Does a state have a parental role?

Scientific Essay, 2013
6 Pages, Grade: 2.6


Does a state have a parental role?

A citizen’s obligation to the state and its role to obey the laws is a long-term discussion between politicians, social scientists and political activists worldwide. Discriminations, violations of human rights, war and state terror call the citizen’s obligation towards its government into question.

Nevertheless a huge majority of governments around the globe claim their legitimacy to rule the country and its citizens on a daily basis. Some administrations act and behave like supernatural parents and expect that all citizens follow and obey the official law. This idea can be derived from the following premises: (P1) The state is like our parents. (P2) What it means to be part of a family is to obey your parents. (C) Therefore, you should obey the state.

The following essay will discuss whether states have a parental role in reference to their governed inhabitants which has to be respected at all costs and if the state/citizen relation is a trustworthy analogy to a parent/child relation in terms of obeying the law. Our main aim is to show that a state is or is not sufficiently like a parent.

Each of us with a few exceptions feels a certain obligation concerning his/her parents. Our parents raised, nourished and protected us from our birth till the age of consent. Furthermore especially during our childhood and teenage our parents enforced certain laws which led partly to punishment in case we disobeyed them. Nevertheless the relation to our parents is non-contractual, that means we did not sign any contract or agreement with our parents which obliges us to do certain things or to behave in a particular manner.

According to this, do […] we have an obligation to be grateful to our parents (Pike, 2011, p. 18)?

Many people would argue that we do have an obligation, no matter whether we agree or disagree with it. It might be an unwritten moral family contract, e. g. our parents took care of us when we were young and it is our obligation to look after them when they are old and need our help. So in this argument […] it seems that children have an obligation of gratitude to their parents (Pike, 2011, p. 21).However we could also argue that our parents didn’t ask us to be born and therefore just carried out their duty because as […] a parent, it is your duty, as a parent, to care for your child (Pike, 2011, p. 24). In this case we do not have to be grateful because our parents decided to have us and we had no voice in this decision process.

Many governments around the globe claim that the relation to their citizens is similar to a parent/child relation. If citizens of a nation disobey or break the law, the state in its duty of a formal representative has the right to punish them according to the law.

However we might question why somebody as a human being has to […] obey laws other human beings have imposed on him (‘The problem of political obligation’, 2011 track 30)? We have to take note that though a state is commonly seen as an established institution, nonetheless human beings are still the policy makers. In other words laws and policies are made for human beings by human beings. Laws and policies are changed and modified after a particular time period. The question here is why? The answer could be that a newly elected government won the elections and might change established laws due to its different political orientation. However even newly elected governments expect that all its citizens follow and obey the law. Therefore it can be argued that the whole issue is all about the […] justification of political power (‘The problem of political obligation’, 2011 track 30).


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Does a state have a parental role?
The Open University
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Mark-Oliver Morkos (Author), 2013, Does a state have a parental role?, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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