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Social and political Values and Systems in India.

Role of a government of a Nation State

Introduction – Concept of ‘Nation State is not very old. The notion of a ‘nation state’ is different from the earlier idea of ‘city state’, ‘multi-national state’, ‘empire’, ‘confederation’ or other state forms. For medieval scholars, present concept of nation was different. For them, government ruled by the consent of the people rather than by Holy mandate was perhaps unthinkable.

Expansion of territory along with the process of industrialization, modernization and new inventions in the field of technology gave birth to the idea of Nation State. Since 1776, started the process of city states converting into nation state. Nation state, in its present sense, is more or less a phenomenon of nineteenth century. Idea of nation state is associated with the rise of modern sovereign state, in which its government governs its specific territorial area for the unity, social, economic and cultural development of the people living in that area. The concept  of ‘Nation state’ in its present sense is more or less a nineteenth century concept. In 1815, at the Congress Of Vienna the Final Act recognized only 39 sovereign states in the European diplomatic system.  

The idea of ‘nation state’ is associated with the rise of modern sovereign state, where its own government administers within its specific territorial area. It works for the unity and social, economic, political and cultural development of all its people living in that area. The ultimate aim of government is to help common men live a peaceful, safe and secure life. Today, however, this simple and powerful truth is too often forgotten.

Emergence of the concept of Welfare and Developmental administration ties – Earlier, till nineteenth Century, the main tasks of the government used to be maintenance of law and order and revenue collection. French Revolution, Bolshevik Revolution, or Industrial Revolution had changed the scenario. It had a great impact on contemporary developments, especially in widening the scope of State activities. Poverty and misery, which were earlier accepted as the lot of masses, are no longer regarded as inevitable. In the post Second World war period, almost all the newly emerged nations in Asia, Africa, Latin America and parts of Europe, added Welfare and Developmental activities in their agenda.

Criteria of a nation-state – According to Shaw, Malcolm Nathan, p. 178. Article 1 of the Montevideo Convention  on Rights and Duties of States, 1, Published by Cambridge University Press, 2003) lays down the most widely accepted formulation of the criteria of statehood. A state possesses the following qualifications:

  • a permanent population;
  • a defined territory;
  • government; and
  • capacity to enter into relations with other states’.

Tasks of the government of a nation state – Of all the activities of a civilized nation, the task of governance/administration is perhaps the most complex one as it deals with living human beings prone to unpredictable behavior. A national government has to deal with the issues – political, economic or social, which directly affects day to day life of the people.

Usually the governments of modern nation states are involved in multifarious activities, like: 

  • Protection from internal or external aggression – It is the responsibility of every nation to protect its citizens and the nation from terror activities with the help of its armed forces. Its primary task is to maintain the law and order within the country.  Normally government through administrators, intelligence services, and revenue services take decisions, monitor the situation and keep control over disrupting activities of anti-social elements.

  • Collect Taxes – The collection of taxes provides funding to support the infrastructure of government, which allows for the delivery of public services to citizens of  the nation as a whole. Taxes are essential for provision of government services. 
  • Service functions – To provide services to public at large, there are some non-technical professionals as well as technical services like various Railways, Post and Telegraph etc, which provide services to the public at large.

  • Technical functions – Technical functions like Building up Infra-structure for country – The responsibility of building up permanent infra-structure for the sustainable development of the nation falls on the shoulders of technocrats.

  • Research and Development functions – Research and Development in various areas for a better future of its citizens – Modern states set up research goals for the sustainable development of the nation in the areas in different areas. The government plans and make policies like economic growth, environment protection, Good Health and Well-Being, behavioural science, Quality Education, and to develop new monitoring techniques.

Of all the above mentioned tasks, keeping law and order situation intact within its territory is the main task of the government of any nation. 

Source of Power for a government – The source of power of the government has kept on changing with passage of time. Earlier, during the times of city-states of Agricultural society, muscle power  gave the people power to govern. With the start of Industrial era, wealth took over the place of muscle power as a source of power. And in modern times, knowledge has become one of the major source of power. Creation of more wealth and control over muscle power depend to a large extent on knowledge, exchange of data and information. More the Knowledge, more strong/advanced is a nation in present day in modern global society.

 Changing scenario  about the Tasks of a government

The tasks of government and its source of power have kept on changing from time to time and from place to place.

  • During ancient societies- During in the era of ancient agricultural societies, there used to be independent (sovereign) Princely citystates – small or big. It usually consisted of a single city with its dependent territories. The power to govern was in the hands of physically strong persons, i.e. warriors. The task of the ruling authority was not so difficult. Expansion of their territory and protection of its people from foreign invasions and internal disturbances and collecting revenue were the main tasks of a government. 
  • Era of industrialization – Industrial Revolution (from about 1760 to sometime between 1820 and 1840) and the contemporary developments had a great impact in widening the scope of State activities. The Industrial Revolution permanently changed the relationship between worker, employer and government. During the era of Industrialization, wealth took over the place of muscle power as a source of power.

    Industrialization had both positive and negative effects on society. has generated employment opportunities, provided educational opportunities, encouraged advancement and innovation, and better utilized resources. It resulted in more efficient production processes, cheaper goods and improved quality of life. On the other hand, the Industrial Revolution encouraged environmental pollution, poor working conditions and a decline in agriculture. Industrial Revolution had some negative impacts for society. Although there are several positives to the Industrial Revolution there were also many negative elements, including: poor working conditions, poor living conditions, low wages, child labor, and pollution. The negative effects brought in the era of Revolutions. 

  • Era of Revolutions – The French Revolution (5th May 1789 to 9th Nov, 1799) had a great and far-reaching impact that probably transformed the world more than any other revolution. Its repercussions include lessening the importance of religion; rise of Modern Nationalism; spread of Liberalism and igniting the Age of Revolutions. Then Bolshevik Revolution/Russian revolution (1917 to 1920) had a great global impact. It swept the ideas of Communism, Socialism, democracy, economy, nationalism, and most importantly the division of the world. Russia was the first country to establish a communist government, and communism spread throughout the world. 
  • Concept of Laissez-faire – Concept of Laissez-faire advocates an economic system in which there is minimal intervention from governments and regulations. With the rise of the concept of nation state all over the world, the principle of Laissez-faire became popular. Most of the Governments of nation-state’s interfered minimum in the economic affairs of individuals and society.The government’s main tasks were only to maintain law and order and collect revenue.

It began with Adam Smiths’ “The wealth of nations”. Which developed the idea of “The wealth of nations”, developed the idea of Laissez faire”. Laissezfaire is a French meaning “allow to do”. The British economist John Stuart Mill was responsible for bringing this philosophy into popular economic usage in his Principles of Political Economy (1848).The philosophy’s popularity reached its peak around 1870.

The policy of laissezfaire received strong support in classical economics as it developed in Great Britain under the influence of economist and philosopher Adam Smith. It led some nations through success after success in the economic field. USA became world’s largest economy. Australia achieved one of the highest per capita income rate. Many European States emerged as great imperial powers. It was the guiding principle of governance till the end of  19th century.

The Physiocrats proclaimed laissezfaire in 18th-century France, placing it at the very core of their economic principles. With Adam Smiths’. The government’s main tasks were only to maintain law and order and collect revenue. It led the nations through success after success in the economic field. USA became world’s largest economy. Many European States emerged as great imperial powers.

Due to some inherent weaknesses, After 1873, the world moved away from the dominant political concept of “Laissez-faire”, with the crash of Vienna Stock market. The crash of Vienna Stock market had caused a short-lived panic in Paris, London, Frankfurt and New York. The Panic triggered an economic depression in Europe (Paris, London, Frankfurt) and New York that lasted from 1873 until 1877, and even longer in France and Britain. During early 1870s, several Banks in Europe collapsed, which led to the crash of the Vienna Stock Exchange. It was the beginning of an economic crisis, the Great Depression, which lasted until 1896. The crisis affected central Europe and later the United States. In the United States the Panic was known as the “Great Depression” until the events of the early 1930s set a new standard. It changed the course of political events.

It had turned many countries to totalitarian regimes. The first one to opt for totalitarian regime was Soviet Russia. Italy became a fascist nation and Nazism grew in Germany. It also  led to the emergence of imperialism, which led to economic exploitation of conquered places, colonization and World Wars.

  • Turning point – World War I (1914 to 1918) was the turning point. During the World Wars, different nation-states entered into Alliances with other nations.  As the world entered the 20th century, the process modernization, industrialization and new developments in the sphere of technology, and new techniques of warship, and arms race prepared the ground for imperialism, militarism, nationalism and  world war I.  Desire for greater empires led  economically strong countries to enter into Alliances, such as Treaty of Versailles was signed after World War I between Germany and the Allied Powers. Japan had an alliance with Entente Powers. 

World War II – Then in 1935, started II World War II. World War II had a profound effect on colonial powers. It completely destroyed their economies. It was an even bigger calamity for Germany and Europe. The war changed the economical balance of the world, leaving European countries deep in debt and making the U.S. the leading industrial power and creditor in the world. Inflation shot up in most countries and the German economy was highly affected by having to pay for reparations. 

Scenario after World-Wars, Rise of the concept of Welfare State – Peter F Drucker says  that two World-War had changed the course of of politics and led to the rise of welfare state and its immense power. 

Socio-economic justice was the idea that swept the entire world. At that time, it was not only a political or economic ideology, but also a radical philosophical alternative, which assured to create a new integrated classless egalitarian society, free of discrimination and inequality. It was supposed to destroy all inequalities of race, sex, power, position or wealth and to distribute equitably social, material and political resources of the nation. It meant to place in full or in parts means of production and distribution under State’s ownership or control, as against private ownership and free enterprise. It believed in planned development for removing poverty and leading the nation to prosperity.

Poverty and misery, which were earlier accepted as the lot of masses, are no longer regarded as inevitable. Millions of people started demanding, with persisting insistence, better standard of living, better housing, better education and better medical facilities. The masses started wishing that they themselves should be benefited a much as possible, from the resources of their nation. The desire of public to go forward quickly and to establish a new economic order, in which common people could have better deal, gave rise to the concept of `Welfare State’ and Developmental Administration. Democratic governments allover the world started playing the role of a guardian, as far as its economy was concerned. Government assumed the responsibility of protecting its citizens from the shocks of every day life.

Government of a Welfare State assumes the responsibility of its citizens from `womb to tomb’. It aims at to bring about `social, political and economic justice’ by improving the quality of life of its masses. Its main focus is on improving the lots of  poor people and weaker sections of society  poor by fulfilling their basic necessities. In short its objective is a massive attack on five major evils of society – want, disease, ignorance, squalor and idleness.

Technological developments, especially in the field of Information Technology after 1970, has facilitated the exchange of data and information. knowledge has become the major source of power.

The process of changes has not ended over here. Now the whole world is moving towards forming a global society.  Some people say that globalization has political, economic and cultural impact on the nationstate, which ultimately impacts the issue of identity on “global citizens”. Finally, the paper argues that globalization also has an impact on the autonomy of the nationstate especially on the education system and policies.

Some opine that Globalization creates a sense of interdependence among nations, which could create an imbalance of power among nations of different economic strengths. The role of the nationstate in a global world is largely a regulatory one as the chief factor in global interdependence.

Some people wonder, how the global society will be governed? It is yet to be seen.



July 1, 2019 Posted by | General | | Leave a comment


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