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Origins of Government

Theories of the Origins of Government and the State

We have discussed several purposes for governments in the previous lesson, but not how the first governments arose. Well, no one really knows how the first governments were born. However, there are four theories that have been accepted as to how the first governments were established. Political scientists have advanced the four theories to explain the origins of government as an institution of state. 

Force Theory

The history of force theory proposes that the origin of state is developed through the use of force. One person or a small group of people claim control over the population in a specific area by force. Once the rule is well established, the state is established. This theory is generally a result of war. As an example, Adolf Hitler and his control over Germany led to the attempted control of Europe as well as the mass genocide of the Jewish population during the Holocaust.

Evolutionary Theory

This theory proposes that the state evolved over time starting with the primitive family. One person in the family was determined to be the leader of the family. On a primitive level, a basic evolutionary theory government was formed. Over decades, the family became a clan and a clan became a tribe. The state was then identified when the tribe settled in a designated area and claimed it as their own. Native American tribes are an example of primitive families that formed as tribes and selected a chief to be the leader of this family.

Divine Right Theory

The divine right theory holds that God created the state and gave certain individuals of royal birth the divine right to rule. Since God divinely ordained its rulers and they were accountable to God, the population obeyed the ruler as they were required to obey God. This theory existed in many countries such as England and Europe throughout the Middle Ages and helped lead to the religious-based conquests of other lands.

Social Contract Theory

In the final theories of state development, social contract theory shows that a specific population within a given designated area gave up as much power to a government as needed to promote the well-being of all. Specifically, in social contract theory, the community population and the leader have a contract. The state has power and authority over the territory while the community receives certain services such as a safe, crime-free area in which to live and keep their rights protected. This theory was developed in the 17th and 18th centuries by philosophers such as Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and Jean Jacques Rousseau. 

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