To understand individuality, citizenship, and nationality in the contemporary world one must first understand political and cultural transformations from communities governed by kinship to national societies governed by centralized rulers and states. The explanation requires that we now examine a set of political-cultural concepts that help to explain how traditional kinship communities became transformed by centralized and hierarchical forms of authority. In this we consider how modern nation-states eventually supplanted kinship, descent, and segmented lineage order as legitimate principles on which to ground the political authority of governance. These concepts, including such terms as dynasties, nations, states, and nation-states, permit us to analyze two processes central to the historical development of contemporary constructions of collective, specifically political, identity in the making of the modern world. The first is state-building. This refers to the historical and political consolidation of central authority. The second is nation-building. This refers to the gradual but steady development of cultures of mass society based on individual citizenship and popular sovereignty as a way of legitimating centralized governance. These historical processes occurred wherever increasing levels of agricultural surplus permitted the rise of populations that in many cases posed unprecedented social, economic, and ultimately political challenges.