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How does the state differ from other forms of political organization?

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State, by definition, differ from other forms of political organizations in that they are sovereign. By this definition, "states" in the United States are inaccurately named, because they are subject to the control of the federal government. Unlike other government organizations, the state is permanent, unless it is destroyed or subsumed by another entity. So even if a democratic government of, say, France is replaced by a totalitarian regime, France still exists as a nation-state. Because it is sovereign, a state has the ability to govern, to legislate, to define and punish crimes, to make war and peace, and other functions.

The state also has the power to define membership within its body politic. This can take the forms of citizenship laws, voting privileges, and other measures. Unlike other forms of political organization, the state usually governs a group seen as a unitary body—a "nation" defined on some grounds, be it ethnic, nationalistic, or simply political. A "nation" is not...

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