The Importance of the Nation State

A nation-state is a region that has distinct boundaries and area. In a nation-state the majority of people usually have the same cultural background or race. Nation-states generally have a common identity that is enhanced by the presence of a common language, religion, or shared interests. Political growth which differentiated the administration and governance of regions from other influential forces like religion, racial and ethnic divisions were a catalyst for the formation of nation-states. Political growth was especially instituted by the desire in people for organized governance since traditional elites were often seen as ineffective or oppressive (French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, 2008). Iceland is seen as an example of an ideal nation state due to its low immigration rate and the commonality of their language, ethnicity, and culture.

The meaning of the term nation-state is now used loosely to identify sovereign entities governed by a single system without regard to racial or cultural identities. This change in meaning has been due to the effect of immigration and globalization. The spread of Christianity, Buddhism and Islam also helped people with diverging views, races and ethnicities come together through the new shared identities. With increasing world populations and development in technology, nation-states developed in an effort to compete effectively with other nations through planned management of resources and full participation in the international political scheme.

The nation state emerged in Western Europe and took the period from the 13th to the 19th century to take root. Starting with the revolution in France the nation-state spread to other areas like Spain, England and the Americas. The political model then spread to other European countries and to Asia with countries like Burma, Afghanistan, Turkey, and Japan adopting the system. After the de-colonization of Africa and Asia in the 1950s onwards the nation-state emerged as the dominant political model in the world. The need by people for equality in rights, democracy and self governance, independence coupled with consciousness through education and enhanced communication brought about the nation state (French, 2008).

The nation state gives the people within it a sense of belonging and identity. It has been shown that people identify more with their countries and their values than with any other thing internationally. Therefore Protestants who are German citizens will identify themselves more with a German Catholic than a Protestant from another country. The unwillingness to immigrate in stable countries is also another illustration of the power of identification with a given nation-state. Since the upbringing of people shapes their view, the values that are present in a given nation-state are absorbed by them which make the nation’s values rhyme with the individual’s.

The key systems in a nation like the system of governance, the cultural values, and other factors unique to a given nation-state further develops it’s inhabitants the sense of identity with it. Thus politically, the nation-state’s identity is important in that ideas which do not agree with those in the nation are repelled. A nation, unless there are radical changes in national consciousness due to changes in factors that shape the nations attitudes, will seek to remain with the same structures and systems. This is important in that those political ideas and systems present in a given area are likely to remain and prevail provided that, in the inhabitant’s consciousness, they are deemed fair and effective (Meyer, & Boli, Thomas, Ramirez, 1997). Therefore the nations which seek to change the political affiliations of a given people are met with opposition and should seek subtle methods that are in sync with the identity of the inhabitants.

The identity of groups within these nation-states can lead to political problems since their leaning is not always in agreement with the demands of the state. Some nation-states have borders that give no regard to the ethnic and racial divisions in a region. The ideal of a nation-state that is homogenous and has unambiguous recognized borders remains elusive. This has caused problems for the nations due to the crash of ideals which may lead to conflicts. Competition for resources also aggravates these divisions since the various ethnic groups mostly live in separate areas which might be more endowed with resources when compared to others. The nations-states also divide the globe in the same way which leads to conflicts since resources are their sustenance. If resources are scarce, the state is likely to be poorer compared to other nation-states and the blame is often laid on the governments (Wallerstein, 1997).

The governments will therefore try to shift the blame laid on them by their citizens onto other nation states with which they have territorial disputes. This leads to wars and greater suffering for the inhabitants. With the establishment of nation states that have more resources than others, dominant nations emerge that influence the policies of less developed nations. Therefore, these nation-states create problems in that there is no equitable sharing of resources. This leads to suffering for the less developed nation’s inhabitants and thus they grow more dependent on those with resources. Their policy formation is thus further influenced by these super powers which manipulate the states to their own advantage.

The emergence of the nation-state as a political power that seeks to influence others into adopting their cultures and views-which would advance their influence-is thus politically important. The super powers have great influence on policies through withholding aid and support to the less developed countries. The developed countries can therefore change political systems in other nations which look up to the systems established in them as models that would bring about prosperity. These superpowers’ media is also powerful and their influence is felt everywhere thus changing the way people think. Their ideals are thus inculcated into other states that have fewer resources (Wallerstein, 1997).

The creation of these nation-states has led to competition for resources rather than sharing which is a sort of capitalist system among them. Territories which have resources and are in areas without clear cut boundaries are fought for in the race for greater wealth and power. The nations that are not developed are thus exploited by the influential giants through unfair trading agreements and blockades in the name of the promotion of political ideals (Fotopoulos, 2005).

The power of nation-states can be illustrated by the U.S. which individually exerts a lot of power. The European countries-which wield more economic power than the U.S.-are less effective in influencing directly the fate of the world. This is due to the divisions that are found among them as opposed to the singular policy and voice that the U.S. presents to the world. Therefore, they take a greater amount of time in making decisions due to their various affiliations and persuasions. Powerful single nation-states are therefore more effective in the time they take to react and are therefore more influential. The power of the U.S. can further be illustrated by its disregard for some treaties which have been ratified by other nations. The U.S. has almost ignored the Kyoto treaty, sometimes seeking to withdraw from it and generally boycotting the implementation of the treaty in its territory (Pfeil, 2004). This shows that a nation-state that is powerful can be more persuasive and effective than an amalgam of other states without as much power.

The nation state is one of the most stable systems of government and coupled with democratic methods of the elections of officials; it is likely to ensure peace for its inhabitants. People within a nation-state are given a singular identity by the nation and are therefore less likely to be involved in conflicts among themselves. This is particularly apparent if the nation’s policies are seen to benefit all of the inhabitants. However, if the governance of the state is unable to distribute these resources equitably, the state is likely to experience conflicts due to discontent. The nation state is also seen as one of the best ways for protecting the resources and interests of the inhabitants. This is apparent since they usually have a security system that protects territory and thus giving the inhabitants a safe environment in which to thrive.

Nation states align themselves with other nations of the same persuasion and goals. These alignments can be powerful in that they can exert pressure more effectively on other nations. If policies like blockades are instituted collectively against countries, they are likely to heed the things that these nations want. However, this does not work if the nations have other powerful allies or if they are self reliant. Alignments like the European Union (E.U.) are powerful since they can affect the economy of countries if they were to introduce policies that hinder trade with them. Consequently, less powerful countries are forced to bow to their demands since if they did not their economies would be hurt undermining their stability (Meyer, 1997).

The third world nation-states form unions but they are not as influential as those by the more powerful and rich nations. Therefore the state of the nation-state’s economy is an important in its effort for exerting influence. China, a possible superpower in the future, has been involved in the strengthening of ties with the third world nations especially in Africa. The country has been trying to take up a leadership position in the third world even though it denies this as its official position. The large amounts of goods that are produced in the country have to find markets elsewhere and through these links with other nations it can foster good relations and create markets for the goods (Pfeil, 2004). Thus the need for dominance in the economics of the world has led to increased activity on the part of nations to foster cooperation. This is a positive effect of the presence of nation states on the state of peace in the world.

The fragility of the modern state is apparent especially for those states that are not powerful. This is because the nation-state usually has to seek recognition from other states as confirmation of their statehood. Without it, the nations are open to aggression from groups that do not recognize it and internal conflicts are likely to exist. There have also not been nations that are completely sovereign since resistance is always apparent in the states territories. Other states also interfere with the country’s inner workings and therefore the state cannot be truly independent of other countries influence (Haller, 2007). This is due to the interdependence that is evident from the relying on trade by nations for some of the essential things used in them. Even the most powerful nations like the U.S. could not rely solely on themselves for production of things like oil of which it is the world’s leader in consumption.

The model of governance of nation-states has problems in that they are open to abuse by some parties. The main parties are the leadership of the nation state and other nation states that seek to influence its affairs. These two factors are influential in the nation-states’ wellbeing and ability to survive and provide the services that are required of it by its inhabitants. These services include; the provision of external security which comes with the sovereignty of the country, fair governance of its territories that would lead to prosperity, directing of its citizens into ways for better living, and the enforcement of internal laws that would ensure a safe environment for them (Wallerstein, 1997).

The nation-state has emerged as one of the best methods for the governance and betterment of peoples lives and though it is faced by problems, it is likely to continue being the unit by which the world is governed (Haller, 2007). This is due to the advantages that it possesses over other systems of governance and also due to the advancements that man has made. The method of governance, in its ideal state, allows people to live and interact freely and fosters competition which is important if man is to develop.




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