List of forms of government
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Ever wondered what all those -ocracies and -archies were? Seek no further than RationalWiki's list of forms of government. Not all of these are mutually exclusive; for example, the United States is both a (representative) 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 with a strong emphasis on the monarchy.
Government by cats, which describes many households with one or more cats that have tamed the humans.
A form of government (or lack thereof) with no ruling hierarchy, has both collectivist and individualist tendencies. For collectivists the 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.
Individualists are often more critical of direct democracy characterizing it as “rule by the majority”. Individualists such as egoists and many mutualists believe anarchism needs to be wholly the product of free voluntary association.
A stateless society composed of sovereign individuals living within the constraints of a free 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.
A government consisting entirely of men: also called a phallocracy ("rulership by dick").
An anocracy, sometimes called a semi-democracy or illiberal democracy, is a government that is neither fully democratic nor fully authoritarian.:12-14
Aristocracy (from the Greek "rule of the best") is government rule by a few elite citizens. In Europe, the elite consisted of the nobility and higher clergy, often drawn from noble families. 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. Besides the money, nobility involved many other markers of social class: language or accent, dress, social connections and parental expectations. 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.
A form of government in which the political power is held by a single, self-appointed ruler. Autocracy is objectively one of the oldest forms of government, being a primary way in which early human tribal societies organized. This should be distinguished from monarchy, which involves some traditional basis for the right and transfer of power, usually birthright, and is often weakened (especially in modern times) by the presence of countervailing institutions, like a Parliament. This is not to say that dictators who've awarded themselves the position of king or emperor or president-for-life are exempt from being popularly 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 is 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 roughly two and a half decades.
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.
A government ruled by dogs. Except for more noise, the absence of a smelly cat box and lots of fur-balls, hardly distinguishable from ailurocracy.
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. This was the system that the Athenians actually developed, selecting people by having a line of slaves wave a paint-stained rope throughout the marketplace. Whoever's toga was touched by the rope would be required to vote in the acropolis.
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, and the Nazist ideology insisted homogeneity in culture and ethnicity was required for a strong, functioning government and nation.
There are no official modern ethnocratic states; however, it could be asserted that Israel is a type of modern ethnocracy, given the history and nature of the country.
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.
A system of government first proposed by Rael (leader of Raëlism) 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 elders. Gerontocracies form councils, composed of men[note 1] over the age of 60, who exercise control. This form of government was popular with the ancient Greeks. It can be used more generally of any government whose members are significantly older than the national average, which applies to many regimes (see Strom Thurmond), but was particularly common in the latter days of Communism in Eastern Europe. The rarely-found opposite is infantocracy or paedocracy, though some cases of children becoming monarchs, like Shapur II of Persia being coronated by some accounts in his mothers' womb, are similar.
Government by the least qualified or most unprincipled people, "Government by the worst."
Government in practice by thieves, most likely because the formal leaders use the tools of government to rob the people blind.
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. MRAs believe this to be the case in most of the Western world. Encountered in the myth of the Amazons from ancient Greece, who were a civilization all of women, so necessarily a matriarchy. Also called gyneocracy.
A government wherein appointments are made and responsibilities are given based on demonstrated talent and ability, usually encouraging "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. On a more negative note, in biblical scripture 1 Samuel 8:6-18 possibly implies the institution of hereditary monarchy as a punishment for the governed.
A government that operates under the rules of a dead ruler. The Incan Empire in Peru was a weird example of this, since the dead "rulers" didn't actually pass laws, but their mummified bodies had attendants who "interpreted their will." (Sure...) 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. Historically, it was common in societies such as the Renaissance Republic of Venice and Republic of Florence which restricted elected offices to members of a small ruling class. 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. As with oligarchy, no modern nation-state identifies as a plutocracy. In practice, however, countries can degenerate into one. The United States are an alledged example of a Plutocracy, disguised as a republic.
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 (i.e., a democratic republic).
Socialist republic or people's republic
A state run by a communist party, with a centrally controlled economy and resources distributed by "need" and produced by "ability", where workers, or the Party, control the means of production. Prime examples: the People's Republic of China and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
A system of government in which there is no distinction between the military and the civil power. the ancient Greek city state of Sparta is an example. See stratocracy in Wikipedia. No modern state is a pure stratocracy, but North Korea and Myanmar have stratocratic tendencies, as their militaries have constitutional authority usually reserved to civilian rulers.
A form of government in which engineers, scientists, and other technical experts are in control of decision making in their respective fields. Plato might approve! Or maybe not, as today the term is debased and generally means government by economists, bankers, and bureaucrats rather than career politicians, as with the Monti government in Italy.
A realm which primarily exercises power over the sea via naval power, as opposed to a tellurocracy which rules land.
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. Saudi Arabia and Iran are examples.
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; from the Greek τιμή="price, worth". For Aristotle, who borrowed the concept from Solon, it lay in between aristocracy (rule by the best and wisest) and oligarchy (rule by the rich). The United States was a timocracy during the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
Rule by a selfish or otherwise bad single ruler. Prime example: North Korea.
- Women and slaves need not apply.
- How Civil Wars Start: And How to Stop Them by Barbara F. Walter (2022) Crown. ISBN 0593137787.
- 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.
- Hitler, Adolf. "2: The State". Mein Kampf. 2. Munich: MVR. p. 320-322. ISBN 9781495333347. Retrieved 2019-1-31.
- See the Wikipedia article on Gerontocracy.
- The Case for Gerontocracy, Neil Clark, The Guardian, 23 July 2007
- 1 Samuel 8:4-18
Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah,
And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.
But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the LORD.
And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.
According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee.
Now therefore hearken unto their voice: howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and shew them the manner of the king that shall reign over them.
And Samuel told all the words of the LORD unto the people that asked of him a king.
And he said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots.
And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots.
And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers.
And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants.
And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants.
And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work.
He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants.
And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the LORD will not hear you in that day.
- Gilmour, Rachelle (2011). "4: Moral, Political and Theological Evaluation". Representing the Past: A Literary Analysis of Narrative Historiography in the Book of Samuel. Supplements to Vetus Testamentum. 143. Leiden: Brill. p. 191. ISBN 9789004203402. Retrieved 2017-11-27. "The sort of king that Samuel describes may be the king he wishes upon Israel as punishment for rejecting him as their leader."
- Italy shows limits of technocracy, Politico, 27 Feb 2013
- See the Wikipedia article on Thalassocracy.
- See the Wikipedia article on Plato's five regimes.