Essay on Norms of the State Versus Associational Norms

(i) Universal state laws Vs limited range of associational norms:

Though the state is often called an association it is not like others. It is larger, more pervasive, more comprehensive and more com­pulsive. It has a special set of norms called ‘laws’. The laws are applicable to all the inhabitants who live in its jurisdiction.

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Associational norms are in a way different from those of state laws. They have limited range of influence. They are applicable only to their respective members. For example, political parties have rules for their party members, trade unions have norms for union members, college hostels have rules for hosteliers, and so on. Only the concerned members are bound by them. Students are expected to be punctual to their classes, as a matter of college rule.

Similarly, a ladies hostel may insist on its inmates to return to the hostel before 6.30 P.M. in the evening. A policeman who represents the state is not bothered about these rules for they are purely meant for a few who happen to be the members of the related associations.

(ii) The sanctions behind state laws and associational norms also differ:

Associations may have their own positive and negative types of sanctions for enforcing compliance. Some members may be honoured with titles, medals and gifts for their exemplary work, while a few others may be sus­pended or dismissed from their membership in organisation for their neglection of associational norms or anti-associational activity.

Thus, the hostel warden may suspend a hostel inmate who always returns late and dismiss another for regularly violating hostel norms. The member of a Ro­tary club may lose his membership if he continuously absents himself for three consecutive meetings without providing any explanation for his absence.

The Indian Bar Association may suspend from membership an advocate who is guilty of violating its norms. Many such examples could be given. But no association can legitimately apply physical force for making its members to comply with norms. It is the privilege of the state to use force in a legitimate manner to ensure conformity to its laws. It can even go to the extent of killing those who violate its rules, if need arises.

(iii) Sometimes associational norms may come in conflict with the laws of the state:

Criminal gangs, gambling syndicates, secret associations of black-marketers, dacoit groups may have their own norms which may come into clash with state norms. Example: These associational groups may insist on their members to use physical force in a surreptitious manner if need arises, to serve their purpose of making money.

The state may consider this as anti-societal and anti-national and may take relevant steps to suppress such a trend. The relationship between the laws of the state and associational norms has become particularly complex in the modern complex societies.


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