Do you want to know what the most essential 8 characteristics of a state are? Below, you will find complete explanation of these characteristics and their importance for the creation and sustenance of a state.

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Here we don’t speak about small administrative units that are called states. We speak about whole countries that are also considered states but in a different meaning. While borders between small administrative units called states are quite vague and transparent and people can freely cross them at any time, state borders between countries are a more serious notion. They are defended and cannot be crossed that easily.


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Even if several states unite to create a confederation, the separate states within them still remain independent. The majority of states in the world are independent and exist on their own, being on different terms with their neighbors.

There are several most popular theories states:

The theological theory says that all states are created by a certain divine force and that any power that exists in the world is sentenced by this divine forceThe theory of agreements says that states emerged out of agreements concluded between tribes, nations, or separate peopleThe theory of violence says that states are created as an act of violence of some tribes over the others and that the chief power should belong to the strongestThe patriarchic theory says that states are a natural continuation of the power of a father in family or dynasty The class theory says that states emerge from the prehistoric social model, in which the rich took over the poor and developed their private property

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There are eight essential characteristics of a state:

PopulationTerritory Government Permanence Sovereignty TaxationSystem of laws

Below, we will give separate attention to each of these characteristic features.

Essential characteristics of a state explained


There’s no state without a population. Population is a key element of any state, it refers to the number of people within a state. Simply put, it is impossible to have a state without population.

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There cannot be a state that has no territory, which is separated from other states. The boundaries between states should be guarded well to prevent international interference and keep the states sovereign. Territories of states have precise boundaries on the map.

Government and its forms

The government is a body or a system that’s called to establish and maintain the peace and safety of the population, and also to rule the stately affairs. This body is required to regulate the normal life of the population in order to make everybody obey the existing laws, protect the people's rights, prevent crimes, ensure the people's safety, provide basic amenities and infrastructure, manage the state's economy and defend its territory.


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From time to time, governments of democratic states change through elections. The population participates in the voting process according to existing election laws and make their choice regarding the government they want to have.

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In totalitarian states, there’s no election or the process is formal just to show the world that the population supports the existing rule. In fact, depriving the nation of their choice is a bad policy and very characteristic of cruel totalitarian governments.

The government is always responsible to the population for the actions and decisions it makes and the nation usually has a right to dismiss the current government and elect a new one (states usually have a special law or regulation for such situations).


The state is always permanent, no matter what the government is and how it changes with time. Permanence is the factor that helps the state develop in its own independent way.


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The territory that’s called a state should be recognized by other states and all the existing international organizations. The international recognition prevents the breaking out of wars, violation of boundaries, and other interference in the life of the state.


Is one of the essential factors that make a state a real legal state. This is the ability of a state to keep all the territories it possesses under full control, without any external influence. Without sovereignty, a state is only a colony and nothing more.

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Historically, taxes were collected by the more powerful from the less powerful within a society. The ones who possess the power used to take whatever they wanted from their subdued ones whenever they wished. As a rule, this was done in return for some formal services like protection and so on.

In the modern society, taxation in a state is a system of funding of governmental organs with funds from the people. In return for the taxation, the state protects the citizens and provides them with the things they need.


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The system of laws

The system of laws is a system of norms established and accepted by the state.

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The system of laws that’s attached to a state has several specific features: determining behavior norms; it's obligatory for all; it's sanctioned by the state; it's maintained by law enforcement agents.

Characteristics of a totalitarian state vs. characteristics of a democratic state

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Totalitarian states are often opposed to democratic ones that claim to appreciate the rights of their population higher than anything else.

In totalitarian states, the population is ruled by the one system of values for everyone. People are ruled by a leader or leaders that have all rights and monopoly for practically everything. As well, totalitarian states favor violent methods of control, involving military or police terror.

In democratic states, the population is the chief value of the state that has the power to elect and dismiss the government. All the rights and freedoms are protected by the state and the majority of the population has the power to make decisions for the whole society.