As we have all come to understand, there are many things that are hard to define, especially when an answer is searched for. We encountered this in our previous readings when trying to define place. It seems like a rather uncomplicated concept in ever day activity, but when the question is put to the test, it quickly becomes very tricky. Same is the case for defining “state.” While this chapter branches to many different aspects coinciding with what constitutes the state, I think the the most important part of the chapter is in trying to define this idea. Without an idea of the state and what holds true, then nothing else really matters.
As the chapter mentions, the state is commonly referred to as the institution or organization within the boundaries. But as it also mentions, no state has a single institution or organization. There are many individual institutions that collectively create what we consider the state. Along with this, it is hard to define which ones make the state and which ones do not. Especially when you consider a state like the United States and as many levels of government within our own borders, the question can be even trickier. An idea that the chapter goes on to argue is that one way to understand the concept of the state is to see it as an idea, or symbolic construct, and at this point in society, a preconceived notion. It is in the way we are brought up and how we act and live in ever day life. It is not something that can be touched, but is so commonly understood that it is never questioned, and I think this is why it is so hard to define. It is an understanding that changes over time, with time, and is just perceived to exist.
It is no question that we follow the laws and live under the power of the state, but when considering the idea of the state and what it actually is, it is important to understand it’s claimed sovereignty. When considering the fact that the state is a symbolic entity, what really gives it the right to claim highest authority? Why do we live under the rule of something that doesn’t physically exist? I am not a rebel by any stretch of the word, but this is something to seriously think about. Of course, this is the way we have developed power and the concept of power and authority over time, beginning in Europe through divine right, but at one point in time, this question could have been more up for debate. As there was little to no affect on every day life, it went largely unnoticed anyway. As it is stated in the chapter, there actually are certain levels of state that are not considered legitimate by others, like Northern Cyprus as mentioned in the reading. Another example is the dispute between China and Taiwan, as they each have different views of who is in power. It is important to understand that sovereignty in one place could mean absolutely nothing somewhere else. As the chapter ends, we do find a new sense of nationalism in today’s society. Whether or not we ever come to a clear understanding of the state, we can at least be proud.