Theconcept of the state is a cornerstone of modern political geography. A state is made up of a complex set ofinteracting features, such as nationalistic ideals, borders, territory, theideal of sovereignty, and many other factors. Statescurrently dominate the political arena, due to being perceived as ‘normal’.
Despite this, states were not always thepreferred form of organization. Inreality, the concept of statehood did not exist in the way we think of it until1648, when the Treaty of Westphalia was signed. The Treaty of Westphalia marked the shift away from the former preferredform of political organization, a system known as European Feudalism. The shift between organizations wasinstrumental in the founding of nationalistic ideals, as, before the shift fromfeudalism occurred, most people “did not have a sense of attachment to (or evenan awareness of) an abstract ‘state’ or ‘nation'” (Lecture, 1/23). The Treaty of Westphalia also gave rise tothe idea of sovereignty – “a claim to being the highest authority within an area,or over a particular group.
” (Painter & Jeffery 2009, 31).Whilethe state is currently cemented as the “dominant form of political territorialorganization in the contemporary world” (Storey 2009, 246), it is important tonote that states are not natural entities, and do not exist outside the discursiveeffect of social practices involved in statehood (Lecture, 1/25). Despite this, it is also important to notethat, even though states are imagined, the effects of statehood are notimaginary.
It is quite obvious thatstates effect the everyday life of many people. Painter & Jeffery provide an example of this while talking aboutmovement between states – “Suddenly we find ourselves subject to differentlaws, using a different currency, and without the rights and obligationsaccorded to us in our own state by our citizenship.” (Painter & Jeffery2009, 25). Because states are imagined,the ensemble of social processes that form a state must be performed, as whenthey performances stop, the state ceases to exist. This is evident in the formation and dissolutionof the Soviet Union.
Since the concept of a state wasfounded, the state has been transformed by many different factors, includingeconomic globalization, new forms of intergovernmental and supranationalpolitical authority, international belief systems, technological innovations,and more (Lecture, 1/25). Thesechallenges to the state have caused some people to argue that statehood nolonger matters. However, the state,despite being challenged in these ways, still continues to persist. This can be attributed to many causes – some arguethat states (like the US) play a key role in “reshaping other states in a waythat suits its geopolitical ambitions” (Storey 2009, 247), a stance that leaveslittle room for the so-called demise of the state. Other factors that show the persistenceof the state is the usage of statist language, the continuation of borders,attachment via emotional, institutional, and practical connections, and its usein economics.
The usage of statistlanguage is important in the persistence of the state, because it suggests thatthe actions of the state can be (at least linguistically) attributed to thepeople of said state (Martin 2009, 377). The final reason why states currently persist can be attributed to ourpursuit of pleasure – in reality, many people like having a sense of belongingto a country.