12 Important Features of Authoritarianism – Explained!

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Some of the most important features of authoritarianism are as follows:

In its content and form an authoritarianism is a rule involving excessive control of the rules over the people. The state control over the people is excessive. Limited openness is permitted. Centralisation is considered ideal but along with it some limited decentralisation of authority is also tolerated.

In such a system of government, the power is in the hands of a military dictator or a civilian junta. Manipulative politics is practiced. Either modernisation or traditionalism is used to win maintain credibility and popularity of rulers. Religion or an ideology is often used to secure support and serve the ends of the rulers.

Important Features of Authoritarianism:

A.R. Ball, specifies the following features of Authoritarianism or Authortarian state:

1. Limitations on Political Process:

Important limitations are imposed on open political process, political parties and elections.

2. Use of an Ideology:

Ideological principles like racialism or fundamentalism or nationalism often provide some basis for the exercise of state power over the people.

3. Rulers determine all decisions:

The rulers and not the people determine all decisions.

4. Dependence on Coercion and Force:

Authoritarian rulers mostly use force and coercion to command political uniformity and obedience.

5. Less importance to Rights and Liberties:

Civil liberties enjoy a low priority. Governmental control over judiciary and mass media is direct and considered justified in the interest of public good.

6. Authoritarianism can involve Family rule or Military rule:

The basis for rule is found either in traditional family elite or in a new modernising group, often the army, which seizes power by a coup.

7. A Small Group uses all the powers:

Under authoritarianism one group monopolies political power and control.

8. Based on Power and Manipulations:

Manipulations, suppressions and coercion constitute the basis of the power of the rulers.

9. Bureaucracy as the main tool of the rule of the rulers:

The rulers use bureaucracy and police as the instruments of their control over the people.

10. Centralisation of authority in a few hands:

Centralisation of authority is practiced and very often an attempt is made to cover this centralism with the cloak of power-sharing among several political groups who are, however, totally loyal to the ruling group/leader.

11. Use of Propaganda:

Legitimacy for the rulers' authority is secured through declarations, manipulations and propaganda or by the use of the ideology of peace, development and security.

12. Rulers Control Public Opinion:

In an authoritarian system, public opinion is controlled. Only that opinion is allowed to move in society as is deemed favorable for the authority of the ruling group or rulers. In an authoritarian state, the individual and social life is largely controlled by the state i.e. by the government of the state and which is formed by one party or group. When the state control over the life of the people is total, the system is totalitarian, when it is excessive, permitting a limited political participation under strict control, the system is authoritarian.


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