The State occupies the most important place among all social institutions. It is 'the keystone of the social arch', as Laski says. In the words of Finer' the state is the supreme social frame work. Without state there would be chaos and confusion in the society. It is not only a natural but also a necessary institution. It exists to control and regulate the behaviour of the human beings. It protects the weak against the strong, maintains peace and order and serves the common good life of all individuals. Man cannot live without the state.
This lesson is about the evolution of the state. The state is the result of a slow and steady growth extending over a long period and has many stages in its development.
Different factors produced different types of states in different societies. It is difficult to show the stages of evolution which the modern nation state had to undergo during its emergence.
The process of the evolution of the state has not been uniform. In the early period there were the Oriental empire, Greek city-state, the Roman Empire, the Feudal state, the Nation state, socialist state and welfare state. The following typologies of state are described below: (1) City State, (2) Feudal State, (3) Nation-State, (4) Socialist State and (5) Welfare State.
Feudalism was only 'a temporary scaffolding or framework order'. It gave to the people of Europe some order, but a true national life could not grow on such a system. Many factors contributed to its decline. The general course of events had been that powerful lords subdued less powerful ones, and small kingdoms emerged by successful conquest or lucky marriage, and by the consolidation of an authority that was generally welcomed by the masses, if not by the more important lords, whose powers were gradually limited by the new monarchs. The Renaissance and the Reformation accelerated the pace of this change. The Tudors in England took advantage of the situation and demonstrated to the European countries how the people could unite and progress under a strong and centralised authority. The ties of unity were further fostered by the sentiments of nationality. Britian's insular position helped the British in attaining the full stature of an organised and conscious nationhood. The attempt of the English, in the early fifteenth century, to dominate France roused the national spirit in that country too. A similar awakening, due to various causes, had come in Spain and Portugal. The sixteenth century saw the Danish and Swedish peoples also similarly organised.
A new type of State, thus, emerged. The old concept of the State was replaced by the State based on bonds of nationality strengthened by natural boundaries. A national State, with a distinct and separate territory of its own, gave rise to the modern theories of sovereignty and equality of States. The nation-State also helped the growth of international law.
The Nation-States began their careers as absolute monarchies. When Papal authority was set aside, and feudal rights were giving way, it was natural for the people to cling to the central institution in which their political life was embodied. The growing national consciousness of the people had made them realise the need for consolidation. But consolidation demanded concentration of authority. Protestantism, too, while limiting the authority to a territorial State, placed the spiritual and civil authority in the hands of the king. The political thought of this period, also supported absolutism. Machiavelli freed the ruler even, from the limitations imposed by public morality. The theory of Divine Right of Kings championed the cause of absolute monarchy.
But the absolute authority of the kings could not remain unchallenged for long. The next stage in the development of nation-State was the conflict between the king and the people. The people demanded their rights and privileges. They began to realise that power was ultimately theirs, if they wished to wield it. It was the rise of democracy and the aspirations for a representative system of government. Democracy brought with it three main principles; equality, popular sovereignty and nationality. The manifestation of the first principle was found in the Declaration of the Rights of Man drawn up by the French Revolutionaries in 1789. Ever since 1789, this principle 'has been at work emancipating and elevating the hitherto unfree and downtrodden orders of society, and removing civil, regilious and race disabilities from disqualified classes in the State.' The Declaration of the Rights of Man also embraced the concept of popular sovereignty. It means, in simple words, that the people are the source of all authority and law is the expression of their will. Finally, the principle of nationality requires that the people, who feel they are one, are free to choose their own form of government and to manage their affairs in their own way. Here, again, it may be stated that the French Revolution was primarily responsible for the revival of the national sentiment.
The advance of democracy wrecked absolutism and brought about a great improvement in the political customs of the civili nations. The selfishness of the ruling families was checked and methods of government became milder and fairer. Laws were made with due consideration of the interests of the people, and opinions were freely brought to the test of discussion. Another characteristic of the democratic State had been the pursuit of the policy of laissez-faire in the field of industry, trade and commerce. This policy 'to let people alone' had certain obvious results. First, there had been a great expansion in enterprise and invention. Secondly, there had been a movement of diffusion owing to economic freedom. Finally, there had been a marked tendency in concentration both of capital and land.
The modern State is a nation-State and it has become the basic pattern throughout the world. It actualises the principle of self-determination, or the right of each nation to govern itself. Loyalty in the nation-State is expressed to the nation, or, in the other words, to the people. A nation-State, accordingly, places emphasis on the ethnic, if possible, and geographic unity of the people. It adopts all means at its disposal to preserve the integrity of its natural frontiers and tries to maintain a homogeneous and united people. This has been the course of the development of the State during the past five centuries.