Difference between state and nation

The main difference between State and nation is that the first refers to the political organization of a certain territory, while the second, the nation, refers to the set of people that make up that same territory.

Difference between state and nation

These two concepts can be very confusing, seem similar, and lead to misunderstanding. In fact, on many occasions we hear them and they are used as synonyms. For this reason, it is convenient to point out the differences between them.

But, beforehand, we must define and point out the characteristics of each of the two concepts. Let’s see!

What is a state?

A State is a form of political organization that has administrative and sovereign power over a certain geographical area. Therefore, it has the ability to dictate laws and rules that are mandatory for the rest of the citizenry.

In the States, whose democracy is moderately solid, it cannot ignore the legality that it itself has dictated, although it is configured as a superior organization.

The State has three constitutive elements, inherent to it: population, territory and Government.

Characteristics of a State

A State generally has the following characteristics:

  • It is timeless.
  • It is a political and administrative organization.
  • It is built on a certain population and territory.
  • The Government is in charge of its direction.
  • It is a subject of law and has national and international rights and obligations.
  • It has three powers: legislative, executive and judicial.

What is a nation?

A nation, for its part, is a group of people who share a series of common elements, such as history, language, territory, culture or ethnicity. Generally they are grouped forming a State or region, thus representing their sovereignty.

Political science has or has two definitions of nation, depending on how it was composed. French tradition dictates that the nation is made up of all those people who express the intention of living in the same community, even if they have differences. On the other hand, the German tradition does affirm that the nation is the group of people who share numerous characteristics, although they are not aware of it.

It is also necessary to define what the cultural nation is.

In this sense, we are talking about when a State has been built by the union of people who have these characteristics and shared feelings. As examples we have the nationalist movements, which have created states or have achieved independence from others.

Main differences between state and nation

The main difference between both concepts is, therefore, that when we speak of the State, we are referring to the whole of a country, but from the political, organizational and institutional point of view. We refer to the political content of it.

However, when we speak of a nation, we refer to people, to the "soul" that makes up said organizational structure. The nation is defined as a group of individuals who share traditions, culture, language, or history. Although it can also be made up of people who do not share these attributes, but express their will to live together.

Other differences would be the following:

  • States create laws and rules that are mandatory, nations do not, although they have unwritten traditions, customs and rules.
  • Not all nations have a state. They can form other territorial entities, such as communities, regions or villages.
  • The State is based on one or several nations, the nation does not have to be articulated in a State.
  • The state is a political concept, while the nation is historical and sociological.
  • States are artificial constructions, while nations that follow the French tradition are not.