The modern Nation-State is usually defined as a political entity, the “state”, having a geographical coincidence, with a cultural, or ethnic, entity, the “nation” (Nation State, 2011). Our Geography text defines this simply as “a state ruling over territory containing all of the people of a nation” (Bergman, 2008). While our Social Science text defines it as “the nation is a culture group residing within the territory of a political state” (Perry, 2009). In nation-states, there are also usually a very low percentage of outsiders, or foreigners, as part of the country’s permanent population. There is usually an easily defined, as well as well established, border to the geographical area a nation-state occupies. This can be broken down into the common characteristics of self-rule, organized government, territory, and population.
The concept of self-rule implies that a nation rules itself. A self-ruling nation could not be a colony of another country or nation and must be independent. Self-rule is accomplished by the creation and function of organized government.
Territory is the physical area governed by the nation-state. Usually this is well defined by the use of natural borders such as rivers, mountains or coastal areas. The territory of a nation-state will expand though into any colonies it occupies as well.
Population refers to the people of the nation-state. These people are all of the same nationality, but may have different ethnicity and cultural backgrounds if unified under another means or concept.
To expand upon a nation, the cultural and/or ethnic entity, this would usually be a group of people who desire to rule themselves. Commonly these people have a deep connection such as their history or origin, and their language. Also, these people will usually inhabit the same geographical territory. A common example of a nation would be the Palestinians. This is a group of people with a common heritage that are trying to occupy a specific geographical location. They are also drawn together by their common conflict with Israel.
A state is made up of the physical, or geographical, territory that a government or a unified people occupy. This would be a political government, or ruling body. A state on its’ own has no specifics in relation to ethnicity or culture. A good example of the modern nation would be Switzerland. There is a large ethnic diversity among the people of this country and can be broken down into 4 main groups, German, French, Italian, and Romanian. Not bound together by language or ethnicity, the Swiss are united instead by their common values of neutrality, federalism, and democracy.
It is when the state concept of a central government is combined with the concept of an ethnic nation and the common heritage that accompanies that nation that we form the modern nation-state. An example of the modern nation-state is Japan. This island-country is made up almost entirely of the Japanese people. There are only very small minority populations. What minorities do exist are made up of either a very small population or there is only minor cultural differences between them and the primary Japanese people. The fact that it is an island cleanly covers the concept of “fixed territory”.
The United States is a modern nation-state based on several of the above criteria. The U.S. has well defined territory with stable borders. There is also stable self-rule or sovereignty made up of a well-defined political system. Lastly, while there the ethnic background of Americans is very diverse, there is the basic concept of Americanism that binds the people together under a common culture.
The fixed territory of the U.S. can be seen in that we have stable borders and good relations with our neighbor countries. Borders are well established and usually follow a natural divisor. This can be seen with the East and West borders of the U.S. being the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and our Southern border with Mexico