I find the term nation-state to misleading. Technically, the term state defines a condition of clear legal identity with the components noted of government and control. States are arbitrary constructs.

The term nation would refer more strongly to the perceived identity of the people, either by language, custom, ethnicity, etc. Nations are nebulous, ever changing things that are difficult to control or keep from evolving.

A nation state would therefore be a more rare condition (rare by today's standards anyway) of a state with a single national identity. Germany would likely be a worthwhile example of a nation-state. Until dunne comes along and reminds me that would only be true if it included Austria - and I would add probably some small sections of other surrounding countries. It is a rare thing indeed.

Independent political entity that rules over, and in a sense represents a single nationality. A nation-state meets several criterion:

  • A nation-state is sovereign. That is, the government has unquestioned authority over the territory of the nation. Questions to sovereignty come in many forms: violent uprisings, lack of legitimacy, foreign intervention, etc.
  • A nation-state represents a nationality. Although there will inevitably be minority populations, a nation-state is a collection of people who share the same language, culture, history, and a sense of identity. Good examples are France and Japan.
  • The territory that the nationality inhabits is also the territory of the state.
The historical trend is toward the creation of nation-states, because as nationalities fight wars to gain independence, they form new nations through history.

One-to-one nation states may be rare, but they aren't unheard of by any means. Japan is probably the best example of a nation-state you'll find in this mortal coil, with its own unique everything. Not perfect—there are minorities, and there is a diaspora—but very, very close.

If Korea were unified, it would be up there with Japan. Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Indonesia are other good examples in Asia. In Europe, things blur a bit, but I would count Greece and Iceland as good examples. Hungary and Bulgaria might count, too, but don't quote me on that.

In the Western Hemisphere, nation-states are rarer: in Latin America, the Hispanic populations share space with the Native American populations, and in North America (at least outside of Utah), everything's pretty much an ethnic mess. Haiti is probably the best example of a nation-state to be found in our half of the world, if a horrid example of a state.

With globalization going on as it is, the nation-state is quickly becoming an endangered species, and leaving us with a plethora of nationless states and stateless nations.

In History and Political Science, "nation-state" is a term used to describe the principal historical agents on the world stage since the 17th century. For this purpose, a nation-state is defined as any state whose authority is based upon the dominance of a majority nationality, or on a set of shared national principles, which basically includes almost all modern nations as we have known them for the last several centuries. In this conception, the idea of the nation-state originated with the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, when states and international relations were defined for the first time in terms of nationality, rather than, for example, religious mandate or divine kingship. Out of this fledgling sense of nation grew the very concept of having a "nationality" as we know it and take for granted to this day, with all its associated trappings such as "citizenship," "patriotism," "passports," "borders," or "minorities."

In the standard historical periodization of western historiography, the concept of the nation-state is closely related to the Modern Period, and is considered one of the defining traits of "Modernity." This naturally begs the question that, if the world is supposedly entering the "Postmodern" period, whither the nation-state? Indeed, it is not surprising that many scholars have already heralded the demise or impending demise of the nation-state. Thinkers such as Jacques Derrida and others have postulated that the single defining attribute of the nation-state is the exercise of absolute coercive authority over its constituent members. For Derrida, this means the implementation of the death penalty and the ability to institute compulsory military service, and indeed these two powers have been characteristics of all nation-states up until very recently.

In an age of truly multinational corporations, an increasingly integrated European Union, influential NGO's such as Amnesty International and Greenpeace, and international terrorist organizations such as al-Qaida, the nation-state does seem to be receding from, or at least being forced to share, the world stage where historical actors perform and historical agency is assessed. Nevertheless, most people on Earth continue to use nationality as one of the primary, if not in fact the principal, means of defining themselves as human beings. If the nation-state is dying as a concept, it is certainly a drawn-out death scene, and it will be interesting to see how people clinging to models based on the nation-state will interact with the growing power of transnational agents - the prime current example being George W. Bush declaring a "War on Terror" and attempting to act as if he is at war with another state when in fact he is dealing with an amorphous non-Westphalian enemy that conceivably requires a wholly new set of rules and relations.

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