What is the state?

We explain to you what the State is and the capabilities it must have. In addition, its elements and the differences it has with a government.

  1. What is the state?

The State (usually capitalized) means  the human organization that encompasses the entire population of a country , structured socially, politically and economically through a set of independent and sovereign institutions that regulate life in society.

In other words, a State is equivalent to the set of powers and public bodies that constitute the sovereign government of a nation , and sometimes the term is also used to refer to the nation as a whole : the Argentine State, the Palestinian State, etc. . For an organized human group to be recognized as a State, it must have certain conditions, but also with the international recognition of its peers.

All States, then, must be able to have the capacity to:

  • Externalize  its power . That is, to obtain the recognition of their peers by force if necessary.
  • Institutionalize your power . This means having coercive institutions that maintain order and consolidate the methods of succession in political power, whatever they may be.
  • Manage a collective identity . The inhabitants of a State must feel part of an organized whole and greater than their own individualities or families, and must share a tradition , a foundational story, a series of national symbols, etc.
  1. Elements of the State

Every state requires autonomy and strength to exercise and defend its decisions.

The elements common to any State are:

  • Population . No State exists without a population that integrates it, however large or tiny, or however diverse it may result in cultural, racial or linguistic matters. In fact, there are many plurinational States (several nations organized in the same State), since the important thing is that the residents agree to be governed by the same institutions and share a related political destiny.
  • Territory . All States have a territory and borders that delimit their area of sovereignty and exercise of law, that of neighboring States. This territory is yours to administer, assign, protect or exploit economically in the way that best suits you, as long as you do not put the neighboring territories in check.
  • Government . Every State must have firm and lasting institutions to manage life in society , as well as authorities to govern them and sovereign methods to decide who will exercise said authority in their territory. Said government shall exercise the policy and administration of the State for a defined time based on the legal, cultural and political rules of the population.
  • Sovereignty . No State exists if another takes its decisions for it, so every state requires autonomy and strength to exercise and defend its decisions. If we do not own it, we can face a colony, an associated State or other forms of domination of one State over another.
  1. Rule of law

The rule of law is governed by a constitution.

It is called the rule of law to a particular system of a country , in which all kinds of conflict and social, legal or political procedure is resolved in accordance with the provisions of a Magna Carta, that is, a Constitution.

The Constitution contemplates the rules of the game for the operation of a particular State, including the powers and limitations of the forces of the State, the rights and obligations of citizens , and therefore all who make life in that country must submit voluntarily to the law enshrined in that text.

It is an indispensable condition for a State of law that all citizens are equal before the law, enjoy the same rights and duties, be legally evaluated with the same scale and that the institutions operate in accordance with the law.

  1. Nation and Government

In the same State there may be different nations or peoples.

Terms like State, nation and government are often confused. The distinction between a State, as we have defined in this article, and a nation or a government lies in:

  • Governments are managements of the resources and institutions of the State, which vary according to the political and legal rules of a country, and then assign the turn to other political actors to exercise their own government, without this usually implying drastic changes in the State structure Governments pass and are constituted by an elected or dominant political class; States, on the other hand, are durable and cover the total population of a country. The sum of all public assets therefore equals the State, not the government.
  • Nations, on the other hand, are groups of people who share historical, cultural, sometimes ethnic, usually linguistic links, and who recognize themselves as a collective, whether or not they have their own State to administer. The concept of nation is similar to that of “people”: in the same State there may be different nations or peoples, as is the case of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, composed of a mixed population of diverse ethnic groups or indigenous nations.

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