A nation is a group of people who share a series of elements such as history, language, territory, culture, ethnicity. Generally they are grouped forming a State, region or other formula that represents their sovereignty.
The concept of nation is a complex concept, and from the point of view of political science it does not have a single definition. Therefore, to know what is and what is the meaning of the concept of nation, we will see two definitions that have been used to describe a nation:
- French tradition: According to Sieyès, theorist of the French Revolution, the nation is made up of all those people who express the intention of living together under the same political community, regardless of cultural, linguistic, religious or ethnic differences.
- German tradition: According to Herder and Fichte, nation are those that share a series of elements such as ethnicity, legal practices, folklore, mythology, culture, etc. Because even if they don't know it, sharing these traits is the expression of a collective soul.
In summary, for the first definition, a nation would be anyone who wants to form a political community. On the other hand, for the second, nation are all those who share certain traits, since it is that, whether they want to or not, what defines them as a community.
Elements of the nation
Depending on the definition used, the nation can have objective elements or subjective elements. Let's start with the objectives:
- Culture or traditions.
However, some authors reject that the concept of nation can be encompassed under all the previous components. Thus, according to the authors who are in favor of the subjective elements that make up a nation, there are:
- Willingness to live in the same community.
- Identification of the individual with the nation.
- Solidarity between the people who live in it.
- Shared interests.
- Common consciousness.
In any case, it should be noted that there is not even a consensus between the objective and subjective elements of a nation.
Difference between nation and state
In the constitution of the States it is convenient to distinguish how they were formed. That is to say, it is necessary to know if the feeling of nation precedes the State or this is created before said common conscience is taken.
In states that lacked a nation identity, it was the ruling elites that drove the creation of shared values and elements. These were language, folklore, religion, etc. And it is the institutions of that State that are in charge of giving these common elements to the population as a whole, such as the school, the church and even the military service. As examples of this we would have Spain, South American and African countries, France, etc.
On the contrary, there are States that have been formed after having those shared feelings and characteristics, also called a cultural nation. Furthermore, they are the ones who have motivated nationalist movements and regimes.
Examples would be Germany or the states that emerged after the extinction of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, or also the more recent states that emerged after independence processes.
It is very difficult for a perfect relationship to exist between nation and state, hence numerous territorial tensions within the same country. That is why many of them opt for the decentralization of competences, thus seeking an intermediate position. On the one hand, membership in a broad political community with which many ties unite us is recognized. But on the other hand, the peripheral territory is left free to act in some areas over which it can exercise its own sovereignty.