Authoritarianism is a leadership system by which the leader has absolute and authoritarian power and implements his goals and rules without seeking the guidance and advice of his followers.
This leadership system is characterized by central power and the repression of citizens’ individual freedoms .
An authoritarian believes that freedom is secondary to the social order and that the order must emanate from a person.
The leader is the supreme power, and there is no authority superior to him or her. In other words, authoritarians believe that individual freedom can be limited or suppressed to maintain order in society.
Authoritarians do not believe that the people can be trusted to exercise their individual freedom in a civilized manner.
Authoritarianism is among the oldest leadership systems and has been practiced by great nations for thousands of years.
What is an authoritarian regime?
The term authoritarian regime, in its broadest sense, covers all forms of anti-democratic government .
In comparison with democracies, an authoritarian regime does not maintain the institutions and procedures for political participation and competition, fundamental rights and power control that are characteristic of a democracy. For this reason, it lacks democratic legitimacy.
In a more restricted view of the term, the authoritarian regime represents a specific form of autocratic government that has been especially differentiated from totalitarian regimes.
The history of authoritarianism
Human societies have exercised authoritarianism throughout history. Most ancient kingdoms, for example, exercised authoritarianism, where a monarch exercised absolute and complete power and made all decisions regarding the people and the kingdom.
These monarchs used manipulation or even force to get their subjects to follow established laws and rules.
However, the modern form of authoritarianism has its roots in Slavic monarchs who ruled Eastern Europe in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.
These monarchs practiced authoritarianism to distinguish themselves from the constitutional monarchs who ruled other parts of Europe, such as Great Britain.
See also the meaning of monarchical absolutism .
Characteristics of authoritarianism
There are several characteristics that define an authoritarian form of leadership. A fundamental characteristic is that the leader has absolute power in the functioning of a country or organization, as already mentioned.
As a result of having absolute power, the leader’s decisions are final and cannot be compromised. The decision-making process is therefore straightforward , as the leader requires little or no advice.
This decision-making process in an authoritarian system is rigid and totally dependent on the leader’s wishes. Subordinates have limited input into the organization or country’s operation.
In most cases, the leader uses coercion, manipulation, or brute force to make his subordinates or subjects meet their goals.
Characteristics of authoritarianism in a government
In an authoritarian political system, leaders do not trust their followers and feel that matters must be controlled.
An authoritarian government is also characterized by limited political pluralism, with political opponents of the ruling regime facing restrictions imposed by the authoritarian leader.