A system or group of people who rule or control a country is known as a government. Most keywords that usually describe governments are monarchy, oligarchy, and democracy, mainly of Greek or Roman origin. Therefore, these have existed for more than 2,000 years, but their usefulness has yet to be exhausted. From this, we can deduce that mankind has not altered these much since it existed. When it comes to types of government, it can be tough to classify systems in a single word as governments are ever-evolving, and national governments comprise several types.
According to the Pew Research Centre, the democracy of all types has been the most popular idea around the globe. Across the world, more than 50% believe that representative democracy is a good way of governing their country. In the past few years, people in Sweden have been among the most likely of any country who are highly satisfied with the working of democracy, just like India and Tanzania.
This article discusses several types of government around the globe.
Forms of government around the world
Democracy is the most popular form of government today. It is opposite to an authoritarian government, it is of the people, for the people and by the people, so it exists when the people hold power. It has two types- direct and representative. Representative democracy is a type of democracy wherein people vote for representatives who then vote on policy initiatives (most common in the world), whereas; direct democracy is the one in which people vote on policy initiatives directly. Apart from these, but there are other main types of democracy.
Parliamentary democracy - The head of state (President) differs from the head of government (Prime Minister). For example: India, where there is a Prime Minister and a President. The executive power of the Union is vested in the President, but actually, it is carried on by the Council of ministers.
Presidential democracy - In this type, there is no head of the government but the head of the state. Example: the United States is an example of a presidential democracy. The president is the head of the executive branch of government and the head of state.
Monarchy is not as popular as democracy today. However, it used to be one of the most common types of government historically. In this, one family rules, and their title is passed down through the generations. Let’s look at its types:
Constitutional monarchy - Example: UK in United Kingdom Charles III (after the death of Queen Elizabeth) is the monarch, but Parliament has most government control, so this is a constitutional monarch.
Absolute monarchy - Vatican City is also a monarchy where one figure, the pope, rules as the sovereign. Other examples are Brunei, Eswatini, Oman, Saudi Arabia Have you heard about autocracy, it exists in the form of absolute monarchies and dictatorships today.
Oligarchy (Greek for "few" (óligon) and "rule" (arkho)) is similar to monarchy, which places power with a few people or families, that is a nation’s wealthy elite. As many gets confused with oligarchy and monarchy, one prime difference between these two is that oligarchy is not necessarily dependent on noble birth, but on wealth or those who are deemed most “capable” of ruling unlike monarchy. Let’s check out its types:
Autocracy - Autocracy not only comes under a monarchy, as explained above. But, it can also be compared to oligarchy. One dictator rules everything. Example: Russia has had an oligarchy for centuries. Firstly, Russian czars were autocrats, and later on, after the rise of the Soviet Union, dictators like Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin also took autocratic roles.
Plutocracy - It means rule by the wealthy. Examples: Athens and Sparta in Ancient Greece were ruled by wealthy men who shared king-like power.
Stratocracy - It means rule by the military. Example: Ancient Rome. After the Marian reforms in 107 B.C., the military became the de facto political power of loyalty.
In a totalitarian government, the leaders have absolute power wherein they control the government and their people's personal lives. Citizens have no say in government, this government is forceful and extreme.
Examples: In Nazi Germany, Adolf Hitler used totalitarian tactics to achieve control over Germany, and leaders of the Soviet Union followed autocratic rule (one dictator) but they silenced the opposition even by killing and held absolute power; thus, they also formed the examples of totalitarian government, North Korea in modern times etc. are other examples.
It is a centralized form of government led by a single party that is often authoritarian in its rule. It is inspired by German philosopher Karl Marx, states which follow this type replaces private property and a profit-based economy with public ownership and communal control of economic production like labor, capital goods, and natural resource etc. Countries that retain single-party, Marxist-Leninist rulership are Cuba, Laos, Vietnam, & the People's Republic of China.
It means rule by religion. Modern Iran has a mixed theocratic government with a supreme leader, President and several councils. Still, its Constitution and justice are based on Islamic law. Example: Iran is the most important and powerful theocratic state in the world today.
Socialism is opposite to communism which encourages cooperation rather than competition among citizens. Citizens as a class of a society own the means of production and distribution of goods and services, and a centralized government manages it unlike communism where they replace it public ownership in the favour of the government. Examples: Algeria, Cuba, Tanzania and Venezuela etc.
It originated in ancient greek and refers to a government in which a small, elite ruling class, the aristocrats have power over those in a lower socioeconomic class. Its members are generally chosen based on their education, upbringing, and genetic or family history.
Aristocracy might sound similar to oligarchy, but it is different. How? According to Aristotle, an aristocracy is rule by the best members of society, whereas an oligarchy was characterized as the rule by the few for corrupt and unjust purposes (i.e., rule exercised by bad persons).
Examples: Britain, Germany, and Russia, until World War I, when other government types gained popularity.
Dictatorship goes simultaneously with an authoritarian and totalitarian government. In this type of government as well, a dictator rules. Their authority is maintained using military power, a military dictatorship. Examples: Joseph Stalin’s rule of the Soviet Union and Saddam Hussein’s rule of Iraq and North Korea.
You all might have seen the names of several countries being written as “Republic of ________”. When something is written this way as a true republic, it means the citizens have the power. They have the voting power and the power to change their government. This type is also confusing as it resembles federalism and theocracy. Some countries have a parliamentary system, i.e., a parliamentary republic and countries with presidents are presidential republics.
Examples: Germany, as it is specifically a federal, democratic, constitutional republic. Other examples are Austria, Chile, the Czech Republic, Israel, Mexico, the Philippines, etc.
With history topics being so important for competitive exams, it is also very significant to understand the different types of government. Why so? Say by understanding the dictatorship as a type of government, you can easily go through World War II. Similarly, the partition of India and Pakistan can also be well understood with the help of knowledge on empires or the ruling system.