State and government

The State is that political organization that is made up of at least three elements: a population, a territory and a government . Likewise, the State enjoys internal autonomy and sovereignty , the latter being in the hands of its people.

At the international level, the State receives recognition from other States, establishes relations with several States and is the main subject of public international law.

The government is the set of individuals and institutions that are in charge of the administration and direction of a State and is one of its constituent elements, along with the population and the territory. Each State must have a government that administers it and guarantees that it maintains its sovereignty and autonomy, in addition to representing it before other States.

DefinitionIt is a political organization composed at least of a population, a territory and a government, which enjoys sovereignty and self-determination and maintains relations with other States.It is the set of individuals and institutions that are in charge of the exercise of public power and the administration and representation of the State.
  • Both the State and its constituent elements are timeless.
  • Its basic elements are: government, territory and population.
  • It enjoys the recognition of other States.
  • It maintains relations with other States.
  • It has internal sovereignty and self-determination.
  • It is the subject of public international law.
  • It is a constitutive element of the State.
  • Manages and the State.
  • It is made up of individuals and institutions.
  • Each particular government is temporary.
  • It may or may not be recognized by other States.
  • It can take different forms (democracy, monarchy, dictatorship, etc.).
Main ways it is presented
  • Unitary,
  • Federated or Federal.
  • Democracy.
  • Dictatorship.
  • Monarchy.

What is a state?

State is a politically organized entity that is made up of a population established in a given territory and that has a government , in the form of institutions and people who administer and organize the State for the common good of its population.

The State is endowed with sovereignty and self-determination, has the recognition of other States and establishes relationships of various kinds with them.

The word State comes from the Latin status which has several meanings, among them are ‘position’, ‘a way of being / staying’, ‘posture’, ‘order’ etc. That is, it refers to something that remains in a certain way.

A State can be formed as a result of the separation of two or more States from a State or, on the contrary, by a merger between several States.

In the same way, a State can also originate within the territory of another State (even if this leads in principle to internal conflicts).

According to the Convention on the Rights and Duties of States (Montevideo Convention, Uruguay, December 26, 1933), carried out by the Organization of American States, a State is an international actor that has a permanent population, a specific territory, a government and the ability to maintain relations with other States (art. 1 of the Montevideo Convention).

In general, it is considered that the State does not need the recognition of other States to define itself as such. However, it has been debated whether in practice the State is only such when it receives recognition from other States.

Characteristics of a State

  • Both the State and its constituent elements are timeless in nature.
  • It has a territory and a population that lives in it.
  • It enjoys sovereignty and self-determination.
  • It is organized internally through various institutions.
  • It owns a government.
  • Generally, it is recognized as such by other States.
  • It maintains relationships of a different nature with other States.
  • You have rights and obligations at the international level.
  • It is the subject of public international law.

Formation of a State

For a State to be formed, certain principles of public international law are generally considered, which is responsible for studying and legislating relations between States.

Different instruments, such as the Montevideo Convention of 1933, indicate the necessary conditions and principles, on which the birth of a State is determined.

The basic constituent elements are owning a territory, a government and a population . In addition, they are added to these that the State is sovereign and that they maintain relations with other States.

After this, as a declarative act, a State becomes recognized as such by other States. In any case, even if a State does not obtain recognition from other States, it must respond to international law, since every State is subject to international law .

Birth of a state

  • The birth of a State may be the result of a process of colonization of an uninhabited territory.
  • Due to a separation or secession , which is a breakdown or independence of a State, by a group of people, with the intention of founding a new State.
  • For a unification of several already existing States, forming a larger State.
  • When a State dissolves , it disappears and becomes two or more States. With the disappearance of the original State, the new States are formed as new subjects of international law.
  • Also, through the intervention of other States to decree the creation of a new State.

Extinction of a State

  • When it can no longer comply with any of the basic conditions to be a State: territory, government and population.
  • When there is a secession, a dissolution or a dismemberment, giving birth to one or more new States, or the annexation to other States.
  • In the same way, when a merger occurs , several States make up a federal State, which is the main sovereign subject.
  • Another form of extinction is incorporation , which occurs when a State is annexed to another State.

State and sovereignty

In general terms, the principle of sovereignty of a State refers to the autonomous power to legislate and organize itself , and to the legal equality that it possesses with respect to other States.

This means that, at the legal level, the State is the only actor capable of exercising legitimate power within its own limits and that it enjoys the exclusivity to represent itself before other States.

It is understood that sovereignty resides in the population (or its nation) and is exercised through the government as an inalienable right to organize and legislate the State. It is common to find articles in the political constitution of each State stating that sovereignty “emanates”, “resides” or “resides” in the people or nation.

The Charter of the United Nations establishes in its first two articles the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, in addition to the rejection of the use of threats or force by a State to interfere in the internal affairs of another State. .

The sovereignty of a State includes, among other aspects, the following:

  • Exclusive competence of a State to deal with its internal affairs.
  • Legal equality at the international level with respect to other States.
  • The State cannot be forced to take part in a matter if it is not its will.
  • Right to take part in international courts in case of disputes with another State.
  • Right to self-defense of their political and territorial integrity.
  • Right to establish relations with other States.
  • Right to self-determination.

Learn more about the Difference between State and Nation .

State forms

One of the most common forms that a state can take is that of the unitary state . This is a state in which there is only one political power that spans its entire spectrum and is generally centralized .

The population is subject, voluntarily, to a single legislation that applies to the entire State. In addition, the institutions that comprise it are generally located in a center, although there may be regional authorities, but with little autonomy.

On the other hand, there is the federated or federal state, which is one in which power is divided throughout it, where several regions enjoy autonomy, each with a certain level of representation in the national government. It is characterized by being decentralized, with a regional political organization, in addition to a federal constitution.

In the Länder, it is common for each region to have equal access to its global power, without others having greater weight. On the other hand, there may also be differences between regions, but it is less usual.

Learn more about the Difference between federalism and centralism .

What is the government?

government refers to the people and institutions that administer and direct a state . Its sovereignty is exercised through the government and it is one of the basic elements for its constitution, together with the population and the territory.

The word government comes from the Latin governmental which means ‘to maintain control of’, ‘to command’ or ‘to direct’. Originally used as the ‘act of governing’.

The government as a condition or fundamental element of a State must always be present. However, each particular government has a limited time, which is variable. Its temporality can be seen in the fact that most states hold national and regional elections from time to time.

Government characteristics

  • It is a constitutive part of the State, together with the population and the territory.
  • Each government is temporary (even if the term of government is indefinite).
  • It is made up of people and institutions that manifest sovereignty, that administer and that represent the State.
  • It may or may not be recognized by other States.
  • It can be democratic, a dictatorship, a constitutional monarchy, or take another form.

Recognition of a government at the international level

Like the state, the government of one state tends to be recognized by other states. This is because the government is the representative of the State and the one in charge of its administration.

This means that recognizing a state implies recognizing its government. However, the same does not happen, on the contrary, recognizing a government does not imply that a State is recognized.

Forms of government

Governments can take different forms to run a state. The monarchy, democracy and dictatorship are the best known forms in which the government of a state manifests itself.


The monarchy was one of the most common forms of government in the past. A monarchy occurs when the administration of the State is in the hands of a monarch for life and whose power is hereditary .

Originally, monarchies were absolute regimes , where a member of the royal royal, king or queen, had total power over a kingdom (hence, its population). This was a very widespread form of government in Europe during the Middle Ages, and it began to lose power after the French Revolution.

Later the constitutional monarchy appears , which is characterized in that its members have a symbolic value and without any real power over the administration of the State. That is, the monarchs of power to govern, since sovereignty is in the hands of the people.


Democracy is basically the form of government in which the people are the possessors of state sovereignty , exercise power and can elect representatives to administer the state.

In this case, the people, or citizens, have the freedom to organize to decide how they will be governed, generally through political parties.

The idea that power resides in the people is important in democracies, since people are not only participants in the administration of the country, but are also considered as equals before the law.

In turn, democracies can be divided according to the way in which the people exercise power. On the one hand, there are direct democracies , in which the people make decisions and actively participate in the government of the State. This type of democracy was more common in the past and in regions with few populations.

On the other hand, there are representative democracies , in which the government is in the hands of representatives elected by the people. Elected individuals take office, usually for a specified period of years. The election is made by means of different methods, the most common being the popular election through the citizen vote.

Modern democracies are characterized by being republican . A republic refers to the fact that power lies with the people, through their representatives, being contrary to the monarchy and, in essence, to the dictatorship.

republic ensures that there is a division of powers within the state, such as the executive, legislative, and judicial. In addition, it implies the temporality of the mandate of the rulers and respect for national law.


Dictatorship is a government in which power rests on a person or a specific group of people , so the people do not have any capacity to govern. Generally, those who exercise power in a dictatorship do so with the help of the military apparatus of the State. In this way, citizen freedoms are suppressed.

In many cases, when there is a dictatorship, control mechanisms are established so that whoever is in power can exercise it effectively. This is done through the creation of educational material, domination of the media and censorship of positions contrary to those who govern, among other mechanisms.

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