Nation State System Definition Characteristics and Historical Background

Wed, 12/28/2016 - 23:36 -- Umar Farooq

Nation state system is as old as the human history. It will be more correct to say that the history of nation state system starts with the political consciousness of man. In this modern age, no one can satisfy its all needs alone and due to this lie has to make relations with other states in order to satisfy his desires, interests and goals. In the field of international politics these states are called sovereign states or nation state system. It plays a dominant role in international relations. The people all over the world are divided into a number of groups that lie in sovereign nation state. These states maintain relations with each other under the pressure of sheer necessity. If people are not organized into states or nations, no international relations would have been possible. Some scholars reduce the role of state in the nuclear and space age. However, the role of nation-state cannot be reduced in the present age.

The terms "nation" and "state" are quite different yet they are often used interchangeably. The nation is a concept denoting a common ethnic and cultural identity shared by single people, while the state is a political unit define in term of territory, population, organized government, exercising affective control over its territory and inhabitants. The nation promotes emotional relationship among its members, while state provides political and legal foundation for the identity of its citizens.

What is State

The term "State" can be defined as, "A territorial Society divided into government and subjects claiming with in its allotted physical territory, supremacy over all other institutions." (Laski).

"State is the political organization of the ruling class that was its power for the purpose of suppressing the resistance of its class enemies. The state arose as a result of the division of the society into integrated class and therefore for the purpose of curbing the exploited majority in the interest of exploiting minority. It shall exist so long as there is the need for class domination and shall whether away." (Karl Marx).

What is Nation

The nation is a concept denoting a common ethnic and cultural identity shared by a single people. The terms state, government and nation differ in meaning.

A government is the established for of political administration of a state.

A nation may be a body inhabitant in a country united under a single independent government. And in this sense the world is virtually synonymous with state but a nation may also be any aggregation of people having like institutions and customs and sense of social homogeneity and mutual interest. Thus, we can say that several nations may be present in one state or a nation may extend beyond the borders of a single state.

Nation State System

According to Palmer and Perkins, "The nation state system is the pattern of life in that the people are separately organized that interact with one another in varying ways and various degrees." In International law nation state means "Legitimacy, sovereignty and duty." The state will have to recognize the legitimacy of other states. The state should be sovereign both externally and internally and its people must observe their duties.

History, Background, Origin or Evaluation of Nation State System

To understand the origin of nation state system it is necessary to fall light on past history. Before 17th century, nation states were existed but under the control of Roman Catholic Church headed by pope and the nation state had no sovereign status.

Treaty of Westphalia The treaty of Westphalia is considered by occasion, on that the modern state system took place. In 1648 treaty of Westphalia was signed due to that, the 30 years’ war came into an end. The Treaty of Westphalia was concluded on two key principles:

  1. The principle of internal sovereignty that is the pre-eminence of the rulers against the claims of other centers of power within the state.
  2. The associated principle of external sovereignty, in other words, independence from power centers outside the states.

So, after the treaty few sovereign nation states i.e. England, France and Spain came into being without Church control and the church supremacy was abolished. Machiavelli. Badin and Grotious and some other prominent theorists had together provided defense and justification for the independent secular states.

According to William Adult, "By the Year 1648, Treaty of Westphalia, the state system was fully established in Europe."

Westphalia to Utrecht (1648-1713) The second stage of the development of the state-system has between 1648-1713, during that conflict among UK. France, Holland and Spain were raised on colonial supremacy. But France had to face heavy loss due to coalition of UK and Austria on the question of Spanish succession. France suffered heavy loss by the treaty of Westphalia.

Utrecht to Vienna (1713- 1815) During this period conflict between Austria and France had taken place. Fredrick the great of Persia enforced, France, Austria and Russia to form an alliance ill order to maintain balance of power. UK made alliance with Prussia. Due to these alliances and counter alliances seven years war took place from 1756-63. Later on, France under Napoleon became dominant in European affairs. but soon defeated by the combined effort of UK. Russia. Prussia, Austria and Sweden. The result was the Vienna meeting in 1915 in that balance of power was again restored in Europe with certain check on France.

Vienna to Versailles (1815-1914) During this period i.e. from 1815 to 1914, various nation states were emerged on the map of the.

This period in the history of the world is known as period of Pax­-Britannica, because during this period Britain had full autonomy and had maintained Balance of power to greater extant in Europe only two time her supremacy was threatened. In 1854-56, Russia threatened her supremacy to dominate the region during the Crimean war. Secondly in 1870-71. Germany displaced France and established her own supremacy in the continent during the Franco-Prussian war. During this period, i.e. in 1913 the decline of Turkey (Caliphate) and Spanish power led to the rise of several independent states on the map of the world. And also during this period China emerged as a super power by defeating Japan. This period of world history especially from 1882-1907 was the period of mutual fear and suspicion among states.

Versailles to the Present The treaty of Versailles in 1914 brought great changes in the map of the world and also brought great disturbance because due to the harsh treatment with Germany in this treaty caused Nazism in Germany and Fascism in Italy and also Russia emerged as one of the disturbing factor in the world and due to all these the treaty of Versailles brought a gift of 2nd world war for the humanity and due to this several UK colonies i.e. in Africa and in Asia got independence.

Modern State System

This system similar to that of Westphalia. It is a pattern in that the independent community of the world by organizing themselves into independent sovereign political entity and to act and react with one another.

Nation State System in 20th Century

The 20th century is known as the century of Nation-State System. But during this modern period the problem with Nation state system is that on one hand it is legally. sovereign but on the other hand it has to give some concession and to accept some limitations. The Nation State System in 20th Century can be discussed under the following points.

Challenges to Nation State System in 20th Century

  1. MNCs
  2. International Organizations
  3. Regional Organizations
  4. Terrorist groups
  5. Military technology