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.
Socialist regards the State as a positive good. Therefore, instead of minimum possible State action, he wants the maximum of it. He believes that this is the only way by which social justice can be made possible for the bulk of mankind. He aims at a 'cooperative common wealth controlling all due means of production and regulating distribution according to some method of joint control'. Under socialist state there would be a common ownership of the means of production and exchange-and wages would be according to needs. Some socialists advocate equal distribution, others equitable distribution. Accordingly the 'Socialist State' is formed.
The chief merits of socialist state may be briefly outlined as follows:
In the words of J.W. Garner, 'socialist state protests against the obvious evils of our present social system and urges the need for a radical change. Money and power are concentrated in the hands of a few, and the labourer does not receive his proper due. Since the bargaining capacity of the labourer is not equal to that of the employer, the working man is often obliged to make a forced agreement. The present system leads to grave inequalities of wealth and opportunity. It is also responsible for enormous waste and the duplication of services. There is no planned economy on a nation wide scale. Unrestricted-competition leads to lower wages, over-production, cheap goods, and unemployment. The present system further tends to beget materialism, unfairness, dishonesty, and a general lowering of the standard of individual character'.
1. Eliminates Capitalism
Socialist State wants to eliminate capitalism which led to unequal distribution of wealth. It divided the society into two classes - 'rich and poor', 'haves' and 'have-nots' and the 'exploiter and exploited' and created wide gulf between the two. Socialist state seeks to cure all the evils of the capitalism such as injustice, inequality, class war etc by abolishing it.
2. Opposes Competition
Socialist State tries to eliminate all forms of competition. It wants to have cooperation instead of competition between the employers and workers. It tries to substitute cooperation for competition.
3. Economic Equality for all
Socialist State tries to secure economic equality for all by abolishing the wide gaps between different sections of the society. It stands for the principle of economic equality. It opposes the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few people. It aims to bridge the gap between the rich and poor so that opportunities are enjoyed by all equally. It desires to have a society in which there is no inequality in the distribution of property. According to Laveleys: 'Socialist state is an equaliser and leveler'.
4. Opposes private property
Socialist State tries to abolish the institution of private property. It regards private property as theft and source of all evils in the society. It declares that land and capital should belong to all and not to a privileged few.
5. Social control of means of production
Socialist State stands for public control of the means of production. It wants to abolish private enterprise. It wants to nationalise all the factors of production. Factors of production should be used by the people for the people. In other words, it aims at introducing state enterprise in the field of production and distribution for common good. It wants the state to be the producer and distributor in order to do justice to the people.
6. Emphasis on society
Socialist State lays more emphasis on society than the individual welfare to social welfare. It gives importance to the larger interests of the society as against the narrow and selfish interests of the individual. Social welfare is the main consideration of production. It means, under socialist state only those things will be produced which are needed by the society.
7. Rewards the worker on the basis of needs
Socialist State believes in rewarding the worker in proportion to the value of his labour. Its slogan is: 'From each according to his ability to each according to his needs'.
Socialist State believes in democratic and evolutionary methods. It tries to bring about the necessary changes in the present economic and political structure peacefully and gradually. It believes in constitutional and peaceful methods in reconstructing society.
Socialist State, as a political philosophy and economic movement, has its merits and demerits which are listed below.
Socialist State has become very popular and powerful movement in modern states. It has exercised deep influence on the policies of every state. Today it is seen in different parts of the world in one form or the other. Everywhere the state is interfering in economic and industrial affairs where public welfare is involved. It is owning, controlling and managing industries and public services which are of national importance. The trend of every state today is, thus, towards socialist state. Its merits are:
1. It puts society above the individual and considers the good of all as something superior to the mere good of the individual. It regards social welfare as the basis of production.
2. It rightly depicted the evils existing in the present day society. It desires to put an end to the evils of capitalism like economic inequalities, wastage of resources lack of proper planning wasteful production etc.
3. It wants to destroy the institution of private property, reduce the present economic inequalities, put an end to all types of exploitation and create a better society.
4. Its principle of production is social benefit but not personal profit. It manages and regulates industries not with profit motive but with social needs.
5. It secures better conditions of work for the workers. It raises their status and importance in the society.
It favours gradual changes based on peaceful and constitutional methods. It is evolutionary in nature. So it paved the way for the success of democracy.
7. Finally, it will free the individual from want and starvation and will thereby provide him with greater opportunities for political and economic activities.
In spite of the above advantages, socialist state has been subjected to severe criticism on the following grounds:
1. It leads to authoritarianism as it puts too many powers in the hands of government. It results in the restriction of individual liberty as the state interferes in every sphere of individual activity. State becomes the master and the individual becomes its servant.
2. It kills individual initiative and enterprise because it does not allow private property. In the absence of private property, men may not like to do maximum work.
3. It advocates socialisation of means of production. It is difficult for the state to manage all industries, control the means of production and distribution. complete management of all industries by the state will result in inefficiency, redtapism, corruption and nepotism. Industries may not be run on sound and economical lines
4. It ignores and neglects completely the interests of the consumers. It does not provide to the consumer any choice in respect of consumption. The consumer has to adjust his needs to production which is controlled by the state.
5. It is argued by the critics that practical instances show that countries with a socialist system like China has made less progress compared to those having laissez faire system as United States.
Finally, the theory of Socialist state is like a storehouse of confusion. One fails to understand as to what it really aims at. Despite these weaknesses, the theory of Socialist state has now become a matter of universal appreciation. All thinkers ranging from the advocates of Liberalism to that of Communism express their unflinching faith in the doctrine of Socialist state. The days of a hundred percent Individualism are gone for ever. Today all states are moving towards Socialist state. People everywhere expect that the state will actively promote their welfare and that it should play a positive role in their life. J.C.Johari says: 'None can deny the fact that the movement of socialist state has brought about numerous reforms. The rise of wages, reduction in the hours of work improvement of working conditions, curbs on the prevalence of destructive competition, decrease in the degree of exploitation and the like are some of the leading achievements of socialist state.