Nations & States

In politics, individuals normally act in connection with social groupings. The political world has been divided in terms of ‘we versus ‘they’, the latter being referred to as barbarians, outsiders or more often, ‘the ‘enemy’.

Most of us belong to groups which reflect our work, political views, religious beliefs and life styles. But there is one group that pervades all others ‘the nation-state.

National stereotypes are powerful images and their use can induce emotional and physiological reactions, such as the primordial ‘fight or flight’ syndrome. An investigation of nationalism, both as a pattern of learned group behaviour and as a political institution called the nation-state, is fundamental to an understanding of global politics.

The terms nation and state are quite distinct conceptually, yet they are often used interchangeably. The nation is a concept denoting a common ethnic and cultural identity shared by a single people; the state is a political unit defined in terms of the territory, population and an autonomous government that exercises effective control of territory and its inhabitants.

The state provides a basis for political and legal jurisdiction whereas the nation promotes an emotional relationship through which the individual gains a sense of cultural identity. Therefore, the term nation-state has been used by social scientists to denote the gradual fusion that may occur between cultural and political boundaries.

Nationalism is a perceived identity of oneself with a territorially organized political collectivity such as Pakistan, the USA and other countries. The psychological need to define oneself in terms of membership in a given community is at the root of nationalist sentiment.

The hallmarks of nationalism are a sense of territoriality manifested in a love of one’s homeland, a language, a narrative history and the perpetuation from generation to generation of the fear of the ‘enemy’ whose real or imagined hostility threatens the security of the nation-state.

National self-determination is the idealistic belief that the cause of peace would be well served if each nation were able to choose its own political destiny. In 1918, US President Wilson announced 14 points which provided the basis to an end to World War I. Point 10 was a guarantee to the nations of the Austro-Hungarian Empire that they would be given opportunity for autonomous political development. Subsequent generations have echoed the same demand for other nations, and Article 1(2) of the UN Charter commits the world organizations to respect the ‘self-determination of peoples’.

The end of 1980s, and early 1990s, witnessed dramatic transformations that shook the world radically. The emergence of new nation-states from the remnants of the Soviet Union and the Balkans together with the sudden eruptions of several ethnic conflicts within these new states and elsewhere in the world, pushed forward the discussion of troubled concepts including sovereignty and related concepts such as people, nation, self-determination, which are organically linked to the concept of nation-state.

The concepts of sovereignty and self-determination can be traced back to the early Greeks. However, the emergence of the monotheistic religions had great impact on these concepts. This emergence of religions united the people of a single religion and gave them a distinct identity.

During the Middle Ages, the schism between the King and the Church widened. The King emerged more powerful from that schism and the more the King gained power from the Church the less the King was restrained by moral scruples. The people were then divided on the basis of the rules of the Kings. They used to separate themselves from others on the basis of their Kings’ names.

 In 1918, US President Wilson announced 14 points which provided the basis to an end to World War I. democratization, have often been compared in magnitude with the 1989 anti-communist revolutions in Eastern Europe.
 During the 16th and the 17th centuries, the common people were opposed by the Kings’ levies and robbed of their land by the barons. Since the common people didn’t have powerful leaders of the same rank due to the feudal structure of the society, most of their support came from the poets and philosophers.
However the evolution of the nation-states, in the present conception, can be categorized in four different phases, named as; First Wave, Second Wave, Third Wave and Fourth Wave.

First Wave: This wave occurred during the time between the French Revolution (1789) and World War I, when nation-states emerged due to the influence of the Revolution’s ideas.

This period of Enlightenment emphasized the individual, produced such optimistic philosophers as Leibniz, Voltaire and, of course, Rousseau whose masterpiece, “Social Contact” had great influence on the French Revolution.

Second Wave: The second wave was seen between First and Second World Wars, when history witnessed the disintegration of the defeated European empires into new nation-states. The result of WWI brought about the emergence of 262 new states in Europe. The Second Wave of emergence of nation states had resulted in the enlargement of the nation-states formed in the nineteenth century, in terms of population and territory.

Third Wave: The third wave occurred during the Cold War era, more precisely between the end of World War II and the late 1980s. It was the anti-colonial movement that led to the emergence of the new nation states.

Fourth Wave: This wave is still alive. It started soon after the end of the Cold War through the disintegration of the Socialist bloc and the emergence of new nation states in central Asia and the Balkans.

The number of nation-states may increase and it’s really important that in the international sociopolitical scenario, all the nation-states must have their due rights whether they are small or large.


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