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What is Autocracy? definition and characteristics

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Autocracy is a form of governance in which power is concentrated in the hands of a single individual or a small ruling elite. Within autocratic regimes, the ruler exercises unchecked authority, often suppressing political opposition, controlling the media, and limiting the rights and freedoms of citizens.
Autocracies have various forms, including dictatorships, absolute monarchies, and one-party states, each characterized by a unique set of features. In this article, we will explore autocracy with definitions and characteristics.


What is Autocracy?

The word autocratic means monopoly or dictatorship. It comes from two Greek words ‘autos’ meaning “self” and ‘Kratos’ meaning “rule”. In an autocratic system, the ruler typically exercises absolute and unrestricted power, without any meaningful checks and balances.
Autocratic leaders often make decisions and policies without consulting or considering the opinions or interests of the general people. They use their power to suppress dissent, control the media, limit political opposition, and curtail individual freedoms and civil liberties.
In this system, the sovereignty of the people is violated and they have to be deprived of their basic rights. Autocracies have various forms, including dictatorships, absolute monarchies, and one-party states.
Autocratic states are sometimes called authoritarian states. An example of the autocratic system of government is Chile, under General Augusto Pinochet.
Another example of an authoritarian government is the leadership of Adolf Hitler in Germany from 1933-1945. As a result, a devastating war like World War II happened that lasted almost 5 years.

Definition of Autocracy

Here are the definitions of autocracy provided by popular political scientists:
Autocracy is a system of government where the highest power is concentrated in the hands of one person. In short, the government by one person with absolute power is called autocracy.
“Autocracy refers to a system of government where political power is concentrated in the hands of one person or a small group, who exercise unlimited or unaccountable authority.” – Larry Diamond
“Autocracy is a political system in which power is monopolized by a single individual or a small group, who exercise unchecked authority and lack accountability to the broader population.” – Adam Przeworski
“Autocracy is a form of government where political power is controlled by a single individual or a small group, often characterized by the absence of free and fair elections, limited political freedoms, and little or no separation of powers.” – Andreas Schedler

Characteristics of Autocracy 

Here are some common characteristics of autocracy
1. Concentration of Power:
Autocracies are characterized by a centralization of power in the hands of a single individual or a small group. The ruler or ruling elite holds significant authority and decision-making power.
2. Limited Checks and Balances:
In an autocratic system of government, no checks and balances on the ruler’s power exist. The judiciary, legislative bodies, and other institutions may be weak or subservient to the ruling authority, limiting their ability to act as independent arbiters.
3. Absence of Free and Fair Elections:
An autocratic system has no legal electoral processes. Elections may be manipulated, rigged, or tightly controlled to ensure the ruling authority power.
4. Limited Civil rights:
Autocracies frequently destroy civil rights and individual freedoms. Freedom of expression, association, and assembly may be restricted, and dissenting voices may face censorship, persecution, or imprisonment.
5. Lack of Accountability:
Autocratic rulers have no accountability for their actions. They may be immune from legal repercussions, operate above the law, or control the legal system.
6. State Control:
Autocracies tend to have significant state control over key institutions, resources, and the economy. The ruling authority may use state resources for personal gain.
7. Suppression of Opposition:
Autocratic rulers hold power by oppressing political opposition. It can be in many forms including harassment, imprisonment, propaganda and forced to leave the country.
8. Limited Economic Freedom: 
Autocratic regimes may exercise significant control over the economy of the country. They often keep a system that consolidates economic power in the hands of the ruling elite. This can involve state ownership or control of key industries, limited private enterprise, and restrictions on economic competition.
9. Nepotism:
Autocratic regimes exercise high levels of nepotism, with the ruling authority favoring family members, close associates, or loyal supporters for positions of power, wealth, and privilege.
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Mithu Khan

I am a blogger and educator with a passion for sharing knowledge and insights with others. I am currently studying for my honors degree in mathematics at Govt. Edward College, Pabna.