In legal and social terms, the State is defined as the form and organization of society, its government and the establishment of norms of human coexistence. It is the legal unit of the individuals that constitute a people that lives sheltered from a territory and under the rule of a Law, in order to achieve the common good. In addition, it is a human creation, since prehistory where man lived in what is called nature territories, in which they were not subject to positive laws, nor did they belong to any delimited territory.

what is the state

A State in the judicial and social sphere, is a style of organization supplied with sovereignty, it is composed of four fundamental elements such as: territory, population, sovereignty and government.

Taking the definition of State from the sociologist Max Weber who says that this is the institution that centralizes the application of legitimate force. This meaning of State refers to the important role played by the State, by helping to eliminate self-justice or private revenge, which was applied in the early years, even when the State itself already existed.

The State has various forms, the best known are: according to its organization we have the Simple States, where political power directs everything and there is a single authority, it is divided into Unitary States and Decentralized States.

There are also the Composite States, which encompasses a plurality of States, thus forming unions between them, is divided into Federal States, is an area divided territorially into several Regions or provinces (it occurs in a democratic government), and in Confederation of States, which is the permanent union of free and independent States, by means of an international pact.

What does a state represent?

A state is the representation of the people, it is in charge of exercising the will of the majority and of always being in search of the best options for the citizens. Its main function is to establish peace and order within society, for this it must regulate possible conflicts that occur between the various groups that comprise it.

In the same way, it must serve as the face of citizens before the rest of the states of the world, serving as a defender of the territory and the people within it, in case there are external threats. It should also foster relations with other countries. Regarding economic interests, it must also control the economy and labor relations, collect the corresponding tariffs and the money that is collected must be channeled to be able to solve the country’s problems.

Another of the functions it performs is to offer public goods and services to society in general, such as health, education, roads suitable for land transport, adequate infrastructure for communication.

In the same way, in terms of the environment and the functions that it must exercise, it is to correctly use the resources that the territory of the state possesses, without neglecting access to housing for its citizens.

Taking into account all of the above, it can be said that the state represents citizens both to defend their rights and to verify that their duties are fulfilled correctly, maintaining the balance for coexistence in peace.

When speaking of the essence of a territory as a social phenomenon, the following characteristics of a State can be highlighted:

  • It constitutes the organization of political domination that emerged at a certain stage of historical development and also disappears at a certain stage of this development.
  • It is conditioned by the economic base of society and is the superstructure built on it.
  • It is the organization of the ruling class of owners of the main means of production to defend their class interests.
  • It is the universal political organization that owns the sovereign public power and its material appendages, it is distinguished by the distribution of the population, the administrative-territorial division, taxes and the Law.

What are the Elements of a State

elements of a state

The most significant elements of the State are the territory, the population, the government and sovereignty. It should be noted that the State is a style of social organization provided with sovereignty, which is the supreme power that coexists in the citizens.

Every Territory must have the following four basic elements: a territory (in which to develop), a population (that grants it sovereignty), a government (through which to exercise) and a sovereignty (power to exercise its authority).


It is a human institution, which means that a population is made up of individuals. Furthermore, a country is a community of people. This means that without a population there cannot be a country.

According to Aristotle, the number of members of a population should be neither too small nor too large. In either case, it must be just big enough for the state to be self-sufficient and just small enough for it to be governed.

An example of population would be the state of Mexico, according to a census carried out by the National Institute of Statistics and Geography, the population of Mexico amounted to approximately 130 million inhabitants in 2015.


A territory is the physical area in which a Nation develops. Since it cannot exist in the sea or in the air, but must exist in a land area where it can be formed.

What is really important is not the extension of the territory but its delimitation. Which means that a town must have its terrestrial space well defined, divided from the other states by precise and clear limits.

It is important to highlight that the territory not only includes the solid ground, but also encloses the airspace and the water limits that are found within said land, such as, for example, the lakes, rivers and internal seas. The territory of a population can include islands, an example would be the Mexican territory which is made up of a continental area and another by maritime space.


The government is the political organization of a region. This is the element through which the will of the people is expressed, formulated and concretized. The government is made up of a chain of institutions that provide the region with the authority to administer issues that concern it, such as the optimization of public services (health, education, security), the administration of wealth, among others.

For example: Mexico has a federal and democratic government system, made up of a supreme power that at the same time is divided into three powers: Executive, legislative and judicial.


The term sovereignty comes from the Latin term superanus, which means “supreme”. In this sense, sovereignty means that it is the supreme power, none of the other powers will surpass sovereignty. Which means that sovereignty is really the true power of a Nation, as it allows it to govern, command and ensure the subordination of the inhabitants within the limits of its territory.

According to the French politician Jean Bodin, sovereignty has two aspects: one external and one internal. External sovereignty which means that the country is independent, so it has every right not to be interceded by other regions. Similarly, external sovereignty implies the Government’s experience of establishing relationships with other regions.

Internal sovereignty, on the other hand, is the ability of the state to make its own decisions and have them carried out within the territory.

For example: the sovereignty of Mexico is observed in articles 38, 40 and 41 of its political constitution. In these articles it is established that the supreme power of the country lies in its population and that any benefit that is released must be applied later.

What is the Rule of Law

The rule of law is a pattern of order for a country whereby all members of a society (including those in government) are counted equally, subject to publicly expressed legal processes and codes; it is a political situation that does not allude to any specific law. This political model implies that each one of the inhabitants is subject to the law, including the subjects who are legislators, judges or officials in charge of enforcing the law.

Any action or measure must be linked to a written legal norm and the authorities of the region are rigorously restricted by a pre-established legal framework that they approve and to which they submit in its contents and forms. Therefore, any decision-making of its governing bodies must be subject to procedures regulated by law and conducted with full respect for rights.

With the development of this process, the fragmentation of powers is reflected (the judicial power, the legislative power and the executive power, which are three institutions that, in the absolute state, are agglomerated in the figure of the government). In this way, the courts become autonomous with respect to the sovereign and it is reflected in the parliament, to counteract the power of the ruler.

Another concept that is related to this is that of democracy, since it presumes that the population has power and applies it through elections, when they choose their rulers.

In addition, it is extremely important to establish that some kind of legal system coexists in all territories, but that does not mean that a legal order governs in it, since for it to persist, it is necessary that the political society be completely juridified. and where the norms affirm that every inhabitant will be treated equally in the face of justice.

It is important to indicate that in order to be considered as such, a legal order of rights must comply with a succession of norms, they are:

  • The Law must be the main order: all the inhabitants, including those who govern, must be subordinated to the laws and be ruled on equal terms and no exceptions will be made for any citizen, regardless of the position they hold.
  • All Rights and Freedoms must be certified: it is the commitment of the Government that the Law is consumed and that it ensures the freedom of all citizens who live under its protection; the maximum rule of the Government is to guarantee this principle.
  • The administration must be conditioned by the Law: the leaders of the country belong to two different organisms: the Government and the Administration, this refers to a non-political element and is made up of officials, and like the government, it is limited to the laws that preside over the territory.
  • Differences between State, Nation and Government

    • There is a difference between what is a state, a government and a nation.
      While the State refers to the unbreakable institutions that make the functioning of an entire country possible, that is, it is the group of public institutions that make up the government of a country. The nation, for its part, refers to the group of people who live in the country and who share the same origin, are directed by the same government and usually have a popular custom.
    • While the state is a machinery through which political power is made effective, the government, for its part, is the one who, in a first approximation, holds that power, since it is made up of the group of people who manage said machinery. That is to say, in other words, that it is denominated thus, to the authorities that, in representation of a Nation, carry out administrative functions of any class for a determined time.