In the social sciences, the state is defined as a set of institutions that possess the authority to make the laws which govern people in one or more societies. According to Fahrer and Glassner (2003), the unique characteristic of the state is officialty. Officialty is the ability of the state to use physical force within a given territory. Here, the use of physical force is assumed to be both legitimate and rational. Some political scientists use the term ‘state’ as a substitute to the term ‘government.
’ The term ‘state’, however, is not confined to the boundaries of political institutions. According to Fahrer and Glassner (2003), the state is composed of four integral aspects: 1) territory, 2) population, 3) government, and 4) sovereignty. Territory refers to the physical boundary and location of the state. Population is the set of individuals which accepts the authority of the state. The government is the representative holder of political power.
Sovereignty is the power to make laws. Of these four integral aspects of the state, perhaps the most important is sovereignty (although not the absolute criterion). According to Fahrer and Glassner (2003), sovereignty indirectly defines the legitimacy of the state to exist (de jure criterion) and the essence of international relation (a definition given by proponents of the constitutive theory). Note that the existence of a state is partially dependent on the recognition of other states.
In international law, a state is deemed de jure if and only if it has acquired official recognition of majority of other states. However, this requirement is only arbitrary. Perhaps, the most appealing form of the state is the nation-state. Here, the state is composed of an almost homogenous population, driven by an almost identical set of political, economic, and cultural values. In recent years, however, this form of political association is devalued in favor of regionalism and political fragmentation.
Fahrer and Glassner (2003) noted that the state is undergoing major transformations. The state, in recent years, has had been a major offspring or instrument of international agencies. It has had become a medium for the propagation of universal values (political, cultural, and economic values), with the direction of partially solidified regional associations. It is possible that in the future, the authoritative definition of the state may change. Reference Fahrer, Chuck and Martin Glassner. 2003. Political Geography. New York: John Wiley & Sons.