Although it seems incredible in the middle of the 21st century, in the contemporary world there are still governments and dictatorial regimes or, in other exceptional cases, democratic systems of government with the character of dictatorship.

However, this is not so strange if we consider that dictatorship was a common form of government since the existence of the first civilizations, in which “one master” held all the powers concerning the administration of the resources, the concerns and the life of his fellow citizens. He offered protection in exchange for power.

Next we’ll see what types of dictation have existed and what their characteristics are.

What is dictatorship?

The origin of the term dictatorship comes from the Latin word “dictator”, and goes back to the time of Antiquity, specifically during the Roman Empire, where this “dictator” was invoked to bring order and stability in times of institutional upheaval.

The concept of dictatorship corresponds to a type or system of government (commonly known also as a regime) whose legislative, judicial and executive state powers fall directly and exclusively on an individual or, in many cases, political group such as a hegemonic party.

The characteristic features of this type of political system are the non-acceptance of any type of opposition to its guidelines , the enactment of laws or its ideas. In other words, the dictator has absolute power and authority. There is no participation or expression of the rest of the forces or of the people themselves.

Another point to consider is the manner in which dictatorships are created or have been established. As it would happen in ancient Rome, authoritarian governments are preceded by political instability, strong economic crises and, in short, a social discontent that generates dependence towards a saving figure that takes power by force, hiding behind the restoration of peace.

Types of Dictatorship

Although the new times point to the disappearance of this political system, since its decline in the last 20th century the dictatorship has been evolving and taking different forms.

Here we will detail the types of dictatorship that still persist in some countries of the globe.

1. Authoritarianism

Authoritarianism is an aspect of dictatorship in which the form of government is composed of a single person or political elite. The etymology comes from the concept autocracy, from the Greek “autokráteia”, which means “oneself” (auto) and “power” (krátos), thus being understood as absolute power.

In this type of government, civil and even social liberties , of thought and assembly, are restricted. Any confrontation with the state is usually considered an act of conspiracy and betrayal. Sometimes, without any kind of evidence, thus eluding any kind of justice.

The curious thing about authoritarianisms is that power is often reached through democratic elections , but that with time the president configures the country’s constitution to perpetuate himself in power and limit his functions.

2. Totalitarianism

Totalitarianism is the opposite of authoritarianism. Unlike the former, in totalitarianism seeks the support of the masses , acceptance and legitimacy, even if they then use the power to eradicate any kind of dissidence often with practices of terror.

In this dictatorship the ideology itself is well elaborated and has a very broad framework of action within the society such as culture, economy, values, customs and religion. Power is equally concentrated in one person outlining a cult of idolatry towards that figure called leader.

Another distinctive element is that totalitarianism seeks to radically change the mentality of its citizens , eliminate any other type of thought and create a new identity that allows them to be controlled psychologically.

3. Military

Military dictatorship was also very popular in the 20th century due to the profound changes that occurred with the period of decolonization of Latin America, the Middle East and Africa. In this case all the power resides in the hands of what is called the Military Junta , whose head of state is the Chief of the Armed Forces and has the support of the army.

Normally, military dictatorships remain in power only through the use of force, from coups d’état that have overthrown another type of previous political system, whether democratic, legitimate, or authoritarian.

4. Theocracy

Theocracy is a relatively new model, with autocratic overtones but not exclusively, as there are theocratic governments that have come to power through free elections, as is the case in Iran or the Sultanate of Oman.

Whether by consent or by imposition, theocratic regimes are governed by the divinity, by a specific religion , and legislate according to it. The relevant constitution usually recognizes religion as a form of administration of the state, both politically and civilly. These systems usually have a religious supreme leader within the government.

5. Tribal monarchies

This type of monarchy must be clearly distinguished from European monarchies, since tribal monarchies are a post-colonial concept that was established throughout the Persian Gulf as far as North Africa.

As in any conventional monarchy, power is controlled by a single king surrounded by subjects to whom he dictates the social or political rules, which are usually of a religious nature as in a theocracy, with their respective divine leaders and a rigid constitution.

Power is held by a family that has perpetuated itself in power through force or deception, setting itself up as the leaders of the nation.

The control of society is total, the opposition is persecuted, punished and repressed with cruelty . Furthermore, this type of practice is not hidden, which differentiates it from previous models of dictatorship. Executions in public squares or crowded civic spaces are carried out with total normality.Examples include the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Qatar and Kuwait.

Bibliographic references:

  • Elster, Jon, comp. Deliberative democracy. Barcelona: Gedisa Location: 321.8 ELSd (in English).
  • Rawls, John. (1996). Political liberalism. Mexico: Fondo de Cultura Económica Location: 320.51 RAWli.
  • Weber, Marx. (1991). Political writings. Madrid: Alianza Ubicación: 301.045 WEBes.
  • Weber, Marx. (1972). The politician and the scientist. Madrid: Alianza Location: 301.045 WEBpo.