What Is Authoritarianism?

Totalitarianism begins in contempt for what you have. The second step is the notion: “Things must change — no matter how, Anything is better than what we have.” Totalitarian rulers organize this kind of mass sentiment, and by organizing it articulate it, and by articulating it make the people somehow love it.

- Hannah Arendt, Interview with Roger Errera (1978)

Podcast of the Day

What is fuelling the widespread appeal of authoritarianism and the trend towards overtly anti-democratic political rhetoric? By privileging individual choice and minimising civic virtue, is liberal democracy simply a victim of its own ‘success’?

Listen to The Minefield episode: Powers plays: authoritarianism and the decline of democracy

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Short Article of the Day

Why have people welcomed tyrannical, authoritarian leaders time after time? For millennia, philosophers and political theorists have tried to explain why we willingly participate in our own oppression by submitting to authoritarian leaders. And today, the ominous rise of authoritarian regimes the world over renders this question as pressing as ever.

Plato was one of the first and most influential thinkers to address the problem of tyranny. He argued in the Republic, written around 380 BCE, that democratic states are destined to collapse into tyranny...

Continue reading David Livingstone Smith's article: The omnipotent victim: how tyrants work up a crowd's devotion

Further Reading

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:

  1. Limited political pluralism, that is such regimes place constraints on political institutions and groups like legislatures, political parties and interest groups;
  2. 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;
  3. Minimal social mobilization most often caused by constraints on the public such as suppression of political opponents and anti-regime activity;
  4. Informally defined executive power with often vague and shifting powers...

Continue reading the Wikipedia article on Authoritarianism

Related Topics

If you’re interested in authoritarianism, check out some of the following related topics for more resources:

 Authority | Equality | Free Speech | Freedom | Political Philosophy | Populism | Power | Sociology

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