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15.3A: Types of States

  • Page ID
    8432
  • States vary based on who holds power, who elects the empowered, and how authority is maintained.

     

    LEARNING OBJECTIVES

     

    Identify the central features that distinguish different types of states

     

    KEY TAKEAWAYS

    Key Points

     

    • One way to classify these governments is by looking at how leaders gain power. Under this system, governments fall into general categories of authoritarianism, oligarchy, and democracy.
    • Authoritarian governments differ in who holds power and in how much control they assume over those that they govern, but all are marked by the fact that the empowered are unelected individuals. One well-known example of this type of government is a monarchy.
    • An oligarchy is a form of government in which power effectively rests with a small elite segment of society distinguished by royalty, wealth, family, military, or religious hegemony. One common example is theocracy.
    • Democracy is a form of government in which the right to govern is held by the majority of citizens within a country or a state. All members of the society have equal access to power and all members enjoy universally recognized freedoms and liberties.

     

    Key Terms

     

    • oligarchy: A government run by only a few, often the wealthy
    • Democratic presidential republic: A system of government where an executive branch is led by a president who serves as both head of state and head of government; in such a system, this branch exists separately from the legislature, to which it is not responsible and which it cannot, in normal circumstances, dismiss.
    • theocracy: Government under the control of a Church or state-sponsored religion

    States come in a variety of forms that vary based on who holds power, how positions of leadership are obtained, and how authority is maintained. The United States is a democratic presidential republic: a democratic government headed by a powerful elected executive, the president. The United States originally won its independence from Britain, which was a monarchy, in which power was concentrated in an individual king. Other forms of government include oligarchy and dictatorship or totalitarianism. One way to classify these governments is by looking at how leaders gain power. Under this system, governments fall into general categories of authoritarianism, oligarchy, and democracy.

     

    Authoritarian Governments

     

    Authoritarian governments differ in who holds power and in how much control they assume over those that they govern, but all are marked by the fact that the empowered are unelected individuals. One well-known example of this type of government is a monarchy.

    A monarchy is a form of government in which supreme power is absolutely or nominally lodged with an individual, who is the head of state, often for life or until abdication. The person who heads a monarchy is called a monarch. There is no clear definition of monarchy. Some monarchs hold unlimited political power while many constitutional monarchies, such as the United Kingdom and Thailand, have monarchs with limited political power. Hereditary rule is often a common characteristic, but elective monarchies are also considered monarchies (e.g., The Pope) and some states have hereditary rulers, but are considered republics (e.g., the Dutch Republic). Currently, 44 nations in the world have monarchs as heads of state.

    Totalitarianism (or totalitarian rule) is a political system that strives to regulate nearly every aspect of public and private life. Totalitarian regimes or movements maintain themselves in political power by means of an official all-embracing ideology and propaganda disseminated through the state -controlled mass media, a single party that controls the state, personality cults, control over the economy, regulation and restriction of free discussion and criticism, the use of mass surveillance, and widespread use of state terrorism.

     

    Oligarchic Governments

     

    An oligarchy is a form of government in which power effectively rests with a small elite segment of society distinguished by royalty, wealth, family, military, or religious hegemony. An oligarchy is different from a true democracy because very few people are given the chance to change things. An oligarchy does not have to be hereditary or monarchic. An oligarchy does not have one clear ruler, but several powerful people who rule. One common example is that of theocracy.

    Theocracy is a form of government in which a god or deity is recognized as the state’s supreme civil ruler, or in a broader sense, a form of government in which a state is governed by immediate divine guidance or by officials who are regarded as divinely guided. Theocratic governments enact theonomic laws. Theocracies are distinguished from other secular forms of government that have a state religion, or are merely influenced by theological or moral concepts, and monarchies held “by the Grace of God. ”

     

    Democratic Governments

     

    Democracy is a form of government in which the right to govern is held by the majority of citizens within a country or a state. The two principles of a democracy are that all citizens have equal access to power and that all citizens enjoy universally recognized freedoms and liberties. There are several varieties of democracy, some of which provide better representation and more freedoms for their citizens than others. However, if any democracy is not carefully legislated with balances, such as the separation of powers, to avoid an uneven distribution of political power, then a branch of the system of rule could accumulate power and become harmful to the democracy itself. Freedom of political expression, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press are essential so that citizens are informed and able to vote in their personal interests.

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    Countries of the World, by Type of Government in 2011: This map shows all the countries of the word, colored according to their type of government. Blue represents full presidential republics, while green and yellow are presidential republics with less powerful presidents. Orange represents parliamentary republics. Red and pink are parliamentary constitutional monarchies, and purple represents absolute monarchies. Brown represents single-party republics, green shows countries where government has been suspended (e.g., military dictatorships), and grey countries do not fit any of the above categories.