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Nation-state

In its modern sense, a political community is differentiated from other such communities in virtue of its autonomy with regard to its legal codes and governmental structures, head of state, boundaries, systems of military defence, etc. A nation-state likewise has a number of symbolic features which serve to present its identity in unified terms: a flag, national anthem, a popular self-image, etc. It is worth noting that the nation-state is not synonymous with the possession of nationhood. In the nineteenth century, nationalistic struggles to achieve the political autonomy of a nation-state were mounted by nations which did not possess political autonomy (e.g. the Italian states, or the unification of the German states under the leadership of Prussia in 1872). Likewise, today there are nations which do not necessarily have an accompanying status of statehood (e.g. Wales and Scotland in the UK). From this it follows that what a nation-state is cannot be determined with reference to such notions as nationality, nor ethnicity, culture or language. It is, rather, the political, social and economic modes of organisation which appear fundamental with regard to this matter: nation-states have political autonomy, different norms and codes with regard to their systems of social relations, and a relatively independent economic identity.

 


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