Nation state

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The nation state is a certain form of state that has a territory where mainly one nation lives. The state is a political entity (the government, etc.); the nation is a cultural and/or ethnic entity. The term "nation state" means that the two are on the same territory, and this distinguishes the nation state from the other types of state, which existed before.[1]

Examples[change | change source]

Clear examples of nation states include:

  • Iceland: 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: Japan is also traditionally seen as a good example of a nation-state, although Japan includes minorities of ethnically distinct Ryūkyū peoples, Koreans, Chinese, and on the northern island of Hokkaidō, the indigenous Ainu minority; see also Japanese Demographics .
  • Portugal: although surrounded by other lands and people, the Portuguese nation has occupied the same territory for almost 900 years. A long time ago, Portugal was formed from groups of people that used to be separate. They all passed through and settled in the area that later became Portugal. They include: native Iberian peoples, Celts, ancient Mediterraneans (Greeks, Phoenicians, Romans), Germanic peoples like the Suebi and the Visigoths, invading Berbers and Arabs, and Jews.[2]

What states existed before nation-states?[change | change source]

Division of the Austro-Hungarian Empire into nation states in 1918 gray solid line: Border of Austria-Hungary in 1914; black solid line: Borders in 1914; red solid : Borders in 1920;      Empire of Austria in 1914      Kingdom of Hungary in 1914      Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1914

In Europe, in the eighteenth century, the classic non-national states were the multi-ethnic empires, (the Austro-Hunogarian Empire, the Russian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, the French Empire, the British Empire).

Characteristics of the nation-state[change | change source]

  • They have a different attitude to their territory, compared to the dynastic monarchies. No nation would swap territory with other states simply, for example, because the king's daughter got married.
  • They have a different type of border, mostly defined by where the cultural/ethnic (nation) group settles, but many nation states have also had borders based on geography like rivers and mountain ranges.
  • The most noticeable characteristic is how much nation-states use the state as an instrument of national unity in economic, social and cultural life.

References[change | change source]

  1. But a unifying "national identity" can exist also in countries which have several ethnic or language groups. For example, Switzerland is constitutionally a confederation of cantons, and has four official languages, but it has also a 'Swiss' national identity, a national history, and a classic national hero, Wilhelm Tell.(see: Thomas Riklin, 2005. Worin unterscheidet sich die schweizerische "Nation" von der Französischen bzw. Deutschen "Nation"? [1]
  2. The creation of a new ethnicity from disparate elements is discussed at ethnogenesis.

Further reading[change | change source]

  • Hobsbawm, Eric J. (1992). Nations and Nationalism Since 1780: Programme, Myth, Reality. 2nd ed. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-43961-2.
  • White, Philip L. (2006). "Globalization and the Mythology of the Nation State," In A.G.Hopkins, ed. Global History: Interactions Between the Universal and the Local Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 257–284. [2]

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