Sociology Index


Dictatorship, Fascism, Military Dictatorship, Communist State, Stratocracy

Authoritarianism is a form of government characterized by the authority of the state in a republic or union. Authoritarianism is marked by indefinite political tenure. A political system controlled by nonelected rulers. Authoritarian political systems depends on performance or demands of the people and it is a challenge to authoritarianism to adapt to changes or to accommodate growing demands on the part of the populace or even groups within the system. Totalitarianism is considered to be an extreme version of authoritarianism.

Paul C. Sondrol of the Univ of Colorado argues that the while both authoritarians and totalitarianism are forms of autocracy, they differ in "key dichotomies":

(1) Unlike their bland and generally unpopular authoritarian brethren, totalitarian dictators develop a charismatic 'mystique' and a mass-based, pseudo-democratic interdependence with their followers via the conscious manipulation of a prophetic image.

(2) Concomitant role conceptions differentiate totalitarians from authoritatians. Authoritarians view themselves as indvidual beings, largely content to control; and maintain the status quo. Totalitarian self-conceptions are largely teleological. The tyrant is less a person than an indispensable 'function' to guide and reshape the universe.

(3) Consequently, the utilisation of power for personal aggrandizement is more evidence among authoritarians than totalitarians. Lacking the binding appeal of ideology, authoritarians support their rule by a mixture of instilling fear and granting rewards to loyal collaborators, engendering a kleptocracy.
Sondrol, Paul C. Totalitarianism and Authoritarian Dictators: A Comparison of Fidel Castro and Alfredo Stroessner. Journal of Latin American Studies 23(3): October 1991.