This term is often used polemically and provocatively, to argue that the legitimate powers of another element of society have been illegitimately absorbed by the state, for example, at the expense of individual liberty. In this case, the charge of statism is an allegation that the interests of the individual have been sacrificed for the supposed benefit of the many. In the context of a modern democratic republic, where limitation of state power is a fundamental element of the system of government, the charge of "statism" is designed to evoke extreme alarm or offense, just as would a comparable charge of "Totalitarian", "Fascist", or "Nazi".
As a matter of fact, some political philosophies have held that individual rights (such as the right to life, liberty and property) are neither natural nor absolute, but are assigned arbitrarily by rule of the state, and may be revoked arbitrarily in the interest of the state. One variety of statism, in a technically proper and descriptive sense, arises from the altruist-collectivist premise, that the individual man is under obligation to others, a party to an implied "social contract", by virtue of benefitting from the service of others in society. In such a socio-political theory, the individual man is not an end to himself, he is not naturally endowed with an unalienable right to his own life, and, therefore, even if conscientiously unwilling to serve in some civil capacity he must be compelled by force, by reason of duty to serve, for the object of utility or sacrifice for the alleged greater good of the greater community or collective state. Statism in this sense, is the doctrine or policy of subordinating individual freedom unconditionally to the regime, state, or government with unlimited powers. Statist theories have arisen, or the charge of statism has been applied, under the labels of interventionism, socialism, Nazism, communism, absolute democracy (unlimited majority rule), theocracy, fascism, and tribalism.