Unit 2 Study Guide: The Nation-State

2a: Identify the origins of the modern nation state system.

    • Who were the primary antagonists in the Thirty Years War?
    • Describe how the Treaty of Westphalia offered Europe a guiding structure in 1648.
    • How did this treaty represent a response to the universalist claims to the Holy Roman Empire?
    • What did the acceptance of this treaty do for religious preference in each nation-state?
    • Explain how religious influence led to the establishment of the modern state system.

Certain codified elements have contributed to the creation of a new international structures. In the case of the modern state system, political scientists identify contributions originating back in 1648, with the signing of the Treaty of Westphalia which called for an end to the Thirty Years War, and provided a guiding structure for Europe from that point forward. Each state typically has its own religious preference.

Review International Law and the New World Order: Redefining Sovereignty by Thomas W. McShane, and the lecture The Sovereign State: Hobbes' Leviathan, Part I by Stephen Smith. Pay close attention to the material between timestamp 5:30 and 7:30.



2b: Define the chief characteristics of a nation state.

    • Define nation and nation-state.
    • Name two characteristics required of a state to be a nation-state.
    • Can states be separate from nations?

While states can comprise a geographical area that includes multiple nations, not every nation is a state. For example, we consider the Kurds who live in parts of Turkey, northern Iraq, and northern Syria to be the largest nation without a formal state. Consequently, several nations may exist within a political state, whose borders may have been drawn for political reasons, such as, by an outside colonial power in the case of Iraq and so many other countries. The allegiance inhabitants have to the political state can vary widely and play a dramatic role in the country's internal politics.

Review Characteristics and Functions of the State from Boundless.

Review examples of how nations were divided for political reasons after World War I in the three videos The Breakup of the Ottoman Empire, Arabia after World War I, and Sykes Picot Agreement and the Balfour from Khan Academy.



2c: Differentiate between nations and nation-states.

    • Explain the difference between a nation and nation-state.
    • Can a nation exist that is not a state?
    • Name some examples of nations that exist in the modern era.

While, many people use the terms nation and nation state interchangeably, the differences between these two concepts can have important political consequences. For example, many nations can exist inside, outside, and across the political borders that outline different nation-states. The people who feel an allegiance to the different nations within can significantly impact internal politics as they vie for political power, especially if the borders include several competing nations that have strong ties that bind the individual members of their population together.

Review Characteristics and Functions of the State from Boundless.

Review examples of how nations were divided for political reasons after World War I in the three videos The Breakup of the Ottoman Empire, Arabia after World War I, and Sykes Picot Agreement and the Balfour from Khan Academy.



2d: Define sovereignty and identify and explain trends in sovereignty.

    • Define sovereignty in its original context and apply it to a modern context.
    • What does sovereignty mean to individual political entities?
    • How have international organizations changed the way we view sovereignty in the modern state system?

The idea of sovereignty is one of the most important components of the modern state system. It refers to the reciprocal deference governments give to other states to manage their own respective internal affairs: most of us believe every state should have this right. Before this general understanding, governments flagrantly ignored these political boundaries. Our formal recognition of state sovereignty is critical to the modern state system.

Review Characteristics and Functions of the State from Boundless and The State of the State—Sovereignty in the New Millennium, on page 40 of International Law and the New World Order: Redefining Sovereignty.



2e: Identify characteristics of a strong and weak state.

    • Define political power.
    • Define democracy, oligarchy, monarchy, theocracy, dictatorship, authoritarian, and totalitarian.
    • Name some ways institutions in different forms of governments demonstrate their political power. For example, how do governments use their political power to affect how citizens perform their day-to-day activities—to make their lives easier or more difficult.
    • Name some examples countries that exhibit these seven forms of government in the modern era.

When we consider the strength or weakness of a state, we usually think about its relative military power. However, in comparative politics we focus on the state's internal political makeup. Rather than concentrate on military strength or the size of the economy, we examine how the government exercises power over its citizens.

Review these definitions and explanations in:



2f: Explain how Hobbes and Weber conceptualize the state.

    • Define Thomas Hobbes' concept of the state of nature.
    • Describe how Hobbes’ views about individuality, free will, and the state of nature influence the role of the state.
    • Define Max Weber's three types of legitimate state domination: rational-legal authority, traditional authority, and charismatic authority.
    • Describe how Weber’s views about different types of authority relate to the three fundamental functions the state offers its citizens.

Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679), the English philosopher, focused on the individual, who will act with fear and violence to protect their self-interests in the face of conflict and insecurity. Hobbes believed we are wise to fear and distrust the human state of nature, which is unleashed whenever authority is not enforced.

Consequently, citizens agree to enter into a social contract with their government: they agree to submit to sovereign authority in exchange for protection against this human state of nature, which they know others will unleash against them if given the opportunity. We protect peace and life (the most precious good) by creating a sovereign authority to enforce the moral order.

Max Weber (1864–1920), the German sociologist, identified three types of legitimate state domination: rational-legal authority, traditional authority, and charismatic authority. Weber believed the state has three fundamental roles: to create an administrative and legal order, impart binding authority over its citizens, and to establish a monopoly of legitimate physical force over its citizens.

Review the video The Sovereign State: Hobbes' Leviathan, Part II by Steven Smith at Yale University.

Review the views of Max Weber in the section, Politics, Power, and Authority from Boundless Sociology and the article Politics as a Vocation by Brad Rathe.



2g: Differentiate between authoritarian and totalitarian states.

    • Define an authoritarian and totalitarian state and explain the difference between these two forms of government.
    • How do state institutions function in each system? Is state control partial or absolute?
    • Identity some freedoms citizens might enjoy in these two forms of government.
    • Why do the citizens who live in authoritarian or totalitarian states follow the rules their leaders impose?
    • Name some examples of authoritarian and totalitarian states in the modern era.

Authoritarian and totalitarian governments present a continuum or sliding scale: whereby government leaders exert varying levels of control over their citizens, businesses, organizations, and state institutions. In an authoritarian state some freedoms still exist, but in a totalitarian state government leaders dominate every aspect of society and civil discourse.

Review these definitions and explanations in:



Unit 2 Vocabulary

      • 30 Years War
      • Authoritarian state
      • Charismatic authority
      • Democracy
      • Dictatorship
      • Max Weber
      • Modern state system
      • Monarchy
      • Monopoly
      • Nation
      • Nation-state
      • Oligarchy
      • Political power
      • Rational legal authority
      • Religion
      • Social policy
      • Sovereignty
      • State
      • Theocracy
      • Thomas Hobbes
      • Totalitarian state
      • Traditional authority
      • Treaty
      • Treaty of Westphalia
      • Universalist
Last modified: Wednesday, July 17, 2019, 7:03 PM