Describe how the world is divided politically, and give examples of the ways nation states interact, including trade, tourism, diplomacy, treaties and agreements, and military action.

A Map of the Myriad Countries of the World, Japan, 1602
A Map of the Myriad Countries of the World, Japan, 1602

Topics on the Page

  • Defining the Nation State
    • The Fragile States Index
  • Diplomacy
  • Governmental Systems and Leaders
    • Most Repressive Societies
  • Trade
  • Tourism
  • Gay Rights Across the Globe

Female_Rose.pngSee Special Topic Page on Women's Political Participation Around the World

Focus Question: How is the world divided politically and what are the ways that nation states interact with one another?

Defining the nation-state

A nation-state is comprised of two essential components
  1. Nation, categorized by the emotional feeling of unity within a group of people.
    • An example of a nation without a state would be Palestine. The people of Palestine have a common sense of nationalism however, are not granted a territory in which they have complete sovereignty exercised though a government.
  2. State, the legal authority to govern the nation (a set territory granted sovereignty)
    • An example of a state without a nation would be the Vatican. The territory is run by a government in which the Pope is the head (theocracy) however, the Vatican lacks a group of people who identify with feelings of nationalism deriving from the established state.
The interests of the nation-state are always but can expand upon,
  1. The territorial integrity of the state (state boundaries, land).
  2. Sovereignty, ensuring that the state is autonomous in making decisions within its boundaries.

Multimedia.pngThe Fragile States Index 2015 , issued yearly by the Fund for Peace and Foreign Policy Magazine, rates the stability/instability of all the nations of the world using 12 factors. Indicators of instability:
Topographic map of Somalia
Topographic map of Somalia

Political Factors
  • Intervention of other states
  • Factionalized elites
  • Fragmented security
  • Violation of human rights
  • Deterioration of public services
  • Delegitimization of the state

Economic Factors

  • Economic decline
  • Uneven development

Social Factors

  • Chronic Immigration
  • Group vengeance or grievances
  • Refugees or internally displaced persons
  • Demographic pressures

Among the Failed states in 2013: Somalia, Congo, Sudan, South Sudan, Chad (Africa), Afghanistan and Pakistan (Asia), Yemen (Middle East), Haiti (The Americas).


Rotating_globe-small.gifA particularly useful source for developing an image of a given nation is The World Factbook, a website operated by the CIA. Each page has several sections titled, respectively, Background, Geography, People, Government, Economy, Communications, Transportation, Military, and Transnational Issues.

Here is a link to a page within the World Factbook that describes various forms of government and then provides a table with each nation of the world and that nation's respective form of government. provides various resources relating to the governments and legal systems of the nations of the world.

external image Dollar-teken.pngWealth and Health of Nations from GapMinder provides an interactive overview of how long people live and how much money they make for every country in the world. Data is available from 1800 to 2009.


Political Realism (Realpolitik)
One method of understanding how nation-states interact with each other is known as Political Realism. This term describes the interactions between states as relying on any means necessary to achieve the nations interests (described above). These interests take precedent over any values that the people may have and it is the role of the diplomat to cloak the needs of the state in such terms that are appealing to the nations values.

Under Political Realism there are three main mechanism for obtaining the states interests.
  1. Balance of powers(Strong state v. strong state)
    • Within the balance of powers of the international system, strong states attempt to promote the image that it is not rational for other nation-state to challenge your interests of the state. The most common way of doing this is by exerting the military might of the nation, in hopes of convincing that other nation-states can not win if they were to go to war with your nation-state
      Nation-states form alliances among other nation-states formed on needs rather than similar ideology.
  2. Imperialism(Strong state v. weak state)
    • Known as the expansion of control over territories that are not domestic (part of the states direct boundaries)
    • In this mechanisms nation-states take over the sovereignty of other territories in hopes of expanding the territory of nation-state in hopes of material gain (new markets and raw materials) in addition it sends out a message to other nation-states about its military force.
  3. Hegemonic Stability(control over the rules of the system)
    • Capacities to enforce the rules of the system, a hegemon emerges among the international system which dictates the rules of engagement among other nations. It does so in an attempt to promote its own self-interests. The International Monetary Fund and World Bank, are organizations that the United States uses to enforce the economic policies of other states. In order for nation-states to receive loans from the IMF and World Bank the nation state must meet the demands of how that nation-state spends it money.
    • The will to do so. The Munich Agreement 1938 was an example in which the major nation-states appeased Germany, allowing it to disrupt the sovereignty of another state by annexing the Sudetenland
    • A commitment to a system which is perceived as mutually beneficial to the major states.

(Professor Ferraro World Politics 121)

map_icon.jpegClick here for an interactive map detailing systems of government by country. Be sure to look at the definitions of major governmental terms and search through the list of country names and government types.

Female_Rose.pngHere is a web - page from that has information about female world leaders.

lessonplan.jpgClick here for a creative lesson plan discussing the interconnectedness of the world today.

Multimedia.pngClick here for a 10 minute video describing the interdependency of the world.

game_icon.svg.pngClick here to play an Global Closet Calculator, a simulation which shows how global interconnection affects all of us.

Note: The Foreign Policy website requires one to create an account, but it is easy and quick.

map_icon.jpegGo here for The Map of Freedom from Freedom House that rates the degree of freedom in all the countries of the world, including civil liberties, political rights and women's rights.

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Constitute: The World's Constitutions to Read, Search and Compare

Freedom in the World, 2014

Worst of the Worst 2012: The World's Most Repressive Societies

The World's Most Repressive Societies, 2009

Free (Green)/Partially Free (Yellow)/Gray (Not Free)
Free (Green)/Partially Free (Yellow)/Gray (Not Free)

In a 2009 report from the organization Freedom House, the nations of Burma, Equatorial Guinea, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan ranked as the worst human rights abusers. The territories of Chechnya and Tibet also made the list.

Here is a similar report from Freedom House that may be useful. This is their report titled "The World's Worst Human Rights Abusers," which was released on June 3, 2010.

timeline2_rus.svg.pngClick here for a detailed timeline of globalization.

Genocide: the deliberate killing of a large group of people, esp. those of a particular ethnic group or nation. Genocides are a harsh reality of globalization,and they are the product of social Darwinism, and power-related superiority complexes. While the Holocaust raised awareness of the existing evils of the world, many genocides have occurred since.

multicultural.pngClick here to access the genocide watch website. Genocide Watch is an organization dedicated to predicting, preventing and punishing genocides across the globe.

Multimedia.pngClick here to watch "On Our Watch," a ten minute documentary about the current genocide in Darfur.

multicultural.pngClick here for images, documents and memorials regarding the 1915 Armenian Genocide. Despite overwhelming evidence of this horrible event, the Turkish Government continues to deny involvement in what has been proven to be their undertaking.

Rotating_globe-small.gifThe website of the United Nations is a useful resource.


Nation-state trading began thousands of years ago when cities realized they could acquire goods and resources from far away cities that they could not as easily grow or acquire in their own cities. As trade routes grew, cultures were linked for the first time in history.

To learn more about ancient trade routes, click on this link to the Metropolitan Museum of Art site.

To learn more about the evolution of international trade click here.

Why Countries Trade click here

Law of Comparative Advantage and Specialization
  • emphasizes the great importance of the voluntary interplay of the international division of labor
  • countries should specialize in what they are best or most efficient at
  • citizens of every country benefit from international trade

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Map of World Trade from 1880-1914

lessonplan.jpg Click here for an economics lesson plan on why nations trade.

Modern Theory of International Trade:
Countries specialize in the production of certain commodities, and the differences in individual countries' capabilities are the cause for exchange between countries. The immediate cause of international trade is the difference in commodity prices, which in turn is due to the differences in factor prices. Goods are purchased because it is cheaper to buy them from outside the country.

To learn more about modern trade theory click here.


Extensive U.S. military bases worldwide

Contribution of women in the U.S. Army throughout history click here

Discrimination women in the U.S. still face in the military today


Click here to browse a list of countries that details the amount of arriving tourist, and their tourism histories from 1995-2008.

Click here for a timeline from the World Tourism Organization from 1946 - 2010.

external image 200px-Gay_flag.svg.png GAY RIGHTS ACROSS THE GLOBE

Click here to view a timeline of the gay civil rights movement across countries.

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Countries in purple allow gay marriage and countries in green allow civil unions.