Difference Between State And Nation

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What Is a Nation?

A nation is a group of people who see themselves as a cohesive and coherent unit based on shared cultural or historical criteria. Nations are socially constructed units, not given by nature. Their existence, definition, and members can change dramatically based on circumstances. Nations in some ways can be thought of as “imagined communities” that are bound together by notions of unity that can pivot around religion, ethnic identity, language, cultural practice and so forth.

The concept and practice of a nation work to establish who belongs and who does not (insider vs. outsider). Such conceptions often ignore political boundaries such that a single nation may “spill over” into multiple states.

The basic requirement of a nation is the strong bonds of emotional unity among its people which develop due to several common social cultural elements. Before 1947, India was a nation but not a State because it did not have sovereignty.

Some nations are sovereign states, but many are not. Nations that hold territory but are not sovereign states include:

  • The Indian Nations of the United States
  • Bosnia (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
  • Catalonia (in northern Spain)
  • Quebec
  • Corsica
  • Sicily
  • Tibet
  • Kurds
  • Roma
  • Palestine
  • Hong Kong
  • Bermuda
  • Greenland
  • Puerto Rico
  • Northern Ireland

What Is a State?

A state is a territorial entity, with a permanent population, defined borders, and a government that effectively controls the territory. A state as a constituent political entity is characterized by four main elements: permanent population, territory, government and sovereignty. It must also have the right and capacity to make treaties and other agreements with other states. In the absence of even one element, a State cannot be really a State. In other words, (State = Nation + Territory+ Government+ Sovereignty).

In the context of international law, the term “state” should not be confused with territorial entities that are called states, but are in fact, subnational jurisdictions of a state.The key difference between a state and a nation is the territorial component. A state requires territory to be recognized as such, but a nation does not.

Many geographic entities have some but not all the qualities that make up a sovereign state. As of 2020 there are 195 sovereign states in the world (197 by some counts); 193 are members of the United Nations (the United Nations excludes Palestine and the Holy See). Two other entities, Taiwan and Kosovo, are recognized by some but not all members of the United Nations.

Also Read: Difference Between State And Government

State And Nation: Key Differences

AspectStateNation
DefinitionA political entity with defined borders and government.A group of people with a common cultural, linguistic, or historical identity.
BordersStates have fixed territorial boundaries.Nations do not have fixed territorial boundaries; they are based on a shared identity.
SovereigntyStates are sovereign entities with the authority to govern within their borders.Nations do not possess sovereignty in the same way as states.
CitizenshipStates grant citizenship to individuals residing within their borders.Nations are defined by the common identity of their people but do not grant citizenship.
GovernmentStates have a formal government responsible for law and order.Nations do not have a formal government but may have cultural or social institutions.
Legal StatusStates have recognized legal status in the international community.Nations do not have the same recognized legal status.
International RelationsStates engage in diplomacy, treaties, and international organizations.Nations may influence foreign policy but do not directly engage in international relations.
Political StructureStates have political structures like democracies, monarchies, or republics.Nations do not have political structures but may have cultural organizations.
Territorial UnityStates are defined by their territorial integrity and unity.Nations are defined by cultural, linguistic, or historical ties, which may span multiple states.
ExamplesExamples of states include the United States, France, and China.Examples of nations include the Kurdish nation, the Jewish nation, and the Basque nation.