Learn more about Authoritarianism
- This article applies to political and organizational ideologies. For information on the psychology of individuals who seek to dominate those within their sphere of influence, see Authoritarian personality.
Authoritarianism describes a form of social control characterized by strict obedience to the authority of a state or organization, often maintaining and enforcing control through the use of oppressive measures. Authoritarian regimes are strongly hierarchical.
In an authoritarian form of government, citizens are subject to state authority in many aspects of their lives, including many that other political philosophies would see as matters of personal choice. There are various degrees of authoritarianism; even very democratic and liberal states will show authoritarianism to some extent, for example in areas of national security.
At least one author, John Duckitt, suggests a specific link exists between authoritarianism and collectivism.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref> In both cases individual rights and goals are subjugated to group goals, expectations and confirmities.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref>
 Actions of authoritarian governments
There exists a gradation in authoritarianism, as well as a variety of possible authoritarian behaviors. Authoritarianism may exist under different regimes:
- Absolute monarchies are almost always authoritarian. For instance, criticizing the royal government of France under the ancien régime could get writers etc. imprisoned by executive order (known as a lettre de cachet).
- Dictatorships are always authoritarian.
- Democracies rarely exhibit much authoritarian behavior except in transition to or from authoritarian states. Many (if not most) citizens of authoritarian states do not perceive their state as authoritarian until late in its development. This makes it difficult to label modern states as 'democratic' or 'authoritarian'. People make this difficulty worse when they use these terms without clear definitions.
- Despotisms are always authoritarian.
- Militarchies, countries run by soldiers, are almost always authoritarian. Note that militarchy does not necessarily mean a dictatorship or a junta, but a generally thoroughly militarized state. A classical example of militarchy would be Ancient Sparta or the Mamluk Egypt.
- Theocracies are almost always authoritarian. An exception is the Quaker Consensus in Consensus decision-making: 'Decision-making arrived at by finding a "spiritual consensus," rather than voting, was developed by the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) early in the 17th century and is in use to the present day.'
As an example of this difficulty, modern democracies once enforced laws that are now widely considered abusive and authoritarian: for instance, countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom, until recently enforced sodomy laws imposing the moral and religious values of the majority over matters of private life.
Authoritarian regimes grant wide powers to law enforcement agencies; in the extreme this leads to a police state. Authoritarian regimes may or may not have a rule of law. In the former case laws are enacted and though they may seem intrusive, unjust or excessive, they are applied to common people. In the latter case laws do not exist or are routinely ignored — government actions follow the judgments or whims of officials.
 Economic arguments for authoritarianism
One argument for authoritarianism, popular among political elites in East and Southeast Asia, is that countries with authoritarian regimes are more likely to be economically successful than democratic countries. Examples given to support this argument are South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, and Taiwan, which were authoritarian during their period of growth. This notion of developmental authoritarianism is a central justification used by the Communist Party of China to justify its authoritarian rule of the People's Republic of China. (The notion that authoritarian government is ultimately superior to democracy was also part of the idea of Asian values, although it diminished somewhat after the Asian financial crisis in 1998.)
One counter-argument is that there are many instances of authoritarian nations that have not encountered rapid growth, for example the Philippines, Vietnam, and Indonesia. In postwar Europe, Spain under Francisco Franco's authoritarian regime was considerably less economically developed than neighbouring countries such as France, even though France's infrastructure was devastated by World War II and Spain's was not, and that in the democracy that was established after Franco's death, Spain boomed.
Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's first Prime Minister, purportedly justified Singapore's strict social conduct laws as "a way to force civility onto a third-world country," which he claimed Singapore was at the time of its separation from Malaysia.
 See Also
- This entry is related to, but not included in the Political ideologies series or one of its sub-series. Other related articles can be found at the Politics Portal.
- Military dictatorship
- Elective dictatorship
- Police state
- Single-party state
- Authoritarian personality
- Right Wing Authoritarianism
 External links
- - UN University Annual "State of the Future" Report: including discussion on genuine democracy can emerge from former states of authoritarian regimes
- When the State is Ultimate
- Totalitarian Daydreams and Christian Humanism
| Forms of Government and Methods of Rule: Autocratic and Authoritarian
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