This article lists forms of government and political systems, according to a series of different ways of categorising them. The systems listed are not mutually exclusive, and often have overlapping definitions.
A society without a publicly enforced government or political authority. Sometimes said to be non-governance; it is a structure which strives for non-hierarchical, voluntary associations among agents. Anarchy is a situation where there is no state.
This can be a natural, temporary result of civil war in a country, when an established state has been destroyed and the region is in a transitional period without definitive leadership. Alternatively, it has been presented as a viable long term choice by individuals known as anarchists who oppose the state and other forms of coercive hierarchies. These individuals typically think people should organize in non-hierarchical, voluntary associations where people voluntarily help each other. There are a variety of forms of anarchy that attempt to avoid the use of coercion, violence, force and authority, while still producing a productive and desirable society.
A confederation (also known as a confederacy or league) is a union of sovereign states, united for purposes of common action often in relation to other states. Usually created by a treaty, confederations of states tend to be established for dealing with critical issues, such as defense, foreign relations, internal trade or currency, with the general government being required to provide support for all its members. Confederalism represents a main form of inter-governmentalism, this being defined as ‘any form of interaction between states which takes place on the basis of sovereign independence or government. Confederation is almost as a Federation with the Federal Government being as a combination or alliance of all the states.
A federation (also known as a federal state) is a political entity characterized by a union of partially self-governing states or regions under a central (federal) government. In a federation, the self-governing status of the component states, as well as the division of power between them and the central government, is typically constitutionally entrenched and may not be altered by a unilateral decision of either party, the states or the federal political body. Alternatively, federation is a form of government in which sovereign power is formally divided between a central authority and a number of constituent regions so that each region retains some degree of control over its internal affairs.
A unitary state is a state governed as a single power in which the central government is ultimately supreme and any administrative divisions (sub-national units) exercise only the powers that the central government chooses to delegate. The majority of states in the world have a unitary system of government. Of the 193 UN member states, 165 are governed as unitary states.
Democracy, meaning "rule of the people", is a system of government in which the citizens exercise power directly or elect representatives from among themselves to form a governing body, such as a parliament. Democracy is sometimes referred to as "rule of the majority". Democracy is a system of processing conflicts in which outcomes depend on what participants do, but no single force controls what occurs and its outcomes.This includes citizens being able to vote for different laws and leaders.
In democracies, large proportions of the population are provided the means to either to make decisions or to choose representatives to make decisions. Usually, though not necessarily (see Demarchy), this means is voting. Significant in most vote-based democracies are political parties, which are groups of people with similar ideas about how a country or region should be governed. Different political parties have different ideas about how the government should handle different problems.
Variant of democracy; government in which the state is governed by randomly selected decision makers who have been selected by sortition (lot) from a broadly inclusive pool of eligible citizens. These groups, sometimes termed "policy juries", "citizens' juries", or "consensus conferences", deliberately make decisions about public policies in much the same way that juries decide criminal cases. Demarchy, in theory, could overcome some of the functional problems of conventional representative democracy, which is widely subject to manipulation by special interests and a division between professional policymakers (politicians and lobbyists) vs. a largely passive, uninvolved and often uninformed electorate. According to Australian philosopher John Burnheim, random selection of policymakers would make it easier for everyday citizens to meaningfully participate, and harder for special interests to corrupt the process.
More generally, random selection of decision makers from a larger group is known as sortition (from the Latin base for lottery). The Athenian democracy made much use of sortition, with nearly all government offices filled by lottery (of full citizens) rather than by election. Candidates were almost always male, Greek, educated citizens holding a minimum of wealth and status.
Variant of democracy; a form of representative democracy where citizens are able to vote for their government but cannot participate directly in governmental decision making and where the government does not share any power almost as the government has absolute power
Variant of democracy; social democracy rejects the "either/or" phobiocratic/polarization interpretation of capitalism versus socialism. It claims that fostering a progressive evolution of capitalism will gradually result in the evolution of capitalist economy into socialist economy. Social democracy argues that all citizens should be legally entitled to certain social rights. These are made up of universal access to public services such as: education, health care, workers' compensation, public transportation, and other services including child care and care for the elderly. Social democracy is connected with the trade union labour movement and supports collective bargaining rights for workers. Contemporary social democracy advocates freedom from discrimination based on differences of: ability/disability, age, ethnicity, sex, gender, language, race, religion, sexual orientation, and social class.
Variant of democracy; The citizens are governing by directly elected councils. The councils are directly responsible to their electors and are bound by their instructions. Such an imperative mandate is in contrast to a free mandate, in which the elected delegates are only responsible to their conscience. Delegates may accordingly be dismissed from their post at any time or be voted out (recall).
In some degree in Russia and the Soviet Union between 1905 and 1918
Variant of democracy; a form of electocracy in which lawfully elected representatives maintain the integrity of a nation state whose citizens, while granted the right to vote, have little or no participation in the decision-making process of the government.
Oligarchies are societies controlled and organised by a small class of privileged people, with no intervention from the most part of society; this small elite is defined as sharing some common trait.
De jure democratic governments with a de facto oligarchy are ruled by a small group of segregated, powerful or influential people who usually share similar interests or family relations. These people may spread power and elect candidates equally or not equally. An oligarchy is different from a true democracy because very few people are given the chance to change things. An oligarchy does not have to be hereditary or monarchic. An oligarchy does not have one clear ruler but several rulers.
Rule by the proletariat, the workers, or the working class. Examples of ergatocracy include communist revolutionaries and rebels which control most of society and create an alternative economy for people and workers. See Dictatorship of the proletariat.
Rule by various judges, the kritarchs; a system of governance composed of law enforcement institutions in which the state and the legal systems are traditionally or constitutionally the same entity. The kritarchs, magistrates and other adjudicators have the legal power to legislate and administer the enforcement of government laws in addition to the interposition of laws and the resolution of disputes. (Not to be confused with "judiciary" or "judicial system".) Somalia, ruled by judges with the tradition of xeer, as well as the Islamic Courts Union, is a historical example.
Rule by social connections; a term invented by the editorial board of the American technology magazine Wired in the early 1990s. A portmanteau of Internet and aristocracy, netocracy refers to a perceived global upper-class that bases its power on a technological advantage and networking skills, in comparison to what is portrayed as a bourgeoisie of a gradually diminishing importance. The netocracy concept has been compared with Richard Florida's concept of the creative class. Bard and Söderqvist have also defined an under-class in opposition to the netocracy, which they refer to as the consumitariat.
Rule by the wealthy; a system wherein governance is indebted to, dependent upon or heavily influenced by the desires of the rich. Plutocratic influence can alter any form of government. For instance, in a republic, if a significant number of elected representative positions are dependent upon financial support from wealthy sources, it is a plutocratic republic.
Rule by military service; a system of governance composed of military government in which the state and the military are traditionally or constitutionally the same entity. Citizens with mandatory or voluntary active military service or who have been honorably discharged have the right to govern. (Therefore, stratocracy is not to be confused with "military junta" or "military dictatorship".) The Spartancity-state is a historical example; its social system and constitution were completely focused on military training and excellence. Stratocratic ideology often attaches to the honor-oriented timocracy.
Rule by the educated or technical experts; a system of governance where people who are skilled or proficient govern in their respective areas of expertise in technology would be in control of all decision making. Doctors, engineers, scientists, professionals and technologists who have knowledge, expertise, or skills would compose the governing body instead of politicians, businessmen and economists. In a technocracy, decision makers would be selected based upon how knowledgeable and skillful they are in their field.
Rule by the honourable; a system of governance ruled by honorable citizens and property owners. Socrates defines a timocracy as a government ruled by people who love honour and are selected according to the degree of honour they hold in society. This form of timocracy is very similar to meritocracy, in the sense that individuals of outstanding character or faculty are placed in the seat of power.
Autocracies are ruled by a single entity with absolute power, whose decisions are subject to neither external legal restraints nor regular mechanisms of popular control (except perhaps for implicit threat). That entity may be an individual, as in a dictatorship or it may be a group, as in a one-party state. The word despotism means to "rule in the fashion of despots" and is often used to describe autocracy.
A dictatorship where power resides in the hands of one single person or polity. That person may be, for example, an absolute monarch or a dictator, but can also be an elected president. The Roman Republic made dictators to lead during times of war; but the Roman dictators only held power for a small time. In modern times, an autocrat's rule is one that not stopped by any rules of law, constitutions, or other social and political institutions. After World War II, many governments in Latin America, Asia, and Africa were ruled by autocratic governments. Examples of dictators include: Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, Idi Amin, Muammar Gaddafi, and Gamal Abdul Nasser.
A dictatorship primarily enforced by the military. Military dictators are different from civilian dictators for a number of reasons: their motivations for seizing power, the institutions through which they organize their rule, and the ways in which they leave power. Often viewing itself as saving the nation from the corrupt or myopic civilian politicians, a military dictatorship justifies its position as “neutral” arbiters on the basis of their membership within the armed forces. For example, many juntas adopt titles, such as “National Redemption Council", “Committee of National Restoration", or “National Liberation Committee". Military leaders often rule as a junta, selecting one of them as the head.
Regardless of the form of government, the actual governance may be influenced by sectors with political power which are not part of the formal government. These are terms that highlight certain actions of the governors, such as corruption, demagoguery, or fear mongering that may disrupt the intended way of working of the government if they are widespread enough.
A politically unstable and kleptocratic government that economically depends upon the exports of a limited resource (fruits, minerals), and usually features a society composed of stratifiedsocial classes, such as a great, impoverished ergatocracy and a ruling plutocracy, composed of the aristocracy of business, politics, and the military. In political science, the term banana republic denotes a country dependent upon limited primary-sector productions, which is ruled by a plutocracy who exploit the national economy by means of a politico-economic oligarchy. In American literature, the term banana republic originally denoted the fictional Republic of Anchuria, a servile dictatorship that abetted, or supported for kickbacks, the exploitation of large-scale plantation agriculture, especially banana cultivation. In U.S. politics, the term banana republic is a pejorative political descriptor coined by the American writer O. Henry in Cabbages and Kings (1904), a book of thematically related short stories derived from his 1896–1897 residence in Honduras, where he was hiding from U.S. law for bank embezzlement.
Rule by banks; a system of governance with excessive power or influence of banks and other financial authorities on public policy-making. It can also refer to a form of government where financial institutions rule society.
Rule by corporations; a system of governance where an economic and political system is controlled by corporations or corporate interests. Its use is generally pejorative. Examples include company rule in India and business voters for the City of London Corporation.
Rule by the stupid; a system of governance where the worst or least-qualified citizens govern or dictate policies. Due to human nature being inherently flawed, it has been suggested that every government which has ever existed has been a prime example of kakistocracy.
Rule by thieves; a system of governance where its officials and the ruling class in general pursue personal wealth and political power at the expense of the wider population. In strict terms kleptocracy is not a form of government but a characteristic of a government engaged in such behavior. Examples include Mexico as being considered a "narcokleptocracy", (narco-state) since its democratic government is perceived to be corrupted by those who profit from trade in illegal drugs smuggled into the United States.
Rule by nephews; favouritism granted to relatives regardless of merit; a system of governance in which importance is given to the relatives of those already in power, like a nephew (where the word comes from). In such governments even if the relatives aren't qualified they are given positions of authority just because they know someone who already has authority. Pope Alexander VI (Borgia) was accused of this.
Rule by the crowd; a system of governance where mob rule is government by mob or a mass of people, or the intimidation of legitimate authorities. As a pejorative for majoritarianism, it is akin to the Latin phrase mobile vulgus meaning "the fickle crowd", from which the English term "mob" was originally derived in the 1680s. Ochlocratic governments are often a democracy spoiled by demagoguery, "tyranny of the majority" and the rule of passion over reason; such governments can be as oppressive as autocratic tyrants. Ochlocracy is synonymous in meaning and usage to the modern, informal term "mobocracy".
A regime type where power is not vested in public institutions (as in a normal democracy) but spread amongst elite groups who are constantly competing with each other for power. Examples of anocracies in Africa include the warlords of Somalia and the shared governments in Kenya and Zimbabwe. Anocracies are situated midway between an autocracy and a democracy.
The Polity IV dataset[clarification needed] recognised anocracy as a category. In that dataset, anocracies are exactly in the middle between autocracies and democracies.
Often the word is defined more broadly. For example, a 2010 International Alert publication defined anocracies as "countries that are neither autocratic nor democratic, most of which are making the risky transition between autocracy and democracy". Alert noted that the number of anocracies had increased substantially since the end of the Cold War. Anocracy is not surprisingly the least resilient political system to short-term shocks: it creates the promise but not yet the actuality of an inclusive and effective political economy, and threatens members of the established elite; and is therefore very vulnerable to disruption and armed violence.
Rule by a government based on small (usually family) unit with a semi-informal hierarchy, with strongest (either physical strength or strength of character) as leader. Very much like a pack seen in other animals, such as wolves.
Ruled by a data fed group of secluded individuals that regulates aspects of public and private life using data feeds and technology having no interactivity with the citizens but using "facts only" to decide direction.
Rule by a government under the sovereignty of rational laws and civic right as opposed to one under theocratic systems of government. In a nomocracy, ultimate and final authority (sovereignty) exists in the law.
A monarchy is a form of government in which a group, generally a family representing a dynasty, embodies the country's national identity and its head, the monarch, exercises the role of sovereignty. The actual power of the monarch may vary from purely symbolic (crowned republic), to partial and restricted (constitutional monarchy), to completely autocratic (absolute monarchy). Traditionally the monarch's post is inherited and lasts until death or abdication. In contrast, elective monarchies require the monarch to be elected. Both types have further variations as there are widely divergent structures and traditions defining monarchy. For example, in some[which?]elected monarchies only pedigrees are taken into account for eligibility of the next ruler, whereas many hereditary monarchies impose requirements regarding the religion, age, gender, mental capacity, etc. Occasionally this might create a situation of rival claimants whose legitimacy is subject to effective election. There have been cases where the term of a monarch's reign is either fixed in years or continues until certain goals are achieved: an invasion being repulsed, for instance.
Countries with monarchy attributes are those where a family or group of families (rarely another type of group), called the royalty, represents national identity, with power traditionally assigned to one of its individuals, called the monarch, who mostly rule kingdoms. The actual role of the monarch and other members of royalty varies from purely symbolical (crowned republic) to partial and restricted (constitutional monarchy) to completely despotic (absolute monarchy). Traditionally and in most cases, the post of the monarch is inherited, but there are also elective monarchies where the monarch is elected.
A form of government where the monarch (and family) is an official ceremonial entity with no political power. The royal family and the monarch are intended to represent the country and may perform speeches or attend an important ceremonial events as a symbolical guide to the people, but hold no actual power in decision-making, appointments, et cetera.
Rule by a form of government in which the people, or some significant portion of them, have supreme control over the government and where offices of state are elected or chosen by elected people. A common simplified definition of a republic is a government where the head of state is not a monarch.Montesquieu included both democracies, where all the people have a share in rule, and aristocracies or oligarchies, where only some of the people rule, as republican forms of government.
Republics where there is rule by a government whose powers are limited by law or a formal constitution (an official document establishing the exact powers and restrictions of a nation and its government), and chosen by a vote amongst the populace. Typically, laws cannot be passed which violate said constitution, unless the constitution itself is altered by law. This theoretically serves to protect minority groups from being subjected to the tyranny of the majority, or mob rule. Examples include the United States, South Africa, India, etc.
Republics where the laws are ultimately decided by popular vote, whether by a body of elected representatives or directly by the public, and there is no restriction on which laws are passed so long as they have majority support. Constitutional law is either non-existent or poses little obstacle to legislation.
Republics that are a federation of states or provinces, where there is a national (federal) law encompassing the nation as a whole but where each state or province is free to legislate and enforce its own laws and affairs so long as they don't conflict with federal law. Examples include United States, Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Germany, India, Mexico, Russia, and Switzerland.
Republics, like Germany, India or Singapore, with an elected head of state, but where the head of state and head of government are kept separate with the head of government retaining most executive powers, or a head of state akin to a head of government, elected by a parliament.
Republics that include countries like China and Vietnam that are de jure governed for and by the people, but with no direct elections. The term People's Republic is used to differentiate themselves from the earlier republic of their countries before the people's revolution, like the Republic of China.
Forms of government by socio-political attributesEdit
Historically, most political systems originated as socioeconomicideologies. Experience with those movements in power and the strong ties they may have to particular forms of government can cause them to be considered as forms of government in themselves.
A system that advocates self-governed societies based on voluntary institutions. These are often described as stateless societies, although several authors have defined them more specifically as institutions based on non-hierarchical or free associations, while others have advocated for stateless societies with the inclusion of private property, property rights and hierarchical groups, so long as membership and association with those groups are entirely voluntary. Anarchism holds the state to be undesirable, unnecessary and/or harmful.
A system in which the means of production (machines, tools, factories, etc.) are owned by private individuals, workers then negotiate with those individuals to use those means of production in exchange for a portion of what they produce, usually in the form of capital (money). The owners of the means of production are entitled to whatever portion of the products of the workers' labor that is agreed upon by the two parties.
(Often used as a slur by republicans to refer to all monarchical systems, monarchists conversely use the term to refer to systems in which monarchs have overstepped their boundaries, or to refer to some of the more totalitarian republican systems)
A variant of capitalism which views widespread property ownership as fundamental right; the means of production are spread as widely as possible rather than being centralized under the control of the state (as in state socialism), or a few individuals/corporations (as in what proponents of distributism call "crony capitalism") Distributism fundamentally opposes socialism and capitalism, which distributists view as equally flawed and exploitative. In contrast, distributism seeks to subordinate economic activity to human life as a whole, to our spiritual life, our intellectual life, our family life".
A system of land ownership and duties common to medieval Europe. Under feudalism, all the land in a kingdom belonged to the king. However, the king would give some of the land to the lords or nobles who fought for him. These presents of land were called manors. Then the nobles gave some of their land to vassals. The vassals then had to do duties for the nobles. The lands of vassals were called fiefs.
A similar system is the Iqta, used by medieval Islamic societies of the middle east and north Africa. This functioned much like the feudal system but generally had titles that weren't granted to a family dynasty but to individuals at the behest of the sultan and generally only required a tax from the lower classes, instead of military service and/or manual labour like in the feudal system.
A system in which the government is headed by an agreed upon head of the nobility who is known as the monarch, usually in the form of a king or emperor (but also less commonly a queen or empress). In most monarchical systems the position of monarch is one inherited from a previous ruler by bloodline or marriage, but in other cases it may be a position elected by the nobility themselves, as was the case in the ancient Roman Kingdom and the medieval Holy Roman Empire.
A system in which the laws and governmental policies of the state are considered a "public matter" and decided by the citizens of the society, whoever they may be. Most modern nation-states are examples of republics, but other examples include those of ancient Rome and Athens.
The government of a nation-state and is a characteristic of a unitary state. This is the same thing as a federal government which may have distinct powers at various levels authorized or delegated to it by its member states, though the adjective 'central' is sometimes used to describe it. The structure of central governments varies. Many countries have created autonomous regions by delegating powers from the central government to governments at a sub national level, such as a regional, state or local level. Based on a broad definition of a basic political system, there are two or more levels of government that exist within an established territory and govern through common institutions with overlapping or shared powers as prescribed by a constitution or other law.
A sovereign state, also described as a type of small independent country, that usually consists of a single city and its dependent territories. Historically, this included cities such as Rome, Athens, Carthage, and the Italian city-states during the Renaissance. Today only a handful of sovereign city-states exist, with some disagreement as to which are city-states. A great deal of consensus exists that the term properly applies currently to Singapore, Monaco, and Vatican City. City states are also sometimes called micro-states which however also includes other configurations of very small countries.
Some political scientists have also considered state socialist nations to be forms of corporate republics, with the state assuming full control of all economic and political life and establishing a monopoly on everything within national boundaries – effectively making the state itself amount to a giant corporation.
Rule by a government with the highest and main authority being either a magician, sage, sorcerer, wizard, witch, or some other magic user. This is often similar to a theocratic structured regime and is largely portrayed in fiction and fantasy genre categories.
Ruled by a singularity of all human minds connected via some form of technical or non-technical telepathy acting as a form of super computer to make decisions based on shared patterned experiences to deliver fair and accurate decisions to problems as they arrive. Also known as the "Hive Mind" principle, it differs from voting in that each person would make a decision while in the "hive" the synapses of all minds work together following a longer path of memories to make "one" decision.
^"republic". WordNet 3.0. Dictionary.com. Retrieved 20 March 2009.
^"Republic". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 14 August 2010.
^Montesquieu, Spirit of the Laws, Bk. II, ch. 2–3.
^Steele, David Ramsay (September 1999). From Marx to Mises: Post Capitalist Society and the Challenge of Economic Calculation. Open Court. p. 66. ISBN978-0875484495. Marx distinguishes between two phases of marketless communism: an initial phase, with labor vouchers, and a higher phase, with free access.
^Busky, Donald F. (July 20, 2000). Democratic Socialism: A Global Survey. Praeger. p. 4. ISBN978-0275968861. Communism would mean free distribution of goods and services. The communist slogan, 'From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs' (as opposed to 'work') would then rule
^Schweickart, David. Democratic SocialismArchived 2012-06-17 at the Wayback Machine. Encyclopedia of Activism and Social Justice (2006): "Virtually all (democratic) socialists have distanced themselves from the economic model long synonymous with 'socialism,' i.e. the Soviet model of a non-market, centrally-planned economy...Some have endorsed the concept of 'market socialism,' a post-capitalist economy that retains market competition, but socializes the means of production, and, in some versions, extends democracy to the workplace. Some hold out for a non-market, participatory economy. All democratic socialists agree on the need for a democratic alternative to capitalism."