Political Systems in the Wolrd | Form of Governments

Political systems

The Political Systems in all its Splendor

This article presents major political systems and forms of government. By these notions we mean the configuration of a state, or the way a country is governed. It does not claim to deal in depth with each of the systems presented, but its objective is to provide elements of understanding to the reader in order to make her/him want to deepen his knowledge. Which political system do you prefer?

  1. Anarchy
  2. City-state
  3. Communism
  4. Democracy
  5. Dictatorship
  6. Directory
  7. Despotism
  8. Federacy
  9. Feudalism
  10. Meritocracy
  11. Monarchy
  12. Oligarchy
  13. Parliamentary
  14. Presidential
  15. Republic
  16. Semi-parliamentary
  17. Semi-presidential
  18. Theocracy
  19. Totalitarianism

1. Anarchy (No government)

The situation where there is an absence of State or public power, making the monopoly of force over a territory inapplicable. Unlike autarky, a concept of moral philosophy, anarchy refers to a situation of political order.

In political philosophy the word anarchy is polysemic, meaning it can refer to different notions. The first notion refers to the political disorder produced after the collapse of a State by not being able to apply the law on its territory, or to what can occur in the middle of a serious institutional conflict in which no one reaches to exercise the direction of the State or its recognition is in dispute (in this case, anarchy is synonymous with chaos).

The second notion alludes to a form of government that dispenses with the State and where institutions are formed by free agreement, that is to say, without using force to compel others, as well as in general terms anarchism proposes a politically organized society without a State.

The common idea of ​​the anarchists is that they consider that the State is unnecessary and also directly harmful to the extent that it attempts against the liberties of individuals. The concept of anarchy is synonymous with acracy, also called natural order by some authors. Anarchists of different streams differ greatly on the exact form of this ideal society. The basic principle on which they agree is the non-existence of a central State within a system of non-aggression, or anarchy.

Within this framework, most anarchist tendencies propose that a system of voluntary association of one kind or another can provide the services for which human beings have come to rely on the external coercive institutions of the State. The desirable and possible forms of association in the absence of government are the subject of numerous debates, as expressed in the debates between anarcho -capitalism (which proposes that the free market solve these problems) and(which tends to defend a decentralized collectivist system).

In terms of the doctrine of international relations, the appreciation that States are autonomous before international law is called anarchy to the extent that there is no world government above national governments.

Examples: Libertarian Ukraine, Ukraine (November 1918 -1921). Republic of Bavarian Councils, Germany (April 1919-May 1919). Shinmin autonomous region, Korea (1929-1932). Spanish Social Revolution of 1936, Catalonia, Aragon and Andalusia, Spain (1936-1937).

2. City-state

A city-state is an independent sovereign city that exercises power over its political, economic and cultural life over its contiguous territory. They have existed in many parts of the world since the dawn of history, including Rome, Athens, Sparta, Carthage and the Italian city -states during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, such as Florence, Venice, Genoa and Milan.

With the rise of nation-statesworldwide, only a few modern sovereign city-states exist, with some disagreement over how to qualify: Monaco, Singapore and Vatican City are the most widely accepted as such. Singapore is the clearest example, with full self-government, its own currency, a strong military and a population of 5.6 million.

Several non-sovereign cities enjoy a high degree of autonomy, and are sometimes considered city-states. Macau, Hong Kong, and members of the United Arab Emirates – especially Dubai and Abu Dhabi – are often cited as such.

3. Communism

Communism (from Latin communis – general, universal) was originally a set of political doctrines, derived from socialism and, to a large extent, from Marxism, against capitalism and aimed at the establishment of a classless, employeeless society and the establishment of economic socialization and total democracy. of the means of production.

Against the Communist Regime, Orwell’s 1984 Political Novel (Summary and Analysis)

4. Democracy

Democracy comes from the Greek demokratia (δημοϰρατία), demos (δῆμος), “people”, and kratos (ϰράτος), “power”. Democracy is a form of government in which the people exercise power directly through voting or indirectly through elected representatives (president, parliamentarians, mayors, etc.). But, more profoundly, democracy is a regime in which the sovereign is the people themselves. Democracy is the power of the people or the political system where all powers derive their legitimacy from the people, where all powers are exercised by the people or their representatives. According to a famous formula, democracy is therefore “government of the people, by the people and for the people. We find this formula in the famous Gettysburg Address (1863) by Abraham Lincoln (1809 – 1865), 16th President of the United States of America, or in Article 2 of the 1958 Constitution, the constitution of the France. The government of the people involves the protection of human rights, or the rights of citizens, so that all opinions can be expressed and represented.

What is called democracy is not limited to the idea that the people are sovereign. Many thinkers, and in particular Alexis de Tocqueville (1805 – 1859), have shown that democracy is also a form of society. Indeed, in a democracy, society is characterized by an equalization of conditions (that is to say that citizens, equal in rights, tend to a certain social equality and to see themselves as the equals of each other) , a vitality of civil society (the development of associations, unions, political parties, etc.), through the development of individualism, etc.

Not all democracies are regimes of freedom (liberal democracies). Indeed, in some nations, representatives are elected but the exercise of power remains authoritarian. Another problem: we are free to vote for the representatives we have chosen and everyone can claim to represent the people; at the same time, when we look at our political system, that is to say all the elements that contribute to the exercise of power (media, ideologies, financial powers), some people tend to think that our power is confiscated for the benefit of an oligarchy.

A democracy can just as easily be a republic or a monarchy. If Italy, Germany or France are republics, the United Kingdom, Spain or the Netherlands are monarchies. A theocracy can even have a democratic dimension.

Discurso funebre pericles
Athenian democracy began around 508 BC in the Greek city-state of Athensarose and they chose Cleisthenes as leader. He gave the people a much greater say in state affairs and is considered the father of popular government or democracy. Nineteenth-century painting by Philipp Foltz depicting the Athenian politician Pericles delivering his famous funeral oration in front of the Assembly. Philipp Foltz, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

5. Dictatorship

Dictatorship is a borrowing from the Latin dictatura. The dictatorship was a magistracy in the cities of ancient Italy. A man had extraordinary powers to carry out a mission. The exercise of the dictatorship was relative to a determined object. The term came to us from ancient Rome. Two dictators are remembered: Sylla (138 – 78) and Caesar (100 – 44).

The notion of dictatorship has now lost its ancient meaning, except in certain specific contexts. Nineteenth-century socialism developed the notion of the dictatorship of the proletariat, a period of absolute power for the working class which should allow the transition to socialism. Authors, such as Carl Schmitt (1888 – 1985), developed a modern theory of constitutional dictatorship to deal with periods of crisis.

Apart from these singular jobs, the notion of dictatorship has become synonymous with despotism. A dictatorship is an authoritarian regime in which citizens are little or not protected by law. For example, dictators are the leaders of totalitarian states in the 20th century, such as Adolf Hitler (1889 – 1945), Joseph Stalin (1878 – 1954), Benito Mussolini (1883 – 1945) or Mao Zedong (1893 – 1976) . However, not all dictatorships are totalitarian (20th century South American dictatorships, African dictatorships, etc.).

Saddam Hussein 1979
Photo Saddam Hussein in 1979 in. Saddam Hussein (1937 – 2006), dictatorial leader of Iraq from the 1970s to 2003. INA (Iraqi News Agency), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

6. Directory

The directorial or collegial system is a political system in which executive power is entrusted to a group (college) of members who exercise it simultaneously (collegiality).

The only state organized in this way is Switzerland and, to some extent, San Marino.

Building on the organizational idea, the term has become established in political science as a system of government in which the government is ideally elected as a collegial executive body by parliament or the national assembly and is not dependent on them, i.e. cannot be overthrown by a vote of no confidence. As a rule, the government also assumes the duties of a head of state. The chairman of the board of directors has a special position and is usually de factoHead of state. However, it is assigned significantly fewer tasks and competencies than in other forms of government. The subsequent administrative authorities are bound by the decisions of the Board of Directors. In reality, however, the directorates were often not elected by a democratic parliament, but appointed or they set themselves up autonomously.

7. Despotisme

Despotism comes from the Greek despots (δεσποτης), “master of the house”, “master of slaves”. The term despot was used in the Byzantine Empire. There are also depots (Epirus, Morea, Serbia…). However, the term despotism, probably of French origin, has a very negative connotation. Despotism refers to arbitrary and oppressive power, exercised outside the bounds of the law. The Enlightenment philosopher Montesquieu (1689 – 1755) made it one of the three forms of government alongside republic and monarchy. Despotism, he argues, is a monarchy without legality:

“[…] one alone, without law and without order, carries everything with his will and with his will”

However, in the 18th century, certain philosophers put their hope in the power of enlightened despots (Voltaire and Frédéric II, Diderot and Catherine of Russia, Joseph II, etc.), to rule according to the cause of the progress and happiness of the people. Today, the term “despotism” is hardly used, except in subtle and literary contexts.

Profile portrait of Catherine II by Fedor Rokotov (1763, Tretyakov gallery)
Profile portrait, oil on canvas portrait of Empress Catherine the Great by (1763) Russian painter Fyodor Rokotov. Fyodor Rokotov, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

8. Federacy

Is a form of government in which one or a few sub-state units enjoy more freedom than the majority of sub-state units. To a certain extent, such an arrangement can be considered akin to asymmetric federalism.

Federation is a typology of state organization, where according to the constitution, the power to make laws is distributed between a central legislative body and the legislative assemblies of the member territories of that federation.

In a federation, it is the constitution that establishes these regional governments and grants them full jurisdiction in certain areas. It can be a federal state, which brings together several states.

For examples:
  • France and its overseas lands (Réunion, New Caledonia…)
  • Papua New Guinea and Bougainville
  • Philippines and Bangsamoro
  • Tanzania and Zanzibar
  • United States and Puerto Rico
  • British Overseas Territories (Anguilla, Ascension Island, Bermuda, Gibraltar, Turks and Caicos Islands…)

9. Feudalism

Feudalism comes from fief, land, revenue, right, etc., granted by a suzerain (the master) to a vassal (the inferior, the one who is dependent on the lord, and who can be suzerain in turn) in exchange of his fidelity and his services.

The term feudalism traditionally characterizes the society of the European Middle Ages, even if the feudal system is perpetuated beyond these limits. It is a complex and debated notion. It designates a society with fragmented power. Sovereignty is disseminated between the different seigniories: the seignior governs a land and exercises justice there. The engine of this dissemination is vassalage: a lord, in the position of suzerain (for example the king) offers his protection to a vassal, and gives him a fief in exchange for his homage and his loyalty. This same vassal can become lord, which creates chains of loyalty.

Feudal society is also characterized by the relationship between the lord and his dependents, the relationship between nobles and non-nobles, and between the countryside and the cities (see La civilization feudal, Jérôme Baschet).

The notion of feudalism is charged with a pejorative connotation after socialism and Marxism of the 19th century transformed it into feudalism. Since then, we speak of feudalism, when we speak of a modern country, to designate a regime in which authority is split between rival powers, or in which powers of money dominate the state. The adjective feudal, also pejorative, characterizes an outdated, outdated and unjust system.

Hommage of Edward I to Philippe le Bel
Homage of Edward I to Philippe le Bel, Les Grandes Chroniques de France. Jean Fouquet, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

10. Meritocracy

Meritocracy is a form of government or social organization based on skill, merit, or talent rather than wealth, family position, social class privilege or any other determinant of social position. The word “meritocracy” can also be used to describe a society in which wealth and social position are assigned through competition and display of talent and in which positions of social trust, responsibility, and prestige must be earned. and not inherited or arbitrarily assigned.

Meritocracy describes competitive societies that reject social equality without merit, although they support the doctrine of equal opportunity; that is, they accept the disparities of income, wealth and status among the populationbased on talent, merit, competence, motivation and personal effort, however, they advocate equal development opportunities for all.

Despite the fact that some societies are considered meritocracies, the truth is that influences, nepotism and other mechanisms often waste the goals that were intended to be sought. Sometimes, too, they try to reward merit, but the rewards are given according to the whim of the leaders.

11. Monarchy

Monarchy comes from the Greek monarkia, from monos (μόνος), “alone”, and from arche (ἀρχή), “command”. Monarchy is therefore the regime in which a single person commands: the sovereign. This one, a king, an emperor, a caliph, an emir, or other, accedes to power either by election or by inheritance (thus constituting dynasties, such as the Capetians in France, the Hohenzollerns in Germany, etc.). The modalities of the power of the monarch vary according to times and cultures. For example, the exercise of power by a Roman emperor, all powerful but not very legitimate, has little to do with that of the ancient kings of Poland, elected kings whose power depended on that of the nobles.

Today, the overwhelming majority of monarchies are constitutional. In constitutional monarchies, the monarch has a symbolic position, he has a power of influence rather than real power and embodies the nation that consents to his reign. Business management is provided by the head of government. This is the case of the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Spain, Japan, etc. However, there are still some monarchies in which the monarch (or his family) has retained great power, including Saudi Arabia, Morocco or Jordan.

France has not had a king since the fall of Louis-Philippe I (1830 – 1848) in 1848, and has had no monarch since the fall of Napoleon III (1852 – 1870) in 1870. The French Revolution of 1789 had put an end to the Ancien Régime, a period under which the monarch was “absolute”, i.e. he held his power only from himself without being accountable to anyone . Absolutism was not despotism because the power of the king was limited by fundamental laws and by the many rights of the Ancien Régime. According to Maurice Duverger (1917 – 2014), the Fifth Republic, the regime in force in France, in which the president has very great prerogatives, has been described as “republican monarchy”.

12. Oligarchy

Oligarchy comes from the Greek oligarkia, from oligos (ολιγος), “in small numbers”, and from arche (ἀρχή), “command”.

The oligarchy is a government in which the reality of power is in the hands of a small number of people, a few families or a closed group.

The concept of oligarchy is now experiencing a resurgence in popularity in polemical use. Indeed, in our modern liberal democracies, the citizens are in theory the sovereigns but, in fact, an elite always governs in its place, whether in politics, through its representatives, in the economy (the financial power ) or in the media. This may result in the feeling of a confiscation of power for the benefit of an elite. Oligarchy can thus be considered as a degeneration of democracy. The sociologist Robert Michels (1876 – 1936) theorized the tendency of any organization to turn into an oligarchy (“the iron law of oligarchy”).

Plutocracy and aristocracy are two variations of oligarchy. Plutocracy (from the Greek ploutos, πλουτος, “wealth”) is the government of the rich, while aristocracy (from the Greek aristos, αριστος, “the best”) is the government of the best. The aristocracy was favored by the Greek philosophers Plato (428 – 348) and Aristotle (384 – 322).

History has known many oligarchies. Sparta is often seen as an example of an ancient oligarchy. We can cite, as more recent examples, the Republic of Venice (disappeared in 1797), where power was in the hands of a wealthy oligarchy, or communist countries, governed by the privileged elite of party members (the nomenklatura, from the Russian “list”, i.e. those who were on the list of the most important posts).

13. Parliamentary

A parliamentary system, parliamentary democracy or parliamentarism, is a system of political organization in which the executive branch of government depends on the direct or indirect support of parliament, often expressed through a vote of confidence. Therefore, there is no clear separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches nor the common check and balance system of presidentialism. However, the parliamentary system has more flexibility and responsiveness than presidentialism.

As a democratic system, in parliamentary democracy popular sovereignty is represented by deputies and/or senators, elected in free and periodic elections , who exercise their legislative function within the framework of a parliament.

The executive branch of parliamentary systems is made up of a cabinet, headed by the prime minister, considered head of government.

The legislative branches of parliamentary systems can be the product of a system of uninominal majority voting or a system of proportional representation.

14. Presidential

A presidential system, a congressional system or presidentialism, is a system of government in a parliamentary republic in which the executive branch is elected separately from the legislative branch. The United States Constitution is recognized as the first official document describing a modern presidential system that is still in effect.

The most important feature of a presidential system is the way in which executive power, often called the “president” is elected. The characteristics of a presidential system are:

The President is head of state and head of government.
There is no formal relationship between the president and the legislature; it is not a member and its ability to apply for legislation is limited. However, the president has the power to veto actions passed by the legislature, and in turn, the majority of the legislature has the power to override the veto.
The president has a fixed term of government. Elections or re-elections are held at set times, and there is no such thing as a “no-confidence vote” to remove the executive and hold elections. However, most presidential systems have incorporated provisions into the law to conduct presidential courts to remove the president if he has committed a crime.

The executive branch is unipersonal. Cabinet members are elected by the president, although in some states with presidential systems, the legislature must approve cabinet members. The president has the ability to give orders or dismiss any member of the cabinet and the military, without the approval of the legislature, but he cannot dismiss judges of the judiciary.
The legislative branch of the presidential system is officially known as the “Congress” or “Assembly”. Some of the presidential states are: United States of America, Indonesia, Philippines, Mexico, South Korea and most of South American states.

15. Republic (Government by law)

Republic comes from the Latin res publica, “the public thing”, from res, “thing”, and from publicus, “government”. The republic is a very old concept that we inherited from ancient Rome. Indeed, the Romans had established themselves as a republic, the Roman Republic, after having expelled their last king, Tarquin the Superb (534 – 509 BC). The Romans remained famous for their hatred of royalty, so much so that under the Empire, Rome remained in spirit a republic. The Roman emperor ruled a republic. Since then, the concept of the Republic has been studied and enriched by many authors (Bodin, Montesquieu, etc.), for whom it was synonymous with “government” or “community of spirit”.

But today, by Republic we mean a regime that is not a monarchy, that is to say a regime in which the head of the state, the person who is theoretically at the top of the pyramid of powers, is elected by the nation or its representatives. The head of state is usually a president, but not always. If we take the example of Iran, it is an Islamic republic. Iran is both a republic, there is no longer a king, the last having been deposed in 1979, and a theocracy, since power is in the hands of clerics (the official leader of the country being an ayatollah, a cleric of Shia Islam). Another example, the First French Republic (1792 – 1804), proclaimed after the fall of Louis XVI (1774 – 1792), had no president.

A republic is not necessarily a democracy, that is to say a state where the people actually direct the conduct of affairs, or a regime in which power is responsible to the nation. For example, China is a republic (a “people’s republic”, in the style of communist denominations), but it is not a democracy.

In many countries, the notion of Republic does not only mean that the power is not monarchical. Indeed, the idea of republic often carries a particular ideal, an ideology, it is the reign of certain principles. Republics often follow archaic and authoritarian regimes, and therefore symbolize in the eyes of citizens the advent of a new freedom and the autonomy of the nation. This idea is particularly strong in Mexico, India, France, Kenya, South Korea, Peru, and Indonesia.

16. Semi-parliamentary

Is a classification of systems of government, in which citizens directly elect the legislature and the prime minister at the same time, with an electoral law ensuring a parliamentary majority for the elected prime minister.

As in the parliamentary system, the prime minister is accountable to the legislature and can be dismissed by it; This nonetheless effectively leads to early elections for both the prime minister and the legislature (an assembly with the authority to make laws).

17. Semi-presidential

The semi- presidential system, semi-presidentialism, semi-presidential democracy or semi-presidential republic, is a system of parliamentary political organization in which the prime minister and the president are active participants in the daily functions of government. It differs from the parliamentary system in that the president is elected by popular vote and is not just a ceremonial representative figure. On the other hand, it differs from the presidential system given that there is the concept of prime minister, who has responsibilities before the legislative branch of the government.

The powers of the president and the prime minister are divided differently in each country that uses this form of political organization. For example, in France, the president is responsible for foreign affairs while the prime minister is responsible for national affairs. In this case, however, the division of powers between the prime minister and the president is not mentioned in the constitution, but has evolved as a political convention. On the contrary, in Finland, whose political system emulates the French system, the division of powers is clearly expressed in the constitution: “foreign policies are headed by the president in cooperation with the cabinet”.

Semi-presidential systems may have periods of cohabitation, in which the prime minister and president are elected separately and from rival parties. This allows the creation of an effective system of checks and balances, common to the presidential system. However, it can also create strong political tension between the two parties in power.

Some nations with semi-presidential systems are: Azerbaijan , Egypt, Finland, France, Pakistan, Portugal, Romania , Russia and Taiwan among others. Austria and Ireland , according to their constitutions, grant even more powers to the presidents. However, presidents, by tradition, do not use them, and they function de facto as parliamentary systems.

18. Theocracy

Theocracy comes from the Greek theokratia (Θεοϰρατία), from theos (θεὸς), “God”, and from kratos (ϰράτος), “power”. A theocracy is a political authority based on the divine, on the powers of God or the gods. A theocratic government is legitimized by God or the gods, he is their lieutenant on earth. The true sovereign is divine power. His laws are indisputable. If we follow this definition, almost all political powers in human history have been theocratic, because governments based their legitimacy on divine power. We know, for example, that the absolute French monarchs considered themselves “lieutenants of god on earth”.

19. Totalitarianism

Totalitarianism comes from total. Totalitarianism is a complex concept. It designates above all a phenomenon, the advent of extreme dictatorial regimes in the 20th century: Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, the USSR or Maoist China. Under these regimes, the state sought to control and subjugate the whole of social life to its power. Society and citizens do not have the right, in totalitarian regimes, to any autonomy (the nation cannot give itself its own law) nor to any freedom. The collective dominates the individual. A single party, which controls all the cogs of power, headed by a charismatic leader, seeks to shape society according to the ideology it upholds (fascism, Nazism, communism). To do so, it uses an apparatus of repression and terror (arbitrary arrests of opponents, detention in camps, etc.), propaganda (media monopoly, control of cultural production) as well as methods of recruitment of the masses (militarization of society, creation of youth organizations, compulsory membership of associations, etc.).

We speak, in connection with totalitarian ideologies, of political religions: like theocratic societies, sacred laws are imposed without discussion on totalitarian societies, but instead of being of divine origin, they are of secular origin. (they come from this world).

The totalitarian phenomenon has notably been studied by the philosopher Hannah Arendt in The Origins of Totalitarianism.

Reichsparteitag 1935 Großer Appell 28-1121M original
Reich Party Congress, 1935. Totalitarianism appeals to the very dangerous emotional needs of people who live in complete isolation and in fear of one another. ~ Hannah Arendt (14 October 1906 – 4 December 1975) was a German-American political theorist whose work deals with the nature of power, authority, and totalitarianism). Charles Russell, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Political Elites | Who are they? | The elites or the power elite?

Sources: PinterPandai, Stanford University, TheBestSchools, Britannica

Photo credit: via Pixabay


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