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Government refers to the legislators, administrators, and arbitrators in the administrative bureaucracy who control a state at a given time, and to the system of government by which they are organized.[1][2] Government is the means by which state policy is enforced, as well as the mechanism for determining the policy of the state. A condition of lawlessness or political disorder brought about by the absence of governmental authority[3] is called Anarchy.

The word government is derived from the Latin verb gubernare, an infinitive meaning "to govern" or "to manage".

States are served by a continuous succession of different governments.[4] Each successive government is composed of a body of individuals who control and decide for the state. Their function is to enforce laws, legislate new ones, and arbitrate conflicts. In some societies, this group is often a self-perpetuating or hereditary class. In other societies, such as democracies, the political roles remain, but there is frequent turnover of the people actually filling the positions.[5]

In most Western societies, there is a clear distinction between a government and the state. Public disapproval of a particular government (expressed, for example, by not re-electing an incumbent) does not necessarily represent disapproval of the state itself (i.e. of the particular framework of government). However, in some totalitarian regimes, there is not a clear distinction between the regime and the state. In fact, leaders in such regimes often attempt to deliberately blur the lines between the two, in order to conflate their interests with those of the polity.[6]

Types of governments

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States by their systems of government as of April 2006.
  presidential republics, full presidential system
  presidential republics, parliament supervising an executive presidency
  presidential republics, semi-presidential system
  parliamentary constitutional monarchies in which the monarch does not personally exercise power
  constitutional monarchies in which the monarch personally exercises power, often alongside a weak parliament
  states whose constitutions grant only a single party the right to govern
  states where constitutional provisions for government have been suspended
  • Authoritarian – Authoritarian governments are characterized by an emphasis on the authority of the state in a republic or union. It is a political system controlled by unelected rulers who usually permit some degree of individual freedom.
  • Constitutional monarchy – A government that has a monarch, but one whose powers are limited by law or by a formal constitution, such as the United Kingdom[7][8]
  • Constitutional republic – A government whose powers are limited by law or a formal constitution, and chosen by a vote amongst at least some sections of the populace (Ancient Sparta was in its own terms a republic, though most inhabitants were disenfranchised; The early United States was a republic, but the large numbers of African Americans and women did not have the vote). Republics which exclude sections of the populace from participation will typically claim to represent all citizens (by defining people without the vote as "non-citizens").
  • Democracy – Rule by a government (usually a Constitutional Republic or Constitutional Monarchy) chosen by election where most of the populace are enfranchised. The key distinction between a democracy and other forms of constitutional government is usually taken to be that the right to vote is not limited by a person's wealth or race (the main qualification for enfranchisement is usually having reached a certain age). A Democratic government is, therefore, one supported (at least at the time of the election) by a majority of the populace (provided the election was held fairly). A "majority" may be defined in different ways. There are many "power-sharing" (usually in countries where people mainly identify themselves by race or religion) or "electoral-college" or "constituency" systems where the government is not chosen by a simple one-vote-per-person headcount.
  • Dictatorship – Rule by an individual who has full power over the country. The term may refer to a system where the dictator came to power, and holds it, purely by force - but it also includes systems where the dictator first came to power legitimately but then was able to amend the constitution so as to, in effect, gather all power for themselves.[9] See also Autocracy and Stratocracy.
  • Emirate - similar to a monarchy or sultanate, but a government in which the supreme power is in the hands of an emir (the ruler of a Muslim state); the emir may be an absolute overlord or a sovereign with constitutionally limited authority[3].
  • Monarchy – Rule by an individual who has inherited the role and expects to bequeath it to their heir.[10]
  • Oligarchy – Rule by a small group of people who share similar interests or family relations.[11]
  • Plutocracy – A government composed of the wealthy class. Any of the forms of government listed here can be plutocracy. For instance, if all of the voted representatives in a republic are wealthy, then it is a republic and a plutocracy.
  • Theocracy – Rule by a religious elite.[12]
  • Totalitarian – Totalitarian governments regulate nearly every aspect of public and private life.

See also


  1. "government". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. November 2010.
  2. Bealey, Frank, ed. (1999). "government". The Blackwell dictionary of political science: a user's guide to its terms. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 147. ISBN 9780631206958.
  3. 3.0 3.1 CIA - The World Factbook - Field Listing :: Government type
  4. Flint, Colin & Taylor, Peter (2007). Political Geography: World Economy, Nation-State, and Locality (5th ed.). Pearson/Prentice Hall. p. 137. ISBN 978-0-13-196012-1.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  5. Barclay, Harold (1990). People Without Government: An Anthropology of Anarchy. Left Bank Books. p. 31. ISBN 1871082161.
  6. Holsti, Kalevi Jaako (1996). The state, war, and the state of war. Cambridge University Press. pp. 84–85. ISBN 9780521577908.
  7. Fotopoulos, Takis, The Multidimensional Crisis and Inclusive Democracy. (Athens: Gordios, 2005).(English translation of the book with the same title published in Greek).
  8. "Victorian Electronic Democracy : Glossary". July 28, 2005. Archived from the original on 2007-12-13.
  9. American 503
  10. American 1134
  11. American 1225
  12. American 1793

Further reading

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