Meaning And Definition Of Government: Characteristics And Functions

Table Of Contents

  • Definition Of The Subject Matter “Government”.
  • Government As An Institution Of The State.
  • Government As A Process Or Art Of Governing.
  • Government As An Academic Field Of Study.
  • Reasons Why Government Is An Academic Field Of Study.
  • Characteristics Or Attributes Of Government.
  • Functions Of Government.
  • Why we study Government Or The Importance Of The Study Of Government.

Definition Of The Subject Matter “Government”

Government As An Institution Of The State

Government as an institution of the state may be defined as an agency or a machinery through which the will of the state is formulated, expressed and attained. Formation of government as an institution of the state arose as a result of people coming together and living together to form a society.

In such a society, people’s individual differences that will give rise to the display of man’s wicked acts, selfish interest, conflict of interest and opinion, etc. will manifest.

If there is no agency or a body to regulate people’s activities, the society will degenerate to what Thomas Hobbes called primitive society where life was “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”.

In order to prevent confusion and disorder in a society, people will have to surrender their natural rights to individual self-government to a body or an agency of the state called government.

Therefore, government which is an established body of persons is vested with the authority and power to regulate, control and protect people in the state.

Government As A Process Or Art Of Governing

Government as a process or art of governing may be defined as a body vested with the power and authority for maintaining security, peace and stability by making and enforcing conventional and fundamental laws in a given state or society.

Through the formulation and implementation of policies in the state, government as a process or art of governing regulates the activities of the citizens and at the same time steers the affairs of the state.

In order for the art of governing to be less cumbersome and be more effective and efficient, governmental powers that exist in the state are not vested in one organ or body rather, government is divided into three main organs.

These organs in which governmental powers are vested perform different but complementary functions and they are; the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. These organs of government carry out the art of governing.

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Government As An Academic Field Of Study

Government as an academic field of study may be defined as the study of agencies, political institutions and dynamics of the state. This study also involves looking into the functions and relationship between these institutions concerned in the steering of the affairs of the state.

Government as an academic field of study also studies international organisations of which the state has membership and the relationship between the state and other states in the world.

As an academic field of study, government is given various names as it suites the institutions concerned. Some institutions refer to it as Government or Political Science or simply Politics.

The study of the mechanism of government equips citizens to take part in the art of governance of their state.

Reasons Why Government Is An Academic Field Of Study

1. Government is an academic field of study or a school discipline because it is being taught in our schools, colleges and universities.

2. Government has specialized areas in our tertiary institutions. It specialized areas include political science, international relations, public administration, local government administration, comparative politics, political thoughts, among others.

3. It borrows ideas from other popular well established disciplines like philosophy, history, sociology, economics and law.

4. Government is regarded as a school discipline because it also borrows ideas from renowned philosophers like plato, Aristotle, Hobbes, Rousseau, John locke, Karl Marx, among others.

5. Like other disciplines, government makes use of scientific methods, tools and statistics in carrying out its researches and analysis.

Characteristics Or Attributes Of Government

Government as an institution of the state has the following characteristic or attributes:

1. Political Power:

One essential attribute of a government is the possession of political power. This power enables the government to influence the citizens and execute its policies.

2. Law:

A government should have fundamental rules and regulations that should regulate the activities and behaviours of its citizens. These laws that are embodied in a constitution define the rights and obligations of the citizens as well as the government.

3. Personnel:

Government also possesses a team of qualified personnel who are responsible for law making, execution, interpretation and punishment of offenders. This team of personnel make up what is called the civil service.

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4. Revenue:

Revenue is another essential feature of a government because it cannot function effectively without fund. Government requires enough fund in order to execute its programmes.

5. Public Support:

All types of government including military rule need public support to legitimize their existence. Such public support will guarantee conducive atmosphere for effective functioning of such government.

6. Welfare Services:

Provision of social services to the citizens that will improve their welfare andl standard of living is another essential attribute of government .

Functions Of Government

1. Law Making:

Government performs many functions and the main ones includes; law making, law execution and law adjudication.

2. Maintenance Of Law and Order:

It is also the duty of the government to maintain law, peace and order. It is in a bid to carry out this function that the police and law Courts are established and equipped.

3. Defence Of The Country:

Government establishes and equips a standing armed forces in order to defend the country from external aggression or internal insurrection and to maintain the territorial integrity of the state.

4. Protection Of Lives And Property:

Apart from maintaining law and order and defending the country, it is also the duty of the government to protect lives and property of its citizens.

The Police Force and Law Courts carry out this function of protection of lives and property of not only the citizens but all those living in the country.

5. To Administer Justice:

It is the duty of the Law Court which is an arm of government to settle disputes and administer justice. Prisons are established and equipped for the punishment of offenders and criminals.

6. Provision Of Social Services:

It is the duty of the government to provide social services like provision of social amenities such as good roads, electricity, pipe borne water, hospitals, etc. to te citizens especially from the citizens pay.

7. Provision Of Employment Opportunities:

It is the duty of the government to provide employment opportunities to its citizens. This is one of the reasons why some countries pay unemployment allowance to the citizens for whom government failed to provide gainful employment.

8. Economic Functions:

Government has the responsibility of regulating economics activities in order to protect the economy and ensure economic growth and development through careful economic planning and execution, maintaining stable economic atmosphere, etc.

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9. Political Functions:

Political functions of the government include; conducting periodic free and fair elections to ensure smooth and peaceful change of government, maintaining stable political atmosphere , regulating political activities, etc.

10. Maintaining External Relations:

Government has the responsibility of establishing and maintaining external relations with friendly nations.

In order for this to be possible, embassies and high commissions are established and maintained in those countries and ambassadors and high commissioners are appointed to take charge of them.

Why We Study Government Or The Importance Of The Study Of Government

1. The study of government prepares us to take active part in the government of out country as administrative officers, personnel officers, etc.

2. Through the study of government, we know our rights, duties and obligations as citizens.

3. The study of government equips those interested in politics to be professional politicians.

4. Knowledge of government puts the citizens in a position to defend their fundamental human rights when violated.

5. Citizens with sound knowledge of government would be in good positions to understand the type of system of government adopted in their country and the implications of such system of government.

6. The knowledge we gain from the study of government as an academic field of study inculcates the spirit of nationalism and patriotism in us.

7. Citizens with sound knowledge of government will be liberated from political ignorance and make them to understand why government of their country belongs to some international organisation.

8. The knowledge of government by citizens of a country widens their political horizon and political education.

9. Sound knowledge of government stimulates and arouses the interest and curiosity of citizens in the activities of government thereby preventing the emergence of tyranny and dictatorship.

10. The study of government helps to develop in us an inquisitive, balanced and highly philosophical and logical thinking mind.

11. Since no knowledge is a waste, the study of government is useful because of the knowledge we acquire from it.

12. Finally, the study of government supports the practice of democracy and the rule of law.

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