(i) The state is an institution of antiquity. It denotes an associa­tion with laws and a government within a defined territory.

President Wilson describes it as “a people organized for law within a definite territory.” Prof. Laski defines the state as “a territorial society divided into Government and subjects claiming within its allotted physi­cal area, a supremacy over all other institutions.

” Maclver defines the state as “an association which acting through law as promulgated by a government, endowed to this end with coercive power, maintains within a community, territorially demarcated the universal external conditions of social order”.

Prof. Holland is more detailed in his definition of the term ‘state’. According to him “a state is numerous assemblage of human beings generally occupying a certain territory amongst whom the will of the majority of an ascertainable class of persons is, by the strength of such a majority or class made to prevail against any of their number who opposes it.


” The definition given by Garner is perhaps the most acceptable one as it clearly brings out the essential attributes of the state. Garner defines the state as “a community of persons, more or less numerous; permanently occupying a definite territory, independent of external control, and possessing an organized Government to which the great body of inhabitants render habitual obedience.”

The state has four essential attributes, viz., Population, Territory, Government and Sovereignty. Population and territory constitute the physical basis of the State while government and sovereignty constitute its legal basis or political basis.

1. Population:

The state is the result of social instinct of man. One cannot think of the state without human beings as one cannot conceive of cloth without yarn. Every state must have a certain size of its population.


There is, however a controversy among political thinkers regarding the numerical strength of the population which a state should possess. The ancient Greek philosophers like Plato and Aristotle were in favor of small states with small population.

Plato’s ideal state was to have a citizen population of 5000 or so. Rousseau, too, was in favor of small states with small population. His version was, “The more the population, the less the liberty.” In the opinion of Rousseau, a state should have at the most a population of ten thousand individuals. Modern states are not barred by these limitations.

In fact, no hard and fast rules can be laid down regarding the size of population. In the modern world, the population of states varies greatly from the few thousands of Monaco to the many millions of China, India, Russia and the United States.

Difference in population, other things remaining the same, does not make any change in the character of state. All the same, population alone is no criterion for measuring the strength of a state. Much depends upon the character and the spirit of the people.


Switzerland has very small size of its population but it has proved to be great success as regards the functioning of democracy and industrial and political strength. The fact, however remains that in the context of power politics in the world, small states have to function as the satellites of bigger states.

The big states have definite advantages as regards man­power and necessary resources for an independent, self-sufficient, pros­perous and progressive existence. Smaller states are, however, well off economically.

2. Territory:

It is the second essential basis of the State. Population alone does not constitute a state. It must be in possession of a definite territory. Nomads and gypsies can have no state because they lead a wandering life.


In the present day world, small states exist side by side with big states. There are today some 200 or odd states with a great disparity in respect of territory from a four square miles of the tiny state of Monaco to ten and a half million square miles of Soviet Union.

In between, there are states of varying size for instance the area of the Indian Union is 12,69,640 square miles. She is the 7th largest state in the world. She is about 13 times as large as the U.K., 8 times the size of Japan and 1/7 the size of Soviet Union. There cannot be, therefore any, minimum and maximum to the territorial limits of the state.

Territory includes definite frontiers, land surface, the underground wealth like minerals, air space above the land surface and maritime belt. The maritime belt runs parallel to the coast. Its limit in the sea differs from state to state between 3-1 miles to 12 miles or sometimes even 18 miles.

It is important that a state should possess an undisputed territory of its own over which it should have exclusive jurisdiction, but also it should have territorial contiguity, i.e., geographically it should be one composite whole. The concept of territorial integrity is this basis of statehood.


3. Unity of Organization or Government:

Government is the concrete expression of the state. The people may live in a particular territory but that inhabited territory cannot be termed as state unless the people are controlled by a common Government.

Government forms an agency through which the will of the state is formulated, expressed and executed. Population is only an unorganized mass of people if there be no Government.

The Government brings about regulation and adjust­ment in the life of the people. It is the organization of the state without which population, however big, will not be able to formulate, express and enforce its will. “Settled relations of control and obedience” are essential before a state may come into existence.


This relationship is only established by the Government. Moreover, the state is incapable of collective action in any sphere without such an agency. All this means that Government of one form or another is essential for the creation of state.

The Government has three branches – Legislature, Executive and Judiciary. The Legislature makes law, the Executive enforces and executes it, the Judiciary interprets and punishes the breach of law. The government exercises the physical coercion at the disposal of the state and punishes disobedience to its commands.

The form of Government is immaterial so far as state is concerned. It may be democratic or dictatorial, parliamentary or presidential, a military dictatorshipora civil dictatorship. A change in government does not bring a change in the state. In Britain, Conservative party and Labour party rule alternately but that makes no difference to the state.

4. Sovereignty:

This is the most important element of state and it is this characteristic that distinguishes state from similar other social organizations. A state must have a sovereign power which is free both from external and internal control. A state is internally supreme if a large bulk of its population willingly obeys its laws and it is capable of inflicting punishment on those who do not obey them.

Internal suprem­acy of the state also implies that no individual or association of individu­als is higher or greater than the state itself. All are subordinated to the will of the state. The state is externally sovereign if it is independent of foreign control and maintains a free external policy of its own.

A state may observe international conventions and rules but no outside power or organization can compel their observance. Every state legally is equal to other states irrespective of size, military power or economic strength. Ceylon and India, Britain and Ghana, the U.S.S.R. and Hungary, the U.S.A. and Cuba are all equal in international law.