Access to the full content is only available to members of institutions that have purchased access. If you belong to such an institution, please log in or find out more about how to order.



DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-S059-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved June 21, 2024, from

Article Summary

States are inescapable, powerful and fundamentally important in the modern world. They spend a substantial portion of their members’ wealth; they tax, confiscate or compulsorily purchase private property; conscript; impose punishments, including capital punishment; defend their members from aggression and protect their rights; and provide educational, health and other essential social services.

States are also central to modern political philosophy, and figure in its main topics. For instance, the various theories of social justice concern which principle or principles of justice should be followed by states. Again, discussions of the rights of individuals, or of groups, presuppose states to make the preferred rights effective. The answers to traditional questions, such as whether one is morally obliged to obey the laws of a state, or whether freedom is reduced by the state or made possible by it, must depend in part on what a state is taken to be.

The principal features of the modern state are basically agreed upon (population, territory, effective and legitimate government, independence). But there are underlying assumptions needing notice, and many questions about the state, especially concerning its proper activities, are controversial and disputed. Moreover, the value of the state can be challenged, and its future doubted, especially in the light of increasing economic and political globalization and moral cosmopolitanism.

Citing this article:
Nicholson, Peter P.. State, the, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-S059-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

Related Searches


Related Articles