Meaning and Major Characteristics of the State

Like I stated in my previous article, that the government is the agent of the state. I explained extensively, the meaning, scope and advantages of the government. I also talked about the major roles of the government and its relationship with the State. Now, in this article, we shall consider the elements or features of a State.

What is the meaning | Definition of a State?

A State is a community of people living permanently on a defined territory and who have a common independent government. From the definition above, you can actually draw the components of a State.

Before I mention these characteristics, look at the definition again and try bringing out any of the Characteristics of a State on your own.

There are five (5) components of a State which we can draw from the above definition. Namely: population, permanence, territory, sovereignty and government. We shall look at each of these elements one after the other.

Characteristics of a State

These are the components of a State.


The element of population comes out from a part of the definition which says “a community of people“.

It means that before a State actually becomes a State, it needs people. In other words, it need people as citizens of the State. A State cannot stand without the people as it is actually the people that form other elements of the State.

The people forms the government, inhabit the territory, live in the territory permanently and also make the State sovereign. So, population (the people) is actually the main characteristic of a State


Permanence is another feature which comes from a part of the definition which says “living permanently“.

A country cannot relocate from one place to another. The only thing that may happen is to change the name of the country and other things about it. But, relocation is never a feature of the state.

Nigeria, which was formerly called British territory was changed to Nigeria but the location remains the same.

Territory | Features of the state

Territory is another feature of a State which comes from a part of the definition which says “a defined territory“.

A country or State must have a definite place indicated with boundaries with other States. The size of the territory does not really matter.

A State needs a territory so as to function effectively and have absolute control of its own affairs. If two States are to be in the same territory, they will always struggle for sovereignty. It will cause war between those States. Therefore, the need for territory for each State.


Sovereignty refers to the ability of a State to control its affairs without the interference of other States or external body. This is one of the major characteristics of the State.

A country should have the ability to be above all other countries in its capacity. In other words, it should be able to defend and maintain its country. Sovereignty encompasses getting a constitution, functional branches of government. A state should also be able to enforce the law within the State.

Sovereignty of a State earns respect for the State from other States. This is exactly a country cannot just jump into the affairs of another country.

For the struggle for sovereignty of a State to succeed, it must have a Constitution. The Constitution states the rules and regulations through which the country runs is affairs. In fact, the Constitution is the grundnorm. Every other country respects the Constitution of a country.


This is one of the elements of the State which comes from a part of the definition which says “independent government“.

After the people, as a feature of the State, the next feature is the government. The government is an agent of the State such that without the government, the State may not function well.

The government forms part of the sovereignty of the state. It makes the law, enforces it and also interprets the law.

The roles and responsibilities of a government cannot be skipped in a country.

Conclusion – Features of the State

From the brief exposure of the nature of government, it is believable that we have 5 main components of a State.

The traits of a State above best describes the nature of a state. Its nature is a type which cannot do without those features especially the government and the people. The government and the people can form the rest of the traits.

Do well to drop your comments, questions and contributions in the box below.

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