Challenges to the State

  • Michael Keating


States and nations have been around in one form of another for a long time, but the nation-state as we know it is the product of the last two hundred years. Before this, the European political space was filled by empires, city states and overlapping forms of social, political, economic and religious authority. The nation-state represents a concentration of authority within territorial boundaries and the imposition of common values on the society. Its essence is the claim to sovereignty, that is to ultimate authority within a territory. The compound word nation-state implies an identity of nation, in the sense of that community which may claim the right to self-government, and the state, as a system of political action. Of course, it may be objected (Connor, 1978) that very few states are nationally homogeneous; most have within them groups with their own national aspirations. This may mean one of two things. It may mean that most states are ethnically heterogeneous; as argued earlier this does not prevent them being nations. Alternatively, it may mean that their are rival definitions of the primary unit of allegiance. In that case, the nation-state may be contested; it must defend its claims and seek to consolidate its legitimacy, or recognize the existence of multiple national identities.


Civil Society Welfare State National Identity European Central Bank National Interest 
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Copyright information

© Michael Keating 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Keating
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Western OntarioCanada

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