|Part of the Politics series|
|Basic forms of government|
An autocracy is a system of government in which supreme power is concentrated in the hands of one person, whose decisions are subject to neither external legal restraints nor regularized mechanisms of popular control (except perhaps for the implicit threat of a coup d'état or mass insurrection). Absolute monarchy and dictatorship are the main historical forms of autocracy. In very early times, the term "autocrat" was coined as a favorable feature of the ruler, having some connection to the concept of "lack of conflicts of interests".
History and etymology
In the Medieval Greek language, the term Autocrates was used for anyone holding the title emperor, regardless of the actual power of the monarch. Some historical Slavic monarchs, such as Russian tsars and emperors, included the title Autocrat as part of their official styles, distinguishing them from the constitutional monarchs elsewhere in Europe.
Comparison with other forms of government
Both totalitarianism and military dictatorship are often identified with, but need not be, an autocracy. Totalitarianism is a system where the state strives to control every aspect of life and civil society. It can be headed by a supreme dictator, making it autocratic, but it can also have a collective leadership such as a commune, junta, or single political party.
Because autocrats need a power structure to rule, it can be difficult to draw a clear line between historical autocracies and oligarchies. Most historical autocrats depended on their nobles, the military, the priesthood or other elite groups. Some autocracies are rationalized by assertion of divine right.
The Roman Empire: In 27 B.C., Augustus founded the Roman Empire following the end of the Republic of Rome. Augustus officially kept the Roman Senate while effectively consolidating all of the real power in himself. Rome was peaceful and prosperous until the dictatorial rule of Commodus starting in 161 A.D. The third century saw invasions from the barbarians as well as economic decline. Both Diocletian and Constantine ruled as totalitarian leaders, strengthening the control of the emperor. The empire grew extremely large, and was ruled by a tetrarchy, instituted by Diocletian. Eventually, it was split into two halves: the Western (Roman) and the Eastern (Byzantine). The Western Roman Empire fell in 476 after civic unrest, further economic decline, and invasions led to the surrender of Romulus Augustus to Odoacer, a German king.
|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Autocracy.|
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- Pinker, Steven (2011). The Better Angels Of Our Nature. Pg.341: Penguin. ISBN 978-0-141-03464-5.
- Tullock, Gordon. "Autocracy", Springer Science+Business, 1987. ISBN 90-247-3398-7
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- Felix Bethke: Research on Autocratic Regimes: Divide et Impera, Katapult-Magazine (2015-03-15)