9 Major Difference between State and Nation – Explained!

Some of the major difference between state and nation are as follows:

1. The elements of State and Nation are different:

The State has four elements—population, territory, government, and sovereignty. In the absence of even me element, a State cannot be really a State.

On the contrary, a nation is a group of people who wield a sense of unity and common consciousness.

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Common territory, common race, common religion, common language, common history, common culture, common political aspirations are the elements which help the formation of a nation, and yet none of these is an absolutely essential element. The elements which go to build a nation keep on changing. These do not remain the same forever.

2. State is a Political Organisation while Nation is a Human Unity:

The State is a political organisation which fulfills the security and welfare needs of its people. In concerns man’s external actions, and is a legal entity. On the other hand, a Nation i- a united unit of population which is full of emotional, spiritual and psychological bonds. A nation has little to do with the physical needs of the people.

3. Definite Territory is essential for the State but not for Nation:


It is essential for the State to possess a fixed territory. It is the physical element of the State. State is a territorial entity. But for a nation territory is not an essential requirement. A nation can survive even without a fixed territory. For example, before 1948 the Jews were a nation even though they had no fixed territory of their own. When, in 1948, they secured p definite and defined territory, they established the State of Israel.

4. Sovereignty is the essential element of State but not of a Nation:

Sovereignty is an essential element of the State. It is the soul of the State. In the absence of sovereignty, the State loses its existence. It is the element of sovereignty which makes the state different from all other associations of the people. It is not essential for a nation to possess sovereignty.

The basic requirement of a nation is the strong bonds of emotional unity among its people which arise due to common social cultural elements. Before 1947, India was a nation but not a State because it did not have sovereignty. (State = Nation + Sovereignty) After her independence in 1947, India became a State because it got sovereignty after the end of British imperial rule.


5. Nation can be wider than the State:

The State is limited to a fixed territory. Its boundaries can increase or decrease but in a difficult way. However a nation may or may not be bounded within a fixed territory. Nation is a community based on common language or common race. Obviously its boundaries can easily extend beyond the boundaries of the State.For example. In a way the French nation extends even to Belgium, Switzerland and Italy because people in these countries belong to the same race to which the French claim to belong.

6. A State can be a multi-nation State:

There can be two or more than two nations within a single State. Before the First World War, Austria and Hungary were one State but two different nations.

7. Nation is more stable than State:

A nation is more stable than the State. When sovereignty ends, the State dies, but not the nation. A nation can survive even without sovereignty. For example, after their defeat in the World War II, both Germany and Japan lost their respective sovereignty and outside powers began to control them. They ceased to exist as States. But as nations they continued to live.

8. A State can be created while a Nation is always the result of evolution:

A State can be created with conscious endeavors of the people, and physical elements play an important role in the birth of a State. For example, after the Second World War. Germany was divided into two separate states—West Germany and East Germany. But they remained emotionally one and ultimately in Oct., 1990 again got united into a single state. In 1947 Pakistan was created out of India as a separate State. A nation is a unity of the people which emerges slowly and steadily. No special efforts go into the making of a nation.

9. The State uses police power while the Nation is bound by a moral and spiritual force:

State has police power. Those who dare to disobey it are punished A nation does not have police power. It is backed by moral, emotional and spiritual power. A nation survives on the power of emotional bonds of the people. A nation appeals, the State orders; a nation persuades, a States coerces; a nation boycotts, the State punishes.

State is a political organisation, while the nation is a spiritual unity. The state and nation do not have the same boundaries, and yet there is a tendency today for a nation and state to be one. Most of the nations today stand organised into different states. The principle ‘each nation a state’ is upheld by almost all. However, most of the modern States are multinational States.

The modern state is called a Nation-State because all the nations (nationalities) living in one state stand integrated into one nation A state continuously pursues the goal of national-integration. It tries to secure this objective by securing a national and willing blending of the majority nationality and all the minority nationalities through collective living, sharing of all the ups and the downs in common, and development of strong emotional, spiritual and psychological bonds Unity in diversity, more really, unity in plurality stands accepted as the guiding principle by all the modern civilised multinational states like India, USA, Switzerland, Russia, China, Britain and others.

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