State Types

A State is a type of political organization, which has its own bureaucratic institutions, laws and economic system, in which power is exercised over a population that is in a given territory.

In that sense, for a nation to be considered a State, it must have a population, sovereignty and territory.

However, there is no single type of state. They can be classified according to their political-territorial system or their form of government.

Types of State according to their political-territorial system

Depending on its political-administrative structure, the State can be classified into three types.

Unit state

In this case, there is a central power that radiates throughout the territory, having the power to elect local authorities. It has a single constitution, an executive, a legislative and a judicial branch. The unitary state can be of two types.

  • Centralized unitary state : as its name indicates, the decisions that affect the entire territory are taken from the central power.
  • Decentralized unitary state : in this case, although there is still a central power, the regions have certain administrative powers.

Portugal, Ecuador, Peru and Israel are examples of unitary states.

Federal state

This type of State is characterized because, although it has a central government, power also resides in local, regional or state instances. It is possible that these instances have their own laws, or that they are even politically opposed to the central government, but they will always be subordinate to it.

Argentina, the United States, Mexico and Venezuela are federal states.

Composite state

They are those that are subdivided into collectivities with political and legal sovereignty. They can be of three types.

Personal bonding

A single ruler is in command of two or more states. In the past, it was common for a monarch to exercise his power in two different political and territorial organizations. An example today would be the British Commonwealth of Nations , made up of 53 countries that have ties to the United Kingdom, recognize the British Crown, but are sovereign and independent.

Royal union

Although the States are sovereign, in this case, the governments agree to be represented by the same monarch, for defensive, financial and international relations purposes, but internally, the governments are different for each State. The Austro-Hungarian Empire, for example, was a royal union, until its demise in 1918.

Confederate state

It is a group of sovereign States that exercise their own laws and that are only united by one or more common laws, without affecting the independence of decisions between them.

This last figure is used in cases of defensive, migratory or economic cooperation, based on a treaty or association. Its members can withdraw as long as they respect the rules agreed in said arrangement. Such was the case of Serbia and Montenegro, which were confederate states between 2002 and 2006.

See also the difference between state and nation .

Types of State according to their form of government

The governance structure can define the type of state. It can be a monarchy, a republic, an aristocracy or a democracy.


It is a type of state in which a family represents the interests and identity of the country, under the leadership of a monarch who acts as head of state. In this sense, there are three types of monarchy, depending on the way of exercising power:

Absolute monarchy

The monarch directs the destiny of the country exercising the power of all institutions, often including the religious aspect, since it is assumed that the monarch is the source of all power, since God transmits it to him, according to the divine right of kings. . Louis XIV, in France and Henry VII in England, established absolute monarchies during the Middle Ages and the beginning of the Modern Age.

Constitutional and parliamentary monarchy

The functions of the monarch are subject to what is established in the constitution. Although the king acts as head of state, there is also the figure of prime minister or prime minister, who in this case is elected by parliament. Spain is a parliamentary monarchy.

Semi-constitutional or hybrid monarchy

Although in these States there is a constitution, the monarch has decision-making power over it, so there is no regulation like that of the constitutional and parliamentary monarchy. In Morocco this type of monarchy is exercised.


It is a type of State in which the highest representative is the president of the country, elected by popular or parliamentary vote to represent the interests of citizens during a period previously established in the constitution.

In this case, there is a clear separation between the executive, legislative and judicial powers that seeks to ensure a better balance in public decisions and in citizen life.

Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Greece, the Dominican Republic, and Singapore are just a few examples of Republican countries.


Here the way of governing the State is determined by a privileged social group (generally with lineage or ties to royalty) that, it is assumed, has the best academic, intellectual and moral competencies to exercise such functions.

In Ancient Rome (from the 6th to the 1st century BC) this was the form of government, as in Japan, during the Heian period (794-1185).

In Latin America, it was a common way of exercising power after the independence processes, since it was the direct descendants of the first landowners (who used to have links with the European crowns) who were in charge of politically and economically administering the free territories.


It is a form of government that defends popular sovereignty, that is, the right of citizens to choose their rulers, in this case, through suffrage.

In the same way, the most relevant aspects in national life must be decided by citizens, through previously established direct or indirect participation mechanisms. This type of government is classified into three types.

Representative democracy

citizens elect their representatives, who will exercise power on their behalf. In Japan and Italy this form of government is exercised

Participatory democracy

Norms are established that allow citizens to organize themselves, in such a way that they have a more direct influence on government decisions. The legal instruments to exercise participatory democracy are referendums, plebiscites, popular initiatives, revocation of command and appeal of sentence. In Germany, there are mechanisms to activate and regulate popular initiatives and referendums.

Direct democracy

decisions are made by popular vote, through mechanisms such as binding referendums, primary elections, citizens’ assemblies, etc. In Ancient Athens, between 700 and 500 BC. C direct democracy was exercised. Today, Switzerland is the country with the most refined mechanisms and closest to this type of State.

Other ways to exercise power


It is a form of state in which power is concentrated in a single person, in charge of making political, economic, military and social decisions. In this case, public powers can exist as institutions, but they do not have autonomy in decision-making, but rather are in charge of enforcing the mandates of the head of state.

In the dictatorship there is a tendency to favor the ruling political class, and another group is prevented from exercising the government. The alternation of power is non-existent and constitutional or legal mechanisms are established to perpetuate this situation and cover it with a legal framework.

The governments of China, Myanmar, Eritrea, North Korea, Cuba, and Sudan are examples of dictatorial states.

See also Difference between alarm, exception and site status.


It is a government regime that is established after an individual or group comes to power illegally, and often with the use of force, generally after a coup against an established government.

To stay in power, he often takes measures that involve the violation of current regulations, the use of violence and the restriction of freedoms.


It is a way of exercising power through domination. It is characterized by the formation of a government with a single party, which fulfills the functions that correspond to the public powers, which is why it is in charge of creating laws, legislating and sanctioning, without any type of restrictions.

Totalitarian regimes almost always exalt a central figure, who is the one who exercises power, above the single party. Social control and repression of dissent are two of the ways to control the population, so that it fits with the party’s objectives.

The regimes of Adolf Hitler in Germany (1933-1945), Benito Musolinni in Italy (1917-1943), the Soviet Union (1922-1991), and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia (1975-1979) are just a few examples of tyrannies.

See also

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *