List of forms of government | forms of government by power source

Forms of government by power source

Term Description Examples
Autocracy Autocracy is a system of government in which supreme power (social and political) is concentrated in the hands of one person or polity, whose decisions are subject to neither external legal restraints nor regularized mechanisms of popular control (except perhaps for the implicit threat of a coup d'état or mass insurrection). Absolute monarchy (such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Brunei and Eswatini) and dictatorships (also including North Korea) are the main modern day forms of autocracy.
Democracy 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.
Oligarchy Oligarchy, meaning "rule of the few", is a form of power structure in which power rests with a small number of people. These people might be distinguished by nobility, wealth, family ties, education or corporate, religious or military control. Such states are often controlled by families who typically pass their influence from one generation to the next, but inheritance is not a necessary condition for the application of this term.

Types of democracy

In democracies, large proportions of the population are provided the means either to make decisions themselves or to elect representatives to make those decisions instead. Usually, though not necessarily (see Demarchy), this means voting. Significant in most vote-based democracies are political parties: groups of people with similar ideas about how a country or region should be governed. Different political parties will have different ideas about how the government should handle different problems.

Note: These categories are not exclusive.

Many democracies are vulnerable to various forms of abuse, which may transform the government into an autocracy or oligarchy. Most autocracies or oligarchies still call themselves democracies. Ex: Democratic People's Republic of Korea

Term Definition Examples
Demarchy 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.

  • Ancient Athens[8]
  • Northern Italy and Venice (12th–18th century)[9]
Direct democracy Variant of democracy; government in which the people represent themselves and vote directly for new laws and public policy. Swiss cantons of Appenzell Innerrhoden and Glarus
Electocracy 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
Liberal democracy Variant of democracy; a form of government in which representative democracy operates under the principles of liberalism. It is characterised by fair, free, and competitive elections between multiple distinct political parties, a separation of powers into different branches of government, the rule of law in everyday life as part of an open society, and the protection of human rights and civil liberties for all persons. To define the system in practice, liberal democracies often draw upon a constitution, either formally written or uncodified, to delineate the powers of government and enshrine the social contract. After a period of sustained expansion throughout the 20th century, liberal democracy became the predominant political system in the world. A liberal democracy may take various constitutional forms: it may be a republic, such as France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, or the United States; or a constitutional monarchy, such as Japan or Spain. It may have a presidential system (Colombia, Brazil, Mexico, or the United States), a semi-presidential system (France, or Portugal), or a parliamentary system (Australia, Canada, Germany, Ireland, India, Italy, or New Zealand).
Liquid democracy

Variant of democracy; government in which the people represent themselves or choose to temporarily delegate their vote to another voter to vote for new laws and public policy.

Experiments have mostly been conducted on a local-level or exclusively through online platforms
Representative democracy Variant of democracy; wherein the people or citizens of a country elect representatives to create and implement public policy in place of active participation by the people. Almost all democratic systems
Social democracy 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.
Soviet democracy 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 the final years of the Russian Empire, and early years of the Soviet Union
Totalitarian democracy 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.

Types of oligarchy

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.

Some historical examples of oligarchy are the Roman Republic, in which only males of the nobility could run for office and only wealthy males could vote, and the Athenian democracy, which used sortition to elect candidates, almost always male, Greek, educated citizens holding a minimum of land, wealth and status. Some critics of capitalism and/or representative democracy think of the United States and the United Kingdom as oligarchies.

Note: These categories are not exclusive.

Term Definition
Aristocracy Rule by the nobility; a system of governance where political power is in the hands of a small class of privileged individuals who claim a higher birth than the rest of society.
Ergatocracy 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.
Geniocracy Rule by the intelligent; a system of governance where creativity, innovation, intelligence and wisdom are required for those who wish to govern. Comparable to noocracy.
Kraterocracy Rule by the strong; a system of governance where those who are strong enough to seize power through physical force, social maneuvering or political cunning.
Kritarchy 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,[12] as well as the Islamic Courts Union, is a historical example.[13]
Meritocracy Rule by the meritorious; a system of governance where groups are selected on the basis of people's ability, knowledge in a given area, and contributions to society.
Netocracy 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.
Noocracy Rule by the wise; a system of governance in which decision making is in the hands of philosophers. (advocated by Plato)
Plutocracy 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.
Particracy Rule by a dominant political party (or parties).
Stratocracy 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 Spartan city-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.
Technocracy 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.[14] In a technocracy, decision makers would be selected based upon how knowledgeable and skillful they are in their field.
Theocracy Rule by a religious elite; a system of governance composed of religious institutions in which the state and the church are traditionally or constitutionally the same entity. The Vatican's (see Pope), Iran's (see Supreme Leader), Caliphates and other Islamic states are historically considered theocracies.
Timocracy 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.

Types of autocracy

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.

Historical examples of autocracy include the Roman Empire, Nazi Germany and Soviet Union.

Term Definition
Civilian Dictatorship 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.
Military Dictatorship 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.

Pejorative attributes

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.

Term Definition
Banana republic 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 stratified social classes, such as a great, impoverished ergatocracy and a ruling plutocracy, composed of the aristocracy of business, politics, and the military.[15] 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.[16] 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.[16] 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.[17]
Bankocracy Rule by banks;[18] 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.
Corporatocracy Rule by corporations; a system of governance where an economic and political system is controlled by corporations or corporate interests.[19] Its use is generally pejorative. Examples include company rule in India, United States and business voters for the City of London Corporation.
Kakistocracy 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.[citation needed]
Kleptocracy 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.
Nepotocracy 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.
Ochlocracy 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".

Other attributes

Term Definition
Adhocracy Rule by a government based on relatively disorganised principles and institutions as compared to a bureaucracy, its exact opposite.
Anocracy 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.[20]

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".[21] 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.

Band society 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.
Bureaucracy Rule by a system of governance with many bureaus, administrators, and petty officials
Cybersynacy 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.
Nomocracy 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.
Cybercracy Rule by a computer, which descides based on computer code. This is closely linked to Cybersynacy and could be the 'solution' to communism. This type of ruling appears in the book The Machine Stops by E. M. Forster.