Difference Between Government and Other Social Organizations

Government refers to the body of people and institutions that make and enforce laws for a society. It has been said that there are no societies of man without governments and different societies necessarily require different forms of government. But although these governments vary from one form to another, they share some characteristics.

These characteristics are best seen once government is compared to other social organizations.

In Terms of Comprehensive Authority

GovernmentOther Social Organizations
Authority over the entire society which includes social organizations together with their members.Authority is applicable only to members of the organization.

In Terms of Involuntary Membership

GovernmentOther Social Organizations
Membership to the state most of the time, without deliberate choice – the same with subjection to the government.Membership is voluntary
Membership or withdrawal is very difficult and complicated, and in some cases impossible.Withdrawal from the organization is easy.

In Terms of Authoritative Rule

GovernmentOther Social Organizations
Authority is directly binding to all members of society.Authority over members is weak.
The rules of the government (i.e. laws) are above any rules of social organizations.Rules of one social organization may conflict with that of other social organization.
Although Social Organizations may influence governmental processes, the government can declare an organization unconstitutional or illegal.There is no accepted hierarchy among organizations.

In Terms of Legitimate Monopoly of Overwhelming Force

GovernmentOther Social Organizations
It legitimately utilizes highly organized, specially trained, and adequately armed police and military forces.It provides sanctions and can even expel members from the organization.

Expulsion as its ultimate legitimate weapon.

It does not have its own police force or armed forces, nor has the power to punish erring members with death.

In Terms of the Degree of Stakes it Pursues

GovernmentOther Social Organizations
Objectives cover the fate of the entire nation, and for the superpowers, the survival or demise of the entire humanity (e.g. USA and USSR in cold war era, etc.)It only tries to advance the interest of the organization

Goals are limited and narrow.

It is important to take note that the uniqueness of States (and their governments) lies on the concept of sovereignty and independence.

However, the recent actual and theoretical challenges to the concept of State sovereignty (by International Governmental organizations, like the United Nations and the European Union) and independence (from Multinational Corporations like the Philip – Morris International, Toyota, and Ford Motors and other world organizations like the IMF and the World Bank) have caused the diminishing importance of States as actors in international politics.