A state may be simply defined as a politically organized body of people occupying a definite geographical entity/territory with an organized government, free from external control and has coercive power to secure obedience from its citizens and others.


Characteristics of a State

  1. Population: one major feature of a state is population. There must be a given number of people without a minimum or maximum to occupy it.
  2. Territory; a state must possess a definite territory which includes air, ocean and other natural features. It might be either small or big with clear-cut boundaries separating it from others.
  3. Government; the government makes a state effective as it runs the affairs of the state. The government performs its function on behalf of the state as it makes and enforces laws. The government maintains the existence and survival of a state.
  4. Sovereignty; this refers to the power of a state to make and enforce laws within its territory without any external influence.
  5. Recognition; a state must be recognized both internally and externally. Other countries in the international arena must recognize its existence.
  6. Membership: it is very compulsory for one to be a member of a state either by birth or other means of acquiring citizenship
  7. Law: a state must have a system of laws, which are binding on all the individuals and groups residing in the state. The laws are enshrined in the constitution.
  8. Permanence: a state is permanent. The individual can die, the government can be removed but a state cannot be removed unless it is conquered in a war.



A nation refers to a group of people who are united by common ties as a result of common culture, origin and descent. They have the same political aspirations and consciousness of unity. It is the consciousness of unity that is referred to as ‘nationalism” or a sense of nationality.


A nation possesses all attributes of a state except sovereignty. For a nation to be seen as a state, it must gain political independence and have the supreme power to make and enforce its own laws. The only difference between a state and a nation is sovereignty.



Political culture may be defined as the attitudes, beliefs, emotions, sentiments, ideas, and values that guide the behaviour of the people in any given state politically. It is the political way of life, which is developed by the society over a period of time. They might include method of election and people’s reaction to it, tolerance and other factors that encourage democracy.


Components of political Culture

  1. Cognitive Orientation: This refers to the people’s knowledge about the political system, beliefs about the government and the role of government officials.
  2. Evaluative Orientation: This refers to how the citizens can evaluate the performance of the people in government and the efficiency and effectiveness of their policies.
  3. Affective Orientation: This refers to the feeling of the people towards the political system and their government. It could also mean if the people are proud of their government and political institutions and loyal to them or if they feel indifferent.


Determinants of political Culture

  1. Different Ethnicity: the belief that each tribe has a distinct culture has an impact on the people’s political culture and this brings about difference of political culture.
  2. Historical Development: a society’s historical development determines and influences its political culture.
  3. Colonial Mentality: European colonial legacy has influenced political structure of states in Africa, Latin America, and Asia etc. For instance, Nigerian federal structure and political beliefs, values and attitudes are copied from Britain.
  4. Socio-economic structure: Urban and developed societies have higher educational standards. They tend to participate in the decision making of their states rather than the rural societies, which are rather conservative.
  5. Political Instability: constant instability in the political system brings about bad feelings in he people and this affects their political values and attitude towards politics.



  1. What is a State
  2. What is a Nation?



  1. How is a Nation different from a State?
  2. What do you understand by Political Culture?
  3. What are the components of political culture
  4. How does colonial mentality affect the political culture of a people?



  1. The right of a state to make and enforce her own laws is called

(a) Power                     (b) authority                (c) sovereignty

  1. People united by common ties as a result of common culture, origin and descent are called a ____ (a) state (b) country                  (c) nation
  2. The concept also referred to as Authoritarianism is known as

(a) totalitarianism                    (b) socialism                (c) aristocracy

  1. A component of political culture which seeks to evaluate governments performance is known as ____ orientation (a) affective (b) evaluative              (c) cognitive
  2. One major determinant of political culture is ____

(a) ethnicity     (b) political instability             (c) all of the above



  1. Explain the component of political culture.
  2. Outline five characteristics of a state.


See also






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