Difference between Nation and State

As remarked in the beginning of this chapter, there is a great looseness in the use of words Nation, Nationality and State. Some writers use the word nation in the sense of nationality, while others identify it with the state. Above we have explained both the terms nation and nationality. The term state has been explained in an earlier chapter. According to Bryce, a nation "is a nationality which has organised itself into a political body either independent or desiring to be independent." The state is a territorially organised people. Thus the points of difference between nation, state and nationality are,

  • Nationality is a group of people who feel their uniqueness and oneness which they are keen to maintain; if this group of people happen to organise themselves on a particular territory and desire independence or are independent, they form a nation state. The members of a state may belong to different nationalities.
  • Nationality is subjective, Statehood is objective.
  • Nationality is psychological, Statehood is political. 
  • Nationality is a condition of mind, Statehood is a condition in law.
  • Nationality is a spiritual possession, Statehood is. an enforceable obligation.
Sovereignty, it may again be emphasized is an essential element of state but not of nation. Nation signifies consciousness of unity prompted by psychological and spiritual feelings which may or may not be sovereign. The physical element of sovereignty is not as important as the psychological element of the feeling of oneness.


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