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Forms of Government

Forms of Government

  • Authoritarian – Authoritarian governments are characterized by an emphasis on the authority of the state in a republic or union. It is a political system controlled by unelected rulers who usually permit some degree of individual freedom.
  • Anarchism – Sometimes said to be non-governance; it is a structure which strives for non-hierarchical voluntary associations among agents.
  • Constitutional monarchy – A government that has a monarch, but one whose powers are limited by law or by a formal constitution, such as the United Kingdom.
  • Constitutional republic – A government whose powers are limited by law or a formal constitution, and chosen by a vote amongst at least some sections of the populace (Ancient Sparta was in its own terms a republic, though most inhabitants were disenfranchised; The early United States was a republic, but the large numbers of African Americans and women did not have the vote). Republics which exclude sections of the populace from participation will typically claim to represent all citizens (by defining people without the vote as “non-citizens”).
  • Democracy – Rule by a government chosen by election where most of the populace are enfranchised. The key distinction between a democracy and other forms of constitutional government is usually taken to be that the right to vote is not limited by a person’s wealth or race (the main qualification for enfranchisement is usually having reached a certain age). A Democratic government is, therefore, one supported (at least at the time of the election) by a majority of the populace (provided the election was held fairly). A “majority” may be defined in different ways. There are many “power-sharing” (usually in countries where people mainly identify themselves by race or religion) or “electoral-college” or “constituency” systems where the government is not chosen by a simple one-vote-per-person headcount.
  • Dictatorship – Rule by an individual who has full power over the country. The term may refer to a system where the dictator came to power, and holds it, purely by force – but it also includes systems where the dictator first came to power legitimately but then was able to amend the constitution so as to, in effect, gather all power for themselves.See also Autocracy and Stratocracy.
  • Emirate – similar to a monarchy or sultanate, but a government in which the supreme power is in the hands of an emir (the ruler of a Muslim state); the emir may be an absolute overlord or a sovereign with constitutionally limited authority.
  • Monarchy – Rule by an individual who has inherited the role and expects to bequeath it to their heir.
  • Oligarchy – Rule by a small group of people who share similar interests or family relations.
  • Plutocracy – A government composed of the wealthy class. Any of the forms of government listed here can be plutocracy. For instance, if all of the voted representatives in a republic are wealthy, then it is a republic and a plutocracy.
  • Republic – is a form of government in which the people, or some significant portion of them, have supreme control over the government and where offices of state are elected or chosen by elected people. In modern times, a common simplified definition of a republic is a government where the head of state is not a monarch. Montesquieu included both democracies, where all the people have a share in rule, and aristocracies or oligarchies, where only some of the people rule, as republican forms of government.
  • Theocracy – Rule by a religious elite.
  • Totalitarian – Totalitarian governments regulate nearly every aspect of public and private life.
  • Meritocracy – Rule by a group selected on the basis of their ability.

presidential republics, full presidential system
presidential republics, parliament supervising an executive presidency
presidential republics, semi-presidential system
parliamentary republics
parliamentary constitutional monarchies in which the monarch does not personally exercise power
constitutional monarchies in which the monarch personally exercises power, often alongside a weak parliament
absolute monarchies
states whose constitutions grant only a single party the right to govern
states where constitutional provisions for government have been suspended

Political Ideologies

A political ideology is a certain ethical set of ideals, principles, doctrines, myths or symbols of a social movement, institution, class, and or large group that explains how society should work, and offers some political and cultural blueprint for a certain social order. A political ideology largely concerns itself with how to allocate power and to what ends it should be used. Some parties follow a certain ideology very closely, while others may take broad inspiration from a group of related ideologies without specifically embracing any one of them.

Anarchism is generally defined as the political philosophy which holds the state to be undesirable, unnecessary, and harmful, or alternatively as opposing authority and hierarchical organization in the conduct of human relations. Proponents of anarchism, known as “anarchists”, advocate stateless societies based on non-hierarchical voluntary associations.

There are many types and traditions of anarchism, not all of which are mutually exclusive. Anarchist schools of thought can differ fundamentally, supporting anything from extreme individualism to complete collectivism. Strains of anarchism have been divided into the categories of social and individualist anarchism or similar dual classifications. Anarchism is often considered to be a radical left-wing ideology,and much of anarchist economics and anarchist legal philosophy reflect anti-statist interpretations of communism, collectivism, syndicalism or participatory economics. However, anarchism has always included an individualist strain supporting a market economy and private property, or morally unrestrained egoism. Some individualist anarchists are also socialists or communists while some anarcho-communists are also individualist.

Capitalism is an economic system that became dominant in the Western world following the demise of feudalism. There is no consensus on the precise definition or on how the term should be used as a historical category. There is general agreement that elements of capitalism include private ownership of the means of production, creation of goods or services for profit or income, the accumulation of capital, competitive markets, voluntary exchange and wage labour. The designation is applied to a variety of historical cases, varying in time, geography, politics and culture.

Conservatism (Latin: conservare, “to preserve”) is a political and social philosophy that promotes the maintenance of traditional institutions and supports at the most, minimal and gradual change in society. Some conservatives seek to preserve things as they are, emphasizing stability and continuity, while others oppose modernism and seek a return to “the way things were”. The first established use of the term in a political context was by François-René de Chateaubriand in 1819, following the French Revolution. The term, historically associated with right-wing politics, has since been used to describe a wide range of views.

Edmund Burke, an Anglo-Irish politician who served in the British House of Commons and opposed the French Revolution, is credited as one of the founders of conservativism in Great Britain. According to Lord Hailsham, a former chairman of the British Conservative Party, “Conservatism is not so much a philosophy as an attitude, a constant force, performing a timeless function in the development of a free society, and corresponding to a deep and permanent requirement of human nature itself.”Modern examples are conservative party in UK and Republican (GOP – Grand Old Party) in US.

Environmentalism is a broad philosophy, ideology and social movement regarding concerns for environmental conservation and improvement of the health of the environment, particularly as the measure for this health seeks to incorporate the concerns of non-human elements. Environmentalism advocates the preservation, restoration and/or improvement of the natural environment, and may be referred to as a movement to control pollution. For this reason, concepts such as a Land Ethic, Environmental Ethics, Biodiversity, Ecology and the Biophilia hypothesis figure predominantly. At its crux, environmentalism is an attempt to balance relations between humanity and their broader organismic and biogeochemical milieu in such a way that all the components are accorded a proper degree of respect. The exact nature of this balance is controversial and there are many different ways for environmental concerns to be expressed in practice. Environmentalism and environmental concerns are often represented by the colour green, but this association has been appropriated by the marketing industries and is a key tactic in the art of Greenwashing. Modern examples are Green Party in UK and Green movement in Europe. The author James Dellingpole in his book watermelons, rather cleverly and euphemistically defines environmentalists as green on the outside and red on the inside.

Liberalism (from the Latin liberalis) is the belief in the importance of liberty and equal rights.Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but generally liberals support ideas such as constitutionalism, liberal democracy, free and fair elections, human rights, capitalism, and freedom of religion.

Liberalism first became a powerful force in the Age of Enlightenment, rejecting several foundational assumptions that dominated most earlier theories of government, such as nobility, established religion, absolute monarchy, and the Divine Right of Kings. The early liberal thinker John Locke, who is often credited for the creation of liberalism as a distinct philosophical tradition, employed the concept of natural rights and the social contract to argue that the rule of law should replace absolutism in government, that rulers were subject to the consent of the governed, and that private individuals had a fundamental right to life, liberty, and property.

The revolutionaries in the American Revolution and the French Revolution used liberal philosophy to justify the armed overthrow of tyrannical rule. The nineteenth century saw liberal governments established in nations across Europe, Latin America, and North America. Liberal ideas spread even further in the twentieth century, when liberal democracies triumphed in two world wars and survived major ideological challenges from fascism and communism. Today, liberalism in its many forms remains as a political force to varying degrees of power and influence on all major continents.

A twenty-first century development is an emerging new liberalism that is centred on the concept of timeless freedom (ensuring the freedom of future generations through proactive action taken today). Modern examples include the Liberal Democratic party in the UK, the Democrats in the US.

Libertarianism is variously defined by sources. It is generally used to describe political philosophies which emphasize freedom, individual liberty, and voluntary association. Libertarians generally advocate a society with small or no government power.

Nationalism is a political ideology that involves a strong identification of a group of individuals with a political entity defined in national terms, i.e. a nation. In the ‘modernist’ image of the nation, it is nationalism that creates national identity. There are various definitions for what constitutes a nation, however, which leads to several different strands of nationalism. It can be a belief that citizenship in a state should be limited to one ethnic, cultural, religious, or identity group, or that multinationality in a single state should necessarily comprise the right to express and exercise national identity even by minorities.

It can also include the belief that the state is of primary importance, or the belief that one state is naturally superior to all other states. It is also used to describe a movement to establish or protect a ‘homeland’ (usually an autonomous state) for an ethnic group. In some cases the identification of a national culture is combined with a negative view of other races or cultures.

Fascism is a radical authoritarian nationalist political ideology. Fascists seek rejuvenation of their nation based on commitment to an organic national community where its individuals are united together as one people in national identity by suprapersonal connections of ancestry, culture, and blood through a totalitarian single-party state that seeks the mass mobilization of a nation through discipline, indoctrination, physical education, and eugenics. Fascism seeks to purify the nation of foreign influences that are deemed to be causing degeneration of the nation or of not fitting into the national culture. Fascism promotes political violence and war, as forms of direct action that create national regeneration, spirit and vitality. Fascists commonly utilize paramilitary organizations for violence against opponents or to overthrow a political system. Fascism opposes multiple ideologies: conservatism, liberalism, and two major forms of socialism—communism and social democracy.Fascism claims to represent a synthesis of cohesive ideas previously divided between traditional political ideologies. To achieve its goals, the fascist state purges forces, ideas, people, and systems deemed to be the cause of decadence and degeneration.

 Socialism is an economic system characterized by social ownership or control of the means of production and cooperative management of the economy, and a political philosophy advocating such a system. “Social ownership” may refer to any one of, or a combination of, the following: cooperative enterprises, common ownership, direct public ownership or autonomous state enterprises. There are many variations of socialism and as such there is no single definition encapsulating all of socialism.They differ in the type of social ownership they advocate, the degree to which they rely on markets versus planning, how management is to be organized within economic enterprises, and the role of the state in constructing socialism.

As a political movement socialism includes a diverse array of political philosophies, ranging from reformism to revolutionary socialism. Proponents of state socialism advocate for the nationalisation of the means of production, distribution and exchange as a strategy for implementing socialism. Social democrats advocate redistributive taxation in the form of social welfare and government regulation of capital within the framework of a market economy. In contrast, anarchism and libertarian socialism propose direct worker’s control of the means of production and oppose the use of state power to achieve such an arrangement, opposing both parliamentary politics and state ownership over the means of production.

Social democracy is an international political movement and political ideology that has undergone three major phases throughout its history. In contemporary uses, social democracy generally refers to advocacy for some form of regulation of the economy and support for a welfare state and ameliorative measures to benefit the working class within the framework of a market economy. Historically, social democracy is generally defined as a political movement that seeks to build an alternative socialist economy gradually through the institutions of liberal democracy. Contemporary Social democratic policies include support for a welfare state, Keynesian macro-economic policies, and collective bargaining arrangements to balance the power of capital and labour. Traditionally the UK Labour party were a socialist party, but New Labour in some peoples mind is more conservative than the Conservatives, certainly more centrist.

 Marxism is an economic and socio-political worldview and method of socioeconomic inquiry that centres upon a materialist interpretation of history, a dialectical view of social change, and an analysis and critique of the development of capitalism. Marxism was pioneered in the early to mid 19th century by two German philosophers, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Marxism encompasses Marxian economic theory, a sociological theory and a revolutionary view of social change that has influenced political movements around the world.

Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, stateless and socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production. This movement, in its Marxist-Leninist interpretations, significantly influenced the history of the 20th century, which saw intense rivalry between the “socialist world” (socialist states ruled by Communist parties) and the “western world” (countries with market economies), culminating in the Cold War between the Eastern bloc and the “Free World”. Modern examples are China and North Korea.

 Zionism is a Jewish political movement that, in its broadest sense, has supported the self-determination of the Jewish people in a sovereign Jewish national homeland. Since the establishment of the State of Israel, the Zionist movement continues primarily to advocate on behalf of the Jewish state and address threats to its continued existence and security. In a less common usage, the term may also refer to non-political, cultural Zionism, founded and represented most prominently by Ahad Ha’am; and political support for the State of Israel by non-Jews, as in Christian Zionism.

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