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Although both look similar, the terms 'state' and 'society are not the same.

A state is an independent political community with a recognizable government, a well-known population, and well-defined geographic boundaries.

The Montevideo Convention on the right and duties of a state of 1933, defined a state as " having a permanent population, a defined territory, a government and the capacity to enter into relation with another state".

A society, on the other hand, can be defined as a group of people who share similar cultures and have well-defined territory.

According to Morris Ginsberg, "a society is a collection of individuals united by certain relations or modes of behaviour which mark them off from others who do not enter into these relations or who differ from them in behaviour."

Differences Between a state and a society

1. Society is a wider concept than the state. This is because society consists of all forms of associations, including political associations, economic associations, social associations, and religious associations while a state is primarily made up of political associations.

2. In terms of origin, society has existed longer than the state. Because humans are social animals, society is considered to have started on the day when human life must have started.

However, the state did not exist before society.

The state began at a later point in the evolution of society when the need for preserving social relationships lead to the creation of laws to guide the behaviour of members of society.

Politics comes second to sociality in the evolution of humans. Hence, society started before the state.

3. A state's territory is always clearly defined. For instance, we are familiar with the borders of Germany, the US, and the UK.

On the other hand, a society may or may not have a well-defined territory. For example, Christian society transcends national boundaries just as Muslim society transcends national boundaries.

It is crucial to remember that a state, not the society itself, often owns the land where a society resides or extends.

4. While society has general rules of conduct known as rituals, customs, and traditions, a state has general rules of conduct known as laws.

The state derives its power from the constitution and laws whereas the society derived its power from the customs and traditions of the people.

5. All state has a government but society may not necessarily have a government.

Government is the machinery and processes through which the will of the state is done.

6. The state possesses the power of coercion as breaking its laws can result in jail term, death penalty, etc.

In contrast, society does not possess the power of coercion as disobedience to its customs and tradition may not necessarily attract physical punishment but may attract spiritual punishment.

Indeed, most societies tend to persuade members to abide by their traditions and customs by warning them of the spiritual repercussions of doing otherwise.

7. While societies do not typically have sovereignty, states do.

Indeed, sovereignty is the most important possession of the state. As sovereign, the state is supreme power over all organizations, institutions and individuals within its boundaries.

Most societies are subjected to the state and the law made by the state is legally binding on members of society.

The state is regarded as the institution of society that creates and upholds laws and order.

Society is just a system of maintaining social relationships in the state.

8. While society and social relationships are the main areas of study for sociology, the state and political relations are the main areas of study for political science.


Bottom line

With all these distinctions, it may appear there is no mutual relationship between the state and society.

The truth of the matter is that both are mutually beneficial to one another.

The state regulates the behaviour of members of the society by putting in place laws to guide the social relationship and interactions of members of the society.

These laws are, however, the result of the social customs and traditions of the society

Society plays its part by guiding the economic, cultural, and religious activities of members of the state.

The effectiveness of the state is necessary for society to advance, and societal practices and traditions have affect how well the state functions.

Similar to how a means exists for its end, the state exists for society. Therefore, the state serves as the means, and society serves as an end to the mean. The end never exists for the means; the means are always meant to achieve the end.

As a result, societal structure and behavior must conform to state laws, and the state must be open to the demands of society.

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