In Man and the State (1951), Maritain discusses the relationship between the people and the State:
As concerns furthermore the very notion of the people, I would say that the modern concept of the people has a long history and stems from a singular diversity of meanings which have fused together. But considering only the political significance of the word, suffice it to say that the people are the multitude of human persons who, united under just laws, by mutual friendship, and for the common good of their human existence, constitute a political society or body politic. The notion of body politic means the whole unit composed of the people. The notion of the people means the members organically united who compose the body politic. Thus what I have said concerning either Body Politic and Nation or Body Politic and State holds good for either People and Nation or People and State. Nay more, since the people are human persons who not only form a body politic, but who have each one a spiritual soul and a supratemporal destiny, the concept of the people is the highest and noblest concept among the basic concepts that we are analyzing. The people are the very substance, the living and free substance, of the body politic. The people are above the State, the people are not for the State, the State is for the people.
I should finally like to point out that the people have a special need of the State, precisely because the State is a particular agency specializing in the care of the whole, and thus has normally to defend and protect the people, their rights, and the improvement of their lives against the selfishness and particularism of privileged groups or classes. In ancient France the people and the King relied upon each other, somewhat ambiguously, in their struggle against the supremacy of the great feudal lords or the nobility. In modern times it has been the same with the people and the State in regard to the struggle for social justice. Yet, as we have seen, this normal process, if it becomes corrupted by the absolutism of the totalitarian State, which raises itself to the supreme rule of good and evil, leads to the misfortune and enslavement of the people; and it is impaired and jeopardized if the people surrender themselves to a State, which, as good as it may be, has not been freed from the notion of its so-called sovereignty, as well as from the factual deficiencies of the body politic itself. In order both to maintain and make fruitful the movement for social improvement supported by the State, and to bring the State back to its true nature, it is necessary that many functions now exercised by the State should be distributed among the various autonomous organs of a pluralistically structured body politic–either after a period of State capitalism or of State socialism, or, as is to be hoped, in the very process of the present evolution. It is also necessary that the people have the will, and the means to assert their own control over the State.