Frenchman of his life, liberty or property. Otherwise, he would violate the natural law and hence was liable to punishment.

Thus according to Locke, the state of nature was not a lawless condition, but was an inconvenient condition. Each man had to protect his own right and there was no agreed-upon judge to settle disputes about the application of the natural law to particular controversies. Realising this, men decided to make a “compact” with one another in which each would give to the community the right to create a government equipped to enforce the natural law.

In this way, every man agreed to abide by the decisions made by the majority and to comply with the laws enacted by the people’s representative, provided they did not encroach upon his fundamental rights. In this way, the power of the ruler was curtailed.

Background of Social Contract:

The doctrine of social contract is faintly mentioned in the ancient period by both the western and Indian philosophers. Plato was the first among the western thinkers to use the term. It is also referred to in the Arthasastra of Kautilya.

The ideas of the contractual obligations were mouthed by the anti-monarchical writers like Richard Hooker, Hugo Grotius, John Milton, Sir William Blackstone, Immanuel Kant, Johann G. Fichte and Edmund Burke.

It is admitted at all hands that the two English political thinkers, namely Thomas Hobbes and John Locke as well as the French political thinker Jean-Jacques Rousseau, gave the concrete shape to this theory. This trio is considered as the godfathers of the social contract theory.

The theories of foundation of the state were laid down in the great works on social contract, particularly those of the English philosophers Thomas Hobbes and John Locke in the seventeenth century and the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau in the eighteenth century. The back ground of their theories ‘was the aftermath of the Protestant Reformation which had shaken the fundamental constitution of European Christendom and had broken up the divinely sanctioned contractual relation. Another significant thing was that the Holy Roman Empire was torn apart by the wars of the Reformation.

In England King Henry VIII made the Church of England independent of Rome. Under these circumstances, there was a need to search for a new basis of order and stability, loyalty and obedience. In such search, the political theorists, and especially the Protestants among them, turned to the old concept in the Bible about a covenant or contract such as the one between God and Abraham and the Israelites of the Old Testament. This gave the presumption that God had created the political unit by choosing his partners in an eternal covenant.

The result was that the secular theorists of the social contract reversed the process of choice. They discarded the old idea that God chose his subjects. The new theory was that it was the people who, through their representatives, succeeded in choosing their rulers and the method of governance by means of a social contract or construction. The social contract theorists suggested that the political unit was established by means of promise or promises in the Biblical fashion.

Nature of Social Contract Theory:

According to the social contract theory the state was the creation of the people living in a state of nature which was a lawless and order-less system. The slate of nature was controlled by unwritten laws prescribed not by men but by nature. The exponents of the theory gave conflicting views about the nature of the state of nature. Some considered it gloomy, while others painted it as bright like paradise.

For some reasons the people did not like the system and terminated it by an agreement to save one man from the rapacity of the other. The nature-made laws were replaced by man-made laws. The originally independent people subordinated themselves to the will of either the whole community or a particular person or a group of persons. The three proponents of the theory interpreted the theory in their own way.

Thomas Hobbes Theory of the Social Contract:

Thomas Hobbes in his book Leviathan delineates very precisely and straight­forwardly the creation of the state by an agreement. To begin with, before the state was created, there was a state of nature in which a war was raging. There was no law or justice. Human life was marked by force and deceit. Might was right in that situation. Hobbes gave a gloomy picture of the state of nature in his oft-quoted words “Solitary, poor-nasty, brutish, short”.

The people became fed up with the state of nature. In order to get rid of the unbearable condition they entered into an agreement by which they established a government or authority to which they surrendered all their rights. The surrender was unconditional and irrevocable. The authority was a single person or a group of persons endowed with unlimited power. The authority to rule was the result of the contract.

Since he was not a party to the contract, he was not bound by the terms of the agreement. The people had no right to depose the ruler or to agitate against the ruler. If the people revolted against the authority they would be guilty of violation of the contract and would face the consequence of going back to die state of nature. This theory of Hobbes supported the despotism of the Stuarts in England.

In Hobbes’ view there was one single contract in the creation of the state and the establishment of the government. From that it would follow that if the state was gone, with it would go the government. It is apparent that Hobbes was supporting legal sovereignty and had no quarter for political sovereignty. Disgusted with the useless dispute between the monarchy and parliament in England, he supported despotism, keeping chaos as its only alternative. So he gave all powers to the sovereign.

Thomas Hobbes called his state Leviathan which came into existence when its individual members renounced their power to exercise the laws of nature which was one of “each for himself” and at the same time promised to turn these powers over to the sovereign who was created as a result of his promise and also to obey thenceforth the laws made by this sovereign.

These laws stood on a better footing since they enjoyed authority because the individual members of the society were, as a matter of fact, the co-authors of these laws.

Locke’s Theory of Social Contract:

In his book Treatise on Civil Government John Locke, justifying the limited monarchy of English type, drew his own state of nature. He did not agree that the state of nature was a gloomy and dismal one as painted by Thomas Hobbes. In contrast, Locke’s state of nature was one of peace, reason and goodwill. Yet this semi-paradise could not satisfy the people because they were pining for law and impartial authority.

So they abandoned the state of nature though for a different reason. So in replacing the state of nature the people created the civil society by a contract. That done, they made another contract by which the government in the person of the King was set up. Here the ruler was a party to the contract. The people would obey him so long he would protect their life and property. So in Locke’s theory there were two contracts, one for the creation of the civil society and the other for establishment of the government.

The people’s surrender of rights was partial and conditional. If the people would violate the contract, the people would be entitled to depose the worthless King. Thus Locke supported the Glorious Revolution of 1688. His sovereign was political rather than legal as propounded by Hobbes. He was clear in distinguishing the government from the state, which Hobbes failed to do. While Hobbes destroyed individual liberty, Locke destroyed the authority of the state.

When Hobbes took brief for royal absolutism, England was getting disgusted with the meaningless fights between the King and the parliament during the Stuart period. Lock’s timing was related to the period when the King was maintaining a low profile and the parliament was in the ascendance. This would culminate in the Glorious Revolution of 1688.

John Locke’s view was that the individuals promised to accept the judgements of a common judge (i.e., the legislature) when they agreed to the accord, which established civil society. According to Locke, another set of promises was made between the members of the civil society on the one hand and the government on the other.

The government, in its turn, promised to execute its trust faithfully. It was agreed that in case the government broke the terms of the pact or in other words if it violated the constitution, the people would have the right to rebel.

The subsequent generations by acceding to the terms of the compact accepted the inheritance of private property which was created and guaranteed by the compact. If any individual would disobey the constitution, he must leave the territory of political unit and go in vacuis locis, i.e., empty places.

The indication was that the disloyal people might take shelter in America which was an empty place at that time. In his book Letters on Toleration, Locke excluded the atheists from religious toleration since they were not likely to be bound by the original contractual oath or to abide by the divine sanctions invoked for its violation.

Rousseau’s Theory of Social Contract:

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the third player of the game of social contract theory, struck a middle course between the two English counterparts. His book Social Contract published in 1762 reconciles the authority of the state and liberty of the individual. His state of nature had an overflow of idyllic felicity.

There human lives were free, healthy, honest and happy. But there was debasement and degradation with the increase of population and with the progress of civilization particularly with the emergence of private property in land which destroyed the natural equality among men.

To get out of this menacing position, men entered into an agreement with the pledges- “Each of us puts his own person and all his powers in common under the supreme direction of the General Will, and in our corporate capacity, we receive each member as an indivisible part of the whole.” Unlike Hobbes and Locke, the authority created was not given to the ruler, but was retained by the whole community.

As a matter of fact, the whole community expressed the General Will in a public meeting. Subsequently, the government was created by a legislative measure. The people delegated power to the government. Rousseau’s theory’s hallmark is the General Will.

Rousseau’s General Will:

Jean-Jacques Rousseau stood for the Popular Sovereignty as against Legal Sovereignty of Thomas Hobbes and Political Sovereignty of John Locke. In his concept, political authority, arrived at after the Social Contract, was not the King, absolute or delegated, but the people themselves. Rousseau called his sovereign General Will. What was that General Will? It is as monstrous a concept as Leviathan of Hobbes.

The kingpin of the General Will is the people. Does it mean the whole population of the state? The answer must be an emphatic “No”, because Rousseau himself used two terms General Will and Will of All. The general will is the best in the will of all. So the general will must be the filtered cream of the will of all.

Thus common interest or welfare interest of the people is the general will. We may say with certainty that the enlightened public opinion of a state is the general will of Rousseau. He called it “will for the general good”. In practice, however, it may mean the majority opinion of the people.

As we read Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau we find three interpretations of the social contract theory. Hobbes’ contract is one in which the people unconditionally surrender their rights to the monarch who is bound to become a despot. In Locke’s case, the people conditionally delegate their power to the King and make the ruler accountable to them. Thus Locke supports the limited monarchy in England. Rousseau is most radical in enthroning the people and making the people themselves the rulers. Hobbes stands for legal sovereignty, Locke supports political sovereignty and Roussean, popular sovereignty.

According to Rousseau also, the essential ingredient of social contract was the “general will”, to which the individuals agreed to subject themselves. The popular sovereign was the embodiment of the general will. The experience of his native place Geneva in Switzerland might have influenced Rousseau in taking this position. In Germany the Swiss confederation is still officially referred to as Eidgenossenscaft which means “fellowship of the oath”.

Hobbes on Sovereignty:

Thomas Hobbes’ radical rationalism was his main contribution to constitutionalism. Hobbes took the position that individuals came close to each other out of the evils of the state of nature which was plagued by disorder and war. In such a condition their reason convinced them that they could best ensure their self-preservation by giving all powers to a sovereign. That sovereign might be a single person or an assembly of the whole body of citizens.

Whatever may be their forms and variations, the authority to be called sovereign must have all powers concentrated and combined in it. Hobbes called the state the commonwealth. Any decision of that power would destroy the sovereignty and put back the members of the commonwealth to the state of nature where life was “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”.

For Hobbes, a sovereign in the form of an individual, i.e., the King was preferable to sovereignty in the form of an assembly or the whole body of citizenry, because a singular sovereign was less likely to be internally or functionally divided. All powers of war and peace, taxation and the judiciary would be concentrated on the sovereign.

The individuals would retain their natural rights which they cannot surrender to the common pool of sovereign powers. These natural rights are comprised of the rights against self-incrimination, right to purchase a substitute for compulsory military service and the right to act freely in all cases where the law is silent.

Locke on Individual’s Natural Right:

John Locke firmly gave assurance of individual’s natural rights by providing separate but cooperative powers to the King and the parliament and by reserving the right to the individuals to resist an unconstitutionally oppressive government. Locke did not use the word sovereignty. In the characteristic English tradition he prevented the concentration of all powers in a single organ of government.

Rousseau’s Theory of General Will:

While Thomas Hobbes established his unitary sovereign through the mechanism of individual and unilateral promises and while John Locke eschewed the excessive concentration of power by requiring the conditions of the different organs of government to fulfill different objectives, Jean-Jacques Rousseau threw all individual citizens into an all-powerful sovereign with the primary purpose of general will.

The expression “general will” cannot be vague or mistaken because when something contrary to the general will is expressed or done, it may at the most be called “will of all”, since it does not emanate from the sovereign, i.e., the general will.

With a view to safeguarding the legitimacy of the government and law, Rousseau had no objection for universal participation in legislation because this alone would “force men to be free”, as he paradoxically phrased it Like his two English predecessors, Rousseau insisted on the consent of all to the general social contract.

He was in favour of smaller majorities for the adoption of laws of lesser significance compared with the importance attached to the constitution. Whereas Hobbes’ and Locke’s main concern was to provide constitutional stability through consent, Rousseau was more concerned to provide for legitimacy through universal participation in legislation. The result was that Rousseau’s thought was apparently more democratic than Hobbes’ and Locke’s.

It is for this reason that Rousseau is often accused of laying the foundation of the theory of “totalitarian democracy.” This gains credence from the fact that he described in The Social Contract that the sudden changes or even transformations of the constitution of the state would be subject to the universal and unanimous sovereign.

Criticism of Theory:

The social contract theory is strongly denounced on the following grounds. In the first place, the theory is not borne out by any historical record. It is not known to history that any such contract was made. The only historical instance of contractual obligation is said to be the foundation of a state by the early settlers in America by the May Flower Contract of 11 November 1620 and the deposition of King Philip II in 1581 by the Netherlander where the people said- “The King has broken his contract and the King therefore is dismissed like any other unfaithful servant.”

But in both the cases the state existed there before it was said to be created or at least the people had some knowledge of the state and the government before these were created, or the contract was made. These examples do not establish that the primitive people who had no knowledge of the state could establish a state by a contract. Similarly, a state of nature antedating a real state is a fiction and has no historical basis.

In the second place, Sir Henry Maine attacked the theory as one of putting the cart before the horse, because contract is not the beginning of the society, but the end of it. The universally accepted view is that the society has moved from status to contract and not vice versa. With the growth of age, status lost its rigour of fixity and its place was taken by contractual obligations.

The other serious fault with the theory is that it presupposes political consciousness in the state of nature even prior to the establishment of the state. How can one have the idea of the good of a state when he has no experience of the state?

In the third place, there cannot be any right even if it is a natural right without the state. Right follows from the womb of the state. Without an established civil society there cannot be any right. It does not follow from logic that the people had a bundle of rights even before the creation of the state.

In the fourth place, it is a fact in history that the state came into existence as a result of a long process of growth and development. The sociologists have established that the state is created by a long term process of social development. Kinship, force, divine sanction, family and various other known and unknown factors are there behind the growth of the state.

Modern social scientists and historians are of the view that men are by nature social animals and they never lived in a pre-social and pre-governmental state of nature. The state is never a consciously created institution but is a development like the family.

So Edmund Burke rightly observed- “The state should not be reduced to the position of a partnership agreement in a trade of pepper and coffee, calico or tobacco or some such low concern, to be taken up for a little temporary interest, and to be dissolved by the fancy of the parties. It is to be looked upon with reverence. It is a partnership in all science; a partnership in all art; a partnership between those who are living and those who are yet to be born.”

In the fifth place, the theory is dangerously wrong by certifying the state to be a handiwork of human beings. The error is that the state is never a creation of man but it is an independent social institution. The theory carries with it the portent of revolution by giving too much importance to men as even the creators of the state. The truth is that the government, not the state, is the creation of man.

Modern political scientists have rejected the contract theory as unacceptable. J. K. Bluntschli condemned it as highly dangerous, Jeremy Bentham called it a rattle. Fredrick Pollock discarded it as “fatal of political impostures”. According to Sir Henry Maine, there was nothing more worthless than the social contract theory as an explanation of the origin of the state.

Value of the Theory:

Although as an explanation of the origin of the state the social contract theory is unacceptable, it has some merits or values. First, the theory dashed to the ground the more worthless theory that the state was the creation of God. There might not be any social contract anywhere in history but it carried the message of the supremacy of the people in the statecraft and gave encouragement to the growth of democracy and gave a deterrent to the arbitrariness of any government.

Immanuel Kant Rightly Observed:

“The contract is not to be assumed as historical fact for as such it is not possible; but it is a rational idea which has its practical reality in that the legislator may so order his laws as if they were the outcome of a social contract.”

The second merit of the theory is that it helped the growth of the modern concept of sovereignty. It is, therefore, said that John Austin’s concept of legal sovereignty is a direct outcome of Thomas Hobbes’ concept of the Leviathan.

The third benefit of this theory is that John Locke answered some of the most critical questions by clearly distinguishing the state from the government.

The fourth fruit from the social contract theory is the concept of popular sovereignty as propounded by Jean-Jacques Rousseau so much so that Rousseau’s social contract inspired several peoples in the world to overthrow their despised rulers.

Thus the contractual theory of the government may be historically gleaned for the first time in 1581 in the Netherlands, where the people dismissed the lawful King Philip II. “The King”, the people said, “has broken his contract and the King, therefore, is dismissed like any other unfaithful servant”.

We have a good example of an agreement between the ruler and the people in Indian history. On the death of Iltutmish, the Sultan of the Slave Dynasty in 1236 A.D. the throne passed on to Ruknuddin Firoz Shah, who proved to be a worthless fellow. There was chaos and unrest all over the country.

At this stage, on a Friday, Iltutmish’s daughter Raziya came out to the public in red clothes and gave the undertaking that he could deliver the goods to the country if she was made the Sultan and she gave the undertaking that if the proved unequal to the task, the people would have freedom to depose her.

A fifth boon of this theory of consent was constitutional experiments in several countries. In the next two centuries this theory ignited three mighty world revolutions, first in 1688 in England called the Glorious Revolution, the second in 1776 in America called the War of American Independence and the third in 1789 in France called the French Revolution.

The English Revolution of 1688 proclaimed that the government is accountable to the people and if the government goes astray the people can overthrow it and establish a new one. The Declaration of Independence on 4 July 1776 announced- “That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

The diction used in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen during the French Revolution is- “The end of all political associations is the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man; and these rights are liberty, property, security and resistance of oppression.” Thus all these three big political experiments emphasised on the element of the consent of the people as a factor to be reckoned with in the governance of the country.

In the political thought of Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau may be found theoretical considerations of the practical issues that were to confront the authors of the American and French constitutions. The influence of theories of social contract, especially as they relate to the issue of natural rights and the proper functions of government, effected the constitution-making of the revolutionary era that began with the War of American Independence and was indeed enshrined in the great political manifestos of the time, namely the Declaration of American Independence, the Bill of Rights and the French Declaration of the Rights of man and citizen.

The constitutional experience of these countries had great influence on the liberal thoughts in Europe and other parts of the world during the nineteenth century and these found expression in the constitutions that were demanded from the European Kings.

The extent to which the ideal of constitutional democracy has become entwined with the practice of constitutional government is the main features of the constitutions of the countries of Europe, Asia and Africa in addition to the USA.

6. Marxician Theory of Origin of the State:

The Marxists are of the view that the state is a creation by the class-struggle with the help of force.

So it is altogether a different theory of origin of state with the recognition of force which we have studied as a theory of origin of state.

The Marxists began with the primitive society where there was no surplus wealth to quarrel with and so there was no state.

With the passing of time, society was getting split over hostile classes with conflicting interests. This class antagonism was the root cause of the state. When agriculture was learnt as an art of culture there was ample food which resulted in private property. The insoluble contra-dictions as a result of division of labour became so acute that it was not possible for any class to keep reconciled in the state or to keep the quarrelling classes under control.

The most dominant class that controlled the mode of production came to establish the state to ensure its dominance over the other classes who did not own the modes of production. The state thus became an instrument of domination and oppression of one class over the other classes.

Thus the state came in to ensure the right of the dominant class to exploit the other classes. As the dominant classes kept on changing hands so also changed the character of the state. So V. G. Afanasyev in his book Marxist Philosophy maintained that the state was not imposed from outside, but it was a product of society’s internal development at a certain stage of development. With the break-up of the social order ensued class-conflict which the society became powerless to dispel.

Emphasising the economic factor as the key element in the class struggle, Fredrich Engels observed- “But in order that these antagonisms, classes with conflicting economic interests, might not consume themselves and society in sterile struggle, a power seemingly standing above society became necessary for the purpose of moderating the conflict, of keeping it within the bounds of ‘order’ and this power, arisen out of society, but placing itself above it and increasingly alienating itself from it is the state.”

The state was the medium of the economically dominant classes. V.I. Lenin developed on the above thesis by bringing the communist party as the dominant class, namely the proletariat and his state, namely the USSR where the proletariat was the dominant class which was to exploit the other classes. Lenin also emphasised on the element of force to be resorted to by the proletariat against the bourgeois. Thus Lenin incorporated the element of force too in the creation of the state.

The Italian Marxist, Antonio Gramsci made a little departure from the Marxist tenet by stating that a state is the creation of the political party that holds on power. According to him, the political party is the “modern prince”, evidently using the expression of N. Machiavelli. He went to the extent of asserting that the party represents the national popular collective will and aims at the realisation of a higher and total form of modern civilisation. Here we find that the author is more in agreement with the German idealist Hegel than the Marxists.

This is in broad analysis of the Marxist views as culled from the writings and opinions of Engels, Lenin and Gramsci. Now we shall draw up the criticism of it.

Criticism of Marxist Theory of Origin of State:

The Marxist theory of origin of state as based on class struggle is subjected to the following fierce criticism:

In the first place, it is nowhere stated in history that state in its origin is linked with the class struggle.

In the second place, there might be different class interests, but it is difficult to say that these classes were at arms as the Marxists have us to believe. The classes, on the other hand, cooperated with each other and contributed in their way in the composite development of the state.

In the third place, the Marxist theory is not original, but secondary because it carries the old wine of the force theory in a new Marxist bottle. Force has been discarded as unsatisfactory theory in the creation of the state.

In the fourth place, Lenin and Gramsci, by identifying the state with the political party, have erred by generalising the communist state as an example for all other states. The communist state in Russia and China might have originated with the communist party. Russia and China were already there in the map of the world. They were not created with the communist party. Today communist party is over in Russia. Does it deny the statehood to Russia?

In the fifth place, Marxism, by identifying the state with the party, encourages the totalitarianism of the worst type like Fascism and Nazism. So the theory is a dangerous one.

Lastly, the Marxist dogma that the state is a creation of the class and it will die with the death of class is false and misleading. The states are permanent and no state withered away for want of a class to back it.

So we fail to accept the Marxist theory as a suitable answer to the, origin of the state.

SAKHRI Mohamed
SAKHRI Mohamed

I hold a Bachelor's degree in Political Science and International Relations in addition to a Master's degree in International Security Studies. Alongside this, I have a passion for web development. During my studies, I acquired a strong understanding of fundamental political concepts and theories in international relations, security studies, and strategic studies.

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