Nation and State
Published on: Mar 3, 2016
Transcripts - Nation and State
The terms nation, state, country and nation-state are used to refer to political, economic,
social and cultural actors in the international system. The modern nation-state refers to a single
or multiple nationalities joined together in a formal political union. The nation-state determines
an official language(s), a system of law, manages a currency system, uses a bureaucracy to order
elements of society, and fosters loyalties to abstract entities like "Canada," "the United States,"
and so on.
1. Nation: A large group of people linked by a similar culture, language, and history.
2. State: A political unit that has sovereignty over a particular piece of land.
3. Nation-State: A state that rules over a single nation.
A nation-state is a country. However, the words nation, state, and country are sometimes
used to mean the same thing. Even though these words are used interchangeably, they can also
have other meanings.
‘Nation’ has been derived from the Latin word, ‘natio’, which means a ‘set of people’. A nation
is a large group of people who are linked by a similar culture, language, and history. Members of
some nations share an ethnicity, whereas other nations consist of ethnically diverse groups of
people However, the members of a nation see themselves as connected. Many members of a
nation take pride in being a part of something bigger than themselves as individuals, and they
celebrate their nation.
State is a word that has been derived from the Latin’s ‘Status’, which means ‘status’ or
‘condition’. A state is a political unit that has sovereignty over a particular piece of land.
Sovereignty is the ultimate power within a territory. So the state has the power to make laws,
defend its borders, and enact policies. The state also exercises a monopoly on the legitimate use
of force: No group within its borders can use force legally without the permission of the state.
Political scientists use the term nation-state to refer to modern countries and their political
apparatuses. A nation-state is a state that rules over a single nation. France, for example, is a
nation-state, as is Japan. The people in both countries overwhelmingly share a common
language, history, and culture. The term nation-state reflects the situation in which the
boundaries of a state coincide with the geographical area occupied by a nation.
Characteristics of Nation-States:
All nation-states share certain characteristics: self-rule, organized government, territory, and
1. Self-Rule (Sovereignty): Self-rule means that nation-states rule themselves. They are
independent, not colonies of another country. For example, part of what is now the
United States was a colony of Great Britain until the American Revolution. As a result of
the American Revolution, the United States became a nation-state.
2. Organized Government: Organized government is the way in which nation-states rule
themselves. For example, the government of the United States is organized into three
branches: executive, legislative, and judicial. It is also organized into three levels: federal,
state, and local. Not all nation-states are organized in the same way as the United States.
However, they all have governments that are organized in some way.
3. Territory: Territory is the land and water that is governed by a nation-state. The territory
of the United States includes all of its fifty states, nearby areas of ocean, and other areas,
such as Puerto Rico and Guam, which are governed by the United States. The laws of the
United States are enforced within its territory.
4. Population: Population refers to the people who live in the nation-state. The population
of a nation-state can be made up of different ethnicities. However, all citizens share the
Examples of Nation-States:
One sign of the nation-state’s prevalence in global politics is that nearly all states refer to
themselves as nation-states, regardless of their national makeup.
Oddly, Switzerland is often called a nation-state, despite having no dominant ethnic group, no
national identity, and several national languages. This is odd because Switzerland's
primary reason to be is to protect against a state attempting to enforce a statewide national
identity. A classic nation-state, by definition, is inhabited by one ethnic group, who speaks one
language, have one culture, and share one religion. The population, in other words,
is homogeneous. This group is referred to as ‘the nation’ or ‘the people’. They all live inside the
border of the nation-state. No other ethnic or cultural group lives there.
It is often said that island states are the best place to find something like this, and Iceland is often
cited as the best example of a nation-state. Although the inhabitants are ethnically related to
other Scandinavian groups, the national culture and language are found only in Iceland. There
are no cross-border minorities; the nearest land is too far away.
Japan is also seen as a good example, although it acquired a Korean minority during the colonial
period, as well as a very restricted number of immigrants since the early 1960s.
The Republic of Ireland was until recently inhabited almost entirely by ethnic Irish, but the
national territory is not considered complete by nationalists because it does not include Northern
The Formation of the Nation-State
The nation-state became the standard ideal in France during the French Revolution, and quickly
the nationalist idea spread through Europe, and later the rest of the world. However island
nations such as the English (and later British) or the Japanese tended to acquire a nation-state
sooner than this, not intentionally (on the French revolutionary model) but by chance, because
the island situation made the clear natural limits of state and nation coincide.
There are two directions for the formation of a nation-state. The first—and more peaceful way—
is for responsible people living in a territory to organize a common government for the nation-
state they will create. The second, and more violent and oppressive method—is for a ruler or
army to conquer a territory and impose its will on the people it rules. Unfortunately, history has
more frequently seen the latter method of nation-state formation.
The desire to establish a nation-state can be one of the most devastating ones and may result in
either mass eviction of other nationalities or ethnic cleansing. Hitler attempted to establish
Germany as a nation-state by first exiling Jews, and then ultimately, by killing the majority of
Jewish residents in Germany, and in other countries he conquered like Poland. Attempting to
enforce a nation-state where none truly exist often results in high numbers of deaths for large
minority populations and a lack of humanity to the extreme.
Future of Nation-States:
It has been speculated by both proponents of globalization and various science fiction writers
that the concept of a nation state may disappear with the ever-increasingly interconnected nature
of the world. Such ideas are sometimes expressed around concepts of a world government.
Another possibility is a societal collapse and move into communal anarchy or zero world
government, in which nation states no longer exist and government is done on the local level
based on a global ethic of human rights.
This falls into line with the concept of internationalism, which states that sovereignty is an
outdated concept and a barrier to achieving peace and harmony in the world, thus also stating
that nation states are also a similar outdated concept.
If the nation state begins to disappear, it may well be the direct or indirect result of globalization
and internationalism. The two concepts state that sovereignty is an outdated concept and, as the
concept and existence of a nation state depends on 'untouchable' sovereignty, it is therefore
reasonable to assume that.
Globalization especially has helped to bring about the discussion about the disappearance of
nation states, as global trade and the rise of the concepts of a 'global citizen' and a common
identity have helped to reduce differences and 'distances' between individual nation states,
especially with regards to the internet.
To conclude, we can say that the concept of nation-state, with the passage of time, is dying down
because of increased globalization and internationalism. The world has become a global village
and everyone belonging to different culture can interact with each other easily. This
communication and interaction have reduced distances among different communities and we can
expect that in near future, the concept of nation-state will fade away. In recent years, the nation-
state's claim to absolute sovereignty within its borders has been much criticized. A global
political system based on international agreements, and supranational blocs characterized the
post-war era. Non-state actors, such as international corporations and non-governmental
organizations, are widely seen as eroding the economic and political power of the nation-states.