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Social and political Values and Systems in India.

‘Governance’ and a ‘Nation-state’


“For the form of Government, let fools contest,

Whatever is the best administered, is best”


What is a ‘Nation State?’

The idea of a ‘nation state’ is not very old. For medieval scholars, the concept of a nation might have been unimaginable. A secular government ruled by the consent of the people rather than by holy mandate was perhaps unthinkable.  ‘Nation state’ in its present sense is more or less a nineteenth century concept. The notion of a ‘nation state’ is different from the idea of ‘city state’, ‘multi-national state’, ‘empire’, ‘confederation’ or other state forms. Idea of ‘nation state’ is associated with the rise of modern sovereign state, in which the government administers its specific territorial area for the unity and social, economic and cultural development of the people living in that area.

Whether it is nation state or city state or an empire, of all the acts, the task of governance/administration is perhaps the most complex one as it deals with living human beings prone to unpredictable behavior. Also, it deals with issues – political, economic or social, which directly affect day to day life of the people.

India as a Nation state

There were numerous Princely-States before the British rule established in India. India was full of social, economic and geographical diversities.

During medieval period, under Mughal Empire, autonomy of regional princes was accepted. They could rule over their area, so long as they accepted the sovereignty of Mughal Emperor. The relationship between land and people was deeper in Princely India.

British rulers brought together all the Princely states, during 1757 to 1858. Initial, the strategy of Robert Clive was to control the coast and to lay down land route between the premier British trading cities of Calcutta and Madras.

Under British Empire, the foundation of a nation-state in India as a political entity was laid in 1857. British rulers drew the administrative map of entire India into various presidencies for serving the purpose of governance.

After Independence in 1947,

The changing scenario

The tasks of a government have been different at different points of time –

During the times of pastoral tribal society, people started forming small groups mostly living in hilly areas, not far from rivers. The tribal society was nomadic or semi nomadic and egalitarian.  It depended on nature for its subsistence.  People hardly possessed more than what was needed for their subsistence/survival.   The units of political organizations were family, clan, village, tribe and a group of tribes.  During the period, it was possible to have high ranks, but not high social classes.

Pastoral tribal society gradually transformed into a settled society. The activities and life of people were confined within a small area or territory.

An era of city-state

Ancient and medieval period were the days of agricultural societies, which evolved leisurely its structures and systems over about 2000 years and kept on coping with the slow changes, time brought in. People of different tribes/groups lived in their respective local area, known as city state – small or big.

People – People were simple. Local semi-autonomous nature of society made different local communities self-sufficient and capable to fulfill all the needs of its people locally. Inter-dependence in social life and self-reliance in personal life were its intrinsic features. People depended on each-other for fulfillment of their basic needs.

Governance – Those were the days of city states – small or big.  The power to govern was in the hands of physically strong persons, i.e. warriors. The task of a ruling authority was not so difficult, as it is now. Expansion of their territory and protection of its people from internal disturbances or external disturbances were the primary tasks of a government.

Use of force very common – Use of force was common during ancient and medieval period. The ultimate trump card of national destiny was its military power. Physically strong person/persons, or warriors became the rulers. They were usually known as Kings/Aristocrats/Democrats. They collected people’s surplus yields in order to protect them from internal disturbances and external disturbances.


Task of governance not difficult – The task of rulers was not so difficult or complex as it is today. The power to govern usually rested with physically strong persons, i.e. warriors. The power of kings gradually increased. For regular collection, administrative and religious methods were devised.

Closer bonds between individuals and society – There was a close bond between individuals and their respective groups. Interdependence held them together. People helped each-other in times of need/emergency. The placement of power and access to authority was through the elders of the kinship and community. People could contact ruling authorities directly.

People’s control over natural resources – People had control over the natural resources of their local area. Every regional area produced enough to fulfill the basic needs of its people. The practice of cultivation, rise of crafts and iron tools transformed the egalitarian society into fully agricultural and stratified society sometime during 6th century BC. Possession of land, slaves and hired laborers started. People started producing and possessing more than they needed.

Era of Imperialism

Era of colonialism/imperialism – With Renaissance of the medieval period started the process of industrialization, technological advancement, and new developments in the sphere of faster means of transportation and communication. New technological inventions made it possible for the rulers to create more wealth and control the destiny of even far-off places. It led to colonization, imperialism, economic exploitation of conquered places and World Wars. And task of governance became more difficult.

Era of ‘nation-states’ – After World Wars, came the era of ‘nation-states’. ‘Nation state’ in its present sense is more or less a nineteenth century concept. Knowledge has empowered both the ‘rulers’ and ‘ruled’. The task of administration became very difficult. The duties of nation-state and the concepts like capitalism, socialism, communism etc. etc., on which governance was based, kept on changing from time to time and place to place from 19th century onwards.

Era of Globalization – The process of change has not ended over here. Now the whole world is moving ahead towards the formation of a global society. Knowledge and exposure of world outside one’s own nation-state have empowered both the ‘rulers’ and the ‘ruled’.It is through ‘Knowledge’ that a nation can make its place in modern global society. Creation of wealth and control of muscle power depends more on knowledge, exchange of data and information. How the global society will be governed is yet to be seen.

Role of a government in modern nation-state

The tasks of nation-state and the concepts on which it was based, have kept on changing from time to time and place to place from 19th century onwards.

The concept of “Laissez-faire”

The principle of Laissez faire was the guiding principle of governance before and during the 19th century. The government’s main tasks were only to maintain law and order and collect revenue.

In 1776, with the rise of the nation state all over the world, the concept of Laissez-faire became popular. It gave rise to capitalist system of governance. It began with Adam Smiths “The Wealth of Nations” and ended with the crash of Vienna Stock market. The year 1873 marked the beginning of the end of laissez-faire concept.

Freedom in the area of economics led the nations through success after success. USA became world’s largest economy. Australia achieved one of the highest per capita income-rate. Many European states emerged as great imperial powers.

Some inherent weaknesses of capitalist system and mass awakening had turned the world opinion in favor of socialism.

Turning point- “Laissez-faire” to “Welfare State”

The crash of Vienna Stock market had caused a short-lived panic in Paris, London, Frankfurt and New York. It changed the course of politics and led to the rise of welfare state and its immense power. Peter F Drucker says that in 1873, the world moved away from the dominant political concept of “Laissez-faire”. It gave birth to the concept of “Welfare State”.

Welfare State – French Revolution, Bolshevik Revolution, Industrial Revolution, World War I and other contemporary developments which largely took place in different European countries had a great impact in widening the scope of State activities.

Agonies of the World Wars had turned the focus of public opinion towards Welfare state. War made most of the democratic governments to play the role of a guardian of the people in their socio and economic life. Government assumed the responsibility of protecting its people from the shocks of every-day life. World War-I was the turning point.

Poverty and misery, which were earlier accepted as the lot of masses, were no longer regarded as inevitable. Millions of people started demanding, with persisting insistence, a higher standard of living, better housing, proper education and much needed medical facilities. The masses wished that they themselves should be benefited as 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 a better deal, gave rise to the concept of `Welfare State’ and ‘Development Administration’.

Tasks of a Welfare State Government

Objective of governance massive attack on five major evils – In a welfare state the government assumes the responsibility of its citizens from `womb to tomb’. It aims at improving the quality of life of its masses. It tries to bring about `social, political and economic justice’. The main aim of initiating and nurturing this concept is to bring about betterment to the lots of weaker section of society by building up a rapidly expanding and technologically progressive economy. It aims to uplift the poor by facilitating the provision of basic necessities to all irrespective of their caste or creed. Voluntary abdication of riches and power – that these riches bring and establish a productive, vigorous and creative political and social life was the aim of governance. In short its objective is a massive attack on five major evils of society – want, disease, ignorance, squalor and idleness.

“Development Administration” – The welfare concept, national reconstruction and development, has no utility in itself unless it is translated into action. Developmental activities can be successfully comprehended, when government is able to assess properly what is attainable, what is practical and how to formulate plans and policies. 

Concept of socialism – By World War-II, 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 the preferred alternative, which was expected to create a new integrated, casteless, classless egalitarian society, free from discrimination and inequality. It was supposed to destroy 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.

Short-comings of Welfare concept – In the name of providing ‘socio-economic and political justice’ to disadvantageous sections of society and administrating the country for the salvation of all, State authorities have assumed enormous power in the name of working and made the common men pygmies. Governments administered government welfare policies in such a way, that it did more damage than good.

Grab more power attitude – The governments of welfare socialist states have centralized the planning, controls and ownership leading to abuse of power and “grab more power attitude. It has closed its economy to the world, nationalized industries and services, initiated rigid controls on the private sector and created monopolies in the public sector. In the name of socialism, it has created a domineering state, controlling the smallest detail of the economic and social life of the people. People were made enslaved by politicians, planners and bureaucrats.

“Rob Peter and give to Paul” – Some critics say that in the name of democratic Welfare nation, governments in most of the developing and under-developed nations have assumed enormous power to govern its people in arbitrary manner. To achieve quick results and longer hold on state authorities, it pursued the policy of “Rob Peter to pay Paulby introducing quota system for different sections of society. The paternalistic policies of government had made people lazy and look for easy access/backdoor entry to/in position of power.

Phony, fake and tainted social justice – The excessive control made people gradually lose their motivation for hard work. An unfettered market system led to grave economic inequalities, which got transformed into political inequalities. What developing and under-developed nations have practiced, so far, is a phony, fake and tainted social justice. It created the politics of appeasement and vote banks, destroyed work culture and encouraged separatism everywhere in the society. It jammed the wheels of morality and conscience. It developed tentacles of corruption, scams, scandals and callousness in almost every sphere.

Disincentive to hard-working persons – It is a humanitarian obligation for every government to think about its weaker or submerged sections of society and plan for their uplift. But at the same time, the Government should not put a full stop on the progress of advanced sections of society. It needs to pay equal attention to the elite sections of society, too, by boosting their initiative, courage, intelligence and talent, so that the nation could compete confidently with developed nations of the world. Any attempt to reverse the position of elite class of the society would not be proved beneficial for the whole society, because it is the cream of the society which has the vision, knowledge and awareness to find out alternative routes to progress.

Neither wiped out poverty, nor created effective distributive system – Governments of Welfare states have neither wiped out poverty, nor created effective distributive system nor equality. Instead it had led almost to the loss of economic liberty. The political system increased corruption, inefficiency and red-tape. It created a closed, centralized and unproductive system, which suppressed growth. In the name of Welfare State, the Government acquired extraordinary powers to exercise arbitrary control over massive resources.

Brain drain – After the collapse of Super Power USSR in 1991, people allover the world had lost faith in welfare government. The systems, policies and practices ‘welfare state’ and ‘development administration’ started suffocating them,

Lost faith in the Concepts of ‘welfare state’

People living in a ‘welfare state’ or ‘Development State’ are feeling so suffocated, that they are lost their faith in the systems and practices of a Welfare government. The excessive control made people gradually lose their motivation for hard work. An unfettered market system led to grave economic inequalities, which got transformed into political inequalities. Many nations realized that what they were practicing so far, was phony, fake and tainted social justice. It created the politics of appeasement and vote banks, destroyed work culture and encouraged separatism everywhere in the society. It jammed the wheels of morality and conscience. It developed tentacles of corruption, scams, scandals and callousness in almost every sphere.

Inherent weaknesses of Welfare state led to totalitarian regimes

The inherent weaknesses of the Welfare form of government and efforts of state authorities to grab more and more power to control the destiny of masses have led governments of many countries to totalitarian regimes. The first one to opt for a totalitarian regime was Soviet Russia. Italy became a fascist nation and Nazism grew in Germany. It turned again the attention of public towards liberalization of market forces.

Eminent critics on Planned Economy of Welfare State

It is a general feeling now-a- days that “Social Justice of a ‘Democratic Welfare State’ itself is a contradiction in terms, as a welfare government and its planned economy cannot be democratic. Some critics feel that the problem of welfare state and its slogan of social justice are of performance, not of faith, and the price paid by the nation-states for this faith has been efficiency and its future prosperity. According to them, the welfare nations had made the following mistakes: –

  1. It adopted an inward looking, import substituting path, rather than an outward looking, export promoting route, thus denying itself the chance to share the world’s prosperity of the 70s and 80s,
  2. It set up a massive, inefficient and monopolistic public sector, to which it denied the autonomy of working,
  3. It over-regulated private enterprise, thus diminished competition in home market,
  4. It discouraged foreign capital and denied itself the benefit of technology and world class market,
  5. It pampered organized labor responsible for lowest productivity of labor and capital, and
  6. It ignored primary education at the cost of higher education

Is Concept of ‘Welfare state’ and social-justice unrealistic?

Some people feel that the experience on this front indicates that probably the objectives of Welfare form of government and social justice are unrealistic. The uneven distribution of economic power and benefits through manipulations of polity could create only more distortions and problems for smooth administration / governance.

Welfare states, in its effort to control excesses and transgressions of the private sector through state intervention and controlled economies failed to establish egalitarian social order. The inherent weaknesses of socialism as an ideology and a programgave to the public want, deprivation, fear and dissatisfaction, which led to its failure.

Views of some eminent persons

Mr. Paul Johnson, a historian of 20th century says, The more the State grows and impedes the free exercise of market forces, the more the quality of information deteriorates, and the more likely those decisions based on such information will be wrong. A Polish communist Government planner says, In this crazy system, we do not know, the true cost of anything. We do not know which factories are efficient and which are hopeless. So we are continually reinforcing failure and punishing success.

Mr. Subramanyam says, The hypocrisy of socialism developed along with centralization of authority, denigration of democratic institutions and strangulation of Panchayati Raj institutions as part of one integrated political process in the country. J Krishnamurthy said, Working for social welfare is to fill water into a pail that has holes. The more water is poured in it, the more it pours out and the pail remains empty.

Milovan Djilas, a Yugoslavian revolutionary and writer, who predicted the fall of communism and opposed both Tito and Stalin, concluded on the basis of his experience, The suppression of classes would be the first step towards the extinction of society… There can be no society without classes. The problem is how to create a balance between the classes, to prevent some from getting rich at the expense of others and to prevent the oppression of one class by another. It must be recognized, however, that it will never be possible to establish an ideal equilibrium among different social classes…The future ideology of the reformist left must not become a barrier to the achievements of capitalism such as efficiency and the profitability of business. The central problem is, how to distribute wealth without disrupting economic activity, while at the same time building a society based on human solidarity…. This idealism should not be confused with the chimera of establishing a society with rigid and permanent forms – I believe the more varied a society is, the better and more creative it will be. There will always be injustice and inequality in the world, which will be the task of the social democrats to combat.

Scenario after Information technology Revolution

As has been said sometimes in between 1965 and 1973, the world had crossed A great divide and entered into a new erana with the start of the third great revolution of the Information Technology. It had changed the whole scenario drastically. The creeds, commitments and alignments, which had shaped the politics in the 19th and the 20th Centuries, were left far behind.

People began doubting the relevance of the principles of welfare state and social justice. The oil shock, the floating dollars and the student rebellion in western world set had changed the scenario. The slogans of Welfare State still persist, but they do not provide a guide for action or the motive power.

Since 1979 onwards, under Margaret Thatcher’s supervision, British Government that had a huge inefficient public sector and a heavily taxed private sector, reduced its involvement in the economy boldly. Tax rates were cut and simplified. Her success fostered a fundamental change in people’s attitude towards the role of government.

Mr. Gorbochov, communist leader and USSR President admired and watched Thatcher’ actions with interest. New Zealand’s government, fearing nation’s bankruptcy, slashed welfare spending and sold off state owned enterprises that were running at loss. Price and wage controls were lifted, subsidies and trade barriers were lowered and Government employment was trimmed. The result was that New Zealand reduced its inflation to below 1% very soon.

Findings of economists and intellectuals in short

In short, on the basis of the findings of many economists and intellectuals during the last few years from the world over, it can be concluded about the policy of ‘economic Justice’ of ‘welfare states’ –

  • Those countries, which promoted private enterprise      performed better than those dependent on state enterprise,
  • Those nations, which encouraged foreign investments,      did better than those who discouraged it,
  • Those nations, which opted for an export path with      free imports or low tariff, did better than protectionist nations,
  • Nations encouraging productivity through right      labour policies did better.
  • The countries investing in primary education were      better off and had brought down their population rates. Japan, Korea,      Taiwan set the example and Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia followed.      Latin America, Chile, Columbia, Costa Rica etc., pursued the same success      path.

Scenario after 1990

Collapse of the Super Power USSR – In the 1990-91, the Super Power USSR collapsed like house of cards and got disintegrated. With it the world scenario changed. Surprisingly, this time, it was led by capitalist ideology, which was supposed to have been defeated by now.

The disintegration of the Soviet Union as socialist super power in 1990 affected adversely the commitment of the world towards an Today socialism has its usefulness only as the vision of an ideal society.

Movement for free economies again – Once again, public opinion all-over the world switched over in favor of free economy. One after the other, nations has started adapting to the free economy. The shift from economic control to economic freedom took the shape of a larger global movement engulfing democracies of welfare states, former communist forces and almost all the developing nations.

After experiencing destructive effect of tampering with market forces, Welfare states have also focused their attention on knowledge-based systems and free economic enterprises. In order to succeed in modern world, the attention of the governments is now on encouraging its citizens and leaders to acquire more qualifications, knowledge and develop healthy competitiveness and positive motivation.

Developments of twenty first century

A decade back, the world had entered into Twenty first Century. In this present space age, every thing is changing quite fast. Specially, due to recent revolution in information technology, knowledge has grown faster than human ability to handle it. Also, there are changes in the strategy, structure and management techniques. At the same time, social-economic-political atmosphere is also in a stage of flux due to technological advances.

Recent changes are posing tough challenges before the people of nation-states, particularly of developing or under-developed countries. The average human beings are in themselves full of psychological and sociological complexes. More so, their aspirations and demands are increasing everyday now in this modern age of increasing materialism and commercialization.

In such a rapidly changing and turbulent environment, characterized by its complexity and uncertainty, increased knowledge and skill, and its application has to be inculcated through a well-planned, sound and systematic arrangement of education and training.

Winding up

The great lesson of the 20th Century, which has been learnt the hard way, is that –

  • Following any ‘ism’ does not always work. Pursuing same policy or plan could prove to be waste of time and energy. Each region/nation/province has to pick and choose policies which are relevant to their atmosphere and society and could ensure welfare of their maximum number of people.
  • Seeing that various regions in India differ substantially in soci0-economic structures and geographical position, one development model may suit to one region, but cannot be suitable to all the regions.
  • The government of a nation should not become so beneficent that it undermines people’s will to help themselves and tends to develop inaction and parasitism. It is necessary to remember that while State intervention can bring short term benefits, it invariably involves a cost, sometimes hidden at first, but usually enormous in the long run.
  • Free economy is now destined to shape the world of 21st century. Mr. Paul Johnson says, “The question, future historians will ask, is not why politicians and public opinion turned against the welfare state, but why it took them so long. Indeed, if ever a theory has been tested and disapproved, it is that of the all powerful, all benevolent state – a theory that has led in practice to violence, to the death of millions of people and to the scorching of the entire economics and environments. Never before, mankind has created such an all consuming monster. In both its totalitarian and social democratic versions, it has proved efficient in nothing except a capacity to squander resources and lives”.
  • In the past, knowledge was often used (abused) to curb thinking and dissent and inculcated blind obedience to authority. Info-tech Revolution along with the dissatisfaction in the hearts of common men led to the emergence of knowledge based society in recent past. Now the key is knowledge, which brings awareness and enlightenment.
  • The world would be a much better place to live in if government of all the nation states keep intact its law and order position. It is the primary and most important task of each and every government of a nation-state. Everything else comes only after it. Without it nowhere one can think of any development or welfare of the common man. Economically weaker nations should pay more attention to its primary task of maintaining properly the law and order position.
  • This is the right time for all nations to jointly address global issues under one roof for unanimity in thinking and conceptualization of issues. With so much of advancement taking place in technology especially transport and communication, may be this is the most opportune moment for all to join hands and look to work together for finding out a better way to govern different parts of the world. All the suitable variables from various ‘isms’, ‘plans and policies’, ‘systems’ and ‘social-political and economic practices’ should be applied according to the needs and atmosphere of that place.


Maybe, we are at the dawn of a new, progressive, highly literate and advanced millennium where we can unite to explore the universe for a better life rather than fritter away our energies in local meaningless squabbles.  Since distances have been conquered, it is much easier to work towards unanimity of thought and work for ‘Vasudeva kutumbkam’ i.e. ‘the whole universe is a family’.

December 10, 2013 - Posted by | General, Social and political values and systems |


  1. Read was interesting, stay in touch…

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