What Is The Meaning And Origin Of Nation-state System?


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Before we examine the nature and working of the modern nation-state system, it shall be desirable to know about its meaning, origin and development According to Palmer the nation-state system "is the pattern of political life in which people are separately organized into sovereign states that interact with one another in varying degrees and in varying ways." These states are involved in conflict as well as co-operation. For the protection of their respective interests these nation states resort to methods of peaceful persuasion, and when these fail they resort to coercive methods. As such, each state tries to build up its national power by organizing its coercive resources.

Generally, the scholars trace the origin of state system from the year 1648 when the Treaty of Westphalia, which brought the thirty year war to an end, was signed. No doubt even before that the states existed and entered into relations with each other, but they were not sovereign states as their authority was restrained by the Roman Church and the Roman Empire. The peace of Westphalia paved the way for the emergence of the nation-state system by recognizing that the Empire no longer commanded the allegiance of its parts and that the Pope could not maintain his spiritual authority every where. In other words, the rulers of a number of countries such as England, France, Germany, Spain, etc. shook off the authority of the Pope in religious affairs and that of the Emperor of Rome in secular matters. Henceforth, the supreme authority came to be identified with the state. This meant that each state had the right to utilise the strength of the people and its resources as it liked without any restraint from within or from outside. Though theoretically these states were equal they differed from each other in matters of real powers.

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