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Political Theory: The State

Introduction to State

The central concern of political theorists throughout history has been the theory of the state. Plato contributed to the founding of this theory in his discourse the Republic, which attempted to reconcile moral theory and political practice by projecting a community in which property was to be owned in common and which was to be governed by an aristocracy of philosopher-kings who would train the young. Such doctrines, in highly distorted form, have been used in modern times as the basis of the system of government known as totalitarianism, which, in contrast to democracy, asserts the supremacy of the state over the individual. A variant of this system, known as absolutism, vests the ruling power in a limited number of persons or in institutions, such as a priesthood, supporting certain fixed and generally immutable principles.

Aristotle is generally regarded as the founder of the scientific approach to political theory. His Politics, which classified governments as monarchies, aristocracies, and democracies, according to their control by one person, a select few, or many persons, successfully combined an empirical investigation of the facts and a critical inquiry into their ideal possibilities, thus providing a challenging model of political studies.” (1)

Impossible For the Family of Nations to Organize Itself on the Model of the State

Lassa Oppenheim, in the book entitled The Future of International Law, about Impossible For the Family of Nations to Organize Itself on the Model of the State, wrote in 1921: 22. How then must and will this organization take shape? The proposals which hitherto have been made for the organization of the world are freaks of fancy. Of notable value as indications of idealistic speculation in the midst of an adverse world, they crumble into dust immediately they are soberly scrutinized. All proposals which aim at the organization of international society after the pattern of the organization of the state–whether a unitary state or a federal state, or a system of confederated states–are either impracticable or do not meet the needs of the case. Every organization of the community of states must take as its starting-point the full sovereignty and the absolute equality of states, and must preserve these characters intact. There can, therefore, be no talk of a political central authority standing above individual states; and so, the organization in question must be sui generis and cannot frame itself on the model of state organization.

Concept of State

An introductory definition of State is provided here: an organized political entity that occupies a definite territory, has a permanent population, and enjoys stable government, independence and sovereignty

Definition of State

Within the context of international human rights, the following is a brief meaning of state: Often synonymous with “country”; a group of people permanently occupying a fixed territory having common laws and government and capable of conducting international affairs.


Embracing mainstream international law, this section on state explores the context, history and effect of the area of the law covered here.


See Also

  • Foregin Policy
  • Foreign Affairs


See Also

  • Nation
  • Province
  • Sovereignty
  • Rule of Law
  • Public International Law
  • State Territory


Further Reading

  • The entry “state” in the Parry and Grant Encyclopaedic Dictionary of International Law (currently, the Encyclopaedic Dictionary of International Law, 2009), Oxford University Press


See Also

  • Human Rights


Notes and References

Guide to State

Hierarchical Display of State

Law > Sources and branches of the law > Source of law >
Law > Sources and branches of the law > Source of law > Peace > State-building


Concept of State

See the dictionary definition of State.

Characteristics of State

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Translation of State

Thesaurus of State

Law > Sources and branches of the law > Source of law > > State
Law > Sources and branches of the law > Source of law > Peace > State-building > State

See also

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