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An autocracy is a form of government in which one person possesses unlimited power.[1] An autocrat is a person (such as a monarch) ruling with unlimited authority.[2] The term autocrat is derived from the Greek αὐτοκρατία: αὐτός ("self") and κρατείν ("rule"), and may be translated as "one who rules by himself". It is distinct from oligarchy ("rule by the few") and democracy ("rule by the people"). Like "despot", "tyrant" and "dictator", "autocrat" is a loaded word with a negative value judgment.[3]

[edit] Comparison with other forms of government

Autocracy and totalitarianism are related concepts. Autocracy is defined by one individual having unlimited legislative and executive power, while totalitarianism extends to regulating every aspect of public and private life. Totalitarianism does not imply a single ruler, but extends to include absolute rule by any faction or class of elites who recognize no limit to their authority.

Autocracy differs from military dictatorship, as these often take the form of "collective presidencies" such as the South American juntas. However, an autocracy may be totalitarian or be a military dictatorship.

The term monarchy also differs in that it emphasizes the hereditary characteristic, though some Slavic monarchs, specifically Russian Emperors, included the title "autocrat" as part of their official styles.[citation needed] This usage originated in the Byzantine Empire, where the term autokratōr was traditionally employed in Greek to translate the Latin imperator, and was used along with Basileus to mean "emperor".[citation needed] This use remains current in the modern Greek language, where the term is used for any emperor (e.g. the Emperor of Japan), regardless of the actual power of the monarch. Historically, many monarchs ruled autocratically but eventually their power was diminished and dissolved with the introduction of constitutions giving the people the power to make decisions for themselves through elected bodies of government.

The autocrat needs some kind of power structure to rule. Most historical autocrats depended on their nobles, the military, the priesthood or other elite groups.[4] As such, it can be difficult to draw a clear line between historical autocracies and oligarchies.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ Merriam Webster's Dictionary http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/autocracy
  2. ^ Merriam Webster's Dictionary http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/autocrat
  3. ^ Perlman, Merrill (2011-03-28). "Taking Dictator-tion: Not-so-subtle clues". Language Corner (Columbia Journalism Review). http://www.cjr.org/language_corner/taking_dictator-tion.php. Retrieved 2011-04-21. 
  4. ^ Tullock, Gordon. "Autocracy", Springer Science * Business, 1987. ISBN 9024733987
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