The Modern State

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The modern state dominates the political sphere. This article gives some definitions and concepts of what the modern state is, as derived from academic studies and books.


As identified by Wael Hallaq, the following are the essential form-properties of the modern state. What this means is that all modern states fulfill all 5 of these properties, and if a polity does not have any one of them, it does not count as a modern state. Of course, this does not mean that states do not change and evolve over time; they do, but within their particular paradigm.

The State as a Historical Product

The state is a product of history, and must be understood as such. It came about in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries, shaped by the social, economic, and political conditions that existed in Europe at the time, as well as Europe's relations to the outside world via colonialism. This is also why Euro-America have the most successful, well-established states and the rest of the world has not followed as successfully.


Sovereignty is the idea that the people residing within a state's borders have a "will," and the state is there to embody and enact this will. Despite being largely imaginary, it is one of the hallmarks of the modern state, and the "will of the people" is one of the rallying cries often used in politics today.

Hallaq writes,

The will, popular and collective, does not presuppose actual and active individual participation29 but claims its collective force precisely because it is a fiction. The concept loses none of its force even when nondemocratic powers come to rule, for even in the absence of traditional democratic practices, any state (read: nation-state) comes to expect its sovereign will to be embodied in the acts and speech of its rulers, even when they happen to be a band of devils.

More here.

Monopoly On Legitimate Violence

This includes the threat of violence also.


On a scale never seen before in human history and civilization.

Production of the Citizen

Citizenship is a peculiar thing when you think about it.

Further Reading

The Impossible State.