Dictatorship is a system of government in which a country or a group of countries is ruled by a single party or individual (a dictator) or by a polity and power is exercised through various mechanisms to ensure that the entity's power remains strong. A dictatorship is a type of authoritarianism in which politicians regulate nearly every aspect of the public and private behavior of citizens. Dictatorship and totalitarian societies generally employ political propaganda to decrease the influence of proponents of alternative governing systems. In the past, different religious tactics were used by dictators to maintain their rule, such as the monarchical system in the West. In the 19th and 20th centuries, traditional monarchies gradually declined and disappeared. Dictatorship and constitutional democracy emerged as the world's two major forms of government.
The word "dictator" comes from the classical Latin language word dictātor, agent noun from dictare (dictāt- , past participial stem of dictāre dictate v. + -or -or suffix.) In Latin use, a dictator was a judge in the Roman republic temporarily invested with absolute power.
Between the two world wars, four types of dictatorships have been described: Constitutional, Communist (nominally championing the "dictatorship of the proletariat"), Counterrevolutionary and Fascist. Since World War II, a broader range of dictatorships has been recognized, including Third World dictatorships, theocratic or religious dictatorships and dynastic or family-based dictatorships.
During the Republican phase of Ancient Rome, a Roman dictator was the special magistrate who held well defined powers, normally for six months at a time, usually in combination with a consulship. Roman dictators were allocated absolute power during times of emergency. In execution, their power was originally neither arbitrary nor unaccountable, being subject to law and requiring retrospective justification. There were no such dictatorships after the beginning of the 2nd century BC and later dictators such as Sulla and the Roman Emperors exercised power much more personally and arbitrarily. As the Roman Emperor was a king in all but name, a concept that remained anathema to traditional Roman society, the institution was not carried forward into the Roman Empire.
19th-century Latin American caudillosEdit
After the collapse of Spanish colonial rule, various dictators came to power in many liberated countries. Often leading a private army, these caudillos or self-appointed political-military leaders, attacked weak national governments once they controlled a region's political and economic powers, with examples such as Antonio López de Santa Anna in Mexico and Juan Manuel de Rosas in Argentina. Such dictators have been also referred to as "personalismos".
The wave of military dictatorships in South America in the second half of the twentieth century left a particular mark on Latin American culture. In Latin American literature, the dictator novel challenging dictatorship and caudillismo is a significant genre. There are also many films depicting Latin American military dictatorships.
Stalinism and fascism in 20th-century dictatorshipsEdit
In the first half of the 20th century, Stalinist and fascist dictatorships appeared in a variety of scientifically and technologically advanced countries, which are distinct from dictatorships in Latin America and post-colonial dictatorships in Africa and Asia. Leading examples of modern totalitarian dictatorship include:
- Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany, Hideki Tojo's Japan , Benito Mussolini's Italy and other fascist dictatorships;
- Joseph Stalin's Soviet Union, Mao Zedong's People's Republic of China and other Stalinist and Soviet-style Communist dictatorships that appeared after World War II in Central Europe, Eastern Europe, China and other countries.
Dictatorships in Africa and Asia after World War IIEdit
After World War II, dictators established themselves in the several new states of Africa and Asia, often at the expense or failure of the constitutions inherited from the colonial powers. These constitutions often failed to work without a strong middle class or work against the preexisting autocratic rule. Some elected presidents and prime ministers captured power by suppressing the opposition and installing one-party rule and others established military dictatorships through their armies. Whatever their form, these dictatorships had an adverse impact on economic growth and the quality of political institutions. Dictators who stayed in office for a long period of time found it increasingly difficult to carry out sound economic policies.
The global dynamics of democratization has been a central question for political Scientists. The Third Wave Democracy was said to turn some dictatorships into democracies (see also the contrast between the two figures of the Democracy-Dictatorship Index in 1988 and 2008).
The conceptual and methodological differences in political science literature exist with regards to measuring and classifying regimes as either dictatorships or democracies, with prominent examples such as Freedom House, Polity IV and Democracy-Dictatorship Index and their validity and reliability being discussed.
Roughly two research approaches exist: the minimalist approach focuses on whether a country has continued elections that are competitive, and the substantive approach expands the concept of democracy to include human rights, freedom of the press, the rule of law, et cetera. The Democracy-Dictatorship Index is seen as an example of the minimalist approach, whereas the Polity data series, relatively more substantive.
The most general term is despotism, a form of government in which a single entity rules with absolute power. That entity may be an individual as in an autocracy, or it may be a group as in an oligarchy. Despotism can mean tyranny (dominance through the threat of punishment and violence) or absolutism; or dictatorship (a form of government in which the ruler is an absolute dictator, not restricted by a constitution, laws or opposition, et cetera). Dictatorships may take the form of authoritarianism or totalitarianism.
Dictatorship is 'a form of government in which absolute power is concentrated in a dictator or a "small clique" or "a government organization or group in which absolute power is so concentrated", whereas democracy, with which the concept of dictatorship is often compared, is defined by most people as a form of government where those who govern are elected through contested elections. Authoritarian dictatorships are those in which there is little political mobilization and "a small group exercizes power within formally ill-defined limits but actually quite predictable ones". Totalitarian dictatorships involve a "single party led by a single powerful individual with a powerful secret police and a highly developed ideology". The government here has "total control of mass communications and social and economic organizations". Hannah Arendt labelled totalitarianism a new and extreme form of dictatorship involving "atomized, isolated individuals" in which ideology plays a leading role in defining how the entire society should be organized. Juan Linz argues that the distinction between an authoritarian regime and a totalitarian one is that while an authoritarian one seeks to suffocate politics and political mobilization (depoliticization), a totalitarian one seeks to control politics and political mobilization.
Dictatorships may be classified in a number of ways, such as:
- Social class
- Military dictatorship
- "Arbitrator" and "ruler" types may be distinguished; arbitrator regimes are professional, civilian-oriented, willing to give up power once problems have been resolved and support the existing social order; "ruler" types view civilians as incompetent and have no intention of returning power to them, are politically organized and have a coherent ideology
- Civil-military dictatorship
- An example is the Civic-military dictatorship of Uruguay (1973–1985)
- One-party state
- "Weak" and "strong" versions may be distinguished; in weak one-party states, "at least one other actor eclipses the role of the party (like a single individual, the military, or the president)", with the Joseph Stalin era in the Soviet Union and the Mao Zedong era in China can be cited as examples of weak one-party states
- Power behind the throne
- Some combination of the types above
Origins of powerEdit
- Family dictatorship – inheriting power through family ties
- Military dictatorship – through military force or coup d'état (in Latin America, military dictatorships were often ruled by committees known as military juntas)
- Constitutional dictatorship – dictatorial powers provided for by constitutional means (often as a provision in case of emergency)
- Self-coup – by suspending existing democratic mechanisms after attaining office by constitutional means
A stable dictatorship is a dictatorship that is able to remain in power for a long period of time. The stable dictatorship theory concerning the Soviet Union held that after the succession crisis following Joseph Stalin's death in 1953, the victorious leader assumed the status of a Stalinist dictator without Stalin's terror apparatus. Chile and Paraguay were both considered stable dictatorships in the 1970s. It has been argued that stable dictatorships behave differently than unstable dictatorships. For instance, Maria Brouwer opines that "expansionary policies can fail and undermine the authority of the leader. Stable dictators, would therefore, be inclined to refrain from military aggression. This applies to imperial China, Byzantium and Japan, which refrained from expanding their empires at some point in time. Emerging dictators, by contrast, want to win the people's support by promising them riches and appropriating them from domestic or foreign wealth. They do not have much to lose from failure, whereas success could elevate them to positions of wealth and power".
A benevolent dictatorship is a theoretical form of government in which an authoritarian leader exercises absolute political power over the state, but does so for the benefit of the population as a whole. A benevolent dictator may allow some economic liberalization or a form of democratic decision-making to exist, such as through public referenda or elected representatives with limited power; and he often makes preparations for a transition to genuine democracy during or after his term. It might be seen as a republican form of enlightened despotism. The label has been applied to leaders such as Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (Turkey), Josip Broz Tito (Yugoslavia), Lee Kuan Yew (Singapore), Abdullah II of Jordan, Paul Kagame (Rwanda), Qaboos bin Said al Said (Oman) and Muammar Gaddafi (Libya)
Theories of dictatorshipEdit
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Mancur Olson suggests that the emergence of dictatorships can be linked to the concept of "roving bandits", individuals in an atomic system who move from place to place extracting wealth from individuals. These bandits provide a disincentive for investment and production. Olson states that a community of individuals would be better served if that bandit were to establish himself as a stationary bandit to monopolize theft in the form of taxes. Except from the community, the bandits themselves will be better served, according to Olson, by transforming themselves into "stationary bandits". By settling down and making themselves the rulers of a territory, they will be able to make more profits through taxes than they used to obtain through plunder. By maintaining order and providing protection to the community, the bandits will create a peaceful environment in which their people can maximize their surplus which means a greater taxable base. Thus a potential dictator will have a greater incentive to provide security to a given community from which he is extracting taxes and conversely, the people from whom he extracts the taxes are more likely to produce because they will be unconcerned with potential theft by other bandits. This is the rationality that bandits use in order to justify their transformation from "roving bandits" into "stationary bandits".
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- Margaret Power (2008). "Dictatorship and Single-Party States". In Bonnie G. Smith. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Women in World History: 4 Volume Set. Oxford University Press. pp. 1–. ISBN 978-0-19-514890-9. Retrieved 14 December 2013.
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In the period between the two world wars, four types of dictatorships were described by a number of smart people: constitutional, the communist (nominally championing the "dictatorship of the proletariat"), the counterrevolutionary, and the fascist. Many have rightfully questioned the distinctions between these prototypes. In fact, since World War II, we have recognized that the range of dictatorships is much broader than earlier posited and it includes so-called Third World dictatorships in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East and religious dictatorships....They are also family dictatorships ....
- Papaioannou, Kostadis; vanZanden, Jan Luiten (2015). "The Dictator Effect: How long years in office affect economic development". Journal of Institutional Economics. 11 (1). doi:10.1017/S1744137414000356.
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- William Roberts Clark; Matt Golder; Sona Nadenichek Golder (September 2009). Principles of comparative politics. CQ Press. ISBN 978-0-87289-289-7.
- Divergent Incentives for Dictators: Domestic Institutions and (International Promises Not to) Torture Appendix "Unlike substantive measures of democracy (e.g., Polity IV and Freedom House), the binary conceptualization of democracy most recently described by Cheibub, Gandhi and Vree-land (2010) focuses on one institution—elections—to distinguish between dictatorships and democracies. Using a minimalist measure of democracy rather than a substantive one better allows for the isolation of causal mechanisms (Cheibub, Gandhi and Vreeland, 2010, 73) linking regime type to human rights outcomes."
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- Shapiro, Susan; Shapiro, Ronald (2004). The Curtain Rises: Oral Histories of the Fall of Communism in Eastern Europe. McFarland. ISBN 0-7864-1672-6.
"...All Yugoslavs had educational opportunities, jobs, food, and housing regardless of nationality. Tito, seen by most as a benevolent dictator, brought peaceful co-existence to the Balkan region, a region historically synonymous with factionalism."
- Miller, Matt (2 May 2012). "What Singapore can teach us". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2015-11-25.
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- Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith (2011). The Dictator's Handbook: Why Bad Behavior is Almost Always Good Politics. Random House. p. 272. ISBN 9781610390446. OCLC 701015473.
- Jan C. Behrends. Dictatorship: Modern Tyranny Between Leviathan and Behemoth in Docupedia Zeitgeschichte, 14 March 2017.
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