Home > Archive > Volume 44, No. 3-4 > This paper

The Misuse of the Term "Nation State"

Roger Pearson


Published: 2004/06/01


The author argues that the clarity of discourse is lost by the misuse of the terms "nation" and "nation state," attributable to ignorance of the evolutionary history of human society. He maintains that human social organization evolved from pairbonding and the family, and thence through an elaboration of kinship ties to the emergence of larger societies that were relatively homogeneous, both genetically and culturally, and which are properly known as nations. The term "nation-state," originally devised to refer to a nation that enjoyed a degree of self-government and political autonomy, has increasingly come to be used in recent decades to describe any geographically delineated political aggregate of individuals living, willingly or unwillingly, under a common government - no matter how varied their biological origins, culture or personal value systems. He regards this terminological misuse as a significant affront to clarity of thought because societies which are united by common values and a belief in common, shared origins, are more able to live together in harmony and to be willing to sacrifice personal interest for each other's good than those which lack such unifying sentiments.