Ordinarily, no distinction is made between nation and state. But in reality there is a great difference between the two terms. Slate is a product of four elements—population, territory, government and sovereignty. So long as these factors are existent in one form or another, there is a state.
A state may lack the feeling of oneness among its people and yet remain a state. Austria- Hungary was a single state before World War I, although there was no sense any spiritual unity among her people. In fact, she was a state paving two distinct nations—Austria and Hungary within its fold.
The basis of the two concepts is different. The term nation emphasizes the consciousness of unity due to psychological or spiritual feelings. The state emphasizes political unity.
In the words of Prof. Zimmer, “Nationality, like religions, is subjective; statehood is objective; nationality is psychological, statehood is political; nationality is a condition of mind, statehood is a condition of law; nationality is a 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.”
Despite the above distinction most of the states in modern times are nation states. England, Germany Italy, etc., are good examples.
Most of the political thinkers equate nation with a state, that is to say the idea of “one nation, one state” is getting prevalent. Statehood is being identified with nationhood. It is pointed out that every state should have within its bounds only those people who share common national sentiments. The states should not have within its bounds people sharing different national sentiments.
All nationalities and national minorities should have a right to establish separate slates for them. This right is known as the right of self-determination. As Mill points out, “the boundaries of a slate should coincide in the main with those of nationalities.
” A multinational state creates an unsatisfactory condition because its members have no consciousness of any bond of unity among them except obedience to a common government.