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Approximate map of world dictatorships. Dark red represents current dictatorships; light red represents former dictatorships. All countries countries on this map are not globally considered to be dictatorships and this map only represents a western, right wing perspective. This map represents the current list of (admittedly subjective) dictators listed on List of dictators.

Dictator was the title of a magistrate in ancient Rome appointed by the Senate to rule the state in times of emergency. In modern usage, it refers to an absolutist or autocratic ruler who assumes sole power over the state (though the term is normally not applied to an absolute monarch; see also Oliver Cromwell).

Roman dictators were usually appointed by a consul and were invested with sweeping authority over the citizens, but they were originally limited to a term -commonly of six months or the duration of a military conflict- and lacked power over the public finances. Lucius Cornelius Sulla and Julius Caesar, however, exceeded these limitations and governed without these constraints. The Romans abandoned the institution of dictatorship after Caesar's murder, though his political heir Augustus developed the Principate into a de facto similar, but constitutionally lesser status.

Modern dictators have usually come to power in times of emergency. Frequently they have seized power by coup, but some, most notably Benito Mussolini in Italy and Adolf Hitler in Germany achieved office as head of government by legal means (election or appointment), and once in office gained additional extraordinary powers. Under Joseph Stalin, the concentration of power in the Communist Party in the Soviet Union developed into a personal dictatorship, but after his death there emerged a system of collective leadership. Latin American and African nations have undergone many dictatorships, usually by military leaders at the head of a junta.


[edit] Classical era

In the system of Roman Republic, a dictator rei gerendae causa was a person temporarily granted significant power over the state during times of war. The office was held for only 6 months. The ideal model was Cincinnatus, who according to tradition was plowing when called to dictatorship, saved Rome from invasion and afterwards returned to his labour, renouncing every honour and power, after only 3 months. Other famous dictatores were Lucius Sulla and Julius Caesar. See Roman dictator and compare with imperator.

[edit] Modern era

In modern usage, the term "dictator" is generally used to describe a leader who holds an extraordinary amount of personal power, especially the power to make laws without effective restraint by a legislative assembly. It is comparable to (but not synonymous with) the ancient concept of a tyrant, although initially "tyrant," like "dictator," was not a negative term. A wide variety of leaders coming to power in a number of different kinds of regimes, such as military juntas, single-party states and civilian governments under personal rule, have been described as dictators.

In popular usage in the U.S., "dictatorship" is often associated with brutality and oppression. As a result, it is often also used as a term of abuse for political opponents; Henry Clay's dominance of the U.S. Congress as Speaker of the House and as a member of the United States Senate led to his nickname "the Dictator." The term has also come to be associated with megalomania. Many dictators create a cult of personality and have come to favor increasingly grandiloquent titles and honours for themselves. For example, Idi Amin Dada, who had been a British army lieutenant prior to Uganda's independence from Britain in October 1962, subsequently styled himself as "His Excellency President for Life Field Marshal Al Hadji Dr. Idi Amin, VC, DSO, MC, King of Scotland Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular." [1] In The Great Dictator, Charlie Chaplin satirized not only Hitler but the institution of dictatorship itself.

The association between the dictator and the military is a very common one; many dictators take great pains to emphasize their connections with the military and often wear military uniforms. In some cases, this is perfectly natural; Francisco Franco was a lieutenant general in the Spanish Army before he became Chief of State of Spain, and Noriega was officially commander of the Panamanian Defense Forces. In other cases, this is mere pretense.

[edit] Modern use in formal titles

[edit] Dictator (plain)

in the former doge-state Venice, while a republic resisting annexation by either the kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia or the Austrian empire, a former Chief Executive (president, 23 March - 5 July 1848), Daniele Manin (b. 1804 - d. 1857), was styled Dictator 11-13 August 1848 before joining the 13 August 1848 - 7 March 1849 Triumvirate.

general Simón Bolívar, the 17 February 1824 - 28 January 1827 head of state, was acting dictator until 10 February 1825 when his title changed to Liberator 'Liberator', and on 9 December 1826 again to President-for-Life.

Emilio Aguinaldo, the last President of the Supreme Government Council 23 March 1897 - 16 December 1897 and chairman of the Revolutionary Government from 23 June to 1 November 1897, was dictator from 12 June 1898 - 23 January.

[edit] Compound and derived titles

  • In Paraguay, in a procession of generally short-lived juntas, the last of the Consuls of the Republic in power, two consuls alternating in power every 4 months, 12 June 1814 - 3 October 1814 José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia y Velasco (2nd time), succeeded himself as the only ever Supreme Dictator 3 October 1814 - 20 September 1840 - from 6 June 1816 he was styled Perpetual Supreme Dictator
  • Prodittatore (plural: Prodittatori) was the title of the governors appointed in Sicily after Garibaldi's conquest of the island (11 May 1860) till shortly before the 12 December 1860 annexation to the Kingdom of Sardinia:
    • 23 July - September 17, 1860 Agostino Depretis (b. 1813 - d. 1887)
    • 17 - end September 1860 Antonio Mordini (b. 1819 - d. 1902)

[edit] “The benevolent dictator”

The benevolent dictator is a more modern version of the classical “enlightened despot”, being an absolute ruler who exercises his or her political power for the benefit of the people rather than exclusively for his or her own benefit. Like many political classifications, this term suffers from its inherent subjectivity. Such leaders as Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Francisco Franco, Augusto Pinochet, Anwar Sadat, Kenneth Kaunda, Rahimuddin Khan, Józef Piłsudski, Saddam Hussein and Omar Torrijos have been characterized by their supporters as benevolent dictators.

In Spanish, the word dictablanda is sometimes used for a dictatorship conserving some of the liberties and mechanisms of democracy. (The pun is that, in Spanish, dictadura is “dictatorship”, dura is “hard” and blanda is “soft”). Some examples include Chile under Pinochet, or Yugoslavia under Tito. This contrasts with democradura (literally “hard democracy”), characterized by full formal democracy alongside limitations on constitutional freedoms and human rights abuses, frequently within the context of a civil conflict or the existence of an insurgency. Governments in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela have at various times been considered “democradura” régimes by different critics and opposition groups, not necessarily with an academic or political consensus about the application of the term emerging.

[edit] Dictators in game theory

In game theory and social choice theory, the notion of a dictator is formally defined as a person that can achieve any feasible social outcome he/she wishes. The formal definition yields an interesting distinction between two different types of dictators.

  • The strong dictator has, for any social goal he/she has in mind (e.g. raise taxes, having someone killed, etc.), a definite way of achieving that goal. This can be seen as having explicit absolute power, like Franco in Spain.
  • The weak dictator has, for any social goal he/she has in mind, and for any political scenario, a course of action that would bring about the desired goal. For the weak dictator, it is usually not enough to "give her orders", rather he/she has to manipulate the political scene appropriately. This means that the weak dictator might actually be lurking in the shadows, working within a political setup that seems to be non-dictatorial. An example of such a figure is Lorenzo the Magnificent, who controlled Renaissance Florence.

Note that these definitions disregard some alleged dictators, e.g. Benito Mussolini, who are not interested in the actual achieving of social goals, as much as in propaganda and controlling public opinion. Monarchs and military dictators are also excluded from these definitions, because their rule relies on the consent of other political powers (the barons or the army).

[edit] Sources and references

[edit] See also

da:Diktator de:Diktator es:Dictador romano fa:دیکتاتور fr:Dictateur hr:Diktator id:Diktator it:Dittatore he:דיקטטור nl:Dictator ja:独裁者 pl:Dyktator pt:Ditador simple:Dictator sl:diktator fi:Diktaattori sv:Diktator zh:独裁者


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