State, Nation, and Nationality Distinguished

State, Nation, and Nationality Distinguished: The terms “state” and “nation” are frequently identified both in popular usage and in scientific discussion. Both terms, and also the term “nationality,” have acquired various meanings, and the looseness with which they are employed, even by scientific writers, has been productive of much confusion and misunderstanding.

In the first place, they have an etymological meaning which is different from that which they have acquired in popular usage. Again, the terms “national” and “nationality” are used both as nouns and in an adjectival sense. Here, as Eelsex Where, there is an urgent need for a more precise terminology and an agreement among writers on political science regarding the meaning of these much-used terms.

The word “nation” is derived from the Latin word ‘natio’, which connotes the idea of birth or race. Etymologically, therefore, a nation is a people, having a common ethnic origin, but as stated above, the term has acquired both a scientific and a popular signification which is very different from the etymological meaning.

Many writers also use the term “nation” in the sense of “nationality,” while others identify it with “state”. The confusion is further increased by the difference of meaning between the German and English words “nation.” Many German writers use the word Nation in its original etymological ethnic sense, the English equivalent of which is “nationality,” while the English word “nation” has acquired a political meaning which is expressed by the German word Volk, the English equivalent of which is “people.”

The German, usage is undoubtedly more scientific and accurate, yet it would increase the confusion to disregard the established usage merely for the sake of conformity to etymological meanings.

The Nation Defined:-

Ethnic Factor:-

Burgess, adhering to the etymological meaning, defines a nation as a population of ethnic unity, inhabiting a territory of a geographic unity. But this definition has been criticized because neither popular usage nor political science generally regards the nation as merely an ethnic aggregation nor do they consider that geographic unity is essential.

Professor Burgess adds that by “ethnic unity” he means a population having a common language and literature, a common tradition or history, a common custom, and a common consciousness of rights and wrong. His insistence upon the element of common language as an essential mark of ethnic unity has also been criticized as not being in accord with the results of ethnological research.

The French publicist Pradier-Fodere likewise conceived the nation to be primarily an ethnic rather than a politically united aggregation. The affinity of race, a community of language, of habits, of customs and religion, are, he said, the elements that constitute the nation. Calvo, in his work on International Law, held substantially the same Opinion, emphasizing the fact that the idea of the nation is associated with origin or birth, a community of race, a community of language, etc. This conception of a nation, which makes the community of race and language its primary essential elements, is in accordance with etymology but not with present-day popular or general scientific usage.

Non-Ethnic and Linguistic Factors:-

The bonds Which make people a nation are not necessarily ethnic and linguistic, although those are undoubtedly the most important factors. Thus the Swiss people constitute a nation, as the term is now generally used, that is, in the political sense, but they are not of the same race nor do they possess a common language.

So the Belgians constitute a nation in the same sense, although the population is partly Walloon and partly Flemish and they speak different languages. The community of race-implies kinship, while the community of language affords the medium through which people may understand one another more easily.

A common language also facilitates intellectual and social intercourse, and thus opens the way for the development of common consciousness. But there are other important factors which go to make a people a nation as the term is generally employed. M. Renan, in his oft-quoted discourse at the Sorbonne in 1818, declared that it was not a community of language and race which makes a people a nation but the sentiment of a common heritage of memories, whether of achievement and glory or of suffering and sacrifice, together with a desire to live together in the same state and to transmit their heritage to their posterity.

It is the will of a people to live together, Says M. Hauser, and not race or language, which makes a nation. A nation is a culturally hémogeneous social group which is at Once conscious and tenacious of its unity of psychic life and expression it is a cultural and spiritual unity and is the highest product of social evolution.

It is a union of men inhabiting the same territory, whether or not subject to the same government, and possessing such common interests of long-standing that they may be regarded as belonging to the same race. That which makes a nation is a consciousness existing at a given time among all the individuals of the same social group, that there is an intimate and profound interdependence between the territory and the population which inhabits it.

The Nation Considered as a Political Phenomenon:-

As has been said, the term “nation” as used today by most writers connotes a political organization that is, a nation is not only an association of which the bonds of the union are cultural and spiritual, but it is also a politically organized aggregation.  In short, it is a state. Consequently, the terms state and nation are frequently used as synonyms.

Thus one speaks of the American and British “nations” when states are really meant. We have now a new international association socially styled the League of Nations when in fact it is a league of self-governing states, dominions, and colonies.

The constitution of the Republic of Argentina actually designates the Argentine state as the Argentine nation. This was the conception of Lord Bryce, who defined a nation as a nationality that has Organized itself into a political body, either independent or desiring to be independent. Similarly, the eminent French jurist Esmein defines the state as the juridical personification of a nation.

Such usage has been criticized as loose and inexact since a nation is not necessarily a people organized as a state nor is a state necessarily a nation. Thus Scotland is said, correctly or incorrectly, to be a nation, but it is not a state. So Poland and Finland were nations though not states prior to the World War.

On the other hand, Austria and Hungary state, but, before the late war at least, there was hardly an Austrian or a Hungarian nation, because their heterogeneous peoples were not united by the bonds, other’ than political, which are essential to make a people a nation.

The limits of the state may extend beyond the boundaries of the nation, considered as an ethnic and linguistic group, and conversely, the boundaries of the nation may be wider than those of the state. In fact, they rarely coincide. Thus the territorial limits of the English state (Great Britain) embrace the Scotch, Welsh, and formerly the Irish peoples, whereas Conversely, the boundaries of the French nation, viewed in its ethnic sense extending beyond those of the French state, reach over into Belgium, Italy, and Switzerland. The modern tendency has been in the direction of identification that is, the organization of states with boundaries coterminous with those of nations, but the transfers nation is far from complete.

The Terms “National” and “Nationality”:-

The term “national,” as stated above, is used by writers both as a noun and as an adjective. In the former sense, it is used in diplomatic correspondence and by writers on international law to denote a person who is entitled to the protection of the state. Ordinarily, such a person is a citizen, but he may be an alien, for many states have under their protection classes of persons Whom the French call protege’s, who are not citizens.

So the Filipinos are nationals of the United States, although they are not citizens of the United States. The term is used adjectively to denote the quality or status of a person or thing who or which possesses the nationality of a given state. Thus we speak of national character, national honor, national property, etc.

The term “nationality” is more difficult to define and various meanings are attributed to it by different writers. Like the word “national,” it is used in both an adjectival and a substantive sense.

In the first place, it is used to denote the quality or status of a person Who is a citizen or of a thing Which is impressed with the national character. Thus we speak of the nationality of a claimant before a prize court or an arbitral tribunal or the nationality of a ship that has been seized. In a substantive sense, the term is employed to designate a group or portion of the population which is united by racial or other bonds. Thus we speak of the Croats, the Serbs, and the Slovenes as-each constituting a nationality in the new state Of Yugoslavia, and of the Slovaks as being a nationality in the new Czecho-Slovak state.

What is a Nationality? :-

The terms “nation” and “nationality,” as stated above, have frequently been and still are used as synonyms, and those who have distinguished between them have by no means been in agreement as to the difference. Lord Bryce. suggested that it might not be wide of the mark to say that while nationality is a population held together by certainties, as, for example, language and literature, ideas, customs, and traditions, in such wise so to feel itself a coherent unity distinct from other populations similarly held together by like ties of their own, a nation is a nationality which has~organized itself into a political body either independent or desiring to be independent

According to him, the difference is one of political organization, in short, the two things, are identical except that the one is, politically organized and has become an independent state or desires to become such, whereas the other is not so organized. Bryce’s conception did not differ materially from that of John Stuart Mill, who said:

A portion of mankind may be said to constitute a nationality if they are united among themselves by common sympathies which do not exist between them and any others which make them cooperate with each other more willingly than with other people, desire to be under the same government, and desire that it should be governed by themselves or a portion of themselves exclusively.

Some writers, on the other hand, do not consider the difference between a “nation” and a “nationality” to be merely a matter of political organization, but rather a difference of numbers. Accordingly, they define a “nationality” as being usually a distinct socio-ethnic group within the state and ordinarily constituting a minority of the total population.

Thus the Scotch and Welsh in Great Britain constitute “nationalities,” as do the Dutch in the South African Union, the-French in Canada, the Slovenes in Yugoslavia, the Slovaks in Czeéhoslovakia, formerly the Poles in Germany and Austria, and many others. It would be excessive flattery to their pride to call them “nations” the term “nationality” more nearly corresponds to their importance.

The Essential Elements of Nationality:-

1. Purity of Race:-

Having defined in a general way the term “nationality,” let Us now inquire what are the essential or usual elements which constitute a group of people a nationality. The community of race and community of language are undoubtedly the most important of, these elements, but it is necessary to recognize that neither is absolutely essential.

The science of ethnology has revealed the difficulty of drawing the lines which separate one race from another, since many existing races are mixed in character, that is, they have no common origin, but have been formed by a fusion of various races. It may well be doubted whether there are to-day any pure races in Europe, in the physical sense that they are not a compound of other races. Real race distinctions of the skull stature, hair, complexion, etc., so far as they are traceable with any definiteness, cut directly across the existing nationalities.

The race is a physical phenomenon, whereas nationality is a complex phenomenon in which spiritual elements enter. To identify race and nation is, as has been well said, to subordinate moral conscience to organic life and to make the animalism which is in man the whole of humanity.

If purity of race in this sense were insisted upon as essential, some of the most distinct nationalities to-day would not be able to make good their claim. Some of the most highly civilized races of the world (the English and, French, for example) have in fact been formed by a fusion of other races. It is enough perhaps that there be a belief in a common origin or that the people have forgotten the diversity of their origins and that there is no longer a sharp cleavage between them.

If the races are fairly well merged and it is free inter the course between them, the differences of origin are not important, If however, One of the races claims superiority, intellectually and culturally, over the others, the development of a sentiment of nationality among them will be difficult, It was this feeling of superiority and the spirit of domination on the part of the Magyars, which prevented the development of a sense of nationality among the various races of Hungary and the rigid caste system of India has had somewhat the same result in that country.

2. Community of Language:-

The community of language, however, is usually regarded as an essential element, as stated above, since language supplies the medium through which the people maintain intercourse with one another and through which they can express their culture and ideals in common literature.

The lack of this medium separates people somewhat as the barriers of mountains and seas formerly did, prevents. them from knowing and understanding one another, and thus renders difficult the development of the common consciousness and the community of ideas which are necessary to constitute real nationality.

But here again, it must be admitted that that of a community of language is not absolutely essential. Thus the Scots constitute a nationality, if not a nation, though some of them speak Gaelic and some English likewise the Belgians. and Swiss are nations, although both are divided linguistically, the former speaking two languages and the latter three.

The inhabitants of Switzerland do not think of themselves as French, German, or Italian, but as Swiss. They have developed in the course of centuries a common sentiment of nationality in spite of their differences of language. Nevertheless, a community of language is a most important factor, more important in fact than a community of race, in molding a people into a nationality, and of all the factors which go to make up nationality, it is the one of which a people is most conscious and the one to which they are the most tenaciously attached. Some of the most bitter struggles which modern Europe has known have been those for the preservation of the rights of language against the suppression.

3. Geographic Unity:-

Geographic unity is another characteristic that is usually attributed to a nationality. That is to say, the population constituting the nationality must occupy a fixed territory, the parts of which are contiguous. In fact, however, examples of nationalities composed of peoples distributed or scattered over territories Which were non-contiguous and which belonged to different states have not been lacking.

Thus the Poles and the Yugo-Slavs prior to the World War constituted nationalities (if not nations), but they were separated and formed parts of different states the Jews are still said to constitute a nationality, although they were long since dispersed and are scattered today over many parts of the world.

Now that provision has been made for a national home for them in Palestine, if it is availed of, a center will be created from which will radiate influences which will strengthen the somewhat moribund sense of Hebrew nationality.

4. Community of Religion:-

The community of religion was once regarded as a mark of nationality and in earlier times it played an important part in the process of national consolidation. Thus it has been said that the national character of the Scots is probably due more to the work of John Knox than to any other single cause and that it was in part the determination to maintain Protestantism that enabled the English to resist Spain at the time of the defeat of the Armada.

Today, however, the element of religious unity is no longer regarded as essential. We have seen recent examples of nationalities professing different religions, but who, nevertheless, have been brought together into a single state, for example, the Serbs, who are Greek Catholics, and the Croats, who are Roman Catholics, but who have lately united with each other and -with the Slovenes to form the Yugo-Slav state.

It may be observed, however, that the Serbs and Croats speak the same language and have in the main common, traditions and a similar Culture. These bonds have, therefore, proved stronger than the separatist influence of religious differences.

Examples of the disruption of states formed by the union of the peoples divided by differences of religion are, however, by no means lacking. It was in part, at least, this element of disunity which led to the separation in 1831 of Belgium and Holland Which had been united by the Vienna Congress in 1815 into a single state. As is well known. it was religious differences between Protestants and Catholics

which for a long time constituted the principal obstacle to the progress of the nationalist movement in Ireland. And it is the cleavage between the religions of the Hindus and the Mohammedans in India that retards in large measure the progress of the nationalist movement in that country today Similarly, the mutual antipathies between Christians and Moslems in the Ottoman Empire prevented the realization of any highly developed sense of nationality in that state.

On the other hand, the populations of many strongly consolidated nations today are sharply divided religiously. Thus Germany is divided between Catholics and Protestants Switzerland is partly Catholic and partly Protestant and England has never known religious unity since the Reformation.

It may be concluded, therefore, that while the community of religion has in some cases been an a-powerful factor in the development of nationality and in the strengthening of the bonds of national unity, and while in other cases the absence of it has contributed to the disruption of states, it is no longer, thanks to the modern spirit of religious toleration an essential or important element of determining nationality.

5. Common Political Aspirations:-

Another characteristic of most nationalities is that they aspire either to independence or to a large autonomy in the matter of government, that is, they desire to become nations, in the sense in which the term is now popularly understood, that is, a State.

As LeFur remarks, a nationality is before all a state engerme. A nationality, said Durkheim, is a group of which the members wish to live under the same laws and form a state. Independent political union is the natural fruit of nationality where the population is sufficiently numerous and capable of maintaining a separate state existence, and conversely, the political union has sometimes been the means of creating a genuine nationality out of heterogeneous race elements, as, for example, in Switzerland.

As is well known, delegations representing many nationalities appeared at the peace conference in Paris in 1917, invoking the principle of self-determination and demanding that they be allowed to separate from the states-of which they were a part and to organize themselves into new and independent states.

They proceeded on the theory that it is a sort of natural right of every people who form a nationality to determine for themselves their own destiny and consequently to free themselves from the subjection of other states to which they happen to be unwillingly yoked.

6. Other Contributing Factors:-

It is now generally admitted that while all of the abovementioned factors are or have been important contributing forces in the development of nationality no one of them is absolutely essential. More and more, in recent, years, it has come to be recognized that it is not so much come in the unity of race, language, religion, or residence which impresses people with the character of nationality, as it is the feeling of community of interests and ideals, of like-mindedness, as the sociologists say, the mutual sympathy which comes from the consciousness of wrongs and oppression suffered through common subjection during a long period of time to a despotic government, the pride of a common Share in great historic struggles, and the possession of a common heritage and common traditions expressed in song and legend.

Thus the memories of Bannockburn, Flodden Field, and Culloden contributed powerfully to the development of a sense of nationality among the Scots. Similarly, the memories of the long struggle of the Swiss for freedom in their mountain abode, and their pride in the memories and legends of William Tell, Winkelried, and other heroes the pride of the Serbs in the memory of Stephen Dushan and Kosova, and of the centuries of slavery Which they endured, the memory by the Germans of the oppression of Napoleon and the Hame of patriotism which is kindled in the days of 1813 and that of the Irish of what they regarded as unjust subjection and oppression on the part of the English, had a like effect in their countries.

It is this feeling of unforgetfulness of historical events which contributes to make the Jews still a nationality although they are widely di3persed. The feeling was expressed by the psalmist when he said, When I forget thee, Jerusalem, let my right hand forget it’s cunning.

It was the power of common memories of this kind to which President Lincoln appealed in his first inaugural address when he asserted that the people of the North and of the South were not enemies but friends, that the bonds of affection between them could not be broken, and that they could not separate.

The mystic chords of memory, he said, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.


The truth is this thing which we call nationality and which is so difficult to define is in essence largely a matter of sentiment. If people have acquired the character of nationality, it is because they believe they have a consciousness of being bound together by strong ties and affinities, which distinguish them from their neighbors.

They have a feeling of common interests and ideals, their moral ideas are fundamental the same, they have a common heritage of tradition and of memories of common sacrifice and suffering, or of achievement and glory, and they share a common pride in great personalities and heroes.

As a well-known writer on the subject has aptly remarked nationality, like religion, is subjective statehood is objective nationality is psychological statehood is political rationality is a condition of mindstatehood is a condition of law nationality is a spiritual possession statehood is an enforceable obligation nationality is a way of feeling, thinking, and living statehood is a condition inseparable from all civilized ways of living.

Again it has been well said that contrary to a popular impression that nationality is something fixed and capable of exact definition, it has come to be recognized that it is rather a product of historical development and that all attempts to formulate a series of universally applicable prerequisites break down.

Nationality is essentially subjective, an active sentiment of unity within a fairly extensive group, a sentiment based upon real but diverse factors, political, geographical, physical, and social, any or all of which may be present in this or that case, but no one of which must be present in all cases. It is believed that no better or more concise