State | Theories of the Origin of State

A state is defined as a politically independent community; by being politically independent it possesses such features as population, government, constitution, definite territory and sovereignty.


The divine theory:

This theory is of the view that the state is divinely ordained and as such demand absolute obedience from all within it confines. In other words, under this theory, individuals have no right to assert any right because they have none or to revolt against any government because it is ordained by God.

The social contract theory:

This theory is of the view that at a point in time, men freely agree to bind themselves together under a government and each person is duty bound to keep to the terms of the agreement. Thomas Hobbes, an English philosopher who witnessed the civil war in England in the 17th century supports this theory.

He imagined the insecurity and brutality which accompanied the civil war, with what the world would have been like without order or government. During the war, man’s life was nasty, brutish and short. It was a state where might was right. Man was at war with every other man. There was insecurity of life and property.

This according to Thomas Hobbes might have been the state of nature as was witnessed in England during the civil war. Man realized that the only way out of this problem was to surrender his natural rights to one authority. As a result, man had to surrender to an absolute ruler under a contract. The contract was one sided, its binding was among the subjects themselves.

The subjects surrender their right and obligation to the sovereign authority. The sovereign power was absolute and the subjects had no power to revolt. John locke in support of the social contract theory was of the view that mans problem was not on how to escape from the state of nature but rather how to maximize the enjoyment of all the right that nature had given him. Man then had a contract with the authority.

The agreement was two sided; it was binding on both the authority and the subjects. The sovereign powers were limited to the terms of the agreement. In other words, it was agreed that as long as the sovereign kept his own side of the agreement i.e. as long as he protects lives and property and freedom of subjects, the subject would remain loyal to his authority.

But once the sovereign fails to perform these crucial functions, the subject were free to seek for alternate government; hence, the agreement was limited and revocable.

Jean Jacques in his own opinion said that man surrendered himself and all his right absolutely, but not to anybody, not even to the government but to the sovereign, which according to Jean is the general will of the people of the community or state as a collectivity.

He was of the view that government is an agent of the sovereign and man by making his surrender to the government secured for himself true liberty because the interest of the community is the real interest of every individual.

The force theory:

This theory is of the view that might is right, it traces the origin of state to conquest and coercion. The powerful ones impose their right over the weaker ones.

It is believed that government exists to protect and advance the interest of the dominant groups in the society by enacting law in their own interest. Karl Max support this theory by pointing out that the state is nothing but the executive committee of the bourgeoisie.

He said that the state is nothing more than a machine for the oppression of one class by another. In other words, it is an instrument of class oppression.

The natural or organic theory:

This theory was propounded by Aristotle who sees the family as an association established by nature for the supply of everyday needs of man, as time went on; the need of man transcended the immediate reach of the family.

Several families had to unite to carter for their common interest. An association of families had to unite to form villages as their need multiplied.

In like manner, several villages united to form a state. The state is therefore creation of nature, hence, man is a political animal born to live in a state.

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