Type of government in which the ruler takes little or no account of public opinion. Sometimes used as a euphemism for dictatorship. (Dictators on "our" side may be called 'authoritarian' - Jeane Kirkpatrick, former US ambassador to the UN)

An authoritarian regime may not go so far as to be totalitarian: that is, it may not try to control every aspect of life, merely suppress political opposition and such organizations as Trade Unions.

There is also the authoritarian personality, a psychological type which sometimes comes to power within a democracy e.g. Mrs. Thatcher in Britain 1979-1990. Boris Yeltsin was accused of it and now Vladimir Putin, as well as several other post-communist leaders of eastern European states and post-colonial states. Such a person may become out of touch with the wishes of the people as a whole. In a democracy they can be voted out. In a dictatorship they cannot be removed until things get very bad. See Libya and Syria during the Arab Spring.

Not to be confused with 'authoritative' = speaking with authority, from knowledge.

Last revised 28/02/12


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