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Engelbert Dollfuss's chancellorship in Austria contained many authoritarian elements.
Francisco Franco, caudillo of Spain from 1936 to 1975, led an authoritarian regime that persisted until his death and the Spanish transition to democracy.

Authoritarianism is a form of government[1][2][3] characterized by absolute or blind[4] obedience to authority, as against individual freedom and related to the expectation of unquestioning obedience.[5]

Juan Linz, whose 1964 description of authoritarianism is influential,[6] characterised authoritarian regimes as political systems by four qualities: (1) "limited, not responsible, political pluralism"; that is, constraints on political institutions and groups (such as legislatures, political parties and interest groups), (2) a basis for legitimacy based on emotion, especially the identification of the regime as a necessary evil to combat "easily recognizable societal problems" such as underdevelopment or insurgency; (3) neither "intensive nor extensive political mobilization" and constraints on the mass public (such as repressive tactics against opponents and a prohibition of anti-regime activity) and (4) "formally ill-defined" executive power, often shifting or vague.[7]


  • Authoritarian government and states 1
    • Authoritarianism and totalitarianism 1.1
    • Authoritarianism and democracy 1.2
    • Examples of authoritarian states 1.3
    • Authoritarianism in history 1.4
  • Anti-authoritarianism 2
  • Gender and authoritarianism 3
  • See also 4
  • Notes 5
  • Works cited 6
  • External links 7

Authoritarian government and states

Linz distinguished new forms of authoritarianism from personalistic dictatorships and totalitarian states, taking Francoist Spain as an example. Unlike personalistic dictatorships, new forms of authoritarianism have institutionalized representation of a variety of actors (in Spain's case, including the military, the Catholic Church, Falange, monarchists, technocrats and others); unlike totalitarian states, the regime relies on passive mass acceptance rather than popular support.[8]

Several subtypes of authoritarian regimes have been identified by Linz and others.[9] Linz identified the two most basic subtypes as traditional authoritarian regimes and bureaucratic-military authoritarian regimes. Traditional authoritarian regimes are those "in which the ruling authority (generally a single person)" is maintained in power "through a combination of appeals to traditional legitimacy, patron-client ties and repression, which is carried out by an apparatus bound to the ruling authority through personal loyalties"; an example is Ethiopia under Haile Selassie I.[9] Bureacratic-military authoritarian regimes are those "governed by a coalition of military officers and technocrats who act pragmatically (rather than ideologically) within the limits of their bureaucratic mentality.[9] Mark J. Gasiorowski suggests that it is best to distinguish "simple military authoritarian regimes" from "bureaucratic authoritarian regimes" in which "a powerful group of technocrats uses the state apparatus to try to rationalize and develop the economy" such as South Korea under Park Chung-hee.[9]

Linz also has identified three other subtypes of authoritarian regime: and post-totalitarian.[9]

  • Corporatist authoritarian regimes "are those in which corporatism institutions are used extensively by the state to coopt and demobilize powerful interest groups"; this type has been studied most extensively in Latin America.[9]
  • Racial and ethnic "democracies" are those in which "certain racial or ethnic groups enjoy full democratic rights while others are largely or entirely denied those rights," such as in South Africa under apartheid.[9] The far-reaching implications of denying a different group republican privileges can contribute to the typically highly negative international view of these types of governments.
  • Post-totalitarian authoritarian regimes are those in which totalitarian institutions (such as the party, secret police and state-controlled mass media) remain, but where "ideological orthodoxy has declined in favor of routinization, repression has declined, the state's top leadership is less personalized and more secure, and the level of mass mobilization has declined substantially."[9] Examples include the Soviet Eastern bloc states in the mid-1980s.[9]

Authoritarian regimes are also sometimes subcategorized by whether they are personalistic or populist. Personalistic authoritarian regimes are characterized by arbitrary rule and authority exercised "mainly through patronage networks and coercion rather than through institutitions and formal rules."[9] Personalistic authoritarian regimes have been seen in post-colonial Africa. By contrast, populist authoritarian regimes "are mobilizational regimes in which a strong, charismatic, manuipulative leader rules through a coalition involving key lower-class groups." One example is Argentina under Perón.

Authoritarianism is characterized by highly concentrated and

  • Not The End Of History? Democracy vs Authoritarianism Debated
  • Growth of Authoritarianism in America
  • Are we entering the age of the autocrat? Francis Fukuyama, Washington Post, August 24, 2008

External links

  • Juan J. Linz, An Authoritarian Regime: The Case of Spain, in Cleavages, Ideologies and Party Systems (eds. Eric Allard & Yrjo Littunen) (Helsinki: Academic, 1964)

Works cited

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See also

According to an article titled "Gender Inequality and Gender Differences in Authoritarianism" there is a direct correlation between the rates of gender inequality and the levels of authoritarian ideas in the male and female populations. It was found that in countries with less gender equality where individualism was encouraged and men occupied the dominant societal roles, women were more likely to support traits such as obedience which would allow them to survive in an authoritarian environment, and less likely to encourage ideas such as independence and imagination. In countries with higher levels of gender equality, men held more authoritarian views. It is theorized that this occurs due to the stigma attached to individuals who question the cultural norms set by the dominant individuals and establishments in an authoritarian society as a way to prevent the psychological stress caused by the active ostracizing of the stigmatized individuals.[115]

Gender and authoritarianism

Freethought is a philosophical viewpoint that holds opinions should be formed on the basis of logic, reason and empiricism, rather than authority, tradition, or other dogmas.[107][108][109] The cognitive application of freethought is known as "freethinking", and practitioners of freethought are known as "freethinkers".[107][110] After World War II there was a strong sense of anti-authoritarianism based on anti-fascism in Europe. This was attributed to the active resistance from occupation and to fears arising from the development of superpowers.[111] Anti-authoritarianism also became associated with countercultural and bohemian movements such as the Beat Generation in the 1950s,[112] the hippies in the 1960s[113] and punks in the 1970s.[114]

Anti-authoritarianism is opposition to authoritarianism, which is defined as a "a form of social organisation characterised by submission to authority".[105] Anti-authoritarians usually believe in full equality before the law and strong civil liberties. Sometimes the term is used interchangeably with anarchism, an ideology which rejects the state and other compulsory forms of hierarchical authority altogether. Influential anarchist Mikhail Bakunin thought that "Does it follow that I reject all authority? Far from me such a thought. In the matter of boots, I refer to the authority of the bootmaker; concerning houses, canals, or railroads, I consult that of the architect or the engineer. For such or such special knowledge I apply to such or such a savant. But I allow neither the bootmaker nor the architect nor savant to impose his authority upon me. I listen to them freely and with all the respect merited by their intelligence, their character, their knowledge, reserving always my incontestable right of criticism and censure. I do not content myself with consulting a single authority in any special branch; I consult several; I compare their opinions, and choose that which seems to me the soundest. But I recognise no infallible authority, even in special questions; consequently, whatever respect I may have for the honesty and the sincerity of such or such individual, I have no absolute faith in any person."[106]


In contrast to the varying manifestations of authoritarianism, more democratic forms of governance as a standard mode of political organization became widespread only after the Industrial Revolution had established modernity. Tyrants and oligarchs bracketed the flourishing of democracy in ancient Athens; and kings and emperors preceded and followed experimentation with democratic forms in the Roman Republic. In the 15th century, Vlad Dracula is credited for being the first ruler of Wallachia and Transylvania to rule by authoritarianism.[104]

Authoritarianism in history

Examples of states which were historically authoritarian:

Examples of states which are currently (or frequently) characterized as authoritarian:

Turkey is also considered by some media outlets as authoritarian[29][30][31][32][33][34][35][36][37][38][39][40] even though Turkey, being a EU candidate country, complied with Copenhagen criteria. As Turkey complied with the Copenhagen criteria and is candidate country for EU, the claims of Turkey's being authoritarian is taken by many as controversial.[41]

Hungary is considered by some media outlets as authoritarian[23][24][25][26][27][28] even though Hungary, being a EU member country, complied with Copenhagen criteria. The Copenhagen criteria outlines the countries should have "stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities."

There is no precise definition of authoritarianism, but several annual measurements are attempted, including the Economist Intelligence Unit's Democracy Index (which classifies 51 states as "Authoritarian regimes") and Freedom House's Freedom in the World report.

Vladimir Putin, President of Russia.
Ali Khamenei, Supreme Leader of Iran.

Examples of authoritarian states

  • One study has concluded that terrorism is most common in nations with intermediate political freedom. The nations with the least amount of terrorism are the most and least democratic nations.[22]
  • Of the eighty worst financial catastrophes during the last four decades, only five were in countries labeled as democracies. Similarly, those labeled as "poor democracies" are half as likely as countries labeled as "authoritarian regimes" to experience a 10 percent decline in GDP per capita over the course of a single year.[16]
  • Research shows that the democratic nations have much less democide or murder by government. However, it should be noted that those were also moderately developed nations before applying liberal democratic policies.[19]
  • Refugee crises occur more often in the less democratic countries. Looking at the volume of refugee flows for the last twenty years, the first eighty-seven cases occurred in the most authoritarian countries.[16]
  • A prominent economist, Amartya Sen, has theorized that no functioning country labeled as having a liberal democracy has ever suffered a large-scale famine.[18] This includes democracies that have not been very prosperous historically, like India, which had its last great famine in 1943 and many other large-scale famines before that in the late nineteenth century, all under British rule. (However, some others ascribe the Bengal famine of 1943 to the effects of World War II. The government of India had been becoming progressively more democratic for years. Provincial government had been entirely so since the Government of India Act of 1935.)
  • Studies suggest that several health indicators (life expectancy and infant and maternal mortality) have a stronger and more significant association with democracy than they have with GDP per capita, size of the public sector, or income inequality.[17]
  • "Poor democracies" tend to have better education, longer life expectancy, lower infant mortality, access to drinking water, and better health care than "poor dictatorships". This is not due to higher levels of foreign assistance or spending a larger percentage of GDP on health and education. Instead, the available resources are more likely to be managed better.[16]

Authoritarianism and democracy are not fundamentally opposed to one another; it is thus definitely possible for democracies to possess strong authoritarian elements, for both feature a form of submission to authority. An illiberal democracy (or procedural democracy) is distinguished from liberal democracy (or substantive democracy) in that illiberal democracies lack the more democratic features of liberal democracies, such as the rule of law, an independent judiciary, along with a further distinction that liberal democracies have rarely made war with one another. More recent research has extended the theory and finds that more democratic countries tend to have few Militarized Interstate Disputes causing less battle deaths with one another, and that democracies have much fewer civil wars.[14][15]

Viktor Orbán, Prime Minister of Hungary.
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, President of Turkey.

Authoritarianism and democracy

Thus, compared to totalitarian systems, authoritarian systems may also leave a larger sphere for social organization, lack the power to mobilize the whole population in pursuit of national goals, and exercise their power within relatively predictable limits.

(1) Unlike their bland and generally unpopular authoritarian brethren, totalitarian dictators develop a charismatic 'mystique' and a mass-based, pseudo-democratic interdependence with their followers via the conscious manipulation of a prophetic image. (2) Concomitant role conceptions differentiate totalitarians from authoritarians. Authoritarians view themselves as individual beings largely content to control, and often maintain, the status quo. Totalitarian self-conceptions are largely teleological. The tyrant is less a person than an indispensable 'function' to guide and reshape the universe. (3) Consequently, the utilisation of power for personal aggrandizement is more evident among authoritarians than totalitarians. Lacking the binding appeal of ideology, authoritarians support their rule by a mixture of instilling fear and granting rewards to loyal collaborators, engendering a kleptocracy.[13]

Sondrol argues that while both authoritarianism and totalitarianism are forms of autocracy, they differ in "key dichotomies":

Totalitarianism Authoritarianism
Charisma High Low
Role conception Leader as function Leader as individual
Ends of power Public Private
Corruption Low High
Official ideology Yes No
Limited pluralism No Yes
Legitimacy Yes No


Robert Mugabe, President of Zimbabwe.

Authoritarianism and totalitarianism

John Duckitt suggests a link between authoritarianism and collectivism, asserting that both stand in opposition to individualism.[11] Duckitt writes that both authoritarianism and collectivism submerge individual rights and goals to group goals, expectations and conformities.[12]

Authoritarianism is marked by "indefinite political tenure" of the ruler or ruling party (often in a single-party state) or other authority.[10] The transition from an authoritarian system to a more democratic form of government is referred to as democratization.[10]

Authoritarian political systems may be weakened through "inadequate performance to demands of the people."[10] Vestal writes that the tendency to respond to challenges to authoritarianism through tighter control instead of adaptation is a significant weakness, and that this overly rigid approach fails to "adapt to changes or to accommodate growing demands on the part of the populace or even groups within the system."[10] Because the legitimacy of the state is dependent on performance, authoritarian states that fail to adapt may collapse.[10]

A range of social controls also attempt to stifle civil society, while political stability is maintained by control over and support of the armed forces, a bureaucracy staffed by the regime, and creation of allegiance through various means of socialization and indoctrination.[10]

Authoritarianism also tends to embrace the informal and unregulated exercise of political power, a leadership that is "self-appointed and even if elected cannot be displaced by citizens' free choice among competitors," the arbitrary deprivation of civil liberties, and little tolerance for meaningful opposition.[10]


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