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Dictatorship

Power in a dictatorship    is held by a single person (or a very small group) that wields complete and absolute authority over a government and population. Like some absolute monarchies, dictatorships may be corrupt and seek to limit or even eradicate the liberties of the general population. Dictators use a variety of means to perpetuate their authority. Economic and military might, as well as intimidation and brutality are often foremost among their tactics; individuals are less likely to rebel when they are starving and fearful. Many dictators start out as military leaders and are conditioned to the use of violence against opposition.

Some dictators also possess the personal appeal that Max Weber identified with a charismatic leader. Subjects of such a dictator may believe that the leader has special ability or authority and may be willing to submit to his or her authority. The late Kim Jong-Il, North Korean dictator, and his successor, Kim Jong-Un, exemplify this type of charismatic dictatorship.

Some dictatorships do not align themselves with any particular belief system or ideology; the goal of this type of regime is usually limited to preserving the authority of the dictator. A totalitarian dictatorship    is even more oppressive and attempts to control all aspects of its subjects’ lives; including occupation, religious beliefs, and number of children permitted in each family. Citizens may be forced to publicly demonstrate their faith in the regime by participating in marches and demonstrations.

Some “benevolent” dictators, such as Napoleon and Anwar Sadat, are credited with advancing their people’s standard of living or exercising a moderate amount of evenhandedness. Others grossly abuse their power. Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Saddam Hussein, Cambodia’s Pol Pot, and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, for instance, are heads of state who earned a reputation for leading through fear and intimidation.

Kim Jong-Il of North Korea is shown wearing sunglasses amid a group of uniformed North Korean soldiers.
Dictator Kim Jong-Il of North Korea was a charismatic leader of an absolute dictatorship. His followers responded emotionally to the death of their leader in 2011. (Photo courtesy of babeltrave/flickr)

Democracy

A democracy    is a form of government that strives to provide all citizens with an equal voice, or vote, in determining state policy, regardless of their level of socioeconomic status. Another important fundamental of the democratic state is the establishment and governance of a just and comprehensive constitution that delineates the roles and responsibilities of leaders and citizens alike.

Democracies, in general, ensure certain basic rights for their citizens. First and foremost, citizens are free to organize political parties and hold elections. Leaders, once elected, must abide by the terms of the given nation’s constitution and are limited in the powers they can exercise, as well as in the length of the duration of their terms. Most democratic societies also champion freedom of individual speech, the press, and assembly, and they prohibit unlawful imprisonment. Of course, even in a democratic society, the government constrains citizens' total freedom to act however they wish. A democratically elected government does this by passing laws and writing regulations that, at least ideally, reflect the will of the majority of its people.

Although the United States champions the democratic ideology, it is not a “pure” democracy. In a purely democratic society, all citizens would vote on all proposed legislation, and this is not how laws are passed in the United States. There is a practical reason for this: a pure democracy would be hard to implement. Thus, the United States is a constitution-based federal republic in which citizens elect representatives to make policy decisions on their behalf. The term representative democracy    , which is virtually synonymous with republic , can also be used to describe a government in which citizens elect representatives to promote policies that favor their interests. In the United States, representatives are elected at local and state levels, and the votes of the Electoral College determine who will hold the office of president. Each of the three branches of the U.S. government—the executive, judicial, and legislative—is held in check by the other branches.

Summary

Nations are governed by different political systems, including monarchies, oligarchies, dictatorships, and democracies. Generally speaking, citizens of nations wherein power is concentrated in one leader or a small group are more likely to suffer violations of civil liberties and experience economic inequality. Many nations that are today organized around democratic ideals started out as monarchies or dictatorships but have evolved into more egalitarian systems. Democratic ideals, although hard to implement and achieve, promote basic human rights and justice for all citizens.

Short answer

Do you feel the United States has become an oligarchy? Why, or why not?

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Explain how an absolute monarchy differs from a dictatorship.

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In which form of government do average citizens have the least political power? What options might they have for exerting political power under this type of regime?

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Further research

The Tea Party is among the highest-profile grassroots organizations active in U.S. politics today. What is its official platform? Examine the Tea Party website to find out more information at (External Link) .

References

Balz, Dan. 2014. "For GOP, demographic opportunities, challenges await". The Washington Post . Retrieved December 11, 2014. ( (External Link) )

Dunbar, John (2012). “The Citizen’s United Decision and Why It Matters” The Center for Public Integrity. October 18, 2012. Retrieved October 2, 2014 ( (External Link) )

Krugman, Paul. 2011. “Oligarchy, American Style.” New York Times , November 3. Retrieved February 14, 2012 ( (External Link) ).

PBS Online. “Gilded Age.” 1999. The American Experience . Retrieved February 14, 2012 ( (External Link) ).

Schulz, Thomas. 2011. “The Second Gilded Age: Has America Become an Oligarchy?” Spiegel Online International , October 28. Retrieved February 14, 2012 ( (External Link) ).

Winters, Jeffrey. 2011. “Oligarchy and Democracy.” American Interest , November/December. Retrieved February 17, 2012 ( (External Link) ).

Questions & Answers

What is sociology
Celestina Reply
sociology is the study of groups and their way of interaction in the society
lucky
discuss the roles the family has failed as a primary agent of socialisation?
Lotyang Reply
the family has failed as a primary agent of socialisation because it has not been able to inculcate the needed values to bring unity in the society
Damba
please what are the stages in social movement
faith Reply
social movement is the movement where people gathered and keep their own demand to fullfill it social movement generally casus by name of women,untouchbility,dominance in the country
unknown
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unknown
stages in social movement involved people's coming together for the means of interaction and for the welfare of the society
lucky
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elia Reply
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unknown
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family is a group of people who are lived under one roof and they have a biological relation.
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namiak Reply
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what is the origin and development of sociology?
namiak
Do you believe that Americans may be somewhat more ethnocentric than people in the other Western industrial nations? If so, why might this be the case? If not, why is this widely believed?
Elizabeth Reply
first of all the nation have the belive an faith in their ritualistic religion people go in different temple but they don't knew the culture and the ritual of all religions so human make the braches of religion and human follows it also with this Americans also follow their own god and goodness ...
unknown
Yes, because Americans are more inclined to their culture and want to superimpose theirs to the entire world. They always show their supremacy.
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cornelius Reply
people deviate from scital norms because their reputation matter that is why they do not involve themself in big issue of society to solve the problem. They see what is going on they are aslo intrested to knew but they not say anything on that time its a human nature which is selfishness kind...
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Jobee Reply
Sociology is the study of society, patterns of social relationships, social interaction and culture of everyday life. 
Aamirah
Sociology is simply the study of culture and society
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sociology is a social science that studies human behavior
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sociology stands socious. sociology is the study of social awareness to knew the knowlege of social culture and social issue .sociology aways follow the instruction of social behavior in the society . it have some rule and regulation
unknown
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Sociology deals with the study of society, patterns of social relationships, social interactions and culture of everyday life
Steve
the relevant of sociology
Tamba
The study of sociology helps the individual to understand human society and how social system work....
ogbe
What is Sociology? The first social scientist to use the term sociology was a Frenchman by the name of Auguste Comte who lived from 1798-1857. As coined by Comte, the term sociology is a combination of two words. The first part of the term is a Latin, socius- that may variously mean society, associ
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Source:  OpenStax, Introduction to sociology 2e. OpenStax CNX. Jan 20, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11762/1.6
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