Jump to content


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A polity is a group of people with a collective identity, who are organized by some form of political institutionalized social relations, and have a capacity to mobilize resources.[1]

A polity can be any group of people organized for governance, such as the board of a corporation, the government of a country, or the government of a country subdivision. A polity may be a republic administered by an elected representative or the realm of a hereditary monarch.

When referring to a specific polity, the term "country" may refer to a sovereign state, states with limited recognition, constituent country, or a dependent territory.[2][3][4]


Frontispiece of Leviathan, 1651

In geopolitics, a polity can manifest in different forms such as a state, an empire, an international organization, a political organization or another identifiable, resource-manipulating organizational structure. A polity like a state does not need to be a sovereign unit. The preeminent polities today are Westphalian states and nation-states, commonly referred to as countries.

A polity may encapsulate a multitude of organizations; many of these may form or are involved to the apparatus of contemporary states such as their subordinate civil and local government authorities.[5][6] Polities do not need to be in control of any geographic areas, as not all political entities and governments have controlled the resources of one fixed geographic area. The historical Steppe Empires originating from the Eurasian Steppe are the most prominent example of non-sedentary polities. These polities differ from states because of their lack of a fixed, defined territory. Empires also differ from states in that their territories are not statically defined or permanently fixed and consequently that their body politic was also dynamic and fluid. It is useful then to think of a polity as a political community.

A polity can also be defined either as a faction within a larger (usually state) entity or at different times as the entity itself. For example, Kurds in Iraqi Kurdistan are parts of their own separate and distinct polity. However, they are also members of the sovereign state of Iraq which is itself a polity, albeit one which is much less specific and as a result much less cohesive. Therefore, it is possible for an individual to belong to more than one polity at a time.

Thomas Hobbes was a highly significant figure in the conceptualisation of polities, in particular of states. Hobbes considered notions of the state and the body politic in Leviathan, his most notable work.[7]

Polities do not necessarily need to be governments. A corporation, for instance, is capable of marshalling resources, has a governance structure, legal rights and exclusive jurisdiction over internal decision making. An ethnic community within a country or coast to coast entity may be a polity if they have sufficient organization and cohesive interests that can be furthered by such organization.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ferguson, Yale; Mansbach, Richard W. (1996). "Polities: Authority, Identities, and Change". Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina Press.
  2. ^ Fowler, Michael Ross; Bunck, Julie Marie (1996). "What constitutes the sovereign state?". Review of International Studies. 22 (4). Cambridge University Press (CUP): 381–404. doi:10.1017/s0260210500118637. ISSN 0260-2105. S2CID 145809847.
  3. ^ "Countries Not in the United Nations 2024". World Population by Country 2024 (Live). June 26, 1945. Retrieved March 2, 2024.
  4. ^ "Recognition and its Variants". academic.oup.com. Retrieved March 2, 2024.
  5. ^ Black's Law Dictionary, 4th ed. (1968). West Publishing Co.
  6. ^ Uricich v. Kolesar, 54 Ohio App. 309, 7 N.E. 2d 413.
  7. ^ Hobbes, Thomas (1651). Leviathan. Retrieved 2 January 2019.

External links[edit]