Nation and State Nios Political Science  Chapter 2nd

The evolution of modern nation state as a political organization took a long period of time. In ancient times human beings lived in communities. The obvious fact is that human beings are social animals and they cannot live in isolation. They belong to society. The collective life that they need assumes certain rules and regulations and gradually such a group life has led to the formation of political communities  and the emergence of State. In its earlier form, the State was very simple in its organisation. From that simple organisation it has evolved and grown into the modern complex organization. Over the years it  has acquired different forms and has become a reality found everywhere. In this lesson you will read  about the concepts of nation, nationality and state. You will also learn about the elements of State


 After seen this video, you will be able to

  • Explain the concept of nation and nationality;
  •   Make a distinction between nation and nationality;
  •   Describe the elements of nationality;
  •  Identify the State as a political entity with sovereign power;
  •  Explain elements of the State.

Nation and State Nios Political Science Chapter 2nd

Nation And Nationality

The term nationality is derived from the Latin word natus, which means ‘to be born’. Therefore in its derivative term, nationality means belonging to the same racial stock or being related by birth or having blood relationship. This understanding of nationality is however misleading. There is today not a single nation in the world whose people belong to the same racial stock. Every nation has people of mixed racial background. It is very difficult to find racial purity because of increased racial combinations due to immigrations, inter-caste and inter-racial marriages. The development of nationality is definitely more of a psychological phenomenon neither political nor racial.

In the words of J.W. Garner, Individual and the nationality is a culturally homogeneous group that is at once conscious of its unity.

Distinction between Nation and Nationality

The distinction between the nation and nationality is a thin one. This is more so because both the terms are derived from the same word. Some even consider them as interchangeable. But certainly there are differences between the two, which can be summed up as follows:

Nationality is a cultural term. It is a psychological, which is generated in a group of people having geographical unity and who belong to a common race, common history, religion, customs and traditions, economic interests and common hopes and aspirations. The people of a nationality must have a sense of unity. They must feel that they have something in common which differentiates them from other people. But nation is a people organised; a people united. What unites people in a nation are feelings of oneness. Nation gives an idea of an organisation; nationality gives an idea of sentiment.

Elements of Nationality

It is very difficult to define nationality in terms of its elements. It is a psychological concept or a subjective idea and therefore it is impossible to find out any common quality or definite interest, which is everywhere associated with nationality. We cannot say with certainty that this particular element makes for a separate nationality. We can at best list out some factors, which are as follows:

Common Geography  

People living in a common territory constitute one of the major elements of nationality. This is because such a people are likely to develop a common culture. This is also the reason why the countries are called as motherland or fatherland. We also see an identity of people with their country. Thus people of Denmark are called the Danes, France as the French, India as the Indians, America as the Americans and so on. But this point should not be stretched too far. Common territory is not an absolutely essential element of nationality. The Jews were scattered all over the world before the creation of Israel. They had no common territory, yet they constituted a strong nationality. Similarly, the Poles were denied their homeland for a long time before 1919 but they were a nationality.

Common Race

Common race denotes the idea that a people belonging to a particular nationality belong to one group or they have a social unity. Some people suggest that purity of race makes a nationality. This is scientifically wrong. As pointed above, today due to immigrations and intercaste marriages, purity of race has become almost an impossibility. Today this phenomenon has become a myth. But certainly the belief that one belongs to the same race, real or fictitious, has contributed to the idea of nationality. The idea of a common race is also important because it strengthens common language, common traditions and common culture.

Common language

A common language is a medium of communication, which enables the people to express their ideas. It is the basis of all the other elements of nationality. A common language not only means a common literature but also a common heritage of historical traditions. Common historical experiences and common traditions as reflected in the literature bind together members of a nationality by certain bonds. A common language creates a cohesive society. Most of the European nations developed out of a common language as England from the English language, France from the French language or Spain from the Spanish language. But this factor is not a necessary one. Today we find many bi-lingual or multilingual nationalities. Further, the English language is a global language which is spoken in all parts of the world and it cannot be associated only with England.

Common religion

 Individual and the State Religion is also an important element of nationality. A common religion is a strong incentive to national feeling. England fought against the Spanish Armada largely due to her determination to defend Protestantism. However this factor is also not a necessary one. In fact in modern times, nationalities tend to become multi-religious and under such circumstances religion is regarded as a private affair of individual and secularism prevails in the collective life. Further religion cannot always be a cementing factor. The two wings of Pakistan fell apart and Bangladesh was created despite the common religious affinity. Religion, rather, works negatively as a divisive factor in the Indian Sub-Continent, when Pakistan came into existence due to the partition of India.

Common political framework

 The existence of a common political framework or a State, whether in the past or present, is another element of nationality. People living in a State are knit together through the laws. Living under one common state creates a sense of unity. Various crises like wars further develop the feelings of patriotism. In fact the government also encourages this idea through various methods. As Gilchrist aptly observes that “a nationality lives either because it has been a nation, with its own territory and State or, because it wishes to become a nation with its own territory and State.”

Economic factor

The economic activities bring people closer. It has been argued that historically, nationality emerged as a result of fusion of various tribes and clans. One cannot think of nationality in a primitive society. The Marxists also believe that nationality emerged due to economic factors. According to them nationality had no place in a slave owning or a feudal society and it emerged due to the emergence of capitalist mode of production. Undoubtedly economic factor is an important element of nationality. It is also an important factor in the maintenance of nationality. But on its own single-handedly, it cannot create a nationality.

Common subjugation  

Common subjugation has been a dominant factor in the rise of national movements in the Afro-Asian countries. They were invaded by the various European imperialist powers. The feelings of nationality arose due to common subjugation as it created a feeling of oneness among the people. In India, a common Indian nationality arose due to the common colonial exploitation.

Common political aspirations

The will to be a nation is regarded by some as the principal factor of nationality. Before the First World War, the Poles always wanted Poland. Similarly there were many minorities living in Europe, which desired a separate nationhood. In 1919 at the Paris Peace Conference, this was accepted in the principle of self-determination. While all the factors mentioned above help in the growth of nationality, none of them is absolutely essential. In fact nationality is a subjective sentiment which cannot be defined in terms of any objective factor. The presence or absence of any one or more of these factors does not imply the presence or absence of the spirit of nationality.

Elements of The State

As pointed above, the state possesses four essential elements. These are:


 The State is a human institution. It is the people who make a State. Antarctica is not a State as is it is without any human population. The population must be able to sustain a state. But the question is; how much should be the population? Plato’s and Aristotle’s ideals were the Greek City – States of Athens and Sparta. Plato fixed the number of people in an ideal state at 5040. Aristotle laid down a general principle.

That the state should neither be large nor small; it should be large enough to be selfsufficing and small enough to be well-governed. Rousseau put the number at 10,000.But it is difficult to fix the size of the people of a state. In modern times we have India and China which have huge population and countries like San Marino with a very small population. Countries like former Soviet Union gave incentives to mother of large families. In India, over-population is a big problem while China has enforced a one-child norm. Dictators like Mussolini had openly encouraged large population of the state.


Just as every person belongs to a state, so does every square yard of earth. There is no state without a fixed territory. Living together on a common land binds people together. Love for the territory inculcates the spirit of patriotism. Some call their countries as fatherland and some call it motherland. But there is a definite attachment with one’s territory.

 The territory has to be definite because it ensures exercise of political authority. Mobile tribals had some sort of political authority but they did not constitute a State because they lacked a fixed land. The Jews were living in different countries and they became State only with the creation of Israel, which had a definite territory. Without a fixed territory it would be difficult to conduct external relations. It is essential for the identification if one state attempts to conquer the territory of another.


The purpose for which people live together cannot be realized unless they are properly organized and accept certain rules of conduct. The agency created to enforce rules of conduct and ensure obedience is called government. Government is also the focus of the common purpose of the people occupying the definite territory. It is through this medium that common policies are determined, common affairs regulated and common interests promoted. Without a government the people will lack cohesion and means of collective action. There would be groups, parties and warring associations and conditions of wars and chaos. So there is a need for common authority and order where people live. This is the pre requisite of human life. The state cannot and does not exist without a government, no matter what form a government may assume. The government is a must, though it may take any form. It may have a monarchy like Bhutan or republic as in India. It may have a parliamentary form of government like India and Great Britain or a presidential form of government as in the United States of America.


A people inhabiting a definite portion of territory and having a government do not constitute a state so long as they do not possess sovereignty. India before 15 August 1947 had all the other elements of the state but it lacked sovereignty and therefore it was not a State. Sovereignty is the supreme power by which the state commands and exerts political obedience from its people. A state must be internally supreme and free from external control. Thus sovereignty has two aspects, internal and external. Internal sovereignty is the state’s monopoly of authority inside its boundaries. This authority cannot be shared with any other state. The state is independent and its will is unaffected by the will of any other external authority.

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