The 17 Types Of State And Their Characteristics

There are many  types of state in the world, which can be classified according to the system or form of government they have. A State is the social, economic and political structure that exists in a given territory, people and institutions.

The State has been defined by many scholars in the field of political theory over the past centuries. This has gone from being a simple form of organization to a more complex one.

state types

What is a state?

The State is a political concept that consists of the social, political and economic organization of a society. But, for a State to be considered as such, it must have three essential elements: a delimited territory, a population and institutions.

Throughout history, multiple forms of state have been created. But the criterion used to establish the different types that exist has always been that of domination. That is, depending on who holds power and how they do it, is what determines the typology. The state can be classified according to a variety of criteria. These are.

The concept of the State was used for the first time by the Italian philosopher Nicholas Machiavelli and he did it to designate the political organization. From that moment until now the concept has been defined in various ways.

One of the first notions of the State is found in the theory of the social contract and Max Weber’s theory. In both cases, the State is defined as an association, which differs from the institution of government.

But in the theory of the social contract it is an agreement that people make individually, while in Weber’s theory it is an agreement reached by a group of people that is imposed on other groups in society.

On the other hand, Hegel magnified the concept by saying that all that man is he owes to the State. And Marx saw it as an instrument to dominate other classes.

Each author has defined it in a particular way with different nuances. However, in a general way and according to the modern concept, the State refers to the way in which societies are organized.

Classification of the different types of State

-According to the system they have

Unit state

It is a State that is governed by a central government that has full powers over the entire national territory. It is a model of the State where powers are concentrated in the capital (executive, legislative and judicial).

In this case, the departments, provinces, municipalities, as well as other agencies, are subordinate to the central power. And its rulers and officials are appointed by that power. In addition, there is only one legal system for the entire territory.

Federal state

It is a State that is made up of several States. These are sovereign and free with respect to the internal government regime, but they are linked to a federal entity that makes up the country. In this type of State there is a political decentralization because the federative entities have freedoms for many aspects.

They can enact laws, handle taxes, and also have great autonomy to make decisions and elect their authorities. They have both judicial and legislative autonomy, although always subject to the federal constitution.

Confederate State

This type of State shares many characteristics with the Federal State, since it is also based on the union of one or more States. However, in this case the Confederate is much more decentralized, which translates into greater freedoms.

It is a type of organization whose purpose is defensive in nature, since in it each State that comprises it can act with full independence in all aspects. But power is delegated when it comes to international issues.

Composite State

This is also a type of state that arises from the union of one or more sovereign states. They are essentially the Federations, the Confederations and the Associations of States. This form of organization was common in monarchical regimes, where a single monarch assumed the government of two countries.

Although in this case the power and administration remain independent in each of the States. An example of this is the Commonwealth or the British Commonwealth of Nations which is made up of Scotland, England, Northern Ireland, Australia, Belize and New Zealand. Another association, although now extinct, was the USSR, of which 15 republics were part.

-According to its form of government


They are those states in which state functions such as the administration of justice, legislation, the management of the armed forces, among other things, are in the hands of a single person, the monarch. These are called king or queen, but monarchs can also use other titles such as emperor or empress, duke or duchess.

Despite the fact that in the monarchical state power is held by a single person, it is distinguished from tyranny and / or despotism because it is a legitimate system.

However, when the heyday of the monarchies passed, they began to decline and with it also the concentration of power. Thus were born the different types of monarchies.


It is that regime in which the monarch has the absolute power of the State, so there is no division of powers. The king or queen has no restrictions in political or administrative terms and even in religious aspects. Which means that its domination is complete.

Constitutional and parliamentary

This is the most common form of monarchy today. These are states that have a constitution that regulates the functions of the monarch, who is the head of state.

It also has a parliament, which is in charge of electing both the ministers and the prime minister or president, who is the head of the government. An example of this type of monarchy is Spain and the United Kingdom.


There are semi-constitutional monarchies, where there is also a constitution. But unlike the constitutional monarchy, in this the monarch has powers over the constitution. An example of this type of monarchy is Monaco, Bahrain, and Morocco.


A Republic is basically a non-monarchy. This means that in this type of state power is no longer a private element that belongs to a family but is made public.

In a Republic the ruler changes, at least in theory, and his term can be constitutionally prolonged or shortened. In a broader sense, it can be said that it is a political system based on a constitution and on the equality of citizens before the law.

The Republic is commonly associated with democracy, but they are not necessarily related. Democracies are usually based on a republic, but undemocratic republics can exist.

In any case, in a broader way, the concept of republic should be understood as a form of state in which power does not reside in a single person but in a group. For this reason, republics can be subdivided into several types.


According to Aristotle, the Aristocracy is the government of the few. It is also known as the government of the best and it is an elite that aspires, at least in theory, the best for the State. It is a system in which political power is exercised by the nobles and the highest social classes.

Although the aristocracy may be made up of families with royal lineage, it differs from the monarchical regime because power is not concentrated in a single person but in a group.


Democracy is usually defined broadly as the government of the people. However, this definition is not so accurate. According to the Aristotelian concept, democracy consists in that all citizens can be eligible to command and voters of who commands.

This errand alternates over the years. According to a more modern concept, democracy is the political regime in which the people are ruling and governed at the same time.

In democracy, people have individual guarantees, there is a division of powers, and rulers are elected through popular election.

But that does not mean that democracy is everyone’s power, because that would mean that no one has power. Rather, it is a power that is exercised by the community, that is, by the people as a whole.


In this case, we speak of a state that is constitutionally dedicated to building a socialist society. This means that the means of production are part of the collective patrimony and that the assets of the State are distributed in their fair measure.

In this case there must be a rational organization of the economy and for this it is the people themselves who administer the resources. To achieve this goal, this system states that social classes should not exist and that private property should be eliminated.

-Other forms of government

But degenerate forms of these types of government have also been established, especially democracies, which are often fragile. This is because it is not always possible to have a unilateral consolidation, and because the majority elected to govern tends to lead to other types of governments where the common good is not pursued but that of a few.


It is a state where there are practically no political or social freedoms and where the government is concentrated in a single figure, the dictator.

It is characterized because there is no division of powers, so that the command is exercised arbitrarily. Unlike democracy, which should benefit the majority, in this type of state only the minority that supports the regime benefits.

In addition, there is no consent on the part of the governed and it is institutionally impossible for the opposition to come to power.


More than a form of government, it is a form of state, since it is a way of organizing all its components: its territory, government, population, power, justice, etc.

In this system, the State possesses absolute power, so there is an absence of both political and social freedom, as well as the rights of citizens.

It is understood as a total domination of society in which intolerance prevails. This system was known for the first time when the fascist regime of Italy emerged, it was expanded with the rise of Nazi Germany and with the system established in the Soviet Union.


Tyranny is also a regime of absolute power, exercised by a single figure. Unlike the totalitarian regime, the tyrant, who is the person who exercises power according to his will and without justice, usually seizes power by force and executes arbitrary measures, generating fear in the people.

It is an abusive use of power and force over the entire state apparatus. It is usually established after the overthrow of a legal government.


The oligarchy is a form of government similar to the aristocracy, since in both cases it is a select group that holds the political power of the State.

However, in the oligarchy it is not a question of a government made up of the best to meet the needs of the people, but of the government of a privileged class that only serves the interests of a few.

That is, the supreme power of the State is exercised by a small number of people who belong to the same social class. Therefore, the oligarchy is in some way a negative form of the aristocracy. In fact, it was born as a form of degeneration of the aristocracy.


According to Aristotle, demagoguery is the degradation of democracy. It is a political strategy that appeals to different feelings and emotions of the people to win their approval.

The rulers often generate a strong division in society, making people believe that those who are against are the bad guys. Furthermore, it instills the idea that there is no one who can rule them better than them.

On the other hand, it tends to give the people unnecessary things instead of using public funds to generate policies that improve people’s quality of life. They instill fear through propaganda, they fight against the middle class because they want to govern only for the poor, so that they keep them in power.


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