There are four essential characteristics of a state which include population, territory, sovereignty, and government. Some sources list six or more characteristics when describing a state. Other characteristics may include a food supply, written records, and some type of commerce.
1. Population: A state must have a population which may be variable in size. Populations may or may not share general political beliefs but the ones that do are the most stable. Mobility of the population can affect its political and governmental stability.
2. Territory: States have established territorial boundaries. The size of the territory may change due to the acquisition or secession of land through political negotiations, purchase agreements, or by being overtaken by force such as during a war.
3. Sovereignty: Sovereignty can be considered to be the key characteristic of a state. A state has full and absolute power within its territorial boundaries. States are independent with the power to make and enforce laws, establish foreign policy, and determine the future of its existence within the laws and boundaries.
4. Government: All states have some type of organized government. Government allows the state to establish social order, provide public services, and to make decisions that affect the living conditions of all people living within the territorial boundaries of the state.