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Modern Nation States and Transnational Entities

The role, capacity and influence of nation state are increasingly being examined as influence of transnational entities increases. It is no longer a secret that the world is slowly becoming a global village. Globalization and advancement in information technology has led to increased interdependence between the many countries. Global problems such as environmental degradation and security have become relevant to people across borders. Issue such as global environment that would have only discussed by top officials from major countries are discussed with enthusiasm at low level of society in different countries. Enthusiasm towards region and global issues indicate development or new global human organization (Holton, 1998). Human society is dynamic as demonstrated by various changes in history of human existences. Initially there were traditional societies such as hunters and gathers and agrarian societies, which were less organized. These societies gave way to organized societies referred to as civil societies. Civil societies were motivated by common need and problems or need for cooperation between individuals. Before nation states there were other state systems that dominated the world. Among the most evident state systems were empires. Strong empires such Chinese and Roman empires had significant role is shaping the world. Empires had centralized power and had great influence on social economical activities of different people in the world. Between 8th and 14 Century, Feudalisms was the dominant system of society. The influence of these systems was widespread and some of its effects are still evident. Demise of this system gave way to political systems based of personalities such as kings and queens. Collapse of monarchies and subsequent wars gave way to nation- states. Although nation-state is the dominant system of human society in the present, it is evident this system is slowly giving way to transnational and global nation. In the paper, the characteristics of nation-state and transnational states will be discussed. The paper will further examine the effect of pursuing national or transnational agendas on power balance in the world.

Modern State-Nation

Nation-state refers to coming together of state and nation. It implies that nation and state coincide in the same geographical region referred to as a country. Understanding nation-state calls for differentiation between a state, a country and a nation. Although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, there is significant difference between them. Although there is slight difference, state and country can be used synonymously to refer self-governing political entities. Country however, mostly refers to particular geographical region where the State is situated. Nation, on the other hand, is significantly different from country and state (Chernilo, 2007). Nation refers to a group of people that are unified by common culture but do not necessarily have sovereignty (Holton, 1998). Nation strongly refers to self identity of particular group of people. It is characterized by n language, ethnicity customs and other many factors from which people are able to identify themselves. A major difference between a nation and state of nation is that nation is very dynamic entitle. From this definition, a nation can exist across border of countries or more than one nation existing in the same State.

Characteristic of nation state

Modern nation state started to shape in the 19th century. The nation states were as a result of war. They are post war entities that aimed at bringing self rule in various nations. Modern nation states share some characteristics that differentiate them from other state systems before them. Some of the characteristics of modern nation States include self rule, territory, organized government and population. Self rule or sovereignty means that nation states are not under rule of another country. Nation states rule themselves without interference by other countries. This implies that nation states are independent and cannot be a colony of another country. Before becoming a nation state, United States was a colony of the Great Britain. Gaining self rule through American Revolution allowed United States of America to become a nation state.

Modern nation states have organized government. The individuals that rule modern nation state obtain authority to do so from the people. This is in contrast to previous systems before such and monarchies where power to rule was hereditary. Modern nation states have structured way of governance (Chernilo, 2007). For example, US government is organized in three arms: executive, judiciary and legislature. As a democratic nation, there is a structured way through which an individual can rise to power. Although other nation states may not be organized as United States of American, they have some form or organized governments.

Nation state has a territory. A territory consists of the land and waters which are under the rule of the nation state. Territory of a nation state is well designated and internationally recognized. Apart from territory, a nation state must have a population. Population consists of the peoples who live in a nation state. The population may consist of people of different ethnicity but they should share the same nationhood. One nation state tries to distinguish itself from other nation states by promoting nationhood. It tries to establish common identity of its population. For example, nationhood is promoted by use of a nation flag, national anthem and other symbols of nationhood.

Modern nation states always make effort to maintain nation unity. For example, modern nation states have cultural policies that promote common culture. They also have policies on language and education systems. Modern nation states have been adopting inclusive and unifying policies. Despite of cultural diversity in some nation state, efforts have been taken to unify the people and create a common culture.

A good example of a State is Belgium. Belgium is made up of two nations and thus it cannot be referred to as a nation state (Holton, 1998). The two nations in Belgium are the Walloons and the Flemings. Belgium is an artificial state that was created from United Kingdom of the Netherlands. The difference between two nations in Belgium is evident. Flemish mainly speaks Dutch while the counterpart, the Walloon, speak French. In addition to difference in language, the two nations have significantly other different cultural orientations. Despite of two nations, Belgium is under the same government. Difference in the two nations is evident in political arena where major political parties have support from either of the two nations.

An example of a nation is the Kurds. The Kurds exists in various countries in the Middle East especially in Iraq, Turkey, Iran and Syria. The number of the Kurd is estimated to be above 26 million and they are often referred to as a nation without a state. The Kurds is a nation because of their shared culture and identity that is distinct to those of other people around them. Although the Kurds are distributed across borders of the countries in Middle East, they share common identity that unifies them. Kurdish nationhood developed with the fall of Ottoman Empire and has continued to unify the Kurd despite of various attempts to suppress it.

There are various countries that can stand as examples of a nation state. A good example could be Japan. Japan is among the oldest nation states in the world. Although there exist some minority ethnic groups, majority of Japanese have common origin and shared culture. Japanese have been living together as a nation for a long time to create a common culture. Japanese share common language, religion, history, custom and sense of identity. To make a nation state, the Japanese nation has self rule and designated territory.

United States as a Modern Nation State

Although United States of America is comprised of diverse people, is qualifies as a nation state. To be a nation state, United States of America must qualify as a nation and a state at the same time. It must satisfy qualities of a nation state such as sovereignty, have distinct territory, have common culture and be recognized by other countries.

United State is a sovereign county. The country gained independence from Great Britain through American Revolution. Since 4th July 1776, United Stated gained self rule. To exercise self rule, the US has organized democratic government. The government is categorized into three categories of executive, legislature and the judiciary. Each of government has distinct role but all work together in governance.

Fixed Territory

A Nation State has a fixed territory. Territory consists of the waters and land that are under the rule of a nation state. United States of America as a nation state has fixed territory. The territory of United States comprises of all fifty states and areas of ocean that surround it and recognized internationally as part of United States. The territory also included other areas such as Guam and Puerto Rico that are under United States. The territory of United States is under the rule of United States government while law of the land is enforced in this territory.

Common Culture

The population of United States shares a common culture: the American culture. Although people of United States are multicultural have different ethnic and cultural background, they have been able to develop a common culture that unify them. Common pre and post independence has led to a common culture that overshadows individual cultures. Element of nationhood has been encouraged in United State. For example, the pledge of allegiance is talk to every child at early age. National songs such as “America”, National flag and national anthem have contributed highly to growth in nationhood (Chernilo, 2007). National ideologies such as freedom and capitalism have also led to common identity and growth in nationhood.

Aims of United States Foreign Policy

Foreign policy is a guideline of relationship between governments and other countries. Foreign policy of many countries is mainly aimed at influencing conducts of other countries so that they can be favorable to a country. Since national governments are influenced by the views of the people who they rule, they try engaging in relationship with governments and non-governmental organizations in a manner that reflects the wishes of the people. Foreign policy of the United State is the principles through which United States uses to interact with other countries. Though foreign policy, United States sets standards through which it’s corporate, organization or individual citizen would interact with foreign countries. Because of its economic capacity, United States is very influential in the world and its foreign policy has great impact on other countries. The United States has specific goals that it aims at achieving through its foreign policy (Chernilo, 2007). The main objective is to promote secure, democratic and well-off world for its people as well as other people in the world. The foreign policy also aims at exporting control over issues that affect its people as the world. Some of the issues that take central position on US foreign policy include proliferation of nuclear material, fight against terrorism, and promotion of democratic principles. Establishing commercial relationship with foreign countries, safeguarding American business in foreign countries and protecting American working in foreign countries are also in its foreign policy.

European Union

European Union (EU) is slowly emerging as a transnational entity. EU has twenty seven members with additional more such as Turkey expected to join. A project that started shortly after World War II, The European Union could be said to be successful. The then European Economic Community, EU has been able to bring together many countries of Western Europe. Formation of a unifying entity in Europe developed as a result of 1st and 2nd World wars. The World wars left European countries divided. As big part of the wars were fought on Europe’s soil, the wars left very severe effect Europe’s economy. This led Europe to be overtaken economically by other emerging regions as the United States of American (Meyer, Boli, Thomas & Ramirez, 1997). Thus, formation of European Union was motivated by both economic and political regions. Economically, its formation was aimed helping Europe regain is position in global economy. Politically, formation of European Union aimed at unifying people in the region in order to avoid wars in the future. The union aims at increasing economic interdependence between member states so that it may be difficult for any member to engage in war. Among members of EU include United Kingdom, France, Italy and Germany.

One of the evidence of success of European Union is growth is successful creation of European Union Institutions. The institutions comprise of the Council, the Parliament and the commission. The institutions have both executive and legislative powers that influence the direction of the Union. The Council is the main decision organ of the Unions. This council is comprised of cabinet members from member states. EU parliament discusses and decides on various issues affecting the Union.

European Union has been successful in integrating people in the region. The union has been able to bring a lot of economic interdependence and is headed toward political integration member states. Adoption of a common currency has especially promoted the economic relation between members. Slowly a European identity is developing. Identifying with individual country reducing and being replaced a more broad unity.

With a population of over 500 million people and having a quarter of world’s GDP, influence of European Union is enormous. To relate with other nations which are not members, EU has adopted a common foreign policy. Through the foreign policy, members are able to speak with a common voice on issues affected its members and the world (European Committee, 2007). For example, EU is playing an important diplomatic role in crisis in the Middle East. The council also responds to humanitarian issues affecting various parts of the world. One of the objectives of EU foreign policy is to establish a policy on how to participate is foreign trade. It foreign policy also aims at providing guideline on how to provide financial and technical assistance to needy countries. Above all, EU is committed to promoting economical, health and educational reform and promotes democratic principles.


Development of transnational entities is likely to influence balance of power in the world. Transnational entities will influence political influence of nation state and may soon the major determinant of global issues. Success of European Unions has motivated possible integrations in other regions. Unlike nation states, transnational entities engage in foreign policy in a different way. For example EU foreign policy uses soft power (European Committee, 2007). The union does not in any way, try to impose its agendas on other countries but at the same time it does not refrain from global issues. The union is committed to establishing good relationship with other country in the world in order to avoid new divisions after it has been able to unify Europe. Its approach is that which promote economic development and stability. Foreign policy is mainly based on diplomacy. EU represents 27 member countries whose opinion over foreign issues could be different. Opinion of member countries is made known through the Council and legislature and presented to foreign countries through diplomatic means. In comparison, nation states have direct foreign policy with other counties. For example, in the US representatives of the government such as the president can sign treaties with other nations. Although diplomacy is used is uses by US in foreign relationship, power politics is also used. Use of military is also evident. This is different from foreign policy in transnational entities where thorough consultation is conducted and power politics avoided.


  1. Chernilo, D. (2007). A social theory of the nation-state: the political form of modernity beyond methodological nationalism. New York: Routledge.
  2. European Committee (2007). The EU in the world: The foreign policy of the European Union.
  3. Holton, R. (1998). Globalization and nation-state. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
  4. Meyer, J., Boli, J., Thomas, G., & Ramirez, F. (1997). World Society and the Nation-State. American Journal of Sociology, 103(1): 144-81.
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