What is State - Historical or Evolutionary theory of State

Historical Evolution of state

What is state:

The state is the most universal and most powerful of all social institutions. The state is a natural institution. Aristotle said man is a social animal and by nature he is a political being. To him, to live in the state and to be a man were identical. The modern term 'state' is derived from the word 'status'. It was Niccole Machiavelli who first used the term 'state' in his writings. The state is the highest form of human association. It is necessary because it comes into existence out of the basic needs of life. It continues to remain for the sake of good life. The aims, desires and aspirations of human beings are translated into action through the state. Though the state is a necessary institution.

What is State - Historical or Evolutionary theory of State

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The Origin or evolution of the State

Political thinkers have attempted to explain the origin of the state in various ways. When, where and how the state came into existence have not been recorded anywhere in history. Therefore, the political thinkers were compelled to adopt various hypotheses, many of which are now discredited in the light of modern knowledge. Among the many theories which are concerned with the origin of the state the following are explained in this chapter.

1.    The Theory of Divine origin

2.      Social Contract Theory.

3.      Matriarchal and Patriarchal Theory.

4.      Force Theory.

5.      Evolutionary Theory.

  • The Theory of Divine origin

The theory of divine rights of the kings also known as the Divine Origin theory is one of the oldest theory of the origin of the state.  The theory explains about how the state came into being. The supporters of this theory believed that the state doesn’t come into being by the people but it is the handiwork of God on the earth. The state was created by the God and the King was the representatives or agents of God on the earth.

The theory prevailed in the old age where religion has dominated the minds of the people. The subjects believed that as the king is the agent of God so they have to abbey the king and to go against the king will be a sinful act. But in the twentieth century, this theory has been criticized or we may say it came under a criticism being an incorrect explanation of the origin of the state

  •  Social Contract Theory

The social contract theory is one of the theories of the origin of the state. This theory states that the society or the state came into being by a contract that was made between the individual and the society or the contract that was made amongst the individual people. It states that the conditions in the state of nature at some point became worst and to come of this situation the people entered themselves into a contract and according to this contract the people will surrender some part of their right to the sovereign. But this theory of social contract has been criticized from the historical point of view, it is not acceptable. This theory is illogical and baseless.

  •  The Patriarchal and matriarchal Theory 

The principal exponent of this theory is Sir Henry Maine. According to him, the city is a collection of several families which developed under the control and authority of the eldest male member of the family .The head or father of the patriarchal family wielded great power and influence upon the other members of the family.

Matriarchy Social system in which the mother or a female elder has absolute authority over the family group; by extension, one or more women (as in a council) exert a similar level of authority over the community as a whole.

These theories as the origin of the state is subjected to the following criticisms:

In the first place, the origin of the state is due to several factors like family, religion, force, political necessity, etc. So by identifying the origin of the state with family, one makes the same fallacy as taking one cause instead of several causes. 

  • Force theory of state 

The exponents of the force theory were o views that the origin of state and its development was based on force, that is, force used by the strong over the weak and their consequent control over them. In such a way, wherever the strong group out did the weak the strong became the master and ruled the weak. The strong group became vested with ruling power and the federated were made their subjects. The warring clans and tribes established their authority in a definite territory. Their chief became the ruler on the basis of his physical force. The state is born out of force. Exist in force and die in the absence of force. According to Bluntschli, force is an indispensable element of the organization of the state. In the two world wars, Great Britain defended its territory against the Nazi forces only with the military power. Further, the Russian military power stopped the aggression of the German forces. The exponents of this theory hold that wars and aggressions by some powerful tribe were the principal factors in the creation of the state.

  • Historical or Evolutionary theory

 Five theories in explanation of the origin of the state, but no single theory offers an adequate explanation. The theory which explains and is now accepted as a convincing origin of the state, is the Historical or Evolutionary theory. It explains the state is the product of growth, a slow and steady evolution extending over a long period of time and ultimately shaping itself into the complex structure of a modern state. This theory is more scientific.

 The state is neither the handiwork of God, nor the result of superior physical force, nor the creation of evolution or convention, nor a mere expansion of the family. The state is not a mere artificial mechanical creation but an institution of natural growth or historical evolution says Professor Garner.

 There were a number of factors which helped the evolution of the state. They were kinship, religion, war, migration economic activities and political consciousness. The important factors which contributed to the growth of the state are

  • Kinship
  • Religion
  • Property and defense
  • Force
  • Political consciousness


 Kinship is the most important and was based upon blood relationship and kinship was the first strongest bond of unity. Family constituted the first link in the process of the evolution of the state with the expansion of the family arose new families and the multiplication of families led to the formation of clans and tribes. Kinship was the only factor which bound the people together.

According to Professor Mac Iver, the magic of names

'Reinforced the sense of kinship, as the course of generations enlarged the group. The blood bond of sonship changed imperceptibly into the social bond of the wider brotherhood. The authority of the father passes into the power of the chief once more under the aegis of kinship new forms arise which transcend it. Kinship creates society and society at length creates the state'.


 Religion provided the bond of unity in early society. It also affected all walks of life. The worship of a common ancestor and common gods created a sense of social solidarity. There was fear in the hearts of men as far as religion was concerned. Even today we see religious practices, affairs and faith in uniting people. In the early days a number of races are united by religion and unity was essential for the creation of state.


Force also played an important part in the evolution of the state. It was the use of physical force that was responsible for the growth of kingdoms and empires.

Property and Defense

Property and defense played a vital role in the evolution of state in ancient times particularly among the people who were nomads and vagabonds and tribals. Prof. Laski has referred to the necessity of acquiring property by the members of society and protecting the property acquired with reference to the population mentioned above.

 This led to making adjustments in the social system and relationship between the members of different groups. The need to protect property ultimately compelled the ancient people to establish the state.

Political consciousness

 The last is political consciousness arising from the fundamental needs of life for protection and order.

 When the people settle down on a definite territory in pursuit of their, subsistence and a desire to secure it from encroachment by others. The need for regulating things and persons is felt imminently and this is the essence of political consciousness.


 It follows that many factors helped the growth of the state. No single factor alone was responsible for its origin. Sometimes all and sometimes many of them help the process by which uncivilized society was transformed into a state.

 Of all the theories which seek to explain the origin of the states, the evolutionary theory is the most satisfactory. It should be noted that no theory pin-points the time at which the state originated as a consequence of many factors working in union at different times.

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