Autocracy

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An autocracy is a system of government in which a single person (the autocrat) possesses supreme and absolute power. The decisions of this autocrat are subject to neither external legal restraints nor regularized mechanisms of popular control (except perhaps for the implicit threat of a coup d'état or mass insurrection). [1] Absolute monarchies (such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Eswatini, Brunei, and Oman) and dictatorships (such as Turkmenistan, Eritrea, Belarus, and North Korea) are the main modern-day forms of autocracy.

A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, often a state.

Coup détat Sudden deposition of a government

A coup d'état, also known as a putsch (German:), a golpe de estado (Spanish/Portuguese), or simply as a coup, means the overthrow of an existing government; typically, this refers to an illegal, unconstitutional seizure of power by a dictator, the military, or a political faction.


Absolute monarchy is a form of monarchy in which the monarch holds supreme autocratic authority, principally not being restricted by written laws, legislature, or customs. These are often hereditary monarchies. In contrast, in constitutional monarchies, the head of state's authority derives from and is legally bounded or restricted by a constitution or legislature.

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In earlier times, the term "autocrat" was coined as a favorable feature of the ruler, having some connection to the concept of "lack of conflicts of interests" as well as an indication of grandeur and power. The Russian Emperor for example was styled, "Autocrat of all the Russias", as late as the early 20th century.

Emperor of All Russia monarch during a period of Russian history

The Emperor or Empress of All Russia was the absolute and later the constitutional monarch of the Russian Empire.

History and etymology

Autocracy comes from the Ancient Greek autós (self) and krátos (power, strength) from Kratos, the Greek personification of authority. In the Medieval Greek language, the term Autocrates was used for anyone holding the title emperor, regardless of the actual power of the monarch. Some historical Slavic monarchs, such as Russian tsars and emperors, included the title Autocrat as part of their official styles, distinguishing them from the constitutional monarchs elsewhere in Europe. This not to be confused with the use of 'auto-', as in 'automatic' or 'automobile', to refer to the lack of need for human rule or power at all instead of power by one.

Kratos or Cratos is the divine personification of strength in Greek mythology. He is the son of Pallas and Styx; he and his siblings Nike ("Victory"), Bia ("Force"), and Zelus ("Zeal") are all essentially personifications. Kratos is first mentioned alongside his siblings in Hesiod's Theogony. According to Hesiod, Kratos and his siblings dwell with Zeus because their mother Styx came to him first to request a position in his regime, so he honored her and her children with exalted positions. Kratos and his sister Bia are best known for their appearance in the opening scene of Aeschylus's Prometheus Bound. Acting as agents of Zeus, they lead the captive Titan Prometheus on stage. Kratos compels the mild-mannered blacksmith god Hephaestus to chain Prometheus to a rock as punishment for his theft of fire. Kratos is characterized as brutal and merciless, repeatedly mocking both Hephaestus and Prometheus and advocating for the use of unnecessary violence. He defends Zeus's oppressive rule and predicts that Prometheus will never escape his bonds. In Aeschylus's Libation Bearers, Electra calls upon Kratos, Dike ("Justice"), and Zeus to aid her brother Orestes in avenging the murder of their father Agamemnon. Kratos and Bia appear in a late fifth-century BC red-figure Attic skyphos of the punishment of Ixion, possibly based on a scene from a lost tragedy by Euripides. They also appear in late eighteenth and nineteenth-century Romantic depictions and adaptations of the binding of Prometheus.

Medieval Greek, also known as Byzantine Greek, is the stage of the Greek language between the end of Classical antiquity in the 5th–6th centuries and the end of the Middle Ages, conventionally dated to the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453.

Greek language Language spoken in Greece, Cyprus and Southern Albania

Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning more than 3000 years of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.

Comparison with other forms of government

Both totalitarian and military dictatorship are often identified with, but need not be, an autocracy. Totalitarianism is a system where the state strives to control every aspect of life and civil society [2] . It can be headed by a supreme leader, making it autocratic, but it can also have a collective leadership such as a commune, junta, or single political party.

Totalitarianism political system in which the state holds total authority

Totalitarianism is a political concept of a mode of government that prohibits opposition parties, restricts individual opposition to the state and its claims, and exercises an extremely high degree of control over public and private life. It is regarded as the most extreme and complete form of authoritarianism. Political power in totalitarian states has often been held by rule by one leader which employ all-encompassing propaganda campaigns broadcast by state-controlled mass media. Totalitarian regimes are often marked by political repression, personality cultism, control over the economy, restriction of speech, mass surveillance and widespread use of state terrorism. Historian Robert Conquest describes a "totalitarian" state as one recognizing no limits to its authority in any sphere of public or private life and which extends that authority to whatever length feasible.

A military dictatorship, also known as a military junta, is a dictatorship wherein the military exerts complete or substantial control over political authority, and a dictator is often a high ranked military officer.

Collective leadership is a distribution of power within an organisational structure. It is considered an ideal form of ruling a communist party, both within and outside a socialist state.

In an analysis of militarized disputes between two states, if one of the states involved was an autocracy the chance of violence occurring doubled. [3]

Origin and developments

Examples from early modern Europe suggests early statehood was favorable for democracy. [4] But, according to Jacob Hariri, outside Europe, history shows that early statehood has led to autocracy. [5] The reasons he gives are: continuation of the original autocratic rule and absence of "institutional transplantation" [5] or European settlement. This may be because of the country's capacity to fight colonization, or the presence of state infrastructure that Europeans did not need for the creation of new institutions to rule. In all the cases, representative institutions were unable to get introduced in these countries and they sustained their autocratic rule. European colonization was varied and conditional on many factors. Countries which were rich in natural resources had an extractive[?] and indirect rule, whereas other colonies saw European settlement. [6] Because of this settlement, these countries possibly experienced setting up of new institutions. Colonization also depended on factor endowments and settler mortality. [5]

Mancur Olson theorizes the development of autocracies as the first transition from anarchy to state. Anarchy for Olson is characterized by a number of "roving bandits" who travel around many different geographic areas extorting wealth from local populations leaving little incentive for populations to invest, and produce. As local populations lose the incentive to produce, there is little wealth for either the bandits to steal or the people to use. Olson theorizes autocrats as "stationary bandits" who solve this dilemma by establishing control over a small fiefdom and monopolize the extortion of wealth in the fiefdom in the form of taxes. Once an autocracy is developed, Olson theorizes that both the autocrat and the local population will be better off as the autocrat will have an "encompassing interest" in the maintenance and growth of wealth in the fiefdom. [7] Because violence threatens the creation of rents, the "stationary bandit" has incentives to monopolize violence and to create a peaceful order.

Douglass North, John Joseph Wallis and Barry R. Weingast describe autocracies as limited access orders that arise from this need to monopolize violence. [8] In contrast to Olson, these scholars understand the early state not as a single ruler, but as an organization formed by many actors. They describe the process of autocratic state formation as a bargaining process among individuals with access to violence. For them, these individuals form a dominant coalition that grants each other privileges such as the access to resources. As violence reduces the rents, members of the dominant coalition have incentives to cooperate and to avoid fighting. A limited access to privileges is necessary to avoid competition among the members of the dominant coalition, who then will credibly commit to cooperate and will form the state.

Maintenance

Because autocrats need a power structure to rule, it can be difficult to draw a clear line between historical autocracies and oligarchies. Most historical autocrats depended on their nobles, the military, the priesthood, or other elite groups. [9] Some autocracies are rationalized by assertion of divine right, historically this has mainly been reserved for medieval kingdoms.

According to Douglass North, John Joseph Wallis and Barry R. Weingast, in limited access orders the state is ruled by a dominant coalition formed by a small elite group that relates to each other by personal relationships. In order to remain in power, this elite hinders people outside the dominant coalition to access organizations and resources. Autocracy, then, is maintained as long as the personal relationships of the elite continue to forge the dominant coalition. These scholars further suggest that once the dominant coalition starts to become broader and allow for impersonal relationships, limited access orders can give place to open access orders. [8]

For Daron Acemoglu, Simon Johnson and James Robinson, the allocation of political power explains the maintenance of autocracies, which they usually refer to as "extractive states". [10] For them, the de jure political power comes from political institutions, whereas the de facto political power is determined by the distribution of resources. Those holding the political power in the present will design the political and economic institutions in the future according to their interests. In autocracies, both de jure and de facto political powers are concentrated in one person or a small elite that will promote institutions for keeping the de jure political power as concentrated as the de facto political power, thereby maintaining autocratic regimes with extractive institutions.

Autocracy promotion

It has been argued that authoritarian regimes, such as China and Russia, have attempted to export their system of government to other countries through "autocracy promotion". [11] A number of scholars are skeptical that China and Russia have successfully exported authoritarianism abroad. [12] [13] [14] [15]

Historical examples

See also

Related Research Articles

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Dictatorship form of autocratic government led by a single individual

A dictatorship is an authoritarian form of government, characterized by a single leader or group of leaders with either no party or a weak party, little mass mobilization, and limited political pluralism. According to other definitions, democracies are regimes in which "those who govern are selected through contested elections"; therefore dictatorships are "not democracies". With the advent of the 19th and 20th centuries, dictatorships and constitutional democracies emerged as the world's two major forms of government, gradually eliminating monarchies, one of the traditional widespread forms of government of the time. Typically, in a dictatorial regime, the leader of the country is identified with the title of dictator, although their formal title may more closely resemble something similar to "leader". A common aspect that characterized dictatorship is taking advantage of their strong personality, usually by suppressing freedom of thought and speech of the masses, in order to maintain complete political and social supremacy and stability. Dictatorships and totalitarian societies generally employ political propaganda to decrease the influence of proponents of alternative governing systems.

October Manifesto

The October Manifesto, officially "The Manifesto on the Improvement of the State Order", is a document that served as a precursor to the Russian Empire's first Russian Constitution of 1906, which would be adopted the next year. The Manifesto was issued by Tsar Nicholas II, under the influence of Sergei Witte (1849-1915), on 30 October [O.S. 17 October] 1905 as a response to the Russian Revolution of 1905. Nicholas strenuously resisted these ideas, but gave in after his first choice to head a military dictatorship, Grand Duke Nicholas, threatened to shoot himself in the head if the Tsar did not accept Witte's suggestion. Nicholas reluctantly agreed, and issued what became known as the October Manifesto, promising basic civil rights and an elected parliament called the Duma, without whose approval no laws were to be enacted in Russia in the future. According to his memoirs, Witte did not force the Tsar to sign the October Manifesto, which was proclaimed in all the churches..

Secret police are intelligence, security or police agencies that engage in covert operations against a government's political opponents and dissidents. Secret police organizations are characteristic of totalitarian regimes. Used to protect the political power of an individual dictator or an authoritarian regime, secret police often operate outside the law and are used to repress dissidents and weaken the political opposition, frequently with violence.

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An illiberal democracy, also called a partial democracy, low intensity democracy, empty democracy, hybrid regime or guided democracy, is a governing system in which although elections take place, citizens are cut off from knowledge about the activities of those who exercise real power because of the lack of civil liberties; thus it is not an "open society". There are many countries "that are categorized as neither 'free' nor 'not free', but as 'probably free', falling somewhere between democratic and nondemocratic regimes". This may be because a constitution limiting government powers exists, but those in power ignore its liberties, or because an adequate legal constitutional framework of liberties does not exist.

Mancur Olson American economist

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A strongman is a political leader who rules by force and runs an autocracy or authoritarian regime or totalitarian regime. The term is often used interchangeably with "dictator" in the western world, but differs from a "warlord".

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  1. the right to use the good
  2. the right to earn income from the good
  3. the right to transfer the good to others, alter it, abandon it, or destroy it
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Tsarist autocracy is a form of autocracy specific to the Grand Duchy of Moscow, which later became Tsardom of Russia and the Russian Empire. In it, all power and wealth is controlled by the Tsar. They had more power than constitutional monarchs, who are usually vested by law and counterbalanced by a legislative authority; they even had more authority on religious issues compared to Western monarchs. In Russia, it originated during the time of Ivan III (1440−1505), and was abolished after the Russian Revolution of 1917.

Authoritarianism is a form of government characterized by strong central power and limited political freedoms. Under an authoritarian regime, individual freedoms are subordinate to the state, and there is no constitutional accountability. Authoritarian regimes can be autocratic, with power concentrated in one person, or can be a committee, with power shared among officials and government institutions. The political scientist Juan Linz defined authoritarianism in an influential 1964 work as possessing four qualities:

  1. Limited political pluralism, realized with constraints on the legislature, political parties, and interest groups;
  2. Political legitimacy based upon appeals to emotion, and identification of the regime as a necessary evil to combat "easily recognizable societal problems, such as underdevelopment, and insurgency";
  3. Minimal political mobilization and suppression of anti-regime activities;
  4. Ill-defined executive powers, often vague and shifting, which extends the power of the executive.
Comparison of Nazism and Stalinism Comparison of ideologies

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Despite its popular usage, anocracy lacks a precise definition. Anocratic regimes are loosely defined as part democracy and part dictatorship, or as a "regime that mixes democratic with autocratic features". Another definition classifies anocracy as "a regime that permits some means of participation through opposition group behavior but that has incomplete development of mechanisms to redress grievances". Scholars have also distinguished anocracies from autocracies and democracies in their capability to maintain authority, political dynamics, and policy agendas. Similarly, these regime types have democratic institutions that allow for nominal amounts of competition.

A hybrid regime is a mixed type of political regime that arises on the basis of an authoritarian as a result of an incomplete democratic transition. Hybrid regimes combine autocratic features with democratic ones, they can simultaneously hold political repressions and regular elections. The term “hybrid regime” arises from a polymorphic view of political regimes that opposes the dichotomy of autocracy or democracy. Hybrid regimes are characteristic of resource countries (petro-states). Such regimes are stable and tenacious.

<i>Why Nations Fail</i> 2012 book by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson

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References

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  3. Pinker, Steven (2011). The Better Angels Of Our Nature. Penguin. p. 341. ISBN   978-0-141-03464-5.
  4. Tilly, Charles. "Western-state Making and Theories of Political Transformation".Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  5. 1 2 3 Hariri, Jacob (2012). "The Autocratic Legacy of Early Statehood". American Political Science Review. 106 (3): 471–494. doi:10.1017/S0003055412000238.
  6. Acemoglu, Daron; Johnson, Simon; A. Robinson, James. "Reversal of Fortune: Geography and Institutions in the Making of the Modern World Income Distribution".
  7. Olson, Mancur (1993-01-01). "Dictatorship, Democracy, and Development". The American Political Science Review. 87 (3): 567–576. doi:10.2307/2938736. JSTOR   2938736.
  8. 1 2 Douglass C. North; John Joseph Wallis; Barry R. Weingast (2008). "Violence and the Rise of Open-Access Orders". Journal of Democracy. 20 (1): 55–68. doi:10.1353/jod.0.0060.
  9. Tullock, Gordon. "Autocracy", Springer Science+Business, 1987. ISBN   90-247-3398-7
  10. Acemoglu, Daron; Johnson, Simon; Robinson, James A. (2005). Chapter 6 Institutions as a Fundamental Cause of Long-Run Growth. Handbook of Economic Growth. 1, Part A. pp. 385–472. doi:10.1016/S1574-0684(05)01006-3. ISBN   9780444520418.
  11. Kurlantzick, Joshua (2013-03-30). "A New Axis of Autocracy". Wall Street Journal. ISSN   0099-9660 . Retrieved 2017-05-17.
  12. Tansey, Oisín (2016-01-02). "The problem with autocracy promotion". Democratization. 23 (1): 141–163. doi:10.1080/13510347.2015.1095736. ISSN   1351-0347.
  13. Way, Lucan (2016-01-27). "Weaknesses of Autocracy Promotion". Journal of Democracy. 27 (1): 64–75. doi:10.1353/jod.2016.0009. ISSN   1086-3214.
  14. Brownlee, Jason (2017-05-15). "The limited reach of authoritarian powers". Democratization. 0 (7): 1326–1344. doi:10.1080/13510347.2017.1287175. ISSN   1351-0347.
  15. Way, Lucan A. (2015). "The limits of autocracy promotion: The case of Russia in the 'near abroad'". European Journal of Political Research. 54 (4): 691–706. doi:10.1111/1475-6765.12092.
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