state


state
/stayt/, n., adj., v., stated, stating.
n.
1. the condition of a person or thing, as with respect to circumstances or attributes: a state of health.
2. the condition of matter with respect to structure, form, constitution, phase, or the like: water in a gaseous state.
3. status, rank, or position in life; station: He dresses in a manner befitting his state.
4. the style of living befitting a person of wealth and high rank: to travel in state.
5. a particular condition of mind or feeling: to be in an excited state.
6. an abnormally tense, nervous, or perturbed condition: He's been in a state since hearing about his brother's death.
7. a politically unified people occupying a definite territory; nation.
8. the territory, or one of the territories, of a government.
9. (sometimes cap.) any of the bodies politic which together make up a federal union, as in the United States of America.
10. the body politic as organized for civil rule and government (distinguished from church).
11. the operations or activities of a central civil government: affairs of state.
12. (cap.) Also called State Department. Informal. the Department of State.
13. Print. a set of copies of an edition of a publication which differ from others of the same printing because of additions, corrections, or transpositions made during printing or at any time before publication.
14. lie in state, (of a corpse) to be exhibited publicly with honors before burial: The president's body lay in state for two days.
15. the States, Informal. the United States (usually used outside its borders): After a year's study in Spain, he returned to the States.
adj.
16. of or pertaining to the central civil government or authority.
17. made, maintained, or chartered by or under the authority of one of the commonwealths that make up a federal union: a state highway; a state bank.
18. characterized by, attended with, or involving ceremony: a state dinner.
19. used on or reserved for occasions of ceremony.
v.t.
20. to declare definitely or specifically: She stated her position on the case.
21. to set forth formally in speech or writing: to state a hypothesis.
22. to set forth in proper or definite form: to state a problem.
23. to say.
24. to fix or settle, as by authority.
[1175-1225; ME stat (n.), partly aph. var. of estat ESTATE, partly < L status condition (see STATUS); in defs. 7-11 < L status (rerum) state (of things) or status (rei publicae) state (of the republic)]
Syn. 1. STATE, CONDITION, SITUATION, STATUS are terms for existing circumstances or surroundings. STATE is the general word, often with no concrete implications or material relationships: the present state of affairs. CONDITION carries an implication of a relationship to causes and circumstances: The conditions made flying impossible.
SITUATION suggests an arrangement of circumstances, related to one another and to the character of a person: He was master of the situation. STATUS carries official or legal implications; it suggests a complete picture of interrelated circumstances as having to do with rank, position, standing, a stage reached in progress, etc.: the status of negotiations. 3. standing. 18. stately, ceremonial, imposing, dignified. 20. aver, assert, asseverate, affirm. See maintain. 24. determine.

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I
Political organization of society, or the body politic, or, more narrowly, the institutions of government.

The state is distinguished from other social groups by its purpose (establishment of order and security), methods (its laws and their enforcement), territory (its area of jurisdiction), and sovereignty. In some countries (e.g., the U.S.), the term also refers to nonsovereign political units subject to the authority of the larger state, or federal union.
II
(as used in expressions)
Islamic State of Afghanistan
State of Brunei Darussalam
Gosudarstvennaya Duma State Assembly
State of Eritrea
State of Israel
State of Kuwait
State of Qatar
Independent State of Samoa
Staatssicherheit State Security
city state
New York State University of
Independent State of Papua New Guinea
solid state device
solid state physics
state equation of
State of the Vatican City
French State
States' Rights Democrat
United Mexican States
United States War of Independence
League of Arab States
Association of Caribbean States
Capitol United States
Export Import Bank of the United States Ex Im Bank
Luba Lunda states
Micronesia Federated States of
states' rights

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▪ sovereign political entity
      political organization of society, or the body politic, or, more narrowly, the institutions of government. The state is a form of human association distinguished from other social groups by its purpose, the establishment of order and security (public administration); its methods, the laws and their enforcement; its territory, the area of jurisdiction or geographic boundaries; and finally by its sovereignty. The state consists, most broadly, of the agreement of the individuals on the means whereby disputes are settled in the form of laws. In such countries as the United States, Australia, Nigeria, Mexico, and Brazil, the term state (or a cognate) also refers to political units, not sovereign themselves, but subject to the authority of the larger state, or federal union.

      The history of the Western state begins in ancient Greece (ancient Greek civilization). Plato and Aristotle wrote of the polis, or city-state, as an ideal form of association, in which the whole community's religious, cultural, political, and economic needs could be satisfied. This city-state, characterized primarily by its self-sufficiency, was seen by Aristotle as the means of developing morality in the human character. The Greek idea corresponds more accurately to the modern concept of the nation—i.e., a population of a fixed area that shares a common language, culture, and history—whereas the Roman (ancient Rome) res publica, or commonwealth, is more similar to the modern concept of the state. The res publica was a legal system whose jurisdiction extended to all Roman citizens, securing their rights and determining their responsibilities. With the fragmentation of the Roman system, the question of authority and the need for order and security led to a long period of struggle between the warring feudal lords of Europe.

      It was not until the 16th century that the modern concept of the state emerged, in the writings of Niccolò Machiavelli (Machiavelli, Niccolò) (Italy) and Jean Bodin (Bodin, Jean) (France), as the centralizing force whereby stability might be regained. In The Prince, Machiavelli gave prime importance to the durability of government, sweeping aside all moral considerations and focusing instead on the strength—the vitality, courage, and independence—of the ruler. For Bodin, his contemporary, power was not sufficient in itself to create a sovereign; rule must comply with morality to be durable, and it must have continuity—i.e., a means of establishing succession. Bodin's theory was the forerunner of the 17th-century doctrine of the “divine right of kings,” whereby monarchy became the predominate form of government in Europe. It created a climate for the ideas of the 17th-century reformers like John Locke (Locke, John) in England and Jean-Jacques Rousseau (Rousseau, Jean-Jacques) in France, who began to reexamine the origins and purposes of the state.

      Rather than the right of a monarch to rule, Rousseau proposed that the state owed its authority to the general will of the governed. For him, the nation itself is sovereign, and the law is none other than the will of the people as a whole. Influenced by Plato, Rousseau recognized the state as the environment for the moral development of humanity. Man, though corrupted by his civilization, remained basically good and therefore capable of assuming the moral position of aiming at the general welfare. Because the result of aiming at individual purposes is disagreement, a healthy (noncorrupting) state can exist only when the common good is recognized as the goal.

      Rousseau's ideas reflect an attitude far more positive in respect of human nature than either Locke or Thomas Hobbes (Hobbes, Thomas), his 16th-century English predecessor. The “natural condition” of man, said Hobbes, is self-seeking and competitive. Man subjects himself to the rule of the state as the only means of self-preservation whereby he can escape the brutish cycle of mutual destruction that is otherwise the result of his contact with others.

      For Locke, the human condition is not so gloomy, but the state again springs from the need for protection—in this case, of inherent rights. Locke said that the state is the social contract by which individuals agree not to infringe on each other's “natural rights” to life, liberty, and property, in exchange for which each man secures his own “sphere of liberty.”

      The 19th-century German philosopher G.W.F. Hegel (Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich) saw the sphere of liberty as the whole state, with freedom not so much an individual's right, but rather, a result of human reason. Freedom was not the capacity to do as one liked but was the alignment with a universal will toward well-being. When men acted as moral agents, conflict ceased, and their aims coincided. Subordinating himself to the state, the individual was able to realize a synthesis between the values of family and the needs of economic life. To Hegel, the state was the culmination of moral action, where freedom of choice had led to the unity of the rational will, and all parts of society were nourished within the health of the whole. However, Hegel remained enchanted with the power of national aspiration. He did not share the vision of Immanuel Kant (Kant, Immanuel), his predecessor, who proposed the establishment of a league of nations to end conflict altogether and to establish a “perpetual peace.”

      For the English utilitarians (Utilitarianism) of the 19th century, the state was an artificial means of producing a unity of interest and a device for maintaining stability. This benign but mechanistic view proposed by Jeremy Bentham (Bentham, Jeremy) and others set a precedent for the early communist thinkers like Karl Marx (Marx, Karl) for whom the state had become an “apparatus of oppression” determined by a ruling class whose object was always to maintain itself in economic supremacy. He and his collaborator, Friedrich Engels (Engels, Friedrich), wrote in The Communist (Communist Manifesto, The) Manifesto that, in order to realize complete freedom and contentment, the people must replace the government first by a “dictatorship of the proletariat,” which would be followed by the “withering away of the state,” and then by a classless society based not on the enforcement of laws but on the organization of the means of production and the fair distribution of goods and property.

      In the 20th century, concepts of state ranged from anarchism, in which the state was deemed unnecessary and even harmful in that it operated by some form of coercion, to the welfare state, in which the government was held to be responsible for the survival of its members, guaranteeing subsistence to those lacking it.

      In the wake of the destruction produced by the nationalistically inspired world wars, theories of internationalism like those of Hans Kelsen (Kelsen, Hans) and Oscar Ichazo appeared. Kelsen put forward the idea of the state as simply a centralized legal order, no more sovereign than the individual, in that it could not be defined only by its own existence and experience. It must be seen in the context of its interaction with the rest of the world. Ichazo proposed a new kind of state in which the universal qualities of all individuals provided a basis for unification, with the whole society functioning as a single organism.

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Universalium. 2010.

Synonyms:

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