Wednesday, November 10, 2010



The idea of the “nation-state” is a vague idea and it is difficult to define. Though there were not secular states there were civilizations and there were relations among the countries in the pre 1648 century. For example there were civilizations in the countries like Egypt, Greek, Persian etc. The term “nation-state” was not used at that time. The concept of nation-state is a new idea which is only about four hundred years old. If we divide the concept nation- state into two different factors, the nation can be scene as an unclear or a fuzzy idea and state as a concrete idea. Many critics have defined the idea of nation-state in different ways.
Joseph Stalin defines nation under different factors and those factors are interconnected. If it loses one thing it affect to the full meaning. First element that he points out is a definite stable community. A nation should have a “historically constituted community” [Nationalism, 18] Furthermore he emphasized that the nation is not constitute with one ethnicity. For that he gave out some examples too, “The modern Italian nation was formed from Romans, Teutons, Etruscans, Greeks, Arabs and so forth. French nation was formed from Gauls, Romans, Britons, Teutons, and so on…” [Nationalism, 18] Next he points out; though a nation contains a stable community every stable community does not constitute a nation. There he gave out the countries like Russia, Austria as examples.
Then he moves on to the second factor by saying that there cannot be a nation without a common language and therefore the fact that a stable community would not be enough to have a nation. But here he emphasizes the fact that “There is no nation which at one and the same time speaks several languages, but this does not mean that there cannot be two nations speaking the same language” [Nationalism, 18] He points out America and Britain as examples. Because though Englishmen and Americans speak one language they do not constitute one nation.  Next he develops the same argument and brings out another factor which is needed to have a nation. That is though Englishmen and Americans use the same language they do not live together generation after generation. “A nation is formed only as a result of lengthy and systematic intercourse, as a result of people living together generation after generation” [Nationalism 19] And also he says this cannot be done if they do not have a common territory. Different territories lead to have different nations.
Furthermore he developed his argument and said the above factors too would not be enough to have a nation. A nation requires a common economic life because all the people in a same nation should share a common economic life. As an example he says that Georgia has a common language, a common territory but does not constitute one nation because they do not share a common economic life.
Finally he mentions the fact that spiritual complexion which is needed to complete the idea of a nation. “Nations differ not only from their conditions of life, but also in spiritual complexion, which manifests itself in peculiarity of national culture.” [Nationalism, 20] Here he emphasizes the idea that “national character” is difficult to study. But it makes a culture which is common to all. So it cannot be ignored when considering nation as a concept. In detail he says that though it may have changes due to the conditions of life it exists all the time and its features may have an impact on the idea of nation.
 If we take Joseph Stalin’s view on nation as a summary for him a nation is “a historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture.”[Nationalism, 21] So according to him when all these above mentioned characteristics are presented there can be a nation. Therefore Stalin’s idea of nation can suggest the fact that a “nation-state” can also be a fallacy because it needs to complete all the requirements. In brief if we take a small example to understand Stalin’s idea, for him all the above factors are needed to have a nation, so for as an example if we think his idea of nation as a delicious cake, the factors that he mentioned are like ingredients that we add for that because if we are unable to add a single ingredient it would affect the taste of the cake. 
            Max Weber is another critic who defined nation-state according to his point of view. For him nation is “a community of sentiment which would adequately manifest itself in a state of its own; hence, a nation is a community which normally tends to produce a state of its own.” [Nationalism, 25]
 He starts his definition by saying that “nation cannot be identical by the people of a state but with the membership of a given polity”. [Nationalism, 22] According to him a nation can contain homogeneous groups of people. For him the facts like common language, common culture and common religion are not important to have a nation. He believes the fact that a common language is not so necessary to have a nation. The use of a common language may or may not help to have a “national solidarity”. He points out that there may have “national solidarity” with a “common political destiny.” It means that there is a possibility that different ethnic groups in a certain country may fight or may join with the things such as revolutions and due to that there can have certain cohesion towards that country. But he further indicates that the idea of nation is somewhat different. That “national solidarity” which comes through a “common political destiny” cannot make a nation. “But a sentiment of ethnic solidarity does not by itself make a nation.” [Nationalism, 23] For that he points out an example by saying that the Alsatians in France; they speak the German language and they have the political unity with France as they were participated for the French Revolution, but they do not belong to neither French “nation” or to the German “nation.” And also he talks about the Negros in America. Though the Negros consider that they themselves belong to American “nation” the white people in America almost do not consider that the Negros belong to their “nation.”
So Weber emphasizes the fact that people can achieve a quality of a nation under certain circumstances. His argument is that a group of people may represent a certain nation or may join with a certain nation through the relationship of loyalty to the associations that they build up with that nation. But in further he says that may not provide the conditions to have the idea of ‘nation.’ He shows it through example “The German Americans … would fight against Germany, not gladly… The Poles in the German state would fight readily with a Russian Polish army but hardly against an autonomous Polish army…” [Nationalism, 24]
When considering the ideas on nation mentioned by both critics, there can be seen subtle differences on the facts mentioned by the critics for their argument. Because the factors that Stalin decided as requirements which need to have a nation are not considered as requirements by Weber to have a nation. So on the surfaces both arguments look at different facets of ‘nation’, but in depth both critics stop their arguments at the same point.  Through both arguments, it is clearly evident the fact that the idea of the nation-state is a fallacy. According to both arguments though there can be seen the use of the word ‘nation’, ‘nation-state’ today, those do not have the requirements that should have to have for a ‘nation’. So it is clearly evident that this is a vague and fuzzy idea. But in the present society and the world most of states identify themselves as ‘nation-states’.  However it still lacks and it still need to have number of requirements which need to have to fulfill the idea of ‘nation-state’.


The ‘Peace of Westphalia’ in 1648 can be considered as one of the important historical event which separate the Middle Ages from the modern world. In further it can be identified as a historical benchmark. Before this peace treaty the obligations among the countries were taken by the kings. During this time the royalty or the monarchy was widely accepted. So the ‘Peace of Westphalia’ is like a turning point in the history of international relations and there is no need to argue on that. Here the argumentative fact is that whether this Peace treaty has an influence on the idea of ‘nation-state’ and whether it is significant to make the idea of ‘nation-state’ more perfect in the present world. To find about that we have to move on to the principalities mentioned in the ‘Peace Treaty of Westphalia.’ Many critics have different views on the significance of this Treaty in relation to the modern world.
      According to the ideas mentioned in the Encyclopedia BETA it presented four basic principles in relation to this Treaty. Those are;  
       1. The principle of the sovereignty of nation-states and the concomitant fundamental right of
           political self-determination.               
2. The principle of (legal) equality between nation-states.
3. The principle of internationally binding treaties between states.
4. The principle of non-intervention of one state in the internal affairs of other states.     

The principles which are indicated here are essential to build up the concept of ‘nation-state.’ Therefore to find out the fact that whether the ‘Peace of Westphalia’ is significant to broaden the idea of ‘nation-state’, we should get to know, whether these principalities exist in the modern world or among the modern states.  
Through ‘Peace of Westphalia’ the idea of sovereignty was brought to the states. With that it brought a respect towards territorial integrity of the state and also the concepts like nationalism. It can be seen clearly through the article VI of the Westphalia treaty;
According to this foundation of reciprocal Amity, and a general Amnesty, all and every one of the Electors of the sacred Roman Empire, the Princes and States (therein comprehending the Nobility, which depend immediately on the Empire) their Vassals, Subjects, Citizens, Inhabitants (to whom on the account of the Bohemian or German Troubles or Alliances, contracted here and…” []
  Sovereignty is a right or an authority that a nation has to be without any interaction of other states. It is the ability that a state has to make independent decisions. To be sovereign means to posses a government able to issue its own orders to its armed forces. According to Hans Morgenthau; “Westphalia thus initiated a long-term trend towards the sovereignty of nation-states.” And in further he argued on the fact that with these ideas people began to have connections with their states. [] Another critic Daniel Philpot proposes three features of sovereignty emerged after the period of 1648. Those are the “creation of diplomatic offices, standards of interstate recognition, and non-intervention as a means of economic self-preservation.” [] Though the idea of sovereignty of each state became an outshined facet during the period after the Peace of Westphalia it is argumentative whether this idea exists among the world. However ,it is clearly evident the fact that, through this peace treaty there came the idea of sovereignty. But when considering the situation which occurred after the period of 1648, in the modern period most of the states do not have their sovereignty. Lynn H. Miller shows this situation in his book “Global Order” as follows; “This new impermeability of the territorially based state was and has remained a relative. During the modern period, some states have been overrun and a lesser number destroyed. Boundaries have shifted as a result of coercion” [Miller, 23]

As firstly mentioned, sovereignty is the ability that a state has to take decisions independently. But when considering the situation of the states most of the states are unable to take decisions by themselves. Most of the time states get the help of some other states when they have to face a problematic situation. And also most of the time sovereignty of certain weak states is threatened by some other powerful states. That is what happens in the real world.
Except the sovereignty, the other principality which brought out by the Peace of Westphalia was the equality among the ‘nation-states’. The treaty of Westphalia points up this fact in the article number LXIV as follows;
And to prevent for the future any Differences arising in the Politick State, all and every one of the Electors, Princes and States of the Roman Empire, are so establish’d and confirm’d in their ancient Rights, Prerogatives, Libertys, Privileges, free exercise of Territorial Right, as well Ecclesiastick, as Politick Lordships, Regales, by virtue of this present Transaction: that they never can or ought to be molested therein by any whomsoever upon any manner of pretence.”      
So secondly, we can have a view on what type of equality existed among the states in different eras under the evolution of international system. During the recent period, especially after 1648, the international system was basically Euro-centric and there was a multi-polar balance of power system. States like France, Russia, Britain, Spain and Austria were considered as powerful. Consequently there was no equality among them. Then later countries like America, Soviet Union and Japan emerged as powerful states. And during the cold war period there was a balance of power in between the two super powers of USA and USSR. It was a bi-polar balance of power.

Yet, in the contemporary period, there is no sense of equality among the states as represented in the treaty of Westphalia. In the modern world, this change in equality has occurred due to many reasons that were not formed during the Westphalia era. It may be due to economic reasons like globalization, transnational organizations and multinational organizations. Under this new situation in the international system, some states would be economically less powerful than other states. Therefore the dominant states can have their influence on relatively weaker states. This not only alters the equality among nation-states, but also the doctrine of non-intervention. This can be seen through the problem of Israel and Palestine. Here Israel always gets the support of United State and similarly, Palestine from Muslim states.
This illustrates another factor mentioned in the Peace of Westphalia, which is the principality of non-intervention for the internal affairs of the states. It shows in the article number II of the Westphalia treaty as follows;
That there shall be on the one side and the other a perpetual Oblivion, Amnesty, or Pardon of all that has been committed since the beginning of these Troubles, in what place, or what manner soever the Hostilitys have been practis’d, in such a manner, that no body, under any pretext whatsoever, shall practice any Acts of Hostility, entertain any Enmity, or cause any Trouble to each other; neither as to Persons, Effects and Securitys, neither of themselves or by others, neither privately nor openly, neither directly nor indirectly, neither under the colour of Right, nor by the way of Deed, either within or without the extent of the Empire, notwithstanding all Covenants made before to the contrary…”                                                                          
            According to this idea, no state can intervene for the internal affairs of any other state. But the reality is most of the time the powerful states intervene the internal affairs of the weak states. However situation too happens in relation to the above mentioned economical factors.
            After considering all above cited factors there can come to a conclusion that when broadening the idea of nation-state, the peace treaty of Westphalia is neither significant nor insignificant. Because there are issues which can be considered as requirements to form a nation-state are mentioned in the peace treaty. But the argumentative fact is that whether these requirements exist among the states. However it is obvious that the Westphalia issues can form ideal and perfect nation-states. But due to the existing economic dilemma it is not practical. So in brief we can come up with a conclusion that the peace treaty of Westphalia is an attempt to make nation-states ideal.


Jason Farr “Point: the Westphalia legacy and the modern nation-state”. International Social Science Review. 02 Jul, 2009.

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