Democracy and Authoritarianism are in thought not in opposition,
yet in their practical application they can almost often be used
contradictorily. One ruling system exists to serve the people, the other to
serve the interest of the rulers. There are historical, political and social
reasons why countries are plunged in one system and not the other; there are
also reasons why countries succeed in democratisation and others fail. This
paper confronts the meaning of each of ruling system, their rulers, their
benefits and drawbacks and examples of each system in effect globally.
Authoritarianism is a form of autocracy, where is there is one absolute
power (Gandhi & Przeworski, 2007). Democracy is a form of government
introduced in the 5th century by Athenian philosophers, where they suggested
that the people should be represented by an actor elected by the people and
therein every member of society holds equal power (Lasswell, 1950).
When discussed, democracy is usually favoured to democracy. The
idea that different people of all classes can unite to elect one person to
represent them and be their voice is whimsical, especially when considered
opposite to an inaccessible “harsh” system like authoritarianism. But when
looked at closely, the lines between the two systems are blurred and open to
debate. The USA is a country held to international standard as the epitome of
democracy, but when George W. Bush held office, his administration was
authoritarian as demonstrated by his decision after the 9/11 attacks to declare
himself the source of alarming powers to disobey more than 750 laws enacted by
congress (Savage, 2006).
When Barrack Obama followed, he was no different (even if his
actions were praised by a large liberal majority, they still fell under the
authoritarian umbrella) (Jacobson, 2011).
But when negotiating the fine lines of which regime falls under
which system, Juan Linz (1985) and W?odzimierz Weso?owski (1990)
identified certain characteristics that might help define those regimes. They
respectively argued that that which defines a regime is how “the State” is
The State in democracy seen as part of the people. It is created by
the people and reflects their ethics and principles and tries to enact laws
within these borders. The State is constitutional; the constitution is drafted
in parliament and that constitution defines the extent of power that the State
holds. The State is connected to the society and the people it serves, as it
tries to accommodate the needs and rights of the individuals in it.
The final and most important characteristic of a democratic system,
is how it sees the people. People are members of the society and exist
individually from the state, the state lives to serve them and they don’t exist
to serve it. People hold steadfast unwavering rights that the State cannot
In a mirror contrast, an authoritarian regime views humanity in a
very different matter in an attempt to reserve its authority and longevity. The
State in an authoritarian regime ensues to control social interactions and
behaviour, even thoughts, with rules and rigorous regulations. Personal
expression and liberties are squashed and are not encouraged as to not promote
freethinking which leads to defiance. It
is demonstrated under the Nazi regime; the Nazi not only ethnically cleansed
the Jews, but they also killed Jehova’s Witnesses, Homosexuals, the disabled,
Gypsies, Poles, Blacks and resistance fighters (Reid, 2011); not because they
were compounded under their Aryan superiority policies, but because of their
counter-beliefs. The vitality of the Nazi regime depended upon eliminating any
of those who could potentially rebel against their system.
The State is also always above all citizens; its existence and conservation
is all that matters and any violations of civil liberties is inescapable in the
pursuit of State veneration.
The state is often controlled by a small minority, and that
minority creates an impression of societal power. The ruling minority “must and
should govern” as they are best suited for it historically, academically, and
by leadership so they are not elected by the people, even if elections are
held. They pass the rule around to each other as if entrusted to them by
nature, simultaneously deceiving the people into thinking their best interest
is in the heart of the State.