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government, system of social control under which the right to make laws, and the right to enforce them, is vested in a particular group in society. There are many classifications of government. According to the classical formula, governments are distinguished by whether power is held by one man, a few, or a majority. Today, it is common to distinguish between types of government on the basis of institutional organization and the degree of control exercised over the society. Organizationally, governments may be classified into parliamentary or presidential systems, depending on the relationship between executive and legislature. Government may also be classified according to the distribution of power at different levels. It may be unitary—i.e., with the central government controlling local affairs—or it may be federated or confederated, according to the degree of autonomy of local government. The basic law determining the form of government is called the constitution and may be written, as in the United States, or largely unwritten, as in Great Britain. Modern governments perform many functions besides the traditional ones of providing internal and external security, order, and justice; most are involved in providing welfare services, regulating the economy, and establishing educational systems. The extreme case of governmental regulation of every aspect of people's lives is totalitarianism.


See R. M. MacIver, The Web of Government (rev. ed. 1965); S. H. Beer, Patterns of Government (3d ed. 1973); G. A. Almond and G. B. Powell, Comparative Politics: A Developmental Approach (1966); S. E. Finer, Comparative Government (1970).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the fundamental instrument of political power in a class society. In a broader sense, the state is the political form of the organization of social life, which is created as a result of the rise and activity of public authority—a particular ruling system exercising management over the basic spheres of social life and depending, if necessary, on force. Because the state is constructed along territorial lines, the term is sometimes imprecisely used as a synonym for “country.” Various types of state are known: slaveholding, feudal, bourgeois, and socialist. The different forms of state organization are monarchy (absolute and constitutional), republic (parliamentary and presidential), soviet republic, unitary state, and federated state (federation). By mid-1971 there were approximately 150 states.

The basic features of the state are as follows. (1) There is a particular system of organs and institutions that together form the machinery of the state. (The coercive apparatus, that is, the police, the army, and so forth, has a specific place in this machinery.) The state, according to V. I. Lenin, “has always been a certain apparatus, which stood outside society” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 39, p. 72). The state machinery has become more and more complex and ramified, as the life of society has become more complex in its sociopolitical and technological-economic aspects. (2) There are laws, that is, obligatory rules of behavior established or sanctioned by the state. With the help of the laws, the state, as the political authority, consolidates a definite system of social relations, as well as the structure and system of activity of the state machinery. (3) The state authority is limited to the area within the borders of a definite geographical territory. Acting as a territorial organization, the state has actively assisted the process of forming nations.

The state is the fundamental, but not the sole, political institution of class society; in a developed society, besides the state, there are various parties, unions, religious bodies, and other organizations, which, together with the state, form the political organization of society. What distinguishes the state from the other political institutions of class society is the fact that it has supreme authority (the sovereignty of state power). The supremacy of state power is concretely expressed in its universality (it extends to the entire population and to all public organizations of the country), its prerogatives (it can abolish any manifestation of any other public authority), and its possession of certain means of influence that no other public authority has (for example, it has a monopoly on legislation and justice).

The state is a social phenomenon restricted by a definite historical framework. The state did not exist in the primitive communal system. It arose as a result of the social division of labor, the appearance of private property, and the division of society into classes. Economically the ruling classes require for the defense of their privileges and the consolidation of the system of exploitation a special authoritative mechanism of political domination, which takes the form of the state and its apparatus. With the appearance of the state, this mechanism no longer coincides with society, but, so to speak, stands above it and is supported by it (through taxes and collections). Although there are vast differences in the historical forms of the state, of its power, and of the organization of its apparatus, its essence, and the nature of its relationship with society—it always represents the political power of the ruling class (class dictatorship). Classes that own the means of production achieve political domination with the assistance of the state, and thus they consolidate their economic and social supremacy within the society and in its relations with other states and countries.

Thus, the state is ultimately defined by the character of productive relations and the mode of production as a whole; it is the superstructure of the economic base. The genesis of the state and the transition from one historical type of state to another cannot be understood and explained outside of this relationship. In the course of history, the state acquires an important, although relative, independence from the economic base. Its independent influence on the basic elements of social life (including the economy) and on the historical and social processes is extremely strong and is realized in different ways—that is, the state can promote the development of social relations, or it can hamper this development. As the state-organized society becomes more complex, the role of this influence becomes more important.

Over a prolonged period of the history of antagonistic class formations the state has existed as the instrument of the supremacy of the propertied minority over the exploited majority. The basic function of this type of state has consisted of the consolidation and defense of economic and political exploitation and the supremacy of the propertied classes, as well as the suppression of resistance by the unpropertied mass of people. In relation to the ruling class, the state is a specific agency administering the common affairs of individuals and groups of this class; whereas in relation to the working classes, that is, the majority of the population, the state is an instrument of suppression. At the same time, the state, as the official representative of society and the ruling system, cannot fail to carry out also general social activity, which is needed to support the necessary conditions of existence of a civilized human community (the organization of transport, communications, education, health care, and so forth). In this connection, Marx distinguished in the activity of the state “the performance of common activities arising from the nature of all communities, and the specific functions arising from the antithesis between the government and the mass of the people” (K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 25, part 1, p. 422). However, it is precisely this antithesis that becomes the main feature of the activity of the exploiting state. “The state is a machine for the oppression of one class by another, a machine for holding in obedience to one class other, subordinated classes” (Lenin, Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 39, p. 75). Only in the 20th century, as a result of the victory of the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia, did there arise a completely new type of state—the socialist state, representing the political power of the laboring majority and then of the entire people (the all-national state), and opening up the perspective of transition to stateless forms of administration of society with the liquidation of classes.

Prebourgeois sociopolitical thought advanced a different kind of religious-theocratic concept of the state, as well as the so-called “patriarchal theory,” according to which the state is the continuation of the father’s authority in the family. However, this theory, as a rule, did not distinguish between society and the state. Bourgeois science did not give a satisfactory answer to the question of the essence of the state, either. Lenin noted that “one is not likely to find another question which has been so confused deliberately and unwittingly by representatives of bourgeois science ... as the question of the state” (ibid. p. 66). A fundamental aspect of the approach of bourgeois science to the state is its rejection of the concept of the state as an instrument of class supremacy in general and as the instrument of the class domination of the capital. The widely disseminated definition of the state in bourgeois literature as the combination of power, population, and territory is superficial, formal, and incomplete, precisely because it ignores class supremacy as the constructive factor that unites these three entities into the concept of the state. Advocates of the organic theory of the state depict it as a peculiar living organism and apply biological laws to it, thus justifying as natural phenomena the oppression of the masses by the exploiting state, on the one hand, and the expansionist tendencies of the state, on the other. Another tendency, the so-called juridical school, conceals the socioeconomic basis of the state behind its juridical interpretation and considers the state exclusively as a legal phenomenon (“the juridical embodiment of the nation,” “the personification of the legal order,” and so forth). Frankly idealistic attempts have been repeatedly undertaken to interpret the state as the result of particular spiritual principles, “the idea of the state.” The psychological concept of the state predominates in contemporary bourgeois political science; this explains the state by the presence in the human psyche of strivings, or “impulses,” for power and submission.

A genuinely scientific doctrine of the state was originated by Marx, Engels, and Lenin. Its formulation revealed the essence of the state as a social phenomenon and established its inherent, qualitative features, its basic purposes and functions, its role in class society, and the reflection of its essence in various forms and political regimes. The Marxist doctrine of the state, revealing the regularity of the development of the state in the course of changes in sociohistorical formations is an important starting point for the theory of socialist revolution and the path of the communist transformation of society.

A definite historical type of state corresponds to each class socioeconomic formation. The change to a new type of state is a regular process in the liquidation of obsolete forms of the state organization of society, which are paralyzing its development, and their replacement by a new state system that promotes the formation and consolidation of a more advanced social system. Therefore, the functions of each of the subsequent types of state, the methods of the fulfillment of these functions, and the political forms of the state are richer and more complex than the organization of the political power in the preceding formations.

The slaveholding state was the first state in history. It was a dictatorship of the class of slaveholders. The essence of this state reflected the first important class division of society— the division into slaves and slaveholders. The slaveholding state originated during the period between 4000 and 3000 B.C., when states were formed in ancient Egypt, in ancient China, and on the territory of Mesopotamia. The states of the ancient East are in this category (for example, ancient Egypt, Babylonia, and Assyria). In these states, remnants of the primitive communal system were preserved. The peculiarities of the development of the productive forces (such as the need to construct and maintain irrigation installations) underlay the rather significant economic role of the state in these countries, where despotism or despotic monarchy was the characteristic form of government. The system of the slaveholding state attained its most complete development in the ancient states of Greece and Rome. There were various forms of government in the advanced slaveholding states: monarchy in the Roman Empire, an aristocratic republic in Sparta, and a democratic republic in Athens. However, despite this variety in forms of government, any state of the ancient world “was a slaveowning state, irrespective of whether it was a monarchy or an aristocratic or democratic republic” (Lenin, ibid., vol. 39, p. 74).

The feudal state arose in connection with the onset of feudal productive relations. It arose in Europe in the period from the fifth to the 11th century. The basis of feudal society was the property of the feudal lord in land, and the feudal state was a dictatorship of the class of feudal lords. The fundamental form of government of the feudal state was the monarchy in all its variants. The early feudal monarchy was characteristic of the period of feudal splintering, when, in the face of a weak central power, there were numerous independent or semi-independent states (principalities, seigneuries, and so forth). In the process of the centralization of state power, the estate-representative monarchy was formed. The wealthy elements in the cities were one of the supports of the central power in this process; as a result, organs of estate representation arose (national assemblies, or Zemskii Sobors, in Russia, the estates general in France, the parliament in England, and so forth). The last historical form of the feudal state was the absolute monarchy, which developed during the period when feudal splintering was overcome once and for all. and the process of the formation of the centralized state was culminated. In an absolute monarchy, the supreme power is vested autocratically and without limitation in the monarch, without any participation of the people in the legislation or the control of the administration. In the feudal era there were distinct states called city-states, in which the republican form of government was established (for example, Novgorod. Pskov Venice Genoa, and Florence). Power belonged to the wealthy elite of the population (the urban aristocracy or patricianate) in the city-states; its representatives formed the city council (senate), which elected the higher officials. The city-states generally arose along the most important trade routes; handicrafts and commerce were best developed in them, and capitalist relations first took shape in them. Characteristic of all states of the feudal type was the enormous role of the church as a political and ideological force in feudal society, furthering the maintenance and consolidation of the feudal lords’ predominance over the mass of the exploited population.

The bourgeois state arose as the result of the bourgeois revolution directed against the feudal-absolutist monarchy and feudal productive relations. Where the bourgeoisie, in the course of these revolutions, agreed to compromises with the nobility (for example, in Great Britain), the bourgeois state took the form of a constitutional monarchy; on the other hand, where the bourgeoisie attained relatively complete supremacy, the state took the form of a democratic republic. Later, too the plurality of forms of government of the bourgeois state remained a characteristic feature of this type of state, although the differences in these forms were substantially smoothed over. “Bourgeois states are most varied in form, but their essence is the same: all these states, whatever their form, in the final analysis are inevitably dictatorships of the bourgeoisie” (Lenin, ibid., vol. 33, p. 35).

The bourgeois state of the premonopolistic period of capitalism is characterized by the following features. (1) There are voting qualifications, which eliminate, on the basis of property and other criteria, the participation of broad strata of the population in the creation of the organs of state power. Representing a significant step forward from feudalism, bourgeois democracy and its basic institutions (such as parliamentarianism and the principle of equality) are of a formal, limited, and class character. (2) The basic efforts of the state are concentrated chiefly on political functions including the guarding of the interests of the ruling classes by the military and the police inside and outside the country. The state of this period is considered the “policeman” or “night watchman.” protecting the capitalist system but not intervening directly in its functioning. (3) Within the mechanism of the state, an important position is maintained for the nobility and landowners. The bourgeois revolution, as a rule, did not smash the old state machinery, which gradually adapted itself to the needs of the capitalist system.

An enormous growth in the apparatus of the bourgeois state occurs in the era of imperialism, and especially during the general crisis of capitalism. The influence of the state on the basic elements of social life increases, and its functions expand. These processes are connected, above all, with the intensification of class contradictions. The growth of the consciousness and organization of the working class and the other toiling layers of the population and the widespread dissemination of communist ideas lead, on the one hand, to an increase in the level of class struggle and a broadening of the antimonopolistic and democratic movements, and on the other hand, to a consistent narrowing of the social base of the political supremacy of capital. In these conditions, the monopolies strengthen in every possible way the basic instrument of their supremacy—the state, with its military and police apparatus. The reinforcement of the role of the state is connected with militarism and the development of state monopoly capitalism.

In the conditions of state monopoly capitalism, with the increasing complexity of the technological-productive aspect of society as a result of the scientific-technological revolution, coupled with the expansion of the functions of coercion, the economic functions of the bourgeois state reach an important level, and so does the state’s ideological activity inside and outside the country. State monopoly capitalism unites the monopolies and the state into one mechanism, with the aims of saving the capitalist system, enriching the monopolies, suppressing the workers’ movement and the national liberation struggle, and unleashing aggressive wars. Monopoly capital no longer shares political power with any other force; the bourgeois state comes forward as the organ for the administration of the affairs of the monopolistic bourgeoisie. The process of the coalescence of the monopolies with the top circles of the state apparatus reaches its height.

The turn of monopoly capital from bourgeois democracy to reaction is a result of the narrowing of the social base of the state and the utilization by the working class and other toiling layers of the institutions of bourgeois democracy. This turn exerts a substantial influence on the political regime established by the bourgeois state and on its forms of government. Its clearest expression is the establishment of the fascist totalitarian state system. (The classic example of such a state was Nazi Germany.) However, even with the preservation of bourgeois democratic forms of government, authoritarian tendencies toward the rule of a “strong man” appear, the role of the government and its apparatus increase while the authority of the elected parliament declines, and a campaign is waged against the democratic rights and liberties of citizens and organizations. But the authoritarian course of the monopolistic bourgeoisie comes up against the opposition of the broad popular masses, led by the working class, acting to defend and expand the democratic rights they have won. This provokes an intensification of the class contradictions of bourgeois society.

The foreign policy of the imperialist state is characterized by a striving for expansion. This tendency of monopoly capital has twice in the 20th century plunged mankind into devastating world wars. The imperialist states conduct subversive activity (including ideological) against the socialist countries: they seek new forms of neocolonialist exploitation of the states of Asia. Africa, and Latin America that have embarked on the path of independence.

The expansion of the imperialist state’s economic activity is portrayed by bourgeois ideologues as a radical transformation and its conversion into a “welfare state.” The increasing complexity of the political structure of contemporary capitalism (the growth of the role of political parties, trade unions, and other unions and organizations) is depicted as a process of the “diffusion of power.” In reality, the imperialist state has been and remains the basic instrument of the class domination of the imperialist bourgeoisie: it acts as a force attempting to retard social progress and to perpetuate outmoded capitalist social relations.

In the era of the downfall of colonialism many independent states were formed in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, and the colonial and semicolonial countries struggled for their national independence. A significant number of the young independent states, in their economic and social features (such as the mixed nature of their economies), cannot be placed among the basic types of state. Some of these states have embarked on a noncapitalist path of development orienting toward the perspective of constructing a socialist society. In these states, serious economic and social transformations are being realized—for example, the carrying out of democratic agrarian reforms, the creation of a state sector of the economy, and the nationalization of the property of foreign monopolies.

As a result of the socialist revolution, which entails the destruction of the exploitative apparatus of the state, a fundamentally new type of state arises—the socialist state. The prototype of the socialist state, the first organization of the state power of the working people led by the working class was the Paris Commune of 1871. As a result of the victory of the Great October Socialist Revolution in 1917, the Soviet state arose—the first state of the working people in the world—and it established the dictatorship of the proletariat. In 1924 the Mongolian People’s Republic embarked on the path of socialist development. The defeat of German and Italian fascism and Japanese militarism in World War II (1939–45) promoted an intense growth in the revolutionary and national liberation movements all over the world and led to the triumph of popular democratic revolutions in a number of European and Asian countries and to the rise of the democratic people’s state. The formation of these states signified that socialism was becoming transformed into a worldwide system. In 1959, Cuba entered this system and became the first socialist state in the Americas.

The fundamentally new essence of the socialist state in comparison with the exploitative types of states could not fail to elicit new organizations of state power. The first form of the socialist state was the republic of soviets founded by Lenin. The system of elected (from top to bottom) soviets, built on the principle of democratic centralism and invested with absolute state power, was. within the actual historical context, the political organization that united all working people without exception and that represented the best opportunity for state leadership by the masses as represented by the working class and its party. In the people’s democracies the forms of political organization had a number of features different from those of the soviets (for example, the presence of such sociopolitical organizations as the national or patriotic, front; and two or more parties), caused by the historical peculiarities of the formation of the dictatorship of the proletariat in these countries. The variety of forms of the socialist state confirms the Leninist thesis “that all nations will arrive at socialism—this is inevitable but they will do so in not exactly the same way; each will contribute something of its own to some form of democracy, to some variety of the dictatorship of the proletariat, to the varying rate of socialist transformations in the different aspects of social life” (Lenin, Poln. sobr. soch., vol. 30, p. 123).

The socialist transformation of society places various tasks before the state of the proletarian dictatorship, depending on the level of development of the economy, the culture, the social structure, and the national peculiarities and traditions of each country. However, independently of the specific conditions in a given country, in the transitional period from capitalism to socialism every proletarian dictatorship faces tasks that result from the very essence of this period: the suppression of resistance by the overthrown exploiting classes the liquidation of private property in the basic means of production, the creation of the economic basis for socialism (socialist industrialization, the socialist transformation of agriculture, and the creation of a socialist system of economy) the formation of socialist culture, the education of the new man, and the securing of the country’s defense capability. To meet these tasks, the state carries out a number of external and internal functions: economic-organizational activities, cultural-educational activities, the control of labor and consumption standards, the defense of socialist legality and socialist property, the defense of the country against outside attack, and the struggle for peaceful coexistence among states with different social systems. The functions of the socialist state expand and change with the development of the socioeconomic structure of society and with the successes of socialist construction. Thus, as a result of the liquidation of the exploiting classes in the USSR, the state’s function in the suppression of the resistance of these classes has lost its meaning. In carrying out its functions, the socialist state acts as the main instrument of the construction of socialism and communism and represents the political organization of the overwhelming majority of the population. In the process of the socialist state’s development, its social base constantly expands and it becomes more and more the representative of the interests of the entire people.

After the complete and final victory of socialism, the dictatorship of the proletariat, having fulfilled its historical mission from the point of view of the internal development of the country, ceases to be necessary, and the proletarian state is naturally transformed into an organ of expression of the interests and the will of the entire people—the all-national state (see Program of the CPSU. 1971. p. 101). The socialist state has reached such a stage of development in the USSR, where it operates as the political organization of the entire people under the leadership of the working class headed by its vanguard the Communist Party. The social role of the soviet all-national socialist state is steadily growing. The resolutions of the Twenty-Fourth Congress of the CPSU (1971) emphasized the role of the soviet state in solving internal and external problems facing soviet society at the present stage of the construction of communism. Functions of the socialist state such as the economic-organizational and cultural-educational functions have significantly expanded. (The essence of these functions at the present stage was defined by the directives of the Twenty-Fourth Congress of the CPSU on the five-year plan for the development of the national economy of the USSR from 1971–75.)

Contemporary revisionists criticize the Marxist-Leninist doctrine of the socialist state, advancing the hypothesis of the necessity for the disappearance of the state immediately after the conquest of political power. This conception is objectively directed at weakening the socialist states. At the same time, left-wing revisionists fight for overcentralization. and the bureaucratization of all government life.

Under conditions of communist construction, the entire political system of the USSR is constantly being improved. Proletarian democracy is being transformed into all-national democracy, whose development is characterized in the Program of the CPSU as the main direction of the socialist state system. One of the leading principles of the socialist state’s activity is the broad involvement of the toiling people in the work of the state organs.

Marx and Engels revealed the historical perspective of the proletarian state. They asserted that under communism the need for a state would disappear, and therefore the proletarian state itself would gradually wither away, although this did not mean every public authority in general would disappear. By the withering away of the state, they meant the elimination of the special apparatus of coercion, the public political authority. Marx and Engels considered a level of the development of productive forces under which it would be possible to realize the principle of communism “from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs” as the economic precondition for the withering away of the state.

Lenin emphasized the radical contrast between the proletarian dictatorship, which is a dictatorship of the majority of the population, and the states of the exploiting type. He called the proletarian state a “semistate” (see Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed.. vol. 33. pp. 231, 167). He linked the question of the gradual withering away of the state with the disappearance of some of the functions of the socialist state—for example, that of suppressing the conquered exploiting classes in conjunction with the liquidation of such classes in the USSR. However, “for the state to wither away completely,” wrote Lenin, “complete communism is necessary” (ibid., vol. 33, p. 95).

The socialist all-national state is a transitional stage to the stateless organization of society under communism. Then the communist self-government of society will become firmly established as the nonstate form of the administration of the economic, social, and cultural processes of a classless society.


Marx. K., and F. Engels. “Nemetskaia ideologiia.” Soch., 2nd ed.. vol. 3. Page 333.
Marx. K. “K kritike politicheskoi ckonomii: Predislovie.” Soch., vol. 13. Page 6.
Marx. K. “Vosemnadtsatoe briumera Lui Bonaparta.” Ibid.. vol. 8. Page 206.
Marx. K. “’Grazhdanskaia voina vo Frantsii.” Ibid., vol. 17. Page 317.
Marx. K. Kapital, vol. 3; Soch., vol. 25. part I. Page 422; vol. 25, part 2. Page 354.
Marx. K. “Kritika Gotskoi programmy.” Soch., vol. 19. Pages 16–20, 28–29.
Engels. F. “Proiskhozhdenie sem’i. chastnoi sobstvennosti i gosudarstva.” Soch., vol. 21. Pages 156–77.
Lenin, V. I. “Uroki Kommuny.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed.. vol. 16. Pages 451–54.
Lenin, V. I. “Marksizm o gosudarstve.” Ibid., vol. 33. Pages 123–307.
Lenin, V. I. “Gosudarstvo i revoliutsiia.” Ibid., vol. 33. Pages 3–123.
Lenin. V. I. “Proletarskaia revoliutsiia i renegat Kautskii.” Ibid., vol. 37. Pages 237–59.
Lenin, V. I. “O gosudarstve.” Ibid., vol. 39. Pages 66–84.
Lenin. V. I. “Tezisy i doklad o burzhuaznoi demokratii i diktature proletariata 4 marta 1919.” Ibid., vol. 37. Pages 491–509.
Lenin, V. I. “Detskaia bolezn’ levizny’ v kommunizme.” Ibid.. vol. 41. Pages 1–104.
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in a number of federated countries (USA, Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil, India, Australia, Nigeria), the name of the governmental-territorial units that form the federation. With the exception of India, states are not usually created along national lines.

The rights of a state are determined by the federal constitution and the constitution of the individual state (USA, Venezuela, Australia); however, a state does not always have the right to adopt its own constitution (in India only two of the 22 states have a constitution). The states create their own governmental bodies. As a rule, the central power either formally or in fact controls the legislative and executive activities of the states. A state is usually headed by a governor elected by the population (USA and Mexico) or chosen by the head of the federal government (India and Australia). Each state is represented in the upper chamber of the federal legislative body, either by an even number of representatives (USA, two; Mexico, two; Venezuela, two; Brazil, three; Australia, ten) or according to a norm of representation that depends on the size of the state’s population (India). The mutual relations of the states to the federation and of the states among themselves are determined by the constitutions, judicial decisions, agreements among the states, and custom.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


(control systems)
A minimum set of numbers which contain enough information about a system's history to enable its future behavior to be computed.
The condition of a system which is specified as completely as possible by observations of a specified nature, for example, thermodynamic state, energy state.
(quantum mechanics)
The condition in which a system exists; the state may be pure and describable by a wave function or mixed and describable by a density matrix.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


1. a sovereign political power or community
2. the territory occupied by such a community
3. the sphere of power in such a community
4. one of a number of areas or communities having their own governments and forming a federation under a sovereign government, as in the US
5. the body politic of a particular sovereign power, esp as contrasted with a rival authority such as the Church
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


(storage, architecture, jargon, theory)
How something is; its configuration, attributes, condition, or information content. The state of a system is usually temporary (i.e. it changes with time) and volatile (i.e. it will be lost or reset to some initial state if the system is switched off).

A state may be considered to be a point in some space of all possible states. A simple example is a light, which is either on or off. A complex example is the electrical activation in a human brain while solving a problem.

In computing and related fields, states, as in the light example, are often modelled as being discrete (rather than continuous) and the transition from one state to another is considered to be instantaneous. Another (related) property of a system is the number of possible states it may exhibit. This may be finite or infinite. A common model for a system with a finite number of discrete state is a finite state machine.
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(1) In object-oriented programming, the state of an object is the combination of the original values in the object plus any modifications made to them.

(2) The current or last-known status, or condition, of a process, transaction or setting. "Maintaining state" or "managing state" means keeping track of the process. This is an issue on the Web, because the HTTP protocol does not maintain state between one page request and the next. A website needs to keep track of customers that fill a shopping cart with an item, wander off to another page and then come back to complete the order. Likewise, Webmasters like to analyze the routes users take when visiting their sites. In order to maintain state in a stateless environment, cookie files and server protocols such as NSAPI and ISAPI are used.

Maintaining State with Voice Calls
Because everything is chopped into packets by the network, maintaining "state" is also an issue when voice is carried over the Internet (voice over IP). Techniques are devised to simulate the end-to-end connection of a regular telephone call that would "maintain the state of the call." This would readily allow the call to be barged in on, a requirement in certain call centers as well as for emergencies. See cookie, stateless, IP telephony signaling protocol, Web bug, NSAPI and ISAPI.
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References in periodicals archive ?
Victorious On August 11 and September 8, guests can take in a tour of the stately gardens and an afternoon tea in the Victoria Orangery.
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The beautiful old stately home has been refurbished to its former glory and then decorated with a tasteful modern touch.
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The collection has been hailed as "one of the finest" in private hands anywhere in the world, but the trustees have decided to sell the works to raise money to secure the future of the stately home.
Hopetoun, a place of outstanding natural beauty, hosts Scotland's finest stately home, Hopetoun House.
Orchard Energy, which has its UK headquarters in Elland and five further offices across Britain, is working with a number of well-known stately homes and visitor attractions including Chatsworth, Harewood House and Castle Howard.
* RECONSTRUCTED battle scenarios at a stately manor wartime event were so realistic, an armed response team turned up.
WESTON Park on the Staffordshire/Shropshire border has invited three local artists to capture scenes around the stately home to celebrate its 25th anniversary as a charitable trust.
A STATELY home gave its suits of armour a scrub and polish as staff prepared to put the house "to bed" this weekend.
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