Abstract. The “global success” of nation states is currently brought into play by the new requirements of multicultural differentiation and globalization. After commenting on the common concepts of “state” and “nation” and discussing the formation of nation states, the author explains the particular achievement of the national state and the tension between republicanism and nationalism built into it. The challenges that arise from the multicultural differentiation of civil society and from trends towards globalization throw light on the limitations of this historical type.