What are the Essential Elements of a Model State?

The modern state is constituted of the following four Constituent elements:

(1) Population or the number of people.

(2) Fixed Territory or a definite place of residence.

(3) Government or an organisation for uniting the people.

(4) Sovereignty or supremacy in internal matters and independence of external control.


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Of these four constituent elements of the modern state, the first two are physical elements, the third is political and the fourth is spiritual.

Now we shall examine these four essential elements of the modern state one by one:

(1) Population:

There is no denying the fact that the state is a human institution and is the highest of all human associations. Obviously, there can be no state without human beings. A population of some kind is necessary for the existence of the State. No State can exist in an uninhabited land nor can a definite piece of land without human habitation be called a state. The State, being a human institution, can never exist without human beings. Nor can living beings other than human constitute the State.


A desert without human habitation or a wasteland can never be called a modern state nor can there be state of animals and beasts. Leacock has rightly pointed out, “It goes without saying that an uninhabited portion of the earth, taken in itself, cannot form the State. This does not mean that the State must consist of a certain number of human beings nor can there be a state if there is no population other than a single family. It is true that a family may be the centre round which the State grows but the State cannot exist in the absence of a number of families.

And at the same time it is impossible to fix a definite number of men for a state. Indeed, there cannot be a lower or upper limit for the number of citizens of a state, nor can a dozen of people or so living in definite place form a state. Their number should neither be too small to be self-sufficient nor too large to be well- governed.

What should be the desirable number of the people and what should be the suitable size of population for an ideal state are the problems with which a number of political thinkers attempted to deal. For example, Plato, the famous Greek Philosopher fixed the number at 5,050 citizens, whereas his disciple— Aristotle—was not willing to be bound by any set figure.

He was clearly of the opinion that there ought to be a limit and he laid down the general principle that “the number should be neither too small nor too large; it should be large enough to be self-sufficient and small enough to be well-governed.” He believed that ten persons would be too small a figure but a hundred thousand would be too large a figure to be well-governed. Both were the extremes. He struck a via media between too small a figure and too large a number.


While giving his opinion in this regard Aristotle had in his view the city-states of Greece which, according to him, were self-sufficient and well-governed. These city-states of Greece had a very small size of population and direct democracy was popular in these city-states.

The voters or the citizens used to go to the Assembly Hall and pass the laws. In a populous city-state direct democracy could not function. This is the reason why Aristotle had not recommended too large a number of people to be well-governed.

Many centuries after Aristotle, Rousseau the French Philosopher who belonged to eighteenth century when the populous states existed wrote his famous book “Social Contract”, published in 1762, that ten thousand should be the ideal figure of population for an ideal state. According to modern scholars, it is well-nigh impossible to fix a definite figure of population of a modern state. These days there are many states, the figure of which can be counted in crores.

According to the U. S. Census Dept. the world population stood 4,721.887.000 in June 1983, in mid-June, 1983 the population of some big countries stood as follows:

(1) China – 1.059.802.200

(2) India – 730,572,000

(3) Soviet Union – 27,308,000

(4) U.S.A. – 234,193,000

(5) Indonesia – 160.932,000

On the other hand, there are small states like San Marino. The population of San Marino was twenty-three thousand only in 1985. It does not go beyond five figures. Thus, it is quite clear that the states of today vary greatly in respect of population. “The nearest approach to a safe rule”, says Dr. Garner, “is to say that population must be sufficient to provide a governing body and a number of-persons to be governed and. of course, sufficient to support a state organisation”.

The modern state gives preference to the big size of population because bigger the size of population, greater will be its manpower. They can fight for a bit longer period of time during the war period. This is the reason why in Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy gifts or bounties were given to the mothers of many children.

Such mothers were called Heroine Mothers. Impetus was given to the same tendency in Russia and France. But when we look at this problem from a different angle, we draw different conclusions. The size of population is no criterion of statehood.

For example, both Monaco and Russia possess the stature of statehood although there is a great difference in the size of their population. Increase or decrease in population makes no difference in its stature of statehood. Aristotle has rightly remarked that a good citizen makes a good state and a bad citizen a bad state. Good citizens are the health of the state. No particular figure can be fixed for the size of population of an ideal state. The only suggestion that can be given is that the size of the population of a state should be in agreement with its resources.

(2) Territory:

The second essential constituent of the State is territory which is as important and essential a constituent of the state as many other. The word territory “covers the surface of the land within well-defined boundaries, the sub-soil, lakes and rivers and also air space above the land. Jellinck believes that none of the definitions of the state given prior to nineteenth century mentioned territory as an essential element. He remarks that Lever in 1817 was the first writer to define the state as a society of citizens “having a determinate territory”.

All the modern thinkers and writers are of the opinion that territory forms an essential element of the State. Bluntschli believes that “as the state has its personal basis in the people, so it has its material basis in the land. The people do not become state until they have acquired a territory”. Owing to ‘his reason, the state is different from other human institutions. Territory is one of the basic requirements of the state whereas other human institutions do not indispensably require territory. The state operates on national basis whereas other human institutions may operate on international basis also.

“The co-existence of two or more states on the same territory would”, remarks Jellinck, produce a continual state of war by reason of the conflicts of interests and jurisdiction”. But exceptions are there. For example, a joint sovereign had been exercising its supremacy over Schleswing-Holstein, (Germany), Austria, Prussia (formerly a State in Germany) from 1864 to 1868.

Austria and Hungary had been exercising their sovereignty over Harzigonia and Bosania. After the First World War (I9I4-I9I8) the English and the French had been exercising their joint sovereignty over Sudan. Leaving these exceptions aside, a state exercises its sovereignty over its definite territory.

The foregoing discussion makes it very clear that territory is one of the four essential elements of the State. Without territory a modem state cannot exist. For example, the Jews could not form a state until they definitely settled in Palestine.

The Huns of Attila, in spite of their prowess and their leadership, broke up because they had no fixed territory. Nomadic tribes, wandering from one part of the country to the other, could not from a state. Some European scholars also believe, rightly or wrongly, that the Aryans at one time were wandering in different directions from their native land situated somewhere in central Asia. During their wandering they could not form their state.

These days’ states exist with areas varying from eight square miles, as Monaco, to about nine million square miles as Russia. Small States have advantages and disadvantages. The advantage of the small states is that they remain compact and well-governed. But at the same time they are at a great disadvantage as in the matters of defence and natural resources. But no principle can be laid down for determining the size of a state. Size is no index of greatness.

For example, Tzarist Russia ruled by depots remained in the background in international politics, while Great Britain in spite of its small size could become a world power in the 19th and 1st half of 20th century. But the modem age is definitely of large territorial states because a large state can mobilise all its resources for the economic and social welfare and defence.

Large states try to dominate the small states. For example, Hitler trampled Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland and Belgium in no time. Japan with its great military might during the 2nd World War conquered many small states of South East Asia. Recent opinion, therefore, is invariably in favour of bigger States.

(3) Government:

The third essential constituent of the State is the government. Like other essential constituents of the State the government is also indispensable element of the State because no state can exist in the absence of the government. For the existence of a State, Government is indispensable.

An aggregation of people permanently settled in a fixed territory cannot constitute a state in the absence of the government. Government is the political organisation through which the collective will of the people is formulated, expressed and executed. As a matter of fact, the state operates through the governmental machinery.

It is the agency through which society is politically organised, common policies are determined and by which common affairs are regulated and common interests are promoted. In the absence of the government an aggregation of people, permanently settled in a fixed territory, would be incoherent, un-organised, anarchic mass with no means of collective action.

No particular type of government is essential. It may vary in kind and complexity. It is the only political organisation, namely, the government that makes an attempt to see whether the essential relationship between command and obedience has been well-established.

The government functions through its three agencies, i.e., the Executive, the legislature, the Judiciary. The Executive rules over the country and enforces the laws. The Legislature passes the laws over the country and enforces the laws.

The Executive passes the laws which are interpreted by the Judiciary. Those who violate the laws are given punishment by the government. If the two governments are formed in a country, the country is divided into two states.

As has already been stated no particular type of government can be recommended as essential. It varies in kind and complexity from nation to nation. Democracy is popular in India, Japan, England, Southern Ireland, America, Canada, New Zealand, France, Western Germany, Italy etc.

The dictatorship of Communist parties is popular in communist countries like Russia, China, Finland, Hungary, East Germany and Poland. Some years ago military coups were staged in Brazil, Sudan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Bangla Desh, Argentina, Chile, Afghanistan, Panama, Dahomey and military governments were formed there.

Monarchy is popular in Nepal, Saudi Arabia, England, Spain, Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark. Even in the countries where Democracy is popular the types of the government differ. Parliamentary government is functioning in some countries while in other Presidential government is running. For example, Presidential government is popular in United States of America, Lanka and some other countries of Latin America whereas in India Parliamentary government is popular.

Thus, it is quite clear that no particular type of government can be recommended as essential element for the existence of a modern state. At the same time, it is also true that the governments may vary in their kind and complexity but in the absence of the government, no state can afford to exist.

(4) Sovereignty:

The 4th essential constituent of the State is Sovereignty which is regarded as the life and soul of the State. There can be no state in absence of Sovereignty. The term Sovereignty has been derived from the Latin word “Superanus” which means supreme. Sovereignty, therefore, is the supreme element of statehood.

It is this power which differentiates the state from all other social organisations. Other existing social organisations can claim a number of people with separate territory and a governmental organisation that the state is the only human institution that has all the essential elements including Sovereignty.

Broadly speaking, Sovereignty means supremacy of the State. The State rules supreme in the internal and external matters. The Sovereignty of the State is expressed through the government which rules supreme in internal and external matters. Since the State is supreme in internal and external sovereignty.

Sovereignty is of two types- internal sovereignty and external sovereignty. External sovereignty means the authority of some other country ruling supreme in the country. For example before 1947, India was under the control of Britain and Britain was the State which exercised its Sovereignty over India.

Therefore, India was not a stale. Since Dr. Keith has regarded the dominions as Sovereign States, therefore, dominions like Canada, New Zealand and Australia, etc. are also formally dependent on Great Britain because the nomination of their Governor-Generals was made with the kind consent of the Queen of Britain.

The foreign policy of these dominions is still influenced by the British Foreign policy yet they are free enough to determine their independent foreign policy. For example, Sri Lanka determined its own foreign policy when it was a dominion.

Internal Sovereignty means that the State is supreme in all the internal matters. It exercises its supremacy overall the institutions and people of the State. No other State can be permitted to exercise its authority over the institutions and the people of the State.

Every government rules supreme in its State and all the institutions of- the State and all people living in its State have to obey the commands of the government. Two independent governments cannot function in a state and if the two governments function in a state, the state is divided into two.

In the Federal Government the power is divided between the Centre and the provinces but Sovereignty does not suffer in this case. In such a government, power is divided between the Centre and the provinces in accordance with the Constitution. In this way the government runs smoothly and sovereignty remains an indispensable element of the State. The State cannot exist without sovereignty.

According to Professor W.W. Willoughby the necessity of the essential elements other than the four dealt in detail above, depends upon the public will. If the public is not willing to obey the commands of the State, it cannot become a State although it has all the four essential elements of the State.

Every State, therefore, must have its population, a fixed territory, a duly established government and its sovereignty. In the absence of any of these elements it fails to claim the status of statehood. And above all, it should command the will of the public to obey its authority.

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