What is a nation?

We explain what a nation is, the elements that compose it, its characteristics and examples. In addition, the relationship between nation and state.

  1. What is a nation?

In a broad sense, a nation is any human historical and cultural community , capable of giving individuals a sense of identity that differentiates them from individuals belonging to other cultures . It usually has a territory that it considers its own.

In that sense, one can speak of a nation to mean a State , a country, a territory, an ethnic group, a people or a race, depending on the considerations of the case.

What we understand today as a nation (nation-states), emerged in the second half of the eighteenth century, along with the homeland and nationalism . The French Revolution of 1789 , when the absolutism of the Old Regime that granted the monarchs absolute power, was considered its birth point .

In contrast, the sovereignty of the citizens (the “people” or the “nation” of the French) arose , according to the philosophical guidelines of the Enlightenment : if before the King was the State, now it is “the nation”, and therefore there is talk of the birth of the nation-state.

With the birth of the nation, love for it was also born, which is nationalism. Thus the concept of the national was formed, as opposed to the foreign.

  1. Elements of a nation

Every nation, roughly, is made up of the following elements:

  • Territory . All the nations of the planet possess, in one way or another, a territory to which they are considered their home and on whose land their dead ancestors rest. This is much more complicated to define for certain nomadic nations, such as the Saharan tribes, but this is because they support a non-agricultural-based life model, and in that sense they do not require a fixed territory, but a series of intermittent territories.
  • Tongue . Every nation has an official language, in which its bureaucracy, legal code and historical documents are written , and with which its population identifies. In some cases the official languages ​​may be several, given that in the same country there may be more than one culture, but one is always considered predominant, above the others.
  • Government . Every nation governs itself or ascribes to a common government along with others (in the case of plurinational states). This government operates the State, imposes the legal code and organizes the population, in addition to exercising sovereignty in the national territoryon behalf of the people.
  • Population . There is no nation without settlers who conform it, that is, without a people who speak their language, inhabit their territory and obey their laws . That is, there are no nations without people.
  1. Characteristics of a nation

Jewish nation
The members of a nation share traditions that forge their identity.

According to Irish political scientist Benedict Anderson (1936-2015), nations are imagined political communities, which in the modern era guarantee citizens a sense of belonging to a larger group and therefore of immortality, a role they once played in their place the religions .

It follows that nations did not always exist, or not in the same way, or with the same name, or around the same identity. Even ancient nations, organized around an idea of ​​common ethnicity, that is, of race and blood, were social and cultural constructions that served human beings to differentiate themselves and assimilate with their own.

At present the nation is understood based on two different forms:

  • The political nation , which is the holder of the sovereignty of the peoples, in charge of implementing the norms contemplated in the legal framework by which they decide to be governed, and that will be the guarantors of the functioning of the State.
  • The cultural nation , which is a difficult concept of the social sciences , which means the ethical-political body of characteristics shared by the inhabitants of a nation, in terms of language, religion, tradition or common history , within the framework of the construction of a “national identity”.
  1. Nation and State

The nation and the state are not synonyms. While the first is an imagined community, that is, a form of socio-cultural organization around the idea of ​​shared identity, the State is the political organization of the nation , the exercise of its sovereignty within a specific territory, according to An established legal rules framework.

In this way, states can be created and destroyed, remodeled and extinguished, but not nations. The latter are the result of a historical, gradual and cultural process.

Therefore, there can be States without a nation, such as the Vatican , which lacks its own cultural base and exists only for the purpose of administering the Catholic religious faith, while every nation aspires to some form of State, otherwise it may not exercise Your own sovereignty.

  1. Nation examples

Kurdish nation
The Kurdish nation does not have its own state.

Some examples of nation are as follows:

  • The Kurdish nation . The Kurds are an Indo-European people that inhabit the border region between Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Iran, known as the mountains of Kurdistan. Although they exist as a nation and as an ethnic group, they do not possess a State and therefore cannot determine themselves, but instead adhere to the laws of the four States already mentioned, despite not sharing their “national identities.”
  • The Jewish nation . The Jewish people were a stateless people, that is, devoid of their own territory for thousands of years, thus having to exist in the nation-states as foreigners. However, they retained a strong root in their identity, built on the practice of the Jewish religion. That is why there may be Jews of different nationalities, even today when there is the State of Israel, home to all those who consider themselves Jews, although they may or may not be Israelis.
  • Bolivian nations . The Plurinational State of Bolivia exists as a South American country, located in the heart of the subcontinent, but at the same time it recognizes itself as a State composed of multiple indigenous nations, such as Aymara, Quechua, Yuracares, Cachicanas, Ayoreos, Guarani, Afro-Bolivians and many more.

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