6.3.1 Authoritarian Government

(This is a current page, from the Patterns of Power Edition 3 book contents.  An archived copy of this page is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition03/631.htm)

An authoritarian system, for the purposes of this book, is one which deprives people of a realistic opportunity to choose a different government.  There are no politicians to represent the interests of the people in a fully authoritarian system: governance is carried out by public servants appointed by, and working for, a central authority.  There are several such scenarios, as described in the following sub-sections:

  • Partially authoritarian systems, with vestigial democracy (6.3.1.1).
  • Totalitarian one-party States (6.3.1.2).
  • Dictatorships whose leaders have acquired power by force (6.3.1.3).
  • Absolute monarchies, where a hereditary monarch directly controls the government (6.3.1.4).

These very broad categories of authoritarian government have different types of legitimacy, as described below.

People might accept the institution of an authoritarian government, to bring law and order (6.3.1.5), although that government might not be able to effect a peaceful handover of power to its successors.  Its ability to maintain control sometimes involves suppressing individual freedom (6.3.1.6) but, even though it doesn’t need votes as such, it has an incentive to keep the population satisfied (6.3.1.7).  By definition, the people will not be directly involved in choosing a leader but there is scope for limited negotiation on some topics (6.3.1.8).

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