An association may be defined as a group of persons having similar views and organised for the pursuit of some common aims. Ian is a social animal and he organises a number of associations for the satisfaction of his various needs.
The distinction between the State and associations is given below:
1. The State has a definite territory. It may be big or small but must have fixed boundaries. An association, on the other hand, may be limited to a small locality or it may be international in its scope. A badminton club is an example of a local association while the Red Cross Society is an international association Associations do not have fixed territory.
2. Membership of the State is compulsory but that of at association is optional. A man is born in the State and cannot withdraw from the membership of the State. One can easily withdraw from the membership of any association.
3. The membership of the State is singular. One cannot be a member of more than one State simultaneously. But one may be the member of more than one association.
4. The State possesses sovereignty. Its sovereignty is legally absolute and supreme. Its laws are obligatory and backed by physical force. No other associations are sovereign. They are limited organisations formed to achieve limited purposes. The State is formed, with unlimited purposes. It, on the other hand represents the society as a whole. It maintains law and order and protects individuals from external aggression.
5. The State is more or less permanent and is not easily subject to dissolution but an association may be dissolved at any time and on any ground. An association may be dissolved due internal differences among its members or when its purposes a fulfilled. While associations are temporary, the State continues for all time to come.
6. The State is national in character. General principle is “one nation, one State”. But an association may be local, national or international.
7. The functions and activities of the State are wider than those of associations. An association is created for a specific purpose but the activities of the State are unlimited. The functions of the State are increasing day by day. In a welfare State, the functions the State are innumerable. While the State is a broad and university oiganisation, the associations are limited in their activities.
8. Finally, the State is the supreme association in the society. It controls the activities of all other associations. It may impose limitations on other associations. Associations cannot go against the State. The State is like an elder brother to other associations. That is why, it is said that the State is an “association of associations”. Barker rightly observed, “The State, as a general and all embracing institution of life, must necessarily adjust the relations of associations to itself, to other associations and to their own members.”