States: Formation, Development and Change

State Formation

The previous articles discussed the basic concepts of political science including how the concepts of nation states and sovereignty came into being. This article takes the discussion further by examining how states have formed and developed over the decades as well as the changes occurring in the way states are governed and managed.

The first aspect of state formation relates to the unitary concept of sovereignty wherein nations exist as entities that are autonomous and independent. For instance, the British and French colonial powers ceded independence to their erstwhile client states in the aftermath of the Second World War. Next, many countries came into existence because of historical and geographical realities. Hence, the formation of states has happened either due to fights for independence or because of the redrawing of the maps due to geopolitical considerations. This is the case with Iraq and other countries in the erstwhile Soviet Bloc that were amalgamated with the larger Soviet Union because of contiguities and the need for expansion.

State Development

The development of states has happened after these countries gained independence and this was accompanied by a concomitant move to develop their economies and strengthen the institutions of governance. For instance, India adopted a new constitution and embarked on state building, which is now yielding results in terms of improved living conditions for the people when compared with those under British rule. Further, states like those that became independent after the collapse of the communist regimes are now establishing themselves as strong states with flourishing economies mainly due to concerted efforts at state building and state development.

Changes in State Processes

The third aspect of changes in the ways and means of how the states go about their activities is to do with how the political economy evolves over a period of time. For instance, Pakistan has experimented with both democracy and military rule without success in either whereas Egypt has made the transition from autocratic rule to democratic rule successfully. The point here is that the key factor for states to change over time is the resilience of the institutions of governance as well as the ability of the people to effect change. Hence, states that have stronger institutions and less internal fissures have changed for the good whereas states that are weak in the center or are pulled apart due to centripetal forces have become failed states. Finally, the processes of state formation, development, and change can happen through revolutions as was seen recently during the Arab Spring of 2011.

Before concluding this article, it needs to be mentioned that this brief introduction is just an overview and the themes introduced in this article would be explored in detail in subsequent articles. The key point to be noted is that we live in an era that is marked by rapid and unprecedented change and hence, those states that have succeeded in establishing structures of governance are the ones that would ultimately succeed and thrive in this environment.


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Political Science