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Political organization of society, or the body politic, or, more narrowly, the institutions of government. The state is distinguished from other social groups by its purpose (establishment of order and security), methods (its laws and their enforcement), territory (its area of jurisdiction), and sovereignty. In some countries (e.g., the U.S.), the term also refers to nonsovereign political units subject to the authority of the larger state, or federal union.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on state, visit Britannica.com.