Authoritarianism is a form of government characterized by strong central power and limited political freedoms. Individual freedoms are subordinate to the state and there is no constitutional accountability under an authoritarian regime. Juan Linz's influential 1964 description of authoritarianism characterized authoritarian political systems by four qualities:
- Authoritarian government and states
- Authoritarianism and totalitarianism
- Authoritarianism and democracy
- Examples of states considered to be authoritarian
- Examples of states which were historically authoritarian
- Authoritarian weakness and resilience
- Anti authoritarianism
- Gender and authoritarianism
- Works cited
- limited political pluralism; that is, such regimes place constraints on political institutions and groups like legislatures, political parties and interest groups;
- a basis for legitimacy based on emotion, especially the identification of the regime as a necessary evil to combat "easily recognizable societal problems" such as underdevelopment or insurgency;
- minimal social mobilization most often caused by constraints on the public such as suppression of political opponents and anti-regime activity;
- informally defined executive power with often vague and shifting powers.
Modern dictatorships use an authoritarian concept to form a government.
Authoritarian government and states
Linz distinguished new forms of authoritarianism from personalistic dictatorships and totalitarian states, taking Francoist Spain as an example. Unlike personalistic dictatorships, new forms of authoritarianism have institutionalized representation of a variety of actors (in Spain's case, including the military, the Catholic Church, Falange, monarchists, technocrats and others); unlike totalitarian states, the regime relies on passive mass acceptance rather than popular support.
Several subtypes of authoritarian regimes have been identified by Linz and others. Linz identified the two most basic subtypes as traditional authoritarian regimes and bureaucratic-military authoritarian regimes:
Linz also has identified three other subtypes of authoritarian regime: corporatist or organic-statistic, racial and ethnic "democracy" and post-totalitarian.
Authoritarian regimes are also sometimes subcategorized by whether they are personalistic or populist. Personalistic authoritarian regimes are characterized by arbitrary rule and authority exercised "mainly through patronage networks and coercion rather than through institutitions and formal rules." Personalistic authoritarian regimes have been seen in post-colonial Africa. By contrast, populist authoritarian regimes "are mobilizational regimes in which a strong, charismatic, manipulative leader rules through a coalition involving key lower-class groups." Examples include Argentina under Perón, Egypt under Nasser, and Venezuela under Chávez and Maduro.
Authoritarianism is characterized by highly concentrated and centralized power maintained by political repression and the exclusion of potential challengers. It uses political parties and mass organizations to mobilize people around the goals of the regime. Adam Przeworski has theorized that "authoritarian equilibrium rests mainly on lies, fear and economic prosperity".
Authoritarianism also tends to embrace the informal and unregulated exercise of political power, a leadership that is "self-appointed and even if elected cannot be displaced by citizens' free choice among competitors," the arbitrary deprivation of civil liberties, and little tolerance for meaningful opposition.
A range of social controls also attempt to stifle civil society, while political stability is maintained by control over and support of the armed forces, a bureaucracy staffed by the regime, and creation of allegiance through various means of socialization and indoctrination.
Authoritarian political systems may be weakened through "inadequate performance to demands of the people." Vestal writes that the tendency to respond to challenges to authoritarianism through tighter control instead of adaptation is a significant weakness, and that this overly rigid approach fails to "adapt to changes or to accommodate growing demands on the part of the populace or even groups within the system." Because the legitimacy of the state is dependent on performance, authoritarian states that fail to adapt may collapse.
Authoritarianism is marked by "indefinite political tenure" of the ruler or ruling party (often in a one-party state) or other authority. The transition from an authoritarian system to a more democratic form of government is referred to as democratization.
John Duckitt suggests a link between authoritarianism and collectivism, asserting that both stand in opposition to individualism. Duckitt writes that both authoritarianism and collectivism submerge individual rights and goals to group goals, expectations and conformities.
Authoritarianism and totalitarianism
Totalitarianism is an extreme version of authoritarianism. Authoritarianism primarily differs from totalitarianism in that social and economic institutions exist that are not under governmental control. Building on the work of Yale political scientist Juan Linz, Paul C. Sondrol of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs has examined the characteristics of authoritarian and totalitarian dictators and organized them in a chart:
Sondrol argues that while both authoritarianism and totalitarianism are forms of autocracy, they differ in "key dichotomies":
(1) Unlike their bland and generally unpopular authoritarian brethren, totalitarian dictators develop a charismatic 'mystique' and a mass-based, pseudo-democratic interdependence with their followers via the conscious manipulation of a prophetic image.
(2) Concomitant role conceptions differentiate totalitarians from authoritarians. Authoritarians view themselves as individual beings largely content to control, and often maintain, the status quo. Totalitarian self-conceptions are largely teleological. The tyrant is less a person than an indispensable 'function' to guide and reshape the universe.
(3) Consequently, the utilisation of power for personal aggrandizement is more evident among authoritarians than totalitarians. Lacking the binding appeal of ideology, authoritarians support their rule by a mixture of instilling fear and granting rewards to loyal collaborators, engendering a kleptocracy.
Compared to totalitarianism, "the authoritarian state still maintains a certain distinction between state and society. It is only concerned with political power and as long as that is not contested it gives society a certain degree of liberty. Totalitarianism, on the other hand, invades private life and asphyxiates it." Another distinction is that "authoritarianism is not animated by utopian ideals in the way totalitarianism is. It does not attempt to change the world and human nature." Carl Joachim Friedrich writes that "a totalist ideology, a party reinforced by a secret police, and monopoly control of ... industrial mass society" are the three features of totalitarian regimes that distinguish them from other autocracies.
Authoritarianism and democracy
Authoritarianism and democracy are not fundamentally opposed to one another; it is thus definitely possible for democracies to possess strong authoritarian elements, for both feature a form of submission to authority. An illiberal democracy (or procedural democracy) is distinguished from liberal democracy (or substantive democracy) in that illiberal democracies lack the more democratic features of liberal democracies, such as the rule of law, an independent judiciary, along with a further distinction that liberal democracies have rarely made war with one another. More recent research has extended the theory and finds that more democratic countries tend to have few Militarized Interstate Disputes causing less battle deaths with one another, and that democracies have far fewer civil wars.
Some commentators, such as Seymour Martin Lipset, believed that low-income authoritarian regimes have certain technocratic, "efficiency-enhancing advantages" over low-income democracies, helping authoritarian regimes generate development. Morton H. Halperin, Joseph T. Siegle, and Michael M. Weinstein (2005) counter this belief, arguing that the evidence has showed that there is no "authoritarian advantage" and that there is a "democratic advantage" instead. Halperin et al. argue that democracies "realize superior development performance" over authoritarianism. They point out that poor democracies are more likely to have steadier economic growth, and less likely to experience economic and humanitarian catastrophes, than authoritarian regimes; that civil liberties act as a curb on corruption and misuse of resources; and that democracies are more adaptable. Halperin point out that the vast majority of refugee crises and financial catastrophes occur in authoritarian regimes.
Studies suggest that several health indicators (life expectancy and infant and maternal mortality) have a stronger and more significant association with democracy than they have with GDP per capita, size of the public sector, or income inequality. Prominent economist Amartya Sen has theorized that no functioning liberal democracy has ever suffered a large-scale famine.
Research shows that the democratic nations have much less democide or murder by government. However, it should be noted that those were also moderately developed nations before applying liberal democratic policies. Research by the World Bank suggests that political institutions are extremely important in determining the prevalence of corruption, and that parliamentary systems, political stability and freedom of the press are all associated with lower corruption. One study has concluded that terrorism is most common in nations with intermediate political freedom. The nations with the least amount of terrorism are the most and least democratic nations.
Examples of states considered to be authoritarian
There is no precise definition of authoritarianism, but several annual measurements are attempted, including Freedom House’s annual Freedom in the World report.
The following is a non-exhaustive list of examples of states which are currently (or frequently) characterized as authoritarian:
Examples of states which were historically authoritarian
Authoritarian weakness and resilience
Andrew J. Nathan notes that "regime theory holds that authoritarian systems are inherently fragile because of weak legitimacy, overreliance on coercion, overcentralization of decision making, and the predominance of personal power over institutional norms....Few authoritarian regimes—be they communist, fascist, corporatist, or personalist—have managed to conduct orderly, peaceful, timely, and stable successions." One exception to this general trend is the endurance of the authoritarian rule of the Chinese Communist Party, which has been unusually resilient among authoritarian regimes. Nathan posits that this can be attributed to four factors: (1) "the increasingly norm-bound nature of its succession politics"; (2) "the increase in meritocratic as opposed to factional considerations in the promotion of political elites"; (3) "the differentiation and functional specialization of institutions within the regime"; and (4) "the establishment of institutions for political participation and appeal that strengthen the CCP's legitimacy among the public at large."
After World War II there was a strong sense of anti-authoritarianism based on anti-fascism in Europe. This was attributed to the active resistance from occupation and to fears arising from the development of superpowers. Anti-authoritarianism also became associated with countercultural and bohemian movements such as the Beat Generation in the 1950s, the hippies in the 1960s and punks in the 1970s.
Gender and authoritarianism
According to a study by Brandt and Henry there is a direct correlation between the rates of gender inequality and the levels of authoritarian ideas in the male and female populations. It was found that in countries with less gender equality where individualism was encouraged and men occupied the dominant societal roles, women were more likely to support traits such as obedience which would allow them to survive in an authoritarian environment, and less likely to encourage ideas such as independence and imagination. In countries with higher levels of gender equality, men held less authoritarian views. It is theorized that this occurs due to the stigma attached to individuals who question the cultural norms set by the dominant individuals and establishments in an authoritarian society as a way to prevent the psychological stress caused by the active ostracizing of the stigmatized individuals.