• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

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

Extracts from this document...


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.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Politics section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE Politics essays

  1. Outline the main principles of the Constitution.

    Currently Labour are operating a min[YN5]ority government, which is trying to rectify a very apathetical, and often indifferent population. Distinguish between devolution and federalism[YN6] Devolution and federalism both describe the distribution of power between a central or national government and subordinate bodies, commonly regional assemblies but also local and city government.

  2. Evaluate the factors that affect the legitimacy of political systems

    Just as policies can increase legitimacy they too can decrease legitimacy. If a government cannot provide the basics for their people then the legitimacy inevitably is lessened. If people cannot rely their government to give them a decent lifestyle then their trust in that government has no grounds to exist.

  1. Describe the Stages in Which Germany Changed From an Authoritarian to a Democratic Republic ...

    The new civilian government was concerned to maintain order and organised an election for a constituent assemble which would draw up a democratic constitution. Ebert believed that the regime needed support from the traditional elite as was prepared to co-operate with them.

  2. Is the UK democratic?

    The European Parliament's powers to initiate policy are negligible, and its power to amend policy is minimal. In 1974 Edward Heath asked "Who governs Britain?", and due to the lack of a written constitution thirty years on, Britain is governed by judges, by officials and by Eurocrats.

  1. Minority Rights, Identity Politics and Gender in Bangladesh: Current Problems and Issues

    The intricate intertwining of the environment and peoples' lives and livelihood is a noticeable feature in this region or rather it was until the influence of the mono-culture of shrimp cultivation began to disarticulate this organic link between people and environment.

  2. Is the Media an independent political actor?

    that because the press is owned by big business concerns which exist to make a profit, the press is bound to favour the party of capitalism."4 Politics UK corroborates this statement questioning, "Does it seem likely that such organisations will give a fair hearing to political viewpoints hostile to the capitalist system of which they are an important part?"


    Parliament as a whole forms the legislature, while the role of the judiciary is taken by the courts and perhaps to a certain extent by tribunals. Montesquieu's theories had a lot of influence, in particular in the growing USA. His model of separation of powers is still the one against which others are judged.

  2. The United States uses a presidential system of government and is a stable democracy; ...

    While the American president is much restricted, the Brazilian president is allowed to deal with Congress in many ways. He can declare decrees which are provisional regulations with the force of law. He can also declare bills to be urgent therefore forcing Congress to make prompt decisions on his proposals.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work