What is Civics and Citizenship

Civics is called the science of citizenship, because all matters relating to citizenship are discussed in Civics. As a citizen of the state, we all need to have a clear idea about Civics. In this article, different aspects of Civics and Citizenship such as family, society, state, the origin of the state and government are discussed.

After studying this article, we would be able to-

• explain notions about Civics and Citizenship.

• explain the importance of studying Civics.

• explain the notions of family, society, state and government.

• describe the origin of the state.

• analyze the relationships between family, society, state and government.

Concept of Civics and Citizenship

Civics and Citizenship 'Civics' is an English word. It is derived from two Latin words: 'Civis' and 'Civitas'. The word 'Civis' means citizen and 'Civitas' means city-state. In ancient Greece, citizen and city-state were inseparable. At that time a city-state comprised small regions. Those who directly participated in city-state functions were called citizens. As only the males enjoyed the privilege of participation, they, therefore, were called citizens. Slaves, women and foreigners had no such privilege. The subject-matters of Civics included all these citizens' behavior and functions.

At present the notion of citizen has changed with the rise of large-scale nation states. For example, the area of Bangladesh is 1,47,570 sq. kilometers and the total population is nearly 150 million. We are all Bangladeshi citizens. Besides enjoying citizenship rights, we perform responsibilities and duties to the state. However, those, who among us, are under 18 years of age cannot cast their votes and do not have the right to be elected. In addition, foreigners have no political privileges for enjoying all kinds of political rights. For instance, neither can they vote nor stand for election. Essentially, the status accorded to the citizens by the state is called citizenship. Everything related to citizenship and state is the subject-matter of 'Civics and Citizenship'. British political scientist E. M. White, therefore, rightly said that Civics is such a valuable branch of knowledge which deals with the past, present and future of citizenship along with its local, national and international dimensions of humanity in detail.

In the light of subject-matters, the discussion on Civics can be done in two senses. First, broadly Civics discusses everything related to citizenship. For example, it includes rights and duties, social and political institutions, local, national and international dimensions of citizenship. Civics also discusses the present, past and future of citizenship. In the narrow sense, the subjects of Civics include rights and duties.

So, it can be said that the subject which imparts knowledge about ideal citizenship by continued discussions of the behaviours and functions of citizen, family, society and the state is called 'Civics and Citizenship'.

The scope of ‘Civics and Citizenship’ is  wide and comprehensive. We are going to discuss it below:

1. Citizens' Rights and Duties: As we enjoy state-given fundamental, social, political and economic rights as citizens of the state, so we have to perform responsibilities and duties to the state. For example, expressing allegiance to the state, to abide by laws, to pay taxes at the right time, to educate children, serving the state and casting votes with honesty and so on. The rights and duties of a citizen are the subject-matter of 'Civics and Citizenship.' Moreover, the characteristics of good citizenship, barriers to earning it and the ways to remove the barriers are discussed in 'Civics and Citizenship.'

2. Social and Political Institutions: Social and political institutions have been raised in order to develop and enrich citizens' lives. For example, family, society, the state, election and political parties etc. The origin, nature and functions of these institutions are also discussed in 'Civics and Citizenship. Besides, the subject-matters of 'Civics and Citizenship also include social values, law, liberty and equality, constitution and public opinion.

3. Local, National and International Dimensions of Citizenship: At the place where we live, various local institutions develop centering us. These institutions are as follows: union parishad, pourashava and city corporations. In the similar fashion, legislature, executive and judiciary have been in existence at the national level. The UN and the Commonwealth are international institutions. 'Civics and Citizenship' deals with the structure and functions of these institutions and their relationships with citizens.

4. Past, Present and Future of Citizenship: 'Civics and Citizenship’ focuses on the past, present and future of citizenship. For instance, how citizenship was determined in the past, how citizens' rights and duties were in the past and what the present status of citizens is. On the basis of these three questions, 'Civics and Citizenship' lay the guidelines for citizenship in the future.


When husband and wife live together after a socially recognized system of marriage, this is called a family. In other words, the organization which grows through marriage between one or more than one male and female including their children, parents and other members is called a family. According to Mclver, family is the small social unit that gives birth to children and raises them. In our country, generally family comprises mother-father, brother-sister, uncle-aunt and grandfather-grandmother. But only one female or one male is not recognized as a family. Essentially, family is a social unit in which its members are tied together with the bondages of affection, attachment and love.

Classification of Family

We all live in the family. But the nature and structure of families vary. Therefore, family can be classified based on some principles. For instance,

a. lineage count and leadership,

b. family structure and

c. marital status.

a. Lineage count and leadership: Family can be divided into two types based on this principle, such as patriarchal and matriarchal. In the patriarchal families, posterity is identified in line with father's lineage and father leads that family. Most of the families in our country are of this type. On the contrary, posterity is identified in matriarchal family with the lineage of mother and mother takes the lead in that family. This type of family exists amongst Garos in Bangladesh.

b. Family structure: Family can also be classified into two types according to the structure. These are: unitary and joint family. Unitary family consists of mother-father and brother-sister. These families are small in size. In the joint families, father-mother, brother-sister, uncle-aunt and other members live together. Joint families are large families. Both types of families are seen in Bangladesh. However, at present the number of unitary families is on the rise. A joint family consists of a number of unitary families.

c. Marital status: Three types of families are noticed according to the principle of marriage. These are: monogamous, polygamous and polyandrous. In the monogamous family, one husband has one wife. In the polygamous family, one husband has several wives. Likewise, in the polyandry, one wife has many husbands. In our society, most of the families are monogamous, but there are exceptions of polygamous families. Polyandrous families are not seen in Bangladesh.

Functions of a Family

A family performs manifold functions to make its members' lives beautiful and safe. Generally, a family has the following functions:

1. Biological functions: We are born to our parents and raised by them. So, one of the main functions of a family is to reproduce children and raise them accordingly. These kinds of functions are called biological functions.

2. Educative functions: Many of us become familiar with the alphabet before going to school. Family provides the first opportunity to learn values from its members such as honesty, etiquette, kindness and punctuality. These are educative functions of a family. Thus, the children in the family receive their primary education. Therefore, family is called the eternal school or the first school of life.

3. Economic functions: A family has to meet the demands of its members such as food, clothing, shelter, education, medical treatment and the like. These demands are met with income earned by family members. The economic functions of a family include handicrafts, fishing, agriculture, animal husbandry and so on. The spheres of functions of a family have changed due to splendid progress in science and technology and new employment opportunity has been created. In some spheres, it has been abated. However, a family still meets the needs of its members.

4. Political functions: In a family, parents and elder siblings act as guardians. We obey their instructions and guidance. They play their role to protect our rights. They inculcate intelligence, conscience and self-control into us and help us to become good citizens. This education becomes worth at later stage in the affairs of the state. The children in a family thereby receive political education by obeying family education and rules. Besides, we become politically conscious by listening to and taking part in discussions with the elders in the family.

5. Psychological functions: A family fulfills the psychological needs of its members by giving them love, affection and kind behavior. By sharing weal and woes, happiness and sadness with other members in the family, the members find solace. Say, if anyone gets upset for some reasons, it can be sorted out through discussions with parents and siblings. This sort of discussion helps wipe out mental agony. Besides children learn kindness, tolerance and fellow-feeling from this family. These enrich their mental strength.

6. Entertainment functions: By having a chat, sharing jokes, singing songs, watching TV, going out, family members enjoy their time. Due to progress in science and technology, these kinds of functions have been somewhat reduced. However, to ensure the maximum welfare of the family members, the importance of these functions is enormous.


Society is an organized population who get together to fulfill some common objectives. In other words, when a group of people is organized to fulfill some common purposes, a society is formed. Analyzing this concept of society, two characteristics can be noticed, such as

1) a group of people living together in an organized way,

2) they  must have some common purposes for this organized living. Besides some more characteristics are found among the members of the society. These are as unity and mutual assistance, dependency, action-reaction, similarities, dissimilarities and so on.

Relations between man and society are inseparable. Society consists of humans. And society meets multiple needs and thereby provides people with developed and secure social life. Human qualities and social values grow in the society. Humans make society as they perceive that society provides the ideal and civilized life. Greek philosopher Aristotle rightly said that man is by nature a social being. One who does not live in the society is either a beast or a God. In reality, humans from cradle to grave foster and evolve themselves in the society.


The state is a political institution. People all over the world live in a state. In our world there are 206 small or large states. Every state has its definite territory and population. Besides, in order to operate a state, government and sovereignty are two important ingredients. No state can exist without the above conditions. Professor Garner said, ‘an independent population permanently residing in a definite territory, allegiant to the organized government by nature and free from external enemies is called the state. Analyzing this definition, we get four elements of a state, such as, 1. Population 2. Definite territory 3. Government and 4. Sovereignty

1. Population: Population is an inevitable element of state formation. If a population permanently resides in a definite territory, state can appear to exist. However, there is no fixed rule about how much population is required for a state to form. For example, the population in Bangladesh is 150 million, in India 1210 million (2011) and in Brunei it is 200,000. According to views of political scientists, the population of a state should be consistent with the resources it possesses.

2. Definite territory: To form a state, a definite territory is obligatory. Territory comprises land, water and sky areas. A state can be either small or large. For example, Bangladesh has an area of 1,47,570 square kilometers. But according to the signed land boundary agreement between Bangladesh and India, exchange of enclaves between two countries on 31 July, 2015 resulted an addition of 1004.25 acres of land to the total land of Bangladesh. Besides the maritime area of Bangladesh has been increased. At present, the sovereignty of Bangladesh has been established on 1,11,813 km in the maritime area. The People's Republic of China, the United States and Canada are larger than Bangladesh in terms of area.

3. Government: Government is a necessary element of a state. No state can exist without a government. Government operates all state activities. Government consists of three organs: legislative, executive and judiciary. Though the formation of government is the same in all states, forms of government vary from state to state. For example, in Bangladesh we have the parliamentary form of government, but in the United States it is the presidential form of government. Government operates all the functions of the state.

4. Sovereignty: Sovereignty is the most important and inevitable element of a state. This is the absolute power of the state. There are two dimensions to it, such as internal and external. Internal sovereignty means that the state exercises its authority over individuals and associations through fiats. On the other hand, external sovereignty keeps the state free from external control.

Origin of the state

It is hard to say when and how state originated. Political scientists having examined the history, past political events have given some theories about the origin of the state. These theories are: 1. Divine theory; 2. Force theory, 3. Social Contract theory and 4. Historical or Evolutionary theory.

1. Divine theory: This is the oldest theory related to the origin of the state. According to this theory, God himself created the state and He sent rulers to run the state in the right direction. Rulers are the representatives of God and are only accountable to God for their deeds They are not accountable to the people. Just as rulers rule as per the instructions of God, so the violation of rulers' instructions is tantamount to the violation of God's instructions. According to this theory, rulers combine the duties of Head of State and Head of Religious institutions. Modem political scientists criticized this theory as dangerous, undemocratic and irrational. In their views, where rulers are not accountable to the people, there develops autocracy.

2. Force theory: The main idea of this theory is that state has come into existence by force and it continues to exist by force. It is stated in this theory that powerful persons in the society through warfare or by applying force have established control over the weaker sections and established state. From the creation to date, this is how states have come to existence. Critics labeled this theory irrational and wrong. They said that if states had survived by force then militarily weak states would have failed to survive. As a matter of fact, it is not the force, rather states exist and survive on the basis of consent.

3. Social contract theory: The gist of this theory is that state has come into existence through mutual contract among the people living in the society. The architects of Social Contract Theory were British philosophers John Locke and Thomas Hobbes and French philosopher Jean Jack Rousseau.

Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Jean Jack Rousseau

According to this theory, before the birth of state, man lived in the state of nature. But there was no authority to punish the offenders who violated laws in the state of nature. As a result, anarchy and disorder were created in the social life. Men became selfish and egoistic. The strong in the society tortured the weak. Consequently, people's lives were full of pains and unbearable. In addition, with the rise of population, the aspiration and necessity for having private property began to grow among the people. In order to get rid of such anarchy people entered into signing a contract thus creating the state. People conferred power upon this authority to rule over themselves in exchange for giving security to them.

4. Historical or Evolutionary theory: This theory states that state was not created all on a sudden. State has emerged through a prolonged evolution and changes of different forces and elements at different stages in the society. State emerged after the confluence of elements like kinship, religious ties, wars, economic and political consciousness and activities. Regarding this theory, Dr. Gamer said, 'State is not the creation of God ) nor the creation of force . It has rather been created out of historical evolution'. Of all the theories related to the origin of the state, historical or evolutionary theory is the most logical and acceptable. This theory gives the right explanation as to the origin of state. In reality, the state that exists at present is the result of the long historical evolution.

Concept of government

Government is one of the important elements of a state. No state can be formed without a government. State is run by the government. Government performs three kinds of functions to steer the state. To do legislative, executive and judicial functions, a government has three organs, such as legislature, executive and judiciary.

Legislature enacts the necessary laws for a country. Executive governs the country by enforcing these laws. Judiciary punishes the guilty and establishes justice in the society by freeing innocents. So, the government refers to that population who are associated with law making, governance and establishing justice. In a modem democratic state, government implies the population, because government works as the agent of population.

Relationship between state and government

In ancient times there was no difference between state and government. Louis the fourteenth of France said, 'I am the state'. In modem times, differences are made between state and government. These are as follows:

1 Formation: Population, territory, government and sovereignty- these four elements constitute a state. Government is one of those elements by which a state is run.

2. Population: A state consists of all the population in a country. And the government consists of the persons employed in the legislature, executive and judiciary.

3. Permanence: State is a permanent institution, but government is temporary and changeable. Change of government occurs due to people's demand. It also occurs to run the government in a convenient way. For example, the government of Bangladesh has changed many times. But the state has never changed.

4. Nature and characteristics: All the states have the same nature and characteristics. But the nature and characteristics of government varies from state to state. For example, Bangladesh has the parliamentarian form of government whereas USA has the presidential form of government.

5. Sovereignty: State is sovereign or the possessor of absolute power. Government is the agent of implementation of sovereign power.

6. Concept: State is an abstract concept. State can neither be seen nor imagined or felt. But government is a living organ, because the persons who comprise the government are seen.

So, despite the differences between state and government, their relations are close. One cannot be imagined without the other. Government is formed only for running the state.

Now can you answer the following questions?

1. The states Ka and Kha are located side by side. Ka defeats her neighbouring state Ga and occupies it. The state of Kha cooperates with its neighbouring countries and gradually becomes stronger in a body.

a. What theory of the origin of state is related to philosopher Jean Jack Rousseau?

b. What is the absolute power of a state? Explain.

c. Explain the theory in relation to the fact that Ka occupied Ga by force.

d. The theory that explains the rise of state as strong is more acceptable. Analyze.

2 . Mr. and Mrs. Parvez are a working couple. They have put their only son Ripon in a hostel since his childhood for study. When he comes home during vacation, his parents cannot give enough time to him as they have always been busy. Most of the time Ripon stays alone. Therefore, he cannot share his weal and woes and he never feels others' pleasure and pain. One day he visited Mr. Ramiz's house while his son Robin opened the door and gave salam to him. With honour, he welcomed him to take a seat and went off to call his father and to get some tea and snacks for Mr. Parvez. Mr. Parvez was amused at Robin's gesture and felt pain that he could not raise his son like Robin.

a. How many types of family exist according to the structure?

b. Which type of function is self-control of a family? Explain.

c. The function of a family has been hampered due to Ripon's lack of mental growth. Explain.

d. Evaluate the function of a family that has played an important role in raising Mr. Ramiz's children.

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