Nation State

If a 'nation' is a group of people who identify themselves as such, a 'state' simply refers to a geographical area with clear boundaries and political integrity i.e. boarders, laws, government - so the term 'nation-state' can be defined as a nation of people who rule themselves in their own sovereign territory. The key ideal is 'rule themselves' so the nation-state comes about through national self-determination, and the two concepts are closely related.

The great strength of the nation-state is that it offers the pros­pect of both cultural cohesion and political unity. When a people who share a common cultural or ethnic identity gain the right to self-government, nation­ality and citizenship coincide. Moreover, nationalism legitimises the authority of government. Political sovereignty in a nation-state resides with the people or the nation itself Consequently, nationalism represents the notion of popular self-government, the idea that government is carried out either by the people or for the people, in accordance with their 'national interest. This is why national­ists believe that the forces that have created a world of independent nation-states are natural and irresistible.


In today's world - particularly in Europe - the nation-state is the usual organisation of a country. France is ruled by the French in their own geographical territory, Denmark is ruled by the Danes in their own geographical territory.

However, this has not always been the case. As recently as the 1970s, the nation of Germany was divided into two states, and Yugoslavia - which has now disintegrated, with its component states becoming nations in their own right - was one country

It has been the aim of mainly liberal nationalists to create a world of nation-states and the right of self determination has dominated international law during the 20th Century.

The great strength of the nation-state is that it offers the prospect of both cultural cohesion and political unity. Woodrow Wilson saw self determination as a principle of international relations which might bring about the end to wars after 1918. When a people who share a common cultural or ethnic identity gain the right to self-government, nationality and citizenship coincide. Therefore, nationalism legitimises the authority of government. Political sovereignty in a nation-state resides with the people or the nation itself. Consequently, nationalism represents the notion of popular self-government, the idea that government is carried out either by the people or for the people, in accordance with their ‘national interest’. This is why nationalists believe that the forces that have created a world of independent nation-states are natural and irresistible, and that no other social group could constitute a meaningful political community and it is why liberals in particular argue that elections and fair voting creates a stronger sense of national identity and therefore tend towards a peaceful society. Election are often seen as the means of ending internal conflict or establishing the existence of a new state and any challenge to the legitimacy of an election presents a threat to the state's existence.