What does it mean for someone to "found a state/government"? And why can they do it?


George Washington is referred to as the "founder" of American republic.

Intuitively it's social construction. I.e. "if we believe so, then it exists". And its adaptation is somehow dependent on other people (rules, beliefs, acceptance, ...).

  • The American revolution was a "typical" modern revolt that overturned a pre-existing govern with the set-up of a new nation. And Geroge Washington was a leader. – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Jan 2 at 17:35
  • See also Weber's Tripartite classification of authority. – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Jan 2 at 17:40
  • According to the social contract theory, no single individual can found a State; only a whole human group can, by a contract in virtue of which this group becomes a people, a nation ( a "populus"), and individual men become " citizens", This question is adressed by Rousseau in " Du contrat social", BkI, ch. 5-6.- Also, according to Rousseau, a distinction has to be made between State and Government. Soverainty belongs to the State , not to the Government. – user39744 Jan 3 at 12:35
  • "if we believe so, then it exists". And if it exist it creates order (and some other benefits). It is the promise of these benefits that enable "founders" to found. – christo183 Jan 6 at 9:16
  • I think this is far too broad to admit a good answer. – Noah Schweber Feb 1 at 19:32

When people talk about 'founding' a state, they mean two things:

  • Defining a certain territorial region that the 'state' will have sovereign authority to administer and control.
  • Creating a body of institutions — offices, laws, systems — by which that region will be administered and controlled.

That can amount to anything, honestly. A few decades back there was a man who took over an abandoned platform in the middle of the North Sea, and declared it an independent country with himself as the presiding authority; he effectively founded a state. The US Founding Fathers did the same thing on a larger scale. They declared that the territory covered by the original thirteen colonies would become a sovereign entity separate from British rule, and then wrote a constitution to define the institutions and systems by which that newly sovereign territory would be administered.

The hard part, of course, is retaining the territory that has been newly declared as sovereign. The people who used to administer it tend to object, violently...

The term 'republic' comes from the Latin res publica (concerns of the people), and is used to signify any state in which the populace as a whole has a significant input into governmental affairs. There is a large variety of systems that qualify as republics, though for the most part they involve deliberative bodies — often of civil representatives — meant to establish governing rules and policies, and administrative bodies meant to implement and administer those rules and policies. The US is considered a republic because it was designed to give the general populace a dominant voice through the election of senators and representatives. Of course, it's worth noting that not every nation that calls itself a republic actually is a republic. The term 'republic' is often used by autocrats who wish to seem more liberal on the world stage: e.g. The Republic of North Korea, or the Syrian Republic. Even the status of the US as a republic is under siege because of gerrymandering, voter suppression, rising authoritarianism, and organized factionalism in political parties, all of which strip the general public of power over their governmental leaders.

And yes, it's all a social construction, but that doesn't make it any less real. We are social creatures, and social relationships dictate the vast majority of our lives. A government merely extends that principle across the limiting boundaries of local community.

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