Elements Of The State

The state possesses four essential elements.




The State is a human institution. It is the people who make a State. Antarctica is not a State as is it is without any human population. The population must be able to sustain a state. But the question is; how much should be the population?

Plato’s and Aristotle’s ideals were the Greek City – States of Athens and Sparta.

  • Plato fixed the number of people in an ideal state at 5040.
  • Aristotle laid down a general principle that the state should neither be large nor small; it should be large enough to be self-sufficing and small enough to be well-governed.
  • Rousseau put the number at 10,000.


It is difficult to fix the size of the people of a state.

  • In modern times we have India and China which have huge population and countries like San Marino with a very small population.
  • Countries like former Soviet Union gave incentives to mother of large families.
  • In India, over-population is a big problem while China has enforced a one-child norm.
  • Dictators like Mussolini had openly encouraged large population of the state.


No limit, either theoretical or practical, can be put on population.

  • The population must be enough to constitute governing and governed classes, sufficient to support a political organization.
  • It should be in proportion to the available land and resources.

It should be remembered that the differences in the size of population, other things remaining the same, does not make any difference in the nature of State.


The quality of the population is also important.

  • A state requires healthy, intelligent and disciplined citizens.
  • Citizens should be possessed with qualities of vitality.


The composition of population is also very important.

  • A state with a homogenous people can be governed easily.



Just as every person belongs to a state, so does every square yard of earth. There is no state without a fixed territory. Living together on a common land binds people together. Love for the territory inculcates the spirit of patriotism. Some call their countries as fatherland and some call it motherland. But there is a definite attachment with one’s territory.

The territory has to be definite because it ensures exercise of political authority.

  • Mobile tribals had some sort of political authority but they did not constitute a State because they lacked a fixed land. The Jews were living in different countries and they became State only with the creation of Israel, which had a definite territory.
  • Without a fixed territory it would be difficult to conduct external relations. It is essential for the identification if one state attempts to conquer the territory of another.

The territory may be small or large. But the state has to have a definite land. It may be as small as San Marino, which has an area of 62 Square kilometers, or it may be as large as India, USA, Russia or China. The size of a state influences the form of government. For example, smaller states can have a unitary form of government but for the large states like India and the USA, the federal system is relatively suitable.

The quality of land is also very important.

  • If the land is rich in minerals and natural resources, it will make the state economically powerful.
  • It should be able to provide enough food for its people.
  • The States of West Asia were insignificant but they acquired prominence after the discovery of oil.
  • Large territory of a State gives it strategic and military advantage during the times of war.
  • Mostly the territory of a state is contiguous and compact though there are exceptions also.
    • Before the creation of Bangladesh, the two wings of Pakistan were miles apart.
    • Hawaii and Alaska are far away from the main territory of USA.

Land, water and airspace comprise the territory of the state. The sovereignty of a state is exercised over its land, its rivers, mountains and plains and airspace above the land. The sea up to a certain limit from the land border is also a part of the territory of a State.



The purpose for which people live together cannot be realized unless they are properly organized and accept certain rules of conduct. The agency created to enforce rules of conduct and ensure obedience is called government.

Government is also the focus of the common purpose of the people occupying the definite territory. It is through this medium that common policies are determined, common affairs regulated and common interests promoted.

Without a government the people will lack cohesion and means of collective action. There would be groups, parties and warring associations and conditions of wars and chaos. So there is a need for common authority and order where people live. This is the pre-requisite of human life.

The state cannot and does not exist without a government, no matter what form a government may assume. The government is a must, though it may take any form.

  • It may have a monarchy like Bhutan or republic as in India.
  • It may have a parliamentary form of government like India and Great Britain or a presidential form of government as in the United States of America.



A people inhabiting a definite portion of territory and having a government do not constitute a state so long as they do not possess sovereignty. India before 15 August 1947 had all the other elements of the state but it lacked sovereignty and therefore it was not a State.

Sovereignty is the supreme power by which the state commands and exerts political obedience from its people. A state must be internally supreme and free from external control. Thus sovereignty has two aspects, internal and external. Internal sovereignty is the state’s monopoly of authority inside its boundaries. This authority cannot be shared with any other state. The state is independent and its will is unaffected by the will of any other external authority.


Therefore every state must have a population, a definite territory, a duly established government and sovereignty. The absence of any of these elements deprives it the status of statehood. So the term generally used for the provinces of Indian Republic at times creates confusion and as is the case of ‘50 States’ in the United States of America.



Bibliography : NIOS – Political Science

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