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What are the main differences between 'liberal democratic', 'authoritarian' and 'totalitarian' political systems?

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What are the main differences between 'liberal democratic', 'authoritarian' and 'totalitarian' political systems? Defining political systems is a difficult thing to do as no single system is completely static, they often change dependant on things like war and trends in regimes, such as the recent insurgence in 'liberal democracies' means that the classifications of systems changes over time. The British Westminster system is considered to be a 'liberal democracy' however in the Second World War there were several powers exercised by the government which do not fit with this type of system for example control was exercised over the media and labour and elections were put off. These powers were only used as a result of the emergency situation, seemingly with the support of the masses and once the war was over the situation reverted to that of the pre war era but this illustrate how it can be difficult to apply all encompassing guidelines which finitely define a certain political system. Taking this into consideration though it is still important to have some level of classification in place so that the systems can first of all be more easily understood and also so that they can be assessed as to how effective they are and how they could be improved. In order to consider the differences between three political systems: 'liberal democratic', 'authoritarian' and 'totalitarian' the individual definitions must first be established then any similarities and differences evaluated and finally the practical consequences of these must be highlighted. ...read more.


Another sub category would be a military regime where the power has more been seized and the military are either directly in control or they are in close alliance with appointed government officials. Military regimes are in use in Pakistan. Totalitarianism is an extremist authoritarian system which is not really in use anymore. Totalitarianism has been defined by Fredrich and Brzezinski (1963); a totalitarian state is based on a strong, clearly defined ideology and operates under a one party political system. The ideology seeks to change society and the people who make it up; it is a completely invasive system which controls all aspects of life. The media and mass communication are controlled by the state, presenting only the messages the party want to be heard. The masses are kept in line by force with a brutal police system in place. The final characteristic identified by Fredrich and Brzeznski is that the state exercises complete control over the economy. All of these combine to produce the desired result of eradicating civil society and 'the private'. Linz (2000) defined totalitarian systems as 'a regime form for completely organizing political life and society' Hague (2004: 53). The fascist and communists states which existed in Europe in the twentieth century were totalitarian in style. The first, most fundamental difference between 'liberal democratic' and 'authoritarian' regimes is the democracy; non-democratic states are authoritarian. ...read more.


Trying instead, wherever possible to keep good relations with any country they may wish to trade with. The differences between authoritarian and totalitarian system are obviously harder to define as the systems are so similar in many ways. The main theoretical difference, which obviously spurns other practical ones, is that under a totalitarian regime there is a very definite ideology and the aim of the regime to penetrate every aspect of life and change society with this ideal in mind. Authoritarian states on the other hand operate merely as a system of power 'from above' where the subjects have no recourse. Because of this difference a totalitarian system will be much more extreme and invasive than an authoritarian one. In a totalitarian state there is no civil society, trade unions, businesses etc independent of government. Totalitarian systems, as they are so radical by definition do not offer any long term options; the regimes is attempting and enforcing change, once this change has been successfully implemented the system would then strictly speaking no longer be a totalitarian state and would simply be authoritarian. In conclusion authoritarian and totalitarian systems are very similar though they do have some fundamental differences whereas liberal democracy is inextricably different from both. The most important difference is the legitimacy of the power being exercised by the government. This massively affects the stability of a nation; people who feel they have control over the politics in their country are much less likely to revolt. ...read more.

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