There is no RationalWiki without you. We are a small non-profit with no staff — we are hundreds of volunteers who document pseudoscience and crankery around the world every day. We will never allow ads because we must remain independent. We cannot rely on big donors with corresponding big agendas. We are not the largest website around, but we believe we play an important role in defending truth and objectivity.
If everyone seeing this today donates $5, we will meet our goal for 2018.
| Fighting pseudoscience isn't free.|
We are 100% user-supported! Help and donate $5, $20 or whatever you can today with !
List of forms of government
| It doesn't stop|
at the water's edge
Ever wondered what all those -ocracies and -archies were? Seek no further than RationalWiki's list of forms of government. It should be noted that not all of these are mutually exclusive. For example, the United States is both a democracy and a republic, and dictatorships are often kleptocracies. Not to mention the fact that Confederacies, Federations, and Unitary countries are not political systems in the sense that democracies and monarchies are; those terms denote how power is divided vis a vis the regions of a nation. Whether a government is confederated, federal, or unitary does not necessarily affect how democratic/monarchical a government is. The Czech Republic (1993-present), for instance, is a unitary constitutional republic, but the German Empire (1871-1918) was a federal constitutional monarchy, emphasis on the monarchy.
- 1 Anarchism
- 2 Anarcho-capitalism
- 3 Anarchy
- 4 Aristocracy
- 5 Autocracy
- 6 Capracracy
- 7 Communist state
- 8 Corporatocracy
- 9 Demarchy
- 10 Democracy
- 11 Despotism
- 12 Dictatorship
- 13 Epistemocracy
- 14 Ethnocracy
- 15 Exilarchy
- 16 Fascism
- 17 Feudalism
- 18 Futarchy
- 19 Geniocracy
- 20 Gerontocracy
- 21 Kakistocracy
- 22 Kratocracy
- 23 Kritocracy or Krytocracy
- 24 Matriarchy
- 25 Meritocracy
- 26 Minarchy
- 27 Mobocracy or ochlocracy
- 28 Monarchy
- 29 Necrocracy
- 30 Oligarchy
- 31 Panarchracy
- 32 Patriarchy
- 33 Plutocracy
- 34 Republic
- 35 Socialist republic or people's republic
- 36 Stratocracy
- 37 Technocracy
- 38 Theocracy
- 39 Theodemocracy
- 40 Timocracy
- 41 Tyranny
- 42 References
A form of government (or lack thereof) with no ruling hierarchy, instead decisions are made at a directly democratic level: laws are created by citizens alone, although they may be enforced by institutions that are not publicly controlled.
A stateless society composed of sovereign individuals living within the constraints of a corporatist market.
Anarchy is lack of a central government, as there is no one recognized governing authority; in anarchy there is no effective government (as opposed to an "ineffective government") and each (rugged) individual has absolute liberty. It is important to note, however, that the lack of a government to enforce laws does not automatically imply that there are no laws; anarcho-capitalism in particular posits a form of anarchy with a body of explicit laws.
Aristocracy (from the Greek "rule of the best") is government rule by a few elite citizens. Usually the "elite" positions in question are hereditary. It was one of the six forms of government identified by Aristotle, and he said it was the second best, after monarchy but before constitutional government. Moreover, if corrupted, it resulted in only the second worst form of government, oligarchy.
The United Kingdom's system of aristocracy is probably the canonical one for the English speaking world. Until 1999, everyone who held a hereditary title of nobility higher than baron or baroness was automatically a member of the upper house of the British legislature, the House of Lords. Since 1999, the members of this class elect 90 representatives who sit as the legislative body of the House of Lords. The title of baron/baroness were also hereditary. In addition to these aristocrats, members of landed families entitled to a heraldic coat of arms are generally considered part of the gentry, without regard to their ranks or titles. And people designated by the British monarch as Life Peers also belong to the House of Lords, but these peers do not pass their titles to their progeny by descent.
Aristocracy has been abolished by many nations, sometimes with some violence. The French Revolution is the most notorious instance of such an overthrow.
Even in places where noble titles carry no special political rights or consequences, a conventional social distinction is drawn up between "old money" and a class of nouveaux riches or parvenus. Old-money families inherited their wealth from relatively distant ancestors. It was formerly considered a more prestigious sort of wealth. Many political dynasties in the United States, including the Theodore and Franklin D. Roosevelt, and the Tafts, represented this kind of wealth.
The Aristocracy refers to the social class that is doing the ruling.
The Aristocrats is, well... not entirely safe for work.
A form of government in which the political power is held by a single, self-appointed ruler. This should be distinguished from monarchy, which involves some traditional basis for that power, usually birth, and is often weakened (especially in modern times) by the presence of countervailing institutions, like a Parliament. Which is not to say that dictators who've awarded themselves the position of king or emperor are exempt from being categorized as autocrats, of course.
In practice, it is almost impossible to be a real autocrat, because every state must rely on an array of lesser officials to enforce the dicta of the autocrat. Moreover, any given autocrat will have to appease certain factions, most notably the military, to avoid the Praetorian treatment. At a bare minimum, the autocrat will need the threat of force to compel obedience, which necessitates some willing underlings to carry out that threat.
Autocracy, though, is one of the most overused words in the foreign policy lexicon, as it is often used to simply mean "authoritarian" or "totalitarian" governments. For example, many writers will refer to Chinese "autocrats," not understanding that the mere fact that there are more than one person making decisions means it is not an autocracy.
Some examples are:
- Stalinist USSR (well, Uncle Joe was certainly an autocratic leader, but totalitarian is probably a better description of Stalinism in general)
- The Putinarchy in modern day Russia.
- North Korea under three generations now. Legally, the actual 'leader' of the country is Kim Il Sung, despite being dead for 21 years.
Rule by goat. Without a doubt, the most superior form of governance known to man or to goat.
A form of government where a corporation, a group of corporations, or government entities with private components control the direction and governance of a country. (See USA.)
A hypothetical political system run by randomly selected
deciders decision makers who have been selected by sortition (drawing lots). Think selecting a legislature or executive in the same manner that a jury is presently selected.
Refers to a broad range of types of government based upon the "consent of the governed". In its purest form it is the same thing as mobocracy, but it is usually practiced in the form of a republic or constitutional monarchy, which provides checks and balances and an establishment that is able to tap an unruly mob on its collective head. In the US, "democracy" is often mistakenly assumed to mean direct democracy as opposed to representative democracy (see also Republic).
Rule by an all-powerful individual. A less polite term for "autocracy."
Rule by a dictator instead of a despot. Political science is very nuanced. Technically, a dictatorship is where the executive holds a disproportionate amount of power, so an oligarchy (see below) can be a dictatorship, as in the case of South American juntas.
A form of government where representatives of a particular ethnic group hold a number of government posts disproportionately large to the percentage of the total population that the particular ethnic group(s) represents and use them to advance the position of their particular ethnic group(s) to the detriment of others. In Nazi Germany ethnic groups Hitler supported held all the power. Neo-Nazis often accuse Jews of possessing an ethnocracy in the person of the U.S. government, which they call the Zionist Occupation Government.
A form of government, usually theocratic or monarchic, that is established and constituted for rule over an ethnic or religious diaspora rather than over the place of origin whence the diaspora originated.
Government by a usually hereditary class of military landowners, who exact goods and services from a peasant class in exchange for protection. Usually features complex webs of loyalties and ranks.
System of government proposed by economist Robin Hanson based on the idea of voting on a certain outcome and then figuring out how to achieve it.
A system of government first proposed by Rael (leader of the International Raëlian Movement) in 1977, which advocates problem-solving and creative intelligence as criteria for regional governance. Not, unfortunately, rule by genies, which would be much more awesome.
A state, society or group governed exclusively by
geezers elders. Gerontocracies form councils, comprised of men over the age of 60, who exercise control. This form of government was popular with the ancient Greeks.
Government by the least qualified or most unprincipled citizens, "Government by the worst." See also United States.
Rule by those who are strong enough to seize power through force or cunning.
Kritocracy or Krytocracy
Rule by judges. See also judicial activism.
Rule by women, or a government which regards female humans as entitled to rule and to exercise power over men.
A government wherein appointments are made and responsibilities are given based on demonstrated talent and ability, usually incentivising "merit".
A political ideology which maintains that the state's only legitimate function is the protection of individuals from aggression.
Mobocracy or ochlocracy
Rule by an individual for life or until abdication, often hereditary. On a positive note, a monarchy usually possesses more checks and balances than an autocracy or dictatorship.
A government that operates under the rules of a dead ruler. See also North Korea.
A form of government in which power effectively rests with a small elite segment of society distinguished by royal, wealth, intellectual, family, military or religious hegemony. The term dates back to Aristotle, who considered oligarchy to be the corrupted form of aristocracy, and worse than mob rule, but better than tyranny. No modern country identifies itself as an oligarchy. The term is used by scholars to describe various societies, historical and modern, or thrown around as a pejorative epithet.
A political philosophy emphasizing each individual's right to freely join and leave the jurisdiction of any governments they choose, without being forced to move from their current locale.
Rule by men, or a government which regards male humans as entitled to rule and to exercise power over women.
Rule by the wealthy, or power provided by wealth.
Historical and international definition: Any of a wide variety of non-monarchical governments where eligibility to rule is determined by law. US definition: Rule by elected individuals representing the citizen body and exercising power according to the rule of law.
Socialist republic or people's republic
A state run by a communist party, or worker representative democracy, with a centrally controlled economy and resources distributed by need and produced by ability, where workers, or the Party, control the means of production.
A system of government in which there is no distinction between the military and the civil power.
A form of government in which a god or deity is recognized as the state's supreme civil ruler. Since said god or deity is usually absent from decision making, a self-appointed or elected leader or leaders of the religion of said god or deity will rule instead through personal interpretation of the laws commanded by the god in that religion's (usually written) law.
A political system theorized by Joseph Smith, Jr., founder of the Latter Day Saint movement (Mormons). As the name implies, theodemocracy was meant to be a fusion of traditional republican democratic rights under the US Constitution combined with theocratic elements.
Either a state where only property owners may participate in government or where rulers are selected and perpetuated based on the degree of honor they hold relative to others in their society, peer group or class.
Rule by a selfish or otherwise bad single ruler.
- See the Wikipedia article on Landed gentry.
- See the Wikipedia article on Hereditary peer.
- See generally Warner, William Lloyd (1960). Social Class in America: A Manual of Procedure for the Measurement of Social Status. Harper & Row.
- Women, slaves and foreigners need not apply.