Do you feel or expect that the Government must be transparent and accountable to the citizens of the nation? If yes, then how are you reciprocating back to the Government? This is what Political Obligation is. It is related to moral affair. Every individual has to perform certain duties such as payment of taxes, participate in voting, perform judicial and military functions, but for what? It is in order to maintain the political institutions of the country.
Political obligation binds a person to the performance of duties as mentioned in the Constitution. An individual has to follow the rules and regulations in the society for his own welfare and the society’s welfare. When the State is responsible towards the citizen, the citizen must also reciprocate to the Government. The proper functioning of the State depends upon the proper functioning of the systems of the government.
The word ‘political’ actually deals with policy and the government’s administration. The framework of the political system is framed and then the limitations of the power are identified.
T.H. Green states political obligation as, “it is intended to include the obligation of the subject towards the sovereign, the obligation of the citizen toward the state, and the obligation of the individual to each other as enforces by the political superior.”
When the state has a political authority, it has the right to compel the non-compliers. For example if anything within the State’s authority to levy the taxes, then the State has all the rights to compel the non- compliers to pay the taxes. However, even if the State does not enforce its authority, still it is the moral duty of the citizens to comply with the laws.
Hence, every human being is subject to political obligation owing to the omnipresence of the modern nation state. Political obligation otherwise involves three major aspects:
The identifiable authority to which political obligation is rendered: If a person has an obligation to do or refrain from doing, he has to be directed by a person who has the authority or the power to direct or instruct. However, a person’s political obligation has a certain link to the citizenship of the state. A foreigner will not have political rights but will have legal obligation and protection.
To what extent political obligation can be rendered: The State can enforce laws and expect minimum obligation. This means that the people cannot be selective about the laws but have to obey the laws. Examples to quote can be voting, military duty, etc. These are the basic duties of the citizens which have to be compulsorily implied without being selective.
The basis of Political Obligation: Political obligations have gained momentum only after the sixteenth century. Earlier, the people considered Political obligation as the will of God. But, modern political theory differs in its explanation. This theory says that no person is forced to do a work but they voluntarily assume their own duties as their valid obligations.
Do you know why the people assume in such a way? The reasons are self-interest and realisation of the state’s basic duties. The State is providing the people with physical safety and security. People are aware that securing justice or maximizing happiness cannot happen without the political authority. When these are provided by the state, naturally the people are responsible for political obligations.
· There prevails a source of political spirit and social service
· Honesty and integrity are the essential aspects when it comes to the performance of public duty.
· There must prevail political legitimacy and effectiveness
· The citizens also have the responsibility of guarding their guardians
Political Obligations are of four kinds. What are they?
Moral Obligation: Are you hospitable to the guests who come to your house? Do you help the poor? Will you not take care of your parents in their old age? These are your moral obligations. They do not legally bind the community and the individuals and if you do not behave within the moral obligations, you can also not be punished. However, this is your ethics and moral principle innate in you.
Legal Obligation: Our nation is a welfare state where the Government focuses on providing us with the infrastructural facilities. Roads, health centres, hospitals, education, etc are few of the examples of concern.
Positive Obligation: There are certain rules made by the state which cannot be disobeyed and hence they are considered as the positive obligation. Can you think of some examples related to positive obligations? Yes, paying tax and serving the defence are some of the examples under positive obligation.
Negative Obligation: This is the direct opposite of positive obligation. Here, an individual is not permissible to do what the government prevents him from doing so.
· Playing with your friends.
· Cast votes during the election time.
· Teaching your sister.
· Payment of taxes to the state.
· To join the Public Service.
· To serve the army during emergency time.
Now, think of some examples under negative obligation. Have you seen some people get drunk and behave in a very disorderly manner? Some drink and drive, some of them cause a lot of problems to the family after being drunk. In the same way, commission of crime is also a negative obligation. Hope, you understood what negative obligations are?
The Constitution is considered as a rule book of the state and it expects the citizens to adhere to the rules. If the Constitution has to work successfully, then people’s cooperation is also a must. “Law is a means to an end and never an end to itself ”. There is a concept called the steam roller legislature. In case a law does not serve good then it has to be changed. There are situations where some laws are framed by the Government which are harmful and yet they get a support, which is called the Steam roller legislature. It is the duty of the citizen to resist such laws too. Hence, the concept of political obligation not only informs people to obey the rules and regulations of the authority of power but also informs to resist if the laws are found not to be good for the society.
All of us have some theories, values in life. We practise whatever is right and do not follow misguiding principles. In the same way, theories are applicable for political obligations too. There are different types of theories of political obligation:
In the olden days, people thought that the God created the state and the king was his representative. But this theory could be popular only during the ancient and middle ages but not during the modern era.
This theory proposes that the authority of the state is based on the people’s consent. Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau justified this theory on the grounds that the authority of power was dependent on the people’s consent. But, later it could not be accepted because it treated state as an artificial organisation.
This theory states that the respect to the political authority is based on the principle of customary rights. It is a fact that political institutions are continuous from the past, this ideahas been supported by Edmund Burke. But over a period of time, it lost its effect due to its overemphasis on the respect for the well-established practices.
This theory regards man and the state as two entities. “Man” is regarded as a political and rational creature while “state” is considered as a self-sufficing community. This idealistic theory propounds that when the individual receives his rights from the state, he can have no rights that can conflict with the state. However, this theory proved to be quite abstract and which could not be understood by man.
The Marxian theory is actually different from the other theories. It has been classified into three stages:
Pre - revolutionary stage- This stage explains political non-obligation
Revolutionary Stage- It is an eventual change from political non- obligation stage to a stage of total political obligation.
Post- revolutionary stage-This stage is a complete transition from total political obligation to social development.
The Marxian theory of politics explains the state as an instrument of power in the hands of the proletariat. Towards the success of the revolution to consolidate the socialist order, it may lead to what is called as ‘withering away’ of the state. However, this theory was also considered to be illogical since it made man subservient to the state.
Though the theories mention about the political obligation, yet some seem to be abstract while some are illogical too. But, have you ever thought why should we obey the state? Is it because you fear or you have a sense of patriotism? Shall we see, what are the reasons that make an individual to obey the state?
Do you fear being punished by your teacher with an imposition if you go to school with an incomplete homework? Does your father obey the traffic signals properly fearing being penalised? Yes, fear is always there if we do not perform our tasks properly. In the same way, individuals perform their functions fearing punishments. In other ways, it is actually the coercive authority of the state that compels a man to conform to the system of regulations.
Why do we stand up for our National Anthem? It is because of patriotism. We love our nation. Hence, to keep our surroundings as well as to keep the streets and roads garbage free is also our duty. So, the members of the state are conscious about the state they live as without that they cannot live as civilized human beings. The members develop a binding towards the state.
Do you like your house to be run in a disorganised manner? Imagine you have breakfast in the afternoon everyday and the clothes are strewn here and there. Would you like if your place is unclean? We don’t. It is a general principle that human beings always wish for peace and order. They not only obey the laws but also look upon the ones who do not obey.
We are all brought about to follow good habits like being courteous, honest, discipline and obedient. This is what our traditional values instilled. Hence, in a nation, even the citizens wish to establish good traditions, and obedience to the state, that which becomes a habit.
Therefore, let us understand that political obligations are necessary for the citizen to maintain a good system nationwide. Every individual hence has to abide by the laws for a good reciprocation from the state as well.
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