Man's Quest for Social Guidance: The Study of Social Problems

By Howard W. Odum | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXIII
GOVERNMENT AND DEMOCRACY

A Central Institution . We come now to the central institution of government, which has often been considered synonymous with all social organization. The story of government has abounded in mixed theories and experiments. Its evolution has been no less marked and full of changes than the development of other institutions. On the theoretical side concepts of state and government have differed widely, and on the practical side the purposes of government have too often been misunderstood. The student of social problems, therefore, ought to understand something of the origin, theories, development, and functions of government, and to know something of its relation to other institutions. For the state itself is a product of the influence of other institutions, having been affected largely by data and practice from the fields of religion, natural law, community, and from other sources. On the one hand we may study government from the viewpoint of social guidance and social control, and on the other hand from the viewpoint of the citizen and the individual in society.

Government a Key Institution . It can easily be seen that, in the development and control of social institutions and forces, the key institution is that of the state and government. It is equally clear that the problem of measuring the influences acting upon government involves to-day more factors than ever before. We have, for instance, legislation and social service for such purposes as the nurture and protection of the home and family, the promotion of more comprehensive social education, the protection of religious liberties, the guarantee of civil and political rights, the recognition, promotion, and control of great economic processes, the unifying of groups and peoples, and the promotion of universal peace. All of these are important concerns of the state. On the other hand, it is quite clear that the home and family, the technique and processes of education, the history and development of Christianity, the growth of the great movements for com

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