Essence of the state is traditionally is connected with its social purpose and nature of the state. That means, that government is created by people and for people, that is it should act in their interests only. But one of the main issues is whose interest does the government reflect? It should be noted a kind of “dualism” of the nature of the government: on the one hand, the state should reflect the interests of the entire population, that is to act in their benefit; on the other it actually reflects the interests and protects the interests of the ruling elite. So what’s the real essence of the government, and what functions does it have to realize for its people? This is the discussion topic of the paper.
The social essence of the government
One of the possible definitions of the term “government” is a public, legal and sovereign organization that provides the common interests of the entire population and is a guarantor of rights and freedoms of men and citizens. (Salvaris 2009)
This definition reflects the social nature of the government, that is, that its main purpose and function should be focused on its people. In fact government is a very complicated and multidimensional social formation, as in social terms it acts as an organization created by the people and carry out certain activities in the field of public relations and social welfare. In the study of the state as an organization established by people and being internal, integral part of the society, the emphasis must be put on its ability to solve common problems of the population to achieve the common welfare. Thus, the government is the only way to self-organization and self-regulation of the society, its life and its processes. As an example can be considered the ancient Greek city-state (policy),in which in the general town meetings free populations met to spoke about and to address major issues of life and work of the policy, formed the organs of the state, determined their basic tasks and monitor their activities. That was the first example of democratic government.
In recent years scientists understand the state as an independent social organization, created as the main regulator of social life of people. This understanding refers to modern civilized democratic states, in which the main organs of power are formed and operate in accordance with existing legislation, which determines their powers, rights and duties towards the citizens. It is necessary to stress that the state is a social organization, created by society and is intended to regulate all the processes emerging in it.
The functions of the government as a social structure are activities in which its social nature and social purpose are expressed and concretized. That is, in this sense we can say that the main most important functions of government are precisely its social function: for example, health care, welfare, higher education and etc. Many modern governments have social nature, which policies are aimed at creating conditions for a dignified life of their citizens and free rights development. Contents of this function has many meanings: the government is must protect labor and human health; to establish a guaranteed minimum wage; provide state support for family, motherhood, fatherhood and childhood, the disabled and elderly citizens; develop a system of social services, state pensions, benefits and other guarantees of social protection. ()
Its implementation allows normal living conditions for all members of the society, regardless of their direct involvement in the production of material goods, but also regardless of their age, sex, health, etc.
Establishing the minimum wage, pensions, scholarships and grants, payment to disabled, elderly, students, children, mothers, the unemployed, etc. – all this allows people to lead a decent and active life. This is the main essence and purpose of the government. However, the implementation of these functions does not always meet the existing demands, especially in today’s society. In the atmosphere of unemployment, inflation and rising prices, delays of payment of wages, benefits, people’s living standards are reducing, a there is growing number of citizens whose income is less than the average living minimum. Elimination of such negative phenomena that violate citizens’ right to a decent life is the main task of the government, which determines the content and role of its social function.
Modern states tend to be not only legal but also social, which often gets its constitutional recognition. European Social Charter (1961), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966) and other international legal documents contain, although in a few declarative form, the requirements for governments in the field of economic and social policies. The nature of the socio-economic rights, that must be guaranteed and provided by the government, is a subject of debates.
In the modern countries market economy generates economic and social inequality, and sometimes legal, which may lead to considerable social tension. Initially, the market did not imply any social guarantees, particularly in the early stages, and only then, under the influence of subjective and objective factors, happened that recently became known as “socialization of capitalism.” Nowadays democratic government should guarantee to every person normal living standards, that include certain level of housing, employment, nutrition, education, social insurance, medical, cultural level, etc. (Berman)
Government in the social state should work closely with the individual based on program objective to ensure decent living conditions. The state is obliged to create all the possibilities for self-development of citizens, and exclude factors that lead to social dependence. Not only the government should guarantee a citizen his living, but also a citizen on the basis of guaranteed freedoms and property relations should be responsible for his financial support.
It is also necessary to speak about the political sphere of life of the state, that is the relationship between the classes, strata of the population, nations, religions, the center and regions, government and society. The government primarily deals with these political issues, it acts on behalf of the entire society and must act in its interest. Initially, as noted above, the government is the organization of the citizens and its policies should be taken only in their interests. In some states, political rights and interests of certain strata and classes of society in many ways dominate, for example, in Cuba, North Korea, Iraq, where the government is the instrument of one party, or rather, its governing body. (Norris 1999)
Solving political issues that are most important for the society, the government thereby affects the whole course of public life. For example, government can establish legislate equality of nations and religions that guarantees the equality of citizens, irrespective of their ethnicity and religion. This is the essence of the government and its main distinguishing feature of all other social organizations of people.
The role of the government in ensuring the rights and freedoms of citizens
Human rights should not be understood only as a means to achieve any benefit, but they are materialized in the form of social value, if living conditions are ensured and guarantees. In this case, the state’s role is not just important, but perhaps the most important and most significant.
A State in the process of realization of the rights and freedoms of each individual can not and should not be a bystander, but must act as the resultant force, which brings the selfish interests of individual members of the society, the contradictions of private, individual and common interests with legal means. Freedoms of people living in the democratic state are inevitably limited, but without violating the equal rights of citizens, because it is the responsibility of the government to ensure it. Social opportunities take on the form of legal rights that come together with certain social responsibilities of citizens. In a democratic and legal state it is in the interest not only of individuals, but also of the governmental structures that are primarily created for the protection of human rights and freedoms. The system of rights and freedoms guarantees is implemented through the activities of the government. But it must be noted that the implementation and effectiveness of the norms of human rights and freedoms in any country, society, in one way or another, depends on many factors. (Bardes 2011; Berry 2006)
The content of human rights to life and the role of the government in this regard must be understood as interrelated. Right to life is primarily a right to peace in the broadest sense of the word, it includes the obligation of the government to prevent wars and armed conflicts, acts of terrorism, criminal attacks on human life and health. This problem should be seen not only in the aspect of individual human rights, but through the prism of the interests of the nation, nationality, ethnic group. The right to life is not elementary reflection of all other human rights, and has its own social content, synthesizing all other rights and needs in the most important and valuable. (Norris 1999)
In order every person had the opportunity to realize his rights and freedoms, the state must also create certain political guarantees. This applies fully to the implementation of human socio-economic, political and personal rights. Without the government, without certain legal procedures citizens’ freedom can only be a formality. Human rights can not be guaranteed where there is no separation of powers, that belongs to the category of political axioms. Prerequisite of a democratic state, and consequently the mechanism of realization of the rights and freedoms of the individual is political consolidation of the society. The state is obliged to take all measures to exclude the possibility of ethnic conflicts, the acute social confrontations between different social strata of the civil society. (Berry 2006)
The idea of human rights and freedom within the social state is a great unifying factor that forms a whole new democratic standards and social community. Thus, we can conclude that the state must create the legal, political, cultural, economic, social and psychological guarantees for the implementation of human rights and freedoms in the democratic state, that is the main function and role of the government. (Berman)
Bardes Barbara A., Shelley Mack C., Schmidt Steffen W. American Government and Politics Today: The Essentials. Cengage Learning, 2011. Pp.110-147
Berman, Sheri. “Understanding Social Democracy”. Web. 1 May 2011
Berry Jeffrey M., Goldman Jerry. The Challenge of Democracy: Government in America. 2006
Corral M. “To What Extent Should Government Ensure Citizen Well-Being?”. AmericasBarometer Insights No.16, 2009
Norris P. Critical Citizens: Global Support for Democratic Government. OUP Oxford, 1999
Salvaris M. “Democracy, human rights and good governance in measuring the progress of societies”. 2009. Web. 2 May 2011