What Are The Functions Of The State


What Are The Functions Of The State Essay, Research Paper

The state plays a crucial part in society today and is central to the study of economic and political geography. In order to define the functions of a state, it is at first necessary to define the `state’ and what it, in itself represents. Collins Concise English Dictionary (Third Edition-1992) interprets the state as, “…a sovereign political power or community…” or “…the body politic of a particular sovereign power…” In short, the state is seen as being the governing body of a nation exerting supreme and unrestricted power over its people, within a designated area. In a capitalist system the term ‘government’ is applied to the elected officials in charge of the state and its functions. A state can also be one of a number of areas or communities having their own governments and forming a federation under a sovereign government, as in the United States. Academics, politicians and political commentators, to name a few, have studied the nature of the state, and theories have been developed over time explaining its functions. These various philosophies suggest that the state performs at least one of the six following duties. The first presents the state as a protective entity, that is, acting as a protector for the members of its nation. These can be physical, economic and social functions such as restrictions on immigration or the introduction of tariffs and duties. This protective function also forms a safeguard over its members from each other as punishment for crimes and crime prevention. Finally under the title, `state as a protector’, comes the `welfare state’ which protects its members who have been economically and/or socially hurt through no fault of their own. This incorporates government payments to the unemployed and the sick,eg.income support in the U.K. The second duty displays the state as an arbitrator, that is, it acts as a third party in disputes where an agreement cannot be reached between two parties alone. Along such lines there are marital disputes where decisions about property and children have to be determined. The state, in order to make these decisions, sets up various organizations and institutions where agreements can be made, for example marriage guidance or legal counselling. The third task a state habitually performs is that of a uniting one. A cohesive force acts in creating unity throughout the state and thus providing a focus for individuals to accept. As explained earlier, disagreements are endemic in human societies and institutions, however small. Such disputes could lead to state fission or the break up of the societies structure. This possible segmentation can be intercepted by the state which can integrate the conflicting elements into a united body, via nationalistic and patriotic feeling. Fourthly, the state holds a position of being a facilitator to the development of its territory and nation. In modern society, social and economic interaction must take place via two forms. The first being physical infrastructure such as roads, railways and transmission lines. The second being institutions which assist people in society such as finance houses and insurance underwriters. An increasing proportion of this infrastructure is being supplied by the state-thus providing security for the economic operations of its society. (The majority of the remainder of the infrastructure is provided by firms in the private sector.) The penultimate task a state performs is that of an investor. For a country to survive and keep up pace with the rest of the world, avoiding economic and social problems, firms in the private sector must continually try to increase productivity and sales. Investment in people, ideas and plant, via the state, is the way in which they go about this. The state provides the education system for the people; financial resources for research and development of ideas; and in plant it provides subsidies for the firms. Lastly, the state acts as a bureaucracy to its labour force within its territorial boundaries. For the country’s own preservation, the state protects its labour force as it doesn’t wish to witness its power reduced, which would subsequently threaten the social wellbeing of the state operators and bureaucrats. This is possibly the most obvious and visible task that the state performs. All six of the above ‘functional theories’ of the state are respected and widely held, in both public and academic opinion. These theories are positive in that they describe what the state is and what it does. There are other theories which are normative, and outline what theorists believe the state should be and what it should do. R.J.Johnston (1982) argues, “…the state is a major element in modern society and involved in very significant interrelationships with the geography of that society…” This statement suggests that the study of the state is essential to human geographers as it is interrelated with other elements of the subject. The second aspect of the topic is to determine whether the existence of a democratically elected parliament means that there is no Ruling Class in Britain. It is at first necessary to define what is meant by Ruling Class. Having examined different sources of information it can be concluded that the Ruling Class, has traditionally been seen as consisting of aristocratic parliamentary members of established or wealthy families, whose positions were often passed down from generation to generation, more as an inheritance rather than a political interest. A Bill passed in 1928 meant that a larger proportion of society could vote,ie there existed a more democratically elected parliament, via universal suffrage. However, today in the light of historical knowledge, it is difficult to comprehend the fact that a comprehensive school boy from Brixton has attained the powerful position of Prime Minister. The change to such a democracy has been gradual, it did not happen immediately after this Bill was passed. Over this sixty year period, the configuration of the government has changed, and in general, today ‘anybody’ can become a member of parliament, as opposed to just the elite sovereignty of the past. However, these `anybody’s’ can only become MP’s provided that they have the adequate backing of sponsors and funds, usually from their particular political party. For example, John Major had incredible funding from the conservative party for his campaigning for PM. This funding from political parties has upgraded the exclusiveness of such candidates so that when or if they become MP’s they won’t be just `anybody’s’ but `somebody’s’ ie more of a Ruling Class, as they have money/capital. The difficulty in answering this question is the difference in interpretations of the Ruling Class. The understanding of the Ruling Class which existed before democratic elections came about, is that of an aristocratic sovereignty who constitute the government and who have the ruling power over the nation. However, since the 1930’s, the government can potentially be comprised of `anybody’ who has the political interest and adequate funds, rather than being made up of solely the elite. Subsequently it can be seen that the existence of a democratically elected parliament does mean that in the traditional sense there is no Ruling Class in Britain today. BIBLIOGRAPHY Collins Concise English Dictionary 1992 (3rd ed.) R.J.Johnston – Geography and the State: An essay in Political Geography… MacMillan, London 1982 P.J.Taylor – Political Geography: World-economy, Nation-state and Locality… Longman, 1988 (2nd ed.)

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