What is a State?
Differentiating Terms
– State
 Max Weber defines it as the organization that maintains
a monopoly of violence over a territory
– Must have sovereignty – the ability to carry out
actions or policies within a territory independently
from external actors or internal riots
 Sovereignty requires power, physical and
otherwise, to defend against these other actors
 Institutions are what we call actors which carry
out the state’s responsibilities (i.e., executive
branch, bureaucracy, military, courts, etc.)
What is a State?
Differentiating Terms
– Nation
 People group that is bound together through shared
political aspirations (i.e., self government)
– Regime
 fundamental rules and norms of politics
 Can change gradually or through rapid trauma or
– Government
 The leadership presently entrusted with running the
 Can change through elections, or transitions of power
Comparing State Power
Strong States
 Weak States
 Failed States
– These are simplistic ways to express the
power of a state
Comparing State Power
Capacity – the ability of a state to wield power in order
to carry out the basic tasks of providing security and
reconciling freedom and equality
– High Capacity – well organized, legitimate, able to
enforce its own laws
Autonomy – the ability of a state to wield its power
independent of public approval
– High Autonomy – state acts on behalf of the public
with no regard to public opinion
– Low Autonomy – state acts at the behest of private
individuals and groups
Centralization vs. Decentralization
– Unitary – one national
local/regional units
have little or no say in
 Examples : Great
Britain, China, Iran
Different Forms of Government
– Federal – local units
share power with the
central national
 Examples : U.S.,
Mexico, Nigeria,
Different Forms of Government
– Confederal – smaller
regional governments
hold the most power,
united by a weak
central government
 Examples :
European Union,
other IGOs