Do Societies Shape State Interests or Vice Versa


The essence of this a paper is to underscore and outline the interplay or rather the relationship surmised and existent, between the state and society. The tacit position underlying the focus objectives of this paper emanates from the perception that the influence of society on the state and vice versa is inevitable. To effectively zero in on the explorations of the supposed and indeed existent relationship the two; the terms ‘state’ and ‘society’ must be defined. Various contributions have been advanced as the definitions of state. Perhaps the most appropriate one which is used in mainstream domains is that presented by Jenkins, R. (2002) which holds that a society is body of human individuals which is peculiarly marked by patterns of relationships between the individuals which have a common and distinctive culture and value system. In this domain culture is also defined as the embodiment of a people’s values, beliefs, norms and traditions among various aspects that relate to who the people actually are as a group or as individuals.

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Culture definitions that acknowledge the estate of a people’s culture as a result of various intrinsic and extrinsic forces will be more valuable for the purposes of this tract. From a broader perspective society has been defined as an economic, social as well industrial ensemble where-in various people(s) live together. Raymond Williams(2002) notes that the members of the society may be from a different ethnic group and in some case the entirety of an society may be an ensemble of particular group of people such the English or the Jews, etc. In other cases the term can be used to refer to huge population domains like the western or African society in a general sense. For the purposes of this paper the term will be used as reference to the body of human population which falls directly under a particular state and within precise geographical parameters called counties.

The state on the other end has been defined as a political association with working integrity and sovereignty over a particular geographical area. The association must be representative of a populace. (Raymond Williams 2002). The scholar further outlines that these may be nation states or sub-national states or in other cases multinational states. The essence the state constitutes institutions endowed with power to formulate rules that set the framework in which the society can be governed in an envisaged harmonious manner. From the onset the concept of governing in its own right is a means by which the state shapes the society.

There is an overwhelming evidence to substantiate the notion that society does influence the state. This has been based on the underlying understanding that the governing institutions that constitute the state are formulated and framed within the culture precincts and various value systems of the society within which they function. The society here can be the global society, especially in reference to the state institutions of mature western democracies whose state institutions and statues are based on the classic cultural concept of universalism. Cultural Universalism holds that cultures originate in one point and thus are; and must be mutually compatible. The concept embraces the notion that there is one ideal model of human rights and a global way of doing things (Culture). Foster G (2004) notes, “Universalism lies in the core of contemporary human rights statutes”.

Universalism holds in it score that there is a foundation human union which regards all individuals are entitled to basic rights regardless of their race, origins and religious beliefs or otherwise. From another perspective cultural relativists hold that cultures are intrinsically dissonant; that the cultures of the world can not be thought to be compatible neither can they be blended. From the foregoing perspective, it can be noted how especially mature democratic states are shaped by the global society in the premise of human rights and also how the states formulate governing concepts based on the Human Rights Charter framework. Notably the concepts also influence the conduct of the society and hence the flow of influence is mutual between the state and the society paradigms.

In states that are categorised as cultural relativist, governing principles are formulated from the premise of ‘national’ culture with no particular regards for what global culture entails or stipulates. In this case the state is shaped by the national rather that the international society. Jenkins R (2002) notes that, “Regardless of the tenets of the relativist cultural thrust, there is no state that is immune to global influence in the wake of contemporary sweeping phenomena such as globalisation and aspects like acculturation and cultural pluralism” The proponents of cultural relativism pose a towering challenge to the paradigm of the universality of norms. The proponents reinforce their rejection of the fundamental position that human rights are universal without any kind of exceptions. These have anchored their arguments by refuting conceptualizations of universality proponents who present that there is theoretical convergence and intellectual coherence in theories presented to anchor and support the universal international human rights law. These have thus maintained that national states henceforth societies must be free from external influences arguing that ach society is entitled to its own ways of doing things and defining and protecting human rights. According to Peter Laslett et al (2001), “Societies are only susceptible to the state, whose formation and functionalities must constitute the influence of its subject society.”

Karen I. Vaugh, (1980) draws important illuminations on the part of the influence that state has own society. His explorations are based on eth notion that the state uses political power to acquire wealth and power while t the society uses use economic means to advance and consolidate itself. This notion has pitted the state as the enemy of society and vice versa. The state has formidable power over its governing instruments, the judiciary, the legislature and the executive who formulate cardinal principles on the conduct of individual sand entities for the social, political, and economic and all aspects relatable to human existence.

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Franz Oppenheimer, (1975) takes a significant thrust at exploring how the commerce and business realm through the principles of the state’s institutional authorities. Non Governmental organisations (NGOs) are legally bound organisation created by private institutions or a group of people with no associations with the government. Even in cases where the NGOs to some extent are sponsored by the government the independency of the NGO is clearly maintained and spelt out right through the course of their activities and existence.

NGOs have characterised social development in contemporary socio-economic paradigms as most them emerge and function to bridge the gap between the “haves’ and the ‘have nots’ in the parlance of Karl Marx. In developing countries which are classified as countries that have not accomplished the often Western defined measures of democratic governance, free market economic models , social programmes , human rights assurances and most importantly, industrialisation NGOs play a vital role of bridging gaps that exist in societies in various dimensions.

Besides presenting relief support and other forms of help to global communities NGOs also help in the dimension of championing the awareness of people on key human progression issues for instance, human rights. On this dimension NGOs play a vital role of empowering people with knowledge that will enable them to function more effectively as liberated individuals. Such thrusts of NGOs have also seen the growth of public participation on various issues and the role of the NGOs here plays towards the creation of aware communities and this creates conducive limits fro democracy which is the only best known political and social system for the governance of a people. Nonetheless the activity and functionality of the NGOs on this dimension is circumscribes in the precincts of the fact that the activity of the NGOs must not be perceived to paying towards any move that may be interpreted as partisan. This is largely so in consideration of the fact that most NGOs are open to public and government funding and the tax payers ‘money can not used in any thing possibly perceivable as partisan. Business organisations do not exist in a vacuum. The nature and stature of the organisations is shaped largely by internal factors as well external factors. Internal factors entail organisational management strategy, organisational culture and ideology among a host of elements that constitute the organisation. External factors include the concrete and abstract environments in factors social, political, geographic, demographic and economic among many others.


Scholars such as Greenwood and Hinnings (Opcit) have posited that although institutional theory is not generally viewed as providing a model of organizational change it provides an explanation of important issues of organizational dynamics. Erakovic et al also state that institutional theorists have shown why some organizational arrangements become wide spread across sector boundaries and why organisations under similar institutional pressures, may experience different patterns of change. The pathway related models must thus be construed in the manner in which they illustrate the paradigms of changes and pathway chosen in relation to various dimensions that are based on an organisation’s features and characteristics. The model by Michael Powell et al presents probable outcomes of the particular path ways whose choice culminates from particular organisational dimensions.


Franz Oppenheimer, 1975, The State. New York: Free Life Editions, NC, USA.

Karen I. Vaugh, 1980, “John Locke’s Theory of Property: Problems of Interpretation” in Literature of Liberty,

Peter Laslett, ed, 2001, Two Treatises of Government. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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Jenkins, R. 2002, Foundations of Sociology. London: Palgrave MacMillan.

Lenski, G. 1974, Human Societies: An Introduction to Macrosociology. New York: McGraw- Hill, Inc.

Raymond Williams, 2002, “Society”, in: Williams, Key Words: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society. Fontana.

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"Do Societies Shape State Interests or Vice Versa." StudyCorgi, 15 Oct. 2021,

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