AskDefine | Define dictatorships

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. Plural of dictatorship

Extensive Definition

A dictatorship is an autocratic form of government in which the government is ruled by a dictator. It has two possible meanings:
  • Roman dictator was a political office of the Roman Republic. Roman dictators were allocated absolute power during times of emergency. Their power was originally neither arbitrary nor unaccountable, being subject to law and requiring retrospective justification. There were no such dictatorships after the beginning of the 2nd century BCE, and later dictators such as Sulla and the Roman Emperors exercised power much more personally and arbitrarily.
  • In contemporary usage, dictatorship refers to an autocratic form of absolute rule by leadership unrestricted by law, constitutions, or other social and political factors within the state.
For some scholars, like Joseph C.W. Chan from the University of Hong Kong, dictatorship is a form of government that has the power to govern without consent of those being governed, while totalitarianism describes a state that regulates nearly every aspect of public and private behavior of the people. In other words, dictatorship concerns the source of the governing power (where the power comes from) and totalitarianism concerns the scope of the governing power (what the government regulates). In this sense, dictatorship (government without people's consent) is a contrast to democracy (government whose power comes from people) and totalitarianism (government controls every aspect of people's life) corresponds to liberalism (government emphasizes individual right and liberty). Though the definitions of the terms differ, they are related in reality as most of the dictatorship states tend to show totalitarian characteristics. When governments' power does not come from the people, their power is not limited and tend to expand their scope of power to control every aspect of people's life.

Postwar Era and the Cold War

In the postwar era, dictatorship became a frequent feature of military government, especially in Latin America, Asia, and Africa. In the case of many African or Asian former colonies, after achieving their independence in the postwar wave of decolonization, presidential regimes were gradually transformed into personal dictatorships. These regimes often proved unstable, with the personalization of power in the hands of the dictator and his/her associates, making the political system uncertain.
It's often alleged that the rise of these dictatorships were substantially influenced by the Cold War dynamics. Both the United States and the USSR managed to expand or maintain their influence zones by financing paramilitary and political groups and encouraging coups d'état, especially in Africa, that have led many countries to brutal civil wars and consequent manifestations of authoritarianism. In Latin America the threat of either communism or capitalism was often used as justification for dictatorship.

Dictatorships in fiction

In fiction, dictatorship has sometimes been portrayed as the political system of choice for controlling dystopian societies, such as in:

Further reading

  • Totalitarian Dictatorship and Autocracy
  • The Logic of Political Survival
dictatorships in Arabic: ديكتاتورية
dictatorships in Aragonese: Ditadura
dictatorships in Asturian: Dictadura
dictatorships in Min Nan: To̍k-chhâi
dictatorships in Belarusian (Tarashkevitsa): Дыктатура
dictatorships in Bosnian: Diktatura
dictatorships in Bulgarian: Диктатура
dictatorships in Catalan: Dictadura
dictatorships in Czech: Diktatura
dictatorships in Danish: Diktatur
dictatorships in German: Diktatur
dictatorships in Estonian: Diktatuur
dictatorships in Modern Greek (1453-): Δικτατορία
dictatorships in Spanish: Dictadura
dictatorships in Esperanto: Diktatoreco
dictatorships in Basque: Diktadura
dictatorships in Persian: دیکتاتوری
dictatorships in French: Dictature
dictatorships in Galician: Ditadura
dictatorships in Korean: 독재
dictatorships in Hindi: तानाशाही
dictatorships in Croatian: Diktatura
dictatorships in Indonesian: Diktatur
dictatorships in Icelandic: Einræði
dictatorships in Italian: Dittatura
dictatorships in Hebrew: דיקטטורה
dictatorships in Georgian: დიქტატურა
dictatorships in Swahili (macrolanguage): udikteta
dictatorships in Kurdish: Dîktatorî
dictatorships in Ladino: Diktadura
dictatorships in Latin: Dictatura
dictatorships in Latvian: Diktatūra
dictatorships in Lithuanian: Diktatūra
dictatorships in Hungarian: Diktatúra
dictatorships in Macedonian: Диктатура
dictatorships in Malayalam: ഏകാധിപത്യം
dictatorships in Dutch: Dictatuur
dictatorships in Japanese: 独裁政治
dictatorships in Norwegian: Diktatur
dictatorships in Norwegian Nynorsk: Diktatur
dictatorships in Narom: Dictatuthe
dictatorships in Occitan (post 1500): Dictatura
dictatorships in Polish: Dyktatura
dictatorships in Portuguese: Ditadura
dictatorships in Romanian: Dictatură
dictatorships in Russian: Диктатура
dictatorships in Sicilian: Dittatura
dictatorships in Simple English: Dictatorship
dictatorships in Slovak: Diktatúra
dictatorships in Slovenian: Diktatura
dictatorships in Serbian: Диктатура
dictatorships in Serbo-Croatian: Diktatura
dictatorships in Finnish: Diktatuuri
dictatorships in Swedish: Diktatur
dictatorships in Thai: ระบอบเผด็จการ
dictatorships in Vietnamese: Độc tài
dictatorships in Turkish: Diktatörlük
dictatorships in Ukrainian: Диктатура
dictatorships in Venetian: Ditatura
dictatorships in Samogitian: Dėktatūra
dictatorships in Chinese: 专政
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