concept of the state is a cornerstone of modern political geography. A state is made up of a complex set of
interacting features, such as nationalistic ideals, borders, territory, the
ideal of sovereignty, and many other factors.
currently dominate the political arena, due to being perceived as ‘normal’. Despite this, states were not always the
preferred form of organization. In
reality, the concept of statehood did not exist in the way we think of it until
1648, when the Treaty of Westphalia was signed.
The Treaty of Westphalia marked the shift away from the former preferred
form of political organization, a system known as European Feudalism. The shift between organizations was
instrumental in the founding of nationalistic ideals, as, before the shift from
feudalism occurred, most people “did not have a sense of attachment to (or even
an awareness of) an abstract ‘state’ or ‘nation'” (Lecture, 1/23). The Treaty of Westphalia also gave rise to
the idea of sovereignty – “a claim to being the highest authority within an area,
or over a particular group.” (Painter & Jeffery 2009, 31).
the state is currently cemented as the “dominant form of political territorial
organization in the contemporary world” (Storey 2009, 246), it is important to
note that states are not natural entities, and do not exist outside the discursive
effect of social practices involved in statehood (Lecture, 1/25). Despite this, it is also important to note
that, even though states are imagined, the effects of statehood are not
imaginary. It is quite obvious that
states effect the everyday life of many people.
Painter & Jeffery provide an example of this while talking about
movement between states – “Suddenly we find ourselves subject to different
laws, using a different currency, and without the rights and obligations
accorded to us in our own state by our citizenship.” (Painter & Jeffery
2009, 25). Because states are imagined,
the ensemble of social processes that form a state must be performed, as when
they performances stop, the state ceases to exist. This is evident in the formation and dissolution
of the Soviet Union.
Since the concept of a state was
founded, the state has been transformed by many different factors, including
economic globalization, new forms of intergovernmental and supranational
political authority, international belief systems, technological innovations,
and more (Lecture, 1/25). These
challenges to the state have caused some people to argue that statehood no
longer matters. However, the state,
despite being challenged in these ways, still continues to persist. This can be attributed to many causes – some argue
that states (like the US) play a key role in “reshaping other states in a way
that suits its geopolitical ambitions” (Storey 2009, 247), a stance that leaves
little room for the so-called demise of the state.
Other factors that show the persistence
of the state is the usage of statist language, the continuation of borders,
attachment via emotional, institutional, and practical connections, and its use
in economics. The usage of statist
language is important in the persistence of the state, because it suggests that
the actions of the state can be (at least linguistically) attributed to the
people of said state (Martin 2009, 377).
The final reason why states currently persist can be attributed to our
pursuit of pleasure – in reality, many people like having a sense of belonging
to a country.