Types of Government

Out of the clear blue sky this morning, it occurred to me to see if I could find out what the fuck we are talking about by understanding our misunderstandings of the definition of each word. As anyone would, I began my quest with Wikipedia.

Authoritarianism [1] is a form of government characterized by strong central power and limited political freedoms. Individual freedoms are subordinate to the state and there is no constitutional accountability and rule of law under an authoritarian regime. Authoritarian regimes can be autocratic with power concentrated in one person or it can be more spread out between multiple officials and government institutions.[1] Juan Linz‘s influential 1964 description of authoritarianism[2] characterized authoritarian political systems by four qualities:

  1. Limited political pluralism, that is such regimes place constraints on political institutions and groups like legislatures, political parties and interest groups;
  2. A basis for legitimacy based on emotion, especially the identification of the regime as a necessary evil to combat “easily recognizable societal problems” such as enemies of the people or state, underdevelopment or insurgency;
  3. Minimal social mobilization most often caused by constraints on the public such as suppression of political opponents and anti-regime activity;
  4. Informally defined executive power with often vague and shifting, but vast powers.[3]

Socialism [2] is a range of economic and social systems characterised by social ownership of the means of production and workers’ self-management,[10] as well as the political theories and movements associated with them.[11] Social ownership can be public, collective or cooperative ownership, or citizen ownership of equity.[12] There are many varieties of socialism and there is no single definition encapsulating all of them,[13] with social ownership being the common element shared by its various forms.[5][14][15]

A republic [3]  (Latin: res publica) is a form of government in which the country is considered a “public matter”, not the private concern or property of the rulers. The primary positions of power within a republic are not inherited, but are attained through democracy, oligarchy or autocracy. It is a form of government under which the head of state is not a monarch.[1][2][3]

In American English, the definition of a republic refers specifically to a form of government in which elected individuals represent the citizen body[2][better source needed] and exercise power according to the rule of law under a constitution, including separation of powers with an elected head of state, referred to as a constitutional republic[4][5][6][7] or representative democracy.[8]

Democracy [4] (Greek: δημοκρατία dēmokratía, literally “Rule by ‘People'”) is a system of government where the citizens exercise power by voting. In a direct democracy, the citizens as a whole form a governing body and vote directly on each issue. In a representative democracy the citizens elect representatives from among themselves. These representatives meet to form a governing body, such as a legislature. In a constitutional democracy the powers of the majority are exercised within the framework of a representative democracy, but the constitution limits the majority and protects the minority, usually through the enjoyment by all of certain individual rights, e.g. freedom of speech, or freedom of association.[1][2] “Rule of the majority” is sometimes referred to as democracy.[3] Democracy is a system of processing conflicts in which outcomes depend on what participants do, but no single force controls what occurs and its outcomes.

Social democracy [5] is a political, social, and economic ideology that supports economic and social interventions to promote social justice within the framework of a liberal democratic polity and capitalist economy. The protocols and norms used to accomplish this involve a commitment to representative and participatory democracy; measures for income redistribution and regulation of the economy in the general interest; and welfare state provisions.[1][2][3] Social democracy thus aims to create the conditions for capitalism to lead to greater democratic, egalitarian and solidaristic outcomes.[4] Due to longstanding governance by social democratic parties and their influence on socio-economic policy development in the Nordic countries, in policy circles social democracy has become associated with the Nordic model in the latter part of the 20th century.[5]

Participatory democracy [6] emphasizes the broad participation of constituents in the direction and  operation of political systems. Etymological roots of democracy (Greek demos and kratos) imply that the people are in power and thus that all democracies are participatory. However, participatory democracy tends to advocate more involved forms of citizen participation and greater political representation than traditional representative democracy.

[1] “Authoritarianism – Wikipedia.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Authoritarianism. Accessed 19 Feb. 2019.

[2] “Socialism – Wikipedia.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socialism. Accessed 19 Feb. 2019.

[3] “Republic – Wikipedia.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Republic. Accessed 19 Feb. 2019.

[4] “Democracy – Wikipedia.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democracy. Accessed 19 Feb. 2019.

[5] “Social democracy – Wikipedia.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_democracy. Accessed 19 Feb. 2019.
[Image Credit] “BrainyQuotes” https://www.brainyquote.com/authors/top_10_aristotle_quotes. Accessed 19 Feb. 2019.



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