Totalitarian One-Party States

Using Max Weber’s classification of “pure types of authority”, in paragraphs 7-10 in his lecture Politics as a Vocation, one-party States might be described as having legitimacy by virtue of “legality” if most people support the system of rules which is imposed by the government and its officials.  There are different reasons why people might accept such a system:

  • Systems based on shared values – such as Communism or Confucianism – in theory confer equal recognition on the whole population and provide a reason to support the State.  China is refining its teaching of “Chinese values” along these lines – as described in an The Economist article, Making history: The Communist Party is redefining what it means to be Chinese.
  • Fascist States maintain order and bring a sense of national pride.  Benito Mussolini’s Doctrine of Fascism defined it as a collective will, suppressing all dissent, arguing that:

“The Fascist conception of the State is all embracing; outside of it no human or spiritual values can exist, much less have value.  Thus understood, Fascism, is totalitarian…”

  • Theocracies take the position that there can be no other law but God’s and that political power must be exercised in the name of God.  Karen Armstrong quoted Ayatollah Khomeini’s 1971 rationale for the Iranian theocracy in her book, The Battle for God:

“If a faqih, an expert in Islamic jurisprudence, took control of the administrative and political institutions, he could ensure that the Shariah was implemented correctly”. [p. 256]

In a theocracy the clergy is interpreting the religious texts, with all their contradictions and ambiguities, in order to determine ‘the will of God’ in matters of government.  Given that political decisions include economics and participation in world affairs, in which the religious texts don’t give direct guidance, the clergy concerned are acting as politicians as well as providing moral advice.  The population in a theocracy is, in effect, submitting to the rule of a group of people who were not elected by the population as a religious organisation.

Leaders can be appointed by a central committee within the ruling party of a mature one-party State, so that succession can be peaceful and bad leaders can be deposed.  The party has to be seen as working for the common good (and it would swiftly lose its legitimacy if it were seen to be corrupt or governing badly).



This is a current page, from the Patterns of Power Edition 3a book, © PatternsofPower.org, 2020.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition03/6312a.htm