Nationalism and State Sovereignty
Nationalism and State Sovereignty

Autonomy – “[T]o be one’s own person, to be directed by considerations, desires, conditions, and characteristics that are not simply imposed externally upon one, but are part of what can somehow be considered one’s authentic self.” Autonomy is more specific than the concept of freedom or liberty because it refers not only to the removal of obstacles to action but also to the achievement of a goal. While autonomy is uncontroversial as defined here, it is a more problematic concept when associated with an attempt to determine the conditions needed to achieve autonomy or the scope of autonomous behavior (personal, moral, political, etc.). From:

Civilization – “Primarily, the term has been used to refer to the material and instrumental side of human cultures that are complex in terms of technology, science, and division of labor.“ In other words, civilization is a way to measure the degree to which a group of people (be it an ethnic group, nation, or state) compares to the most materially advanced ethnic groups, nations, and states.  Historically, such comparisons were made pejoratively to describe particular ethnic groups, nations, and states as uncivilized. From:

Ethnic – “Of or relating to a group of people having common racial, national, religious or cultural origins.” (See Ethnicity for further elaboration of this concept.) From:

Ethnicity – “The identification of a culture with tangible, visual symbols and signs such as dress, food, or religious observance.” Ethnicity is a contested concept that prior to the 19th century was seen as related to biological differences between groups of people. Modern social science (following Max Weber) defines ethnicity more as the external symbols associated with a particular group of people. In other words, a group of people comes before (and often define on their own) the symbols that identify them as an ethnic group. Ethnic identity is frequently associated with national identity so that people who share ethnicity are also thought to share nationality. See also:

Nation – “A collective, normally territorial, entity which commands allegiance. Some theorists argue that nations are the product of modernity, others claim they are ‘primordial’ or perennial.”  The concept of a nation is used to prioritize an individual’s allegiance among the various entities that might compete for it. As such, the concept of a nation is often associated with the concept of a state since the latter provides a way for the former to ensure allegiance. However, since a nation is typically associated with ethnic attributes, allegiance to a nation is more than the civic duty to obey a state (i.e. patriotism). Therefore, membership in a nation is non-voluntary and imposed upon individuals at birth. See also:

Nation-state – “[A] state that self-identifies as deriving its political legitimacy from serving as a sovereign entity for a nation as a sovereign territorial unit. The state is a political and geopolitical entity; the nation is a cultural and/or ethnic entity. The term “nation-state” implies that the two geographically coincide. Nation-state formation took place at different times in different parts of the earth but has become the dominant form of state organization.” While nations and states typically go together, some states are not composed of one nation (i.e. the former Soviet Union) and some nations do not reside in one state (i.e. the Kurds). From:

Nationalism – “An ideology that takes the nation to be of fundamental value.” (See Nation for further elaboration of this concept.)

Self-rule – “When a country, a part of a country or a nation chooses its own government and controls its own activities.” This definition takes the idea of autonomy (see above) and applies it to a collection of individuals in a country, nation, or state. Unlike the concept of State Sovereignty, the concept of Self-rule does not address the relation of the country/nation/state to the use of force to maintain such rule. From:

State - “An institution that claims a monopoly of legitimate force for a particular territory. This claim makes [the concept of the state] contradictory and paradoxical [since the concept does not identify the criteria that should be used to define what counts as legitimate force].” This definition is derived from the most commonly accepted definition developed by the German philosopher/sociologist Max Weber (1864-1920).  However, the concept of the state is highly contested among academics in part because it combines two concepts (force and morality) that are typically in opposition to each other. Others, such as political scientist David Easton, criticize the concept of the state as an almost mystical idea that eludes a precise definition because it is not sufficiently based on what is known about human behavior in societies. See also:

Sovereignty – “The ability to govern one’s own life: sovereignty is an absolute concept that can only express itself in particular historical circumstances.”  “Particular historical circumstances” refers to the idea that it is best to define this concept in terms of specific, individual acts of sovereignty rather than as an abstract idea of sovereignty.  This is a broad definition that attempts to sidestep the ambiguities that occur when the concept of the state is associated with sovereignty. Typically, when the term sovereignty is used, the concept of state sovereignty (see below) is meant.

State Sovereignty – “The claim by supporters of the state that the state has ultimate and final legitimate force over a particular society.” Adding the concept of sovereignty to the concept of the state gives the latter the moral and political authority to use power to control a geographical area. While the idea of the state conjures an impersonal image of government and land, the term sovereignty was developed specifically to help define the connection between the rulers and the ruled. As such, the sovereign state is the most widely recognized and dominant form of collective political agency in the modern world.   See also:

Unless referenced otherwise, the definitions listed in the quotes are from:
Hoffman, J. & Graham, P. (2006) Introduction to Political Concepts. Harlow, England: Pearson.