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State vs. Society: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Published on December 18, 2023
State refers to a political entity with governance, authority, and laws; society is a community of individuals with shared customs, institutions, and culture.

Key Differences

The state is a political concept signifying governance structures and authority over a defined territory, often with sovereignty and legal powers. Society, in contrast, represents the collective of individuals, groups, and institutions within a shared cultural, economic, and social framework.
States are formal entities with legal boundaries, capable of enacting laws, policies, and regulations. Societies encompass the varied, informal networks of relationships, traditions, and behaviors that exist among people living within the state.
The state often exerts control through mechanisms like law enforcement and taxation, serving as a centralized authority. Society, however, evolves organically based on shared values, norms, and interactions among its members.
In the state, power dynamics and political structures play a key role in shaping its function and governance. In contrast, society is shaped by cultural, historical, and social influences that govern interpersonal relationships and community dynamics.
The interaction between state and society is crucial: states influence societies through policies and laws, while societies can affect state decisions through public opinion, culture, and social movements.

Comparison Chart


A political organization with sovereignty
A community of people with shared traditions


Formal, legal, and administrative
Informal, cultural, and social


Governance, law-making, policy enforcement
Cultural exchange, social norms, cooperation


Exerts control over territory and population
Shapes values, customs, and collective identity

Relationship with Individuals

Citizens subject to laws and governance
Members sharing common cultural bonds

State and Society Definitions


Ceremonial pomp and dignity.
The dinner was held with great state.


The aggregate of people living together in a more or less ordered community.
Society's views on this issue have evolved over the years.


A nation or territory considered as an organized political community under one government.
The state of California is known for its diverse culture and economy.


An organization or club formed for a particular purpose or activity.
She joined the local historical society.


A particular condition that someone or something is in at a specific time.
The state of the economy is a major concern for voters.


The situation of being in the company of other people.
After years of isolation, he longed for society.


A specified condition of existence; a situation.
The building was left in a state of disrepair.


The wealthy, fashionable social class.
The event was attended by high society.


The physical property of matter as solid, liquid, gas, or plasma.
Water exists in three states: solid, liquid, and gas.


The community of people living in a particular region and having shared customs, laws, and organizations.
The society in this region has its unique traditions and customs.


A condition or mode of being, as with regard to circumstances
The office was in a state of confusion.


The totality of people regarded as forming a community of interdependent individuals
Working for the benefit of society.


A condition of being in a stage or form, as of structure, growth, or development
The fetal state.


A group of people broadly distinguished from other groups by mutual interests, participation in characteristic relationships, shared institutions, and a common culture
Rural society.
Literary society.


What defines a society?

A society is defined by its shared customs, institutions, and culture among a group of people.

How does a state exert control?

A state exerts control through laws, governance, and enforcement mechanisms.

Can societies exist across multiple states?

Yes, societies can transcend national boundaries and exist in multiple states.

What is a state?

A state is a political entity with governance and authority over a specific territory.

What role does society play in a state?

Society influences the state through cultural norms, public opinion, and social movements.

Are state and society independent of each other?

No, state and society often interact and influence each other in various ways.

How do states and societies evolve?

States evolve through political changes and governance, while societies evolve culturally and socially.

Is a state always a country?

While states often refer to countries, they can also signify subdivisions within a country.

Do all members of a society have equal influence on the state?

Not always, as influence on the state can vary based on social, economic, and political factors.

What is the role of culture in society?

Culture plays a central role in defining the norms, values, and traditions of a society.

Can a state exist without a society?

Technically, a state can exist without a society, but it would lack the cultural and social aspects that make it functional.

What is the relationship between law and society?

Laws are a reflection of societal norms and values, and society, in turn, is influenced by these laws.

How do states enforce their authority?

States enforce authority through legal systems, law enforcement agencies, and governance structures.

How does a society affect economic development?

Societies influence economic development through workforce characteristics, cultural values, and social norms.

Can state policies shape societal norms?

Yes, state policies can have a significant impact on shaping or changing societal norms.

Can societies exist without formal structures?

Yes, societies often exist and function without formal structures, based on shared customs and traditions.

Can societal norms change independently of the state?

Yes, societal norms can evolve independently through cultural shifts, social movements, and changing attitudes.

What role do individuals play in shaping society?

Individuals play a crucial role in shaping society through their actions, beliefs, and participation in social and cultural activities.

What is the impact of globalization on states and societies?

Globalization leads to increased interactions and influences between different states and societies.

How do societies handle social conflicts?

Societies handle conflicts through social norms, cultural mechanisms, and sometimes through the intervention of the state.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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