stándestaata postfeudal form of the STATE in some parts of Western Europe (e.g. France, Prussia) in which the broad ESTATES of the realm (e.g. nobility, burghers) possessed rights to be consulted by the ruler in affairs of state. The meetings of the states-general in France at the start of the 1789 Revolution were assemblies of representatives of estates. The existence of such groups, for which there exist no direct parallels outside Europe, has sometimes been seen as an important factor in the distinctive ‘democratic’, ‘participatory’ route taken by European politics.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000