State (polity)

  • the frontispiece of thomas hobbes' leviathan

    a state is a polity that is typically established as a centralized organisation. there is no undisputed definition of a state.[1][2] max weber's definition of a state as a polity that maintains a monopoly on the use of violence is widely used, as are many others.[3][4]

    some states are sovereign, while other states are subject to external sovereignty or hegemony, where supreme authority lies in another state.[5] the term "state" also applies to federated states that are members of a federation, in which sovereignty is shared between member states and a federal body.

    speakers of american english often use the terms "state" and "government" as synonyms, with both words referring to an organized political group that exercises authority over a particular territory. in british and commonwealth english, "state" is the only term that has that meaning, while "the government" instead refers to the ministers and officials who set the political policy for the territory, something that speakers of american english refer to as "the administration".

    many human societies have been governed by states for millennia; however, for most of prehistory people lived in stateless societies. the first states arose about 5,500 years ago in conjunction with rapid growth of cities, invention of writing and codification of new forms of religion. over time, a variety of different forms developed, employing a variety of justifications for their existence (such as divine right, the theory of the social contract, etc.). today, the modern nation state is the predominant form of state to which people are subject.

  • etymology
  • definition
  • theories of state function
  • theories of state legitimacy
  • history
  • weak states and late state formation
  • see also
  • references
  • further reading
  • external links

The frontispiece of Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan

A state is a polity that is typically established as a centralized organisation. There is no undisputed definition of a state.[1][2] Max Weber's definition of a state as a polity that maintains a monopoly on the use of violence is widely used, as are many others.[3][4]

Some states are sovereign, while other states are subject to external sovereignty or hegemony, where supreme authority lies in another state.[5] The term "state" also applies to federated states that are members of a federation, in which sovereignty is shared between member states and a federal body.

Speakers of American English often use the terms "state" and "government" as synonyms, with both words referring to an organized political group that exercises authority over a particular territory. In British and Commonwealth English, "state" is the only term that has that meaning, while "the government" instead refers to the ministers and officials who set the political policy for the territory, something that speakers of American English refer to as "the administration".

Many human societies have been governed by states for millennia; however, for most of prehistory people lived in stateless societies. The first states arose about 5,500 years ago in conjunction with rapid growth of cities, invention of writing and codification of new forms of religion. Over time, a variety of different forms developed, employing a variety of justifications for their existence (such as divine right, the theory of the social contract, etc.). Today, the modern nation state is the predominant form of state to which people are subject.