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Theories of government

Political norms and forms of authority

Sacred and centralized governments

Secular and centralized governments

Sacred and decentralized governments

Secular and decentralized governments

Government in new nations

Contemporary research and theory


The study of government has followed several main lines of inquiry. These include both an exam ination of the source and distribution of authority and the classification of types of government (such as presidential systems and monarchies), as well as analysis of levels of government (including such units as national societies, clubs, churches, and trade unions). Although a thorough review is im possible here, we can examine the main themes which unite these various approaches and evaluate their theoretical status.

At the most general level, government consists of a group of individuals sharing a defined respon sibility for exercising power. At this level the definition applies to cases where government is sovereign, as well as to cases where it is not. Sovereign gov ernment, the most important type, consists of a group of individuals sharing a defined responsibility for the maintenance and adaptation of a national autonomous community, on behalf of which it exercises a practical monopoly of coercive powers. If by “a defined responsibility” we mean its legitimacy (the sanctified right to exercise power on behalf of others by means of decision making), then the characteristics of sovereign government are as follows: a government is a group of individuals exercising legitimate authority, and protecting and adapting the community by making and carrying out decisions. [SeeSovereigntyandState.]

These characteristics impose certain limits of variation upon government. One limit is efficacy, i.e., the capacity of a government to cater to community needs. A second refers to the internal structure of a given type of government, i.e., its form. Changes in form which occur when one type of government is transformed into another are ordi narily related to the efficacy, or performance, of a particular government. Hence, the limit upon government is observable when for any reason (in ability to make decisions, failures to comply with widely distributed but central values) it can no longer function. If this is not merely a matter which can be remedied by changing the incumbents of political office, i.e., if the political roles and supporting offices are no longer acceptable, then the withdrawal of legitimacy denotes that the system of government is no longer regarded as appropriate by the public; its limits have been breached. At that point, change from one type of government to another is likely.

The most common distinctions that have been made between types of governments include the following: is the government competitive or monopolistic? democratic or totalitarian? pluralistic or monistic? presidential or monarchical? Of course, these well-known categories overlap considerably. For example, it is possible to have a totalitarian presidential system. As is the case with all dichotomous variables, these distinctions force the observer to put a particular government in one category or the other, even when it demonstrates characteristics of both. Such distinctions are based on two criteria: the organization of government and the degree of control it exercises over the community. These criteria combine the moral, or normative, dimension of politics with the dimensions relating to governmental structure and political behavior. These three analytically distinct elements, i.e., the normative, structural, and behavioral aspects of government, will now be separately examined.

Normative aspects of government deal with such abstract questions as justice, equity, equality. Through these, men define their lasting values, their ideas of right and wrong. Normative theory represents, therefore, certain speculations about those aims and activities of government which embody the central values and ultimate ends of a political community; it defines political legitimacy.

In contrast, structural principles are those which deal with the arrangements and instruments involved in governmental decision making. Of course, they are related to normative issues insofar as the form of a government is seen as a means of attaining the ends of society. Preoccupation with the structural dimension leads directly to the analysis of alternative forms of government, with normative considerations employed in order to evaluate those most suitable for realizing the goals of the community by means of governmental decision making. In the past, structural analysis has been mainly concerned with the distribution of political power, describing various types of government in terms of how widely power is shared by the members of a political community.

Classical writers were particularly interested in normative issues and structuralists have been preoccupied with governmental forms. Both groups, to the extent that they considered it at all, assumed behavior to be a condition of conflict. For both, a propensity to conflict is regarded as the normal political expression of human nature, much as economists assumed that man has a natural propensity “to truck, barter, and exchange.” Hobbes, for example, put this assumption very sharply as “the war of all against all.” Such assumptions led both Plato and Hobbes to seek authoritarian governments as the best means of regulating the condition of conflict. Other theorists have seen a division of powers as the best method to control conflict.

Certain combinations of normative and structural approaches have been called institutionalist theories. Institutionalists, such as Carl Friedrich (1937), Harold Laski (1925; 1935), and Herman Finer (1932), concerned themselves with the nor mative and structural relations between law, constitutional forms, and governmental procedures in wide historical, religious, and economic contexts. Their considerations included an interest in practical reform as well as theory, and they consciously built on the formulations of Ostrogorskii (1902), Bryce (1921), Graham Wallas (1908), and others.

Emphasis on the behavioral dimension originated largely in the 1930s, with the “Chicago school” and, in particular, with Harold Lasswell, who sought to introduce behavioral explanations into political affairs. This is most explicit in his pioneering work Psychopathology and Politics (1930). However, until recently, few theorists followed this lead. It is, therefore, not surprising that the study of social ization processes, motivation, and political culture has been handled mainly by political sociologists. [SeePolitical sociology.]

Analysis today is characterized by the refinement of structural theories of government into a system, i.e., a set of interrelated elements which can be integrated with behavioral theories. The resulting analysis has taken many different forms and has made some advances, but it is particularly weak in its treatment of normative theory. [SeePolitical scienceandPolitical theory.]

Theories of government

Historically, most theories of government have fallen into one or the other of two main analytical sets: mechanistic and organic.

Mechanistic theories

The first set reflects the view that society is composed of competing and interacting interests (both individual and group), that these generate conflict, and that it is the job of government to ameliorate or resolve such con flict. Government is thus a device for finding ways to relax tension in the political system. These the ories, relying heavily on the free exchange of information, see government as a point in a flow of activity which is initiated by the political community. Since government has a decision-making apparatus, which responds to tension points in the system, the appropriate actions will be forthcoming. Behavioral tensions represent “inputs,” or stimuli affecting political leaders, who by responding to them generate decisions, or “outputs” (see Figure 1).

In Figure 1, assume that the social system is a national society. Government responds to a variety of societally generated inputs, including customs and beliefs (normative characteristics), classes and interests (structural characteristics), and prefer ences and perceptions (behavioral characteristics). Democratic theories of government are based on this model. This is why they have been particularly concerned with the establishment of a useful set of intervening structural variables between the social system and government itself. Hence the preoccupation with the analysis of political parties, electoral systems, and the like, which are seen as devices for improving the relationship between the social system and government in order to raise the quality and appropriateness of policy decisions and increase the efficacy of government.

It is the liberal democratic approach which ac cepts this view, with government cast in the role of mediator and judge in conflicts between contending parties. The principles of structural organization are embodied in law, which serves as a frame work for all other forms of organization. Normative consensus centers around the maintenance of the legal framework itself. Government strengthens consensus by ensuring the widest realization of norms already held. Such liberal theories are contained in the ideas of Diderot and d’Alembert, Holbach and Helvetius, Condillac and Locke, Rousseau and Hume. It is a tradition which includes Voltaire’s innocent rationalism and Bentham’s equi table utilitarianism. What these thinkers had in common was an emphasis on individual knowledge and shared reason, a position which elevates the individual to the center of the political stage. Rationality is a norm, and it requires a framework in which free ideas and competitive views can be put forward.

The Western democratic governments reflect variants of this model, but it was also accepted, at least in principle, in other areas. For example, the constitutions of many of the new Afro-Asian nations were drawn with this general approach in mind, even where the actual practice of government is wholly different from its normative and structural theory.

To sum up, the normative assumption underlying the model is that a social system is composed of individuals or groups with an equal right to be represented. Structurally, it is assumed that a government must reflect proper representation; the behavioral assumption is that competitive conflict between the members of the social system renders representative forms necessary. The model there fore displays the following characteristics: the unit of which the social system is composed is the individual; the ends of the individual are maximized; the structure of government is organized in such a way that a plurality of ends is maximized; the decisions of government, by maximizing a plurality of ends, maintain balance or harmony in the social system; and the principle of legitimacy is equity. The concern of political theorists following this tradition is with the improvement of devices that government can use to maximize a plurality of ends. Certain structural procedures have, therefore, become endowed with the quality of norms. Moreover, underlying this view is an assumption, rather mechanistic, that government is a contrivance. It does not grow organically. It must be established, with each structural principle becoming endowed with a predictable consequence. Gov ernment is, first, a kind of social physics, with particular devices having predictable results.

Organic theories

The classical view is different (as are many contemporary ones). For example, both Plato and Aristotle related government to the evolution of human society from lower to higher forms. Therefore, government was essentially an educational body, embodying a set of ideals and perfecting rationality, thereby directing the state toward a new golden age. Moreover, this conception of government has had as durable a tradition as the liberal democratic one. Although such views were widely accepted in medieval Europe (Gierke 1881), it was Hegel who gave the conception its most powerful rationale and Marx who brought it into popular currency. Marx accepted nineteenth-century notions of progress but saw in the evolution of man’s higher purposes a relationship between change in the material world and the unfolding human consciousness. Government is an instrument of this relationship. As such, it has its own cycle. It becomes an instrument of revolutionary action, of insurrection, which, if successful, rep resents the most dynamic class. It comes to power as the instrument which must transform revolutionary impetus into practical accomplishment. Having accomplished this, it will in turn be rendered anachronistic and vulnerable until the final stage, when government is itself no longer necessary.

Nor was Marx alone in accepting an organismic conception of government. More liberal-minded pro ponents include Thomas Hill Green, who saw gov ernment as an instrument of morality. Herder, a philosophical romantic, also shared the view that government was a transitional phenomenon by means of which an “aristo-democracy” would edu cate the public and develop a sufficient level of political consciousness to render government super fluous. “The ultimate aim of aristo-democracy, Herder saw in the disappearance of the State as an administrative ‘machine’ of government, and its replacement by an ‘organic’ way of ordering social life, in which active cooperation would render all forms of subordination obsolete and superfluous” (Barnard 1965, p. 77). Similar views were expressed by Fichte, Schelling, and Bosanquet. Today this approach is particularly attractive in developing areas, where government is seen as the instrument of an evolutionary ideal.

The organic evolutionary concept remains an alternative to the liberal democratic one. It implies a role for government, which directs society toward higher ends. Evolutionary in conception, this tradition is often enriched by ecclesiastic and theocratic ideals. It stresses the role of the community over and against the role of the individual. Although modern organic conceptions elevate man to a central position, they emphasize that the community is the instrument of his perfection; such views are endemic in revolutionary governments, which see themselves as the instruments of social transformation. Where the role of government is so central, we can say that it becomes the independent variable (Figure 2).

Government is the instrument by means of which change is produced in the social system. The purposes and objects of such change (normative characteristics) are defined by government. The organ ization of government (structural characteristics) will depend on the best means to accomplish these purposes. The activities of government will include whatever symbolic manipulation through education, communications media, etc., is necessary to affect both the content and manner of policy decision making pursuant to changes in the social system.

In the first model (Figure 1 ) government is the dependent variable and social system or community is the independent variable. Power is seen to inhere in the public, which creates the inputs of stimuli to which government must cater (Easton 1957; 1965). In the second model (Figure 2) government is the independent variable and social system the dependent one. Such systems tend to be centralized in the form of their authority. They tend to elevate the goals of the government into norms and make them sacred and ethical precepts, through which legitimacy is defined. Governments resembling the first model tend to be competitive, pluralistic, and democratic; those resembling the second tend to be monopolistic, monistic, and to talitarian. Normatively, the first are more secular than the second. Structurally, they are less hierarchically organized. Behaviorally, they rely heavily on internalized norms and self-control, rather than on external authority. As opposing paradigms, these two generalized types, in their various con crete formulations, are perpetually vulnerable to each other. Indeed, one can see over time that they form a permanent dialogue of conflict. They repre sent two fundamentally different approaches to government.

Political norms and forms of authority

We can now begin to explore some of the implications of that dialogue of conflict. One way of describing it is in terms of the difference between sacred and secular norms. This difference is important because it draws our attention to the normative basis of a government and, therefore, to its legitimacy. Normative conflict generally takes place between sacred and secular beliefs. [SeeLegitimacy.]

Sacred political norms

Governments based on sacred norms cover a wide range of cases, ancient and modern, including ancient China and many of the early Semitic kingdoms. Consider the following description: “The Egyptian of historic times did not have our doubts and difficulties. To him the kingship was not merely part, but the kernel of the static order of the world, an order that was divine just as much as the kingship was divine…. From the earliest historic times, therefore, the dominant element in the Egyptian conception of kingship was that the king was a god—not merely godlike, but very god” (Fairman 1958, p. 75). Or take the case of ancient Greece. There the principles of patrilineal authority and ascribed status were linked to an ancestral and religious source, not only for kings but for every citizen (Hignett 1952, p. 63). Ascribed status applied particularly to priests and to the distinction between nobles and commoners. Hence, political norms represented an explicit validation of the structure authority.

Sacredness does not apply only to theocratic or primitive societies. It applies as well to many modern states. The sacred qualities of Marxism-Leninism in the Soviet Union are today enshrined in an elaborate philosophical system. Many of its sacred attributes were cruelly visible in the various purges and trials of the 1930s. It appears, even today, in the controversies over the political role of literature and the arts. Clearer still is the case of modern China. Mao’s prescriptive sayings assume such a sacred characteristic as to define the basis of political legitimacy. Many new nations share this characteristic (although to a lesser degree), particularly in cases where an attempt is made to ritualize the authority of a charismatic or highly personalistic leader by endowing his words and teachings with special insight.

No government is entirely free from sacred qualities, whether these be elaborate and ideo logical or be token symbols, such as a flag, or a constitutional document. These aspects of government may be merely ceremonial, or what Bagehot called the “dignified part,” or they may represent high drama in which the solidarity and unity of a community may be expressed.

It is possible to distinguish three main varieties of sacred attachments, which, even if they overlap, are analytically separable. Ranking them in ascending order of sacredness, they are (1) primordial attachments to or beliefs about race, language, and nationality (a typical expression of primordial attachment is nationalism); (2) philosophical attachments (the most generalized moral and philosophical ideal in which a total synthesis is expressed relating man to his environment and specifying the way of the future is to be found today in socialism); and (3) religious attachments (this refers to religious beliefs in which the origin of the society, moral purpose, and a particular pat tern of transcendental beliefs are associated in a universal religious doctrine, such as Christianity).

In practice all three of these may be blended. Modern populist and totalitarian regimes, as in Nazi Germany, mixed primordial attachments of race and theological attachments of religion. In the Soviet Union during World War II, the sym bols of government were more and more primordial, i.e., nationalist, and less and less philosophical, i.e., Marxist.

Secular political norms

Secular norms rely on a framework of rules rather than on some higher purposes of state. The most common cases of secular systems are those in which the sacred elements have declined through institutionalization. They do not disappear, but they become so completely a part of the accepted pattern of right and wrong that it is not necessary to do more than refer to them on ritual occasions. Thus, ceremony rather than the substance of belief is characteristic of these systems.

By tacit agreement secular systems reserve the “higher” goals to the individual, and these goals inhere in his body of private beliefs. If governments should violate these norms, they run the risk of overstepping their limits of variation and of being eliminated.

We can now cut across the sacred-secular normative distinction with a structural variable, the pattern of centralized or decentralized authority [seeAuthority]. Once again we must employ a caveat and remind ourselves that it is always difficult to use dichotomous variables to divide con crete cases. What is in theory decentralized may be quite the opposite in practice. Or highly centralized systems may show informal patterns of consultation and accountability to various groups in the community. Indeed, at any given time even the most highly centralized system may act on certain issues in a highly decentralized manner. Moreover, centralized government includes monarchical and bureaucratic systems, represented by ancient em pires, that can combine monarchy with decentralized administration [seeEmpires]. This config uration includes different types of government: systems where the hierarchy is based on a king who is a father of his people, with authority deriving from a totemic ancestor, as in many tribal governments, or systems where authority lodges in a patri monial figure and the relationship between ruler and ruled is that of patron and client [seeKing ship; see also Falters 1956].

Centralized authority

Let us ignore all these variations in form and say boldly that centralized power begins from the top and is applied down ward through a specific delegation of authority. A military organization or a bureaucracy represents a clear-cut “command” case, with autocratic and totalitarian governments defined as those which employ this system of hierarchy. Government may then be represented by a single figure, a king or dictator, or by an oligarchy or junta (Friedrich & Brzezinski 1956). Such highly centralized systems show the following characteristics: concentrated power is subject to few checks; power inheres at the top; subordinate authority is derivative; and there is strong reliance on the personality of a par ticular leader. [SeeAutocracy; Oligarchy.]

Decentralized authority

Decentralized authority represents an opposite conception of power: power is generated by the public through the aggregation of their political wants, is expressed through various groups, and is regulated by an abstract system of rules. (Its usual normative expressions include the acceptance of the principle of majority rule, protection of rights, and representation.) This is what we mean by a democratic government. It is characterized by checks and balances, parlia mentary control over the executive, and some form of election as the method of political recruitment to sensitive positions. Of course, such practices do not exhaust the forms of decentralization. Decen tralization may be functional, based on the allocation of the economic power in society among various groupings, such as guilds, protective associations,

Table I – The derivation of political typologies

professional associations, and other interest groups. [SeeConstitutions and constitutionalism.]

The distinctions between sacred and secular and between centralized and decentralized types of government can form the basis of a more general model by means of which to analyze government. Table 1 pinpoints the four combinations that will be examined in detail. To summarize the possibilities, the highly centralized and sacred system, A, represents modern populist totalitarian governments. The centralized and secular system, B, represents many autocratic forms of government. The sacred and decentralized system, C, includes many early forms of theocratic society, from the feudalism of the High Middle Ages in Europe to religious or theocratic governments in America, such as the Puritan colonies of New England. And modern democratic governments fall into the secular and decentralized category, D.

Sacred and centralized governments

The modern sacred-centralized type of system is likely to be associated with the establishment of a new political system. Government is the independent variable and is associated with a new moral framework. Such conditions commonly apply after a major revolution or in territories that have recently gained independence. [SeeDictatorship; Totalitarianism.]

Communist governments

The distinguishing feature of the sacred-centralized communist government is the high degree of centralization encom passing the total community. The sacred object of government is to transform the material conditions of life and the consciousness of the people at the same time. The evolution of the community becomes a moral goal, to be sought under the leader ship of a militant vanguard—the Communist party —serving as the spearhead of government. In the classic, Leninist form of the communist regime, no competitive sources of power can be tolerated. In recent times, however, a slight trend toward secularization and decentralization can be seen in the Soviet Union (Brzezinski 1962).

Historically, the Soviet Union is an interesting case of external beliefs influencing internal social groups to revolt against a highly autocratic monarchy, a weak parliament (the Duma was only founded in 1905), and a centralized bureaucracy liberally sprinkled with foreign, particularly German, immigrants (Pipes 1954). Not only was the revolutionary instrument based on a small but dynamic working-class movement; Marxism itself was largely restricted to Russian middle-class intellectuals. It was essentially an alien doctrine (trans formed by Lenin to meet Russian conditions) leading to a revolutionary organization which later became the centralizing mechanism of state power. When the religious beliefs of the Greek Orthodox church were replaced by the secular ideology of Marxism-Leninism, the goals of political development became sacred and formed the new basis of the legitimacy of government. Of course, a wide discrepancy existed between the theory and practice of government. Power was in fact centralized in the hands of the first secretary of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Communist party, while constitutionally the Soviet Union was a federal system with an elected “supreme organ of state power,” the Supreme Soviet, which had, in theory, the exclusive right of legislation. [SeeCommunism, article onSoviet communism.]

This system formed the model of state organization for all other communist systems until relatively recently. Since the death of Stalin, however, two interesting features may be noted. The sacred quality of Marxist-Leninist ideology has declined, particularly as younger generations find it less significant as a doctrine than as a ritual; and a trend toward decentralization has begun. A struggle is on between the communist political leaders and the technical specialists, economists, scientists, and the like. Moreover, as “polycentricism” on an international level becomes more accepted, the necessity for a more “liberal” approach to Marxism-Leninism reduces its orthodoxy. Alternative structural experiments are increasingly common, such as those in Hungary, Yugoslovia, and Poland, in which “cultural” decentralization (in the case of Hungary and Poland) and economic decentralization (in the case of Yugoslavia) represent experiments in great er freedom. [See Communism, article onNational Communism; see also Laqueur & Labedz 1962.]

The communist examples are of particular relevance because they have become attractive models to governments of developing areas bent on following the Soviet pattern of rapid industrialization (Ulaml960).

Fascist governments

Fascist governments were more secular in their orientations. The developmental or evolutionary sacred ideology around which communist governments try to organize their societies embodies certain universalized moral aims. In contrast, the sacred attachments of fascist governments showed greater attraction to primor dial sentiments, including race and nationality. Although there are structural similarities between communist and fascist governments, particularly with respect to the roles of a powerful totalitarian political leader and a weak set of parliamentary institutions, one important difference should be pointed out. In the communist case, government is monolithic, emphasizing the evolution of the entire community. Fascist governments, in contrast, toler ated certain corporate groupings.

Three fascist governments are of interest here: Germany, Italy, and Spain. All were highly central ized, but they varied considerably with respect to the sacredness and secularity of political norms.

The strongest attachment to sacred primordial political norms was exhibited in Nazi Germany. The supremacy of one race and the liberating effects of war and conflict were embodied in the revived Nordic myths (“Odinism”) and blended into a set of nationalist political norms. Structurally, although the government was highly central ized under a personal dictatorship, four main groupings were given exceptional attention: army and secret police, large-scale industrial enterprise, labor organized into fronts and battalions, and military scientists and technicians. The Nazi case also shows that even under a highly centralized form of government, economic control can be kept separate from ownership, with private industry continuing to operate under government regulations. Unlike the situation in communist systems, in Nazi Germany a market system of economic allocation coexisted with government-organized fiscal and credit manipulations. Each corporate group obtained special conditions of privilege. [SeeNational socialism.]

Italian fascism showed less commitment to pri mordial political norms than Nazism, as well as a somewhat less centralized governmental structure. The norms themselves were composed of ambiguous combinations of primordial sentiments, appeals to historical precedent, and claims to philosophical universality. Primordial claims were mixed with the corporate organization of the state, under the inspiration of the collegia of the late Roman Empire. The “corporation” was thus associated with the great period of Italian imperial and cultural achievement and became the legitimizing basis of the regime.

A second claim to universality, which was of minor importance during the period of Italian fascism, may yet prove to be highly significant. This is the view that the proper way to organize the state is in corporate groupings functional to development and industrialization. In arguing the case of corporate government, it was pointed out that fascism as a form of government, although totalitarian, emphasized the role of the corporation as both the point of reconciliation between state and individual and the instrument of individual expression (see Barker 1942, pp. 328-366). This possibility remains as an important structural device, midway between highly centralized and decen tralized systems. [SeeFascism.]

Both the German and Italian systems contained important normative ambiguities, which they at tempted to resolve in the apotheosis of violence. This was most apparent in their total repudiation of democratic, decentralized forms of government (which were regarded as catering to human weakness). Italian and German fascism both represented an authentic totalitarian populism (a mod ern form of tribalism), in which medieval ideas of corporation, organic concepts of the community, and primordial sentiments were intertwined within a highly centralized system of administrative government.

The Spanish case has been less ideological and less centralized. Despite the exceptional power of Generalissimo Franco and the concentration of authority in the national cabinet, the Falange, as a political party, plays a lesser role in government than the National Socialist party did in Germany, or the Fascist party in Italy (Payne 1961). One reason is that within six years of Franco’s accession to power, Italy and Germany were defeated. Their systems no longer served as models of suc cessful dictatorship. Even more important is the Catholic tradition, to which the right wing of the Falange and significant proportions of the population generally subscribe. [SeeFalangism.]

More decentralized than the others, and therefore more autocratic than totalitarian, the Spanish system remains an extension of an old and established bureaucratic system which traces its roots to the imperial Spanish tradition, the Inquisition, and a centralized monarchy. Even today the Spanish government tries to preserve a vague commitment to monarchy as a traditional form of legitimacy. This allows the government to revive memories of Spanish grandeur, treating communism, secularism, and socialism much as Philip n and Archbishop Carranza of Toledo treated Protes tantism, Islam, and Judaism (Davies 1937). This fervor would indicate the presence of sacred political norms, derived from Catholicism and more or less indifferent to the structure of authority. Many of the same norms served equally well in Peron’s Argentina, and the more socialist forms of Catholic corporatism are sometimes embodied in modern and decentralized socialist or democratic governments, for example, in Chile. [SeeCaudillismo.]

Secular and centralized governments

The most pronounced characteristics of a secular-centralized system of government are autono mous power in the hands of a president or monarch (or perhaps a presidential monarch); a single political party, whether in the form of an elite (a communist party) or a populist mass party with an elite center (most nationalist parties); a truncated or largely ritualistic parliament, which does not have a real veto power over the executive; and an elections system which does not allow effective competition between candidates for political office.

Such centralized systems show several characteristic problems common to all forms of centralized government with the exception of institutionalized monarchies. The most important of these are, first, succession to high public office (which is usually accompanied by severe struggles for power) and, second, the institutionalization of disagreement.

The normative content of both the communist and fascist forms of government gives direction and shape to the entire society. Historically, however, there have been many cases where the normative content is relatively low (or largely ceremonial and ritualized), while power remains centralized. These include most nineteenth-century monarchical forms of government. Indeed, pre cisely because their sacred characteristics were emptied of content (while retained in form) they were unable to survive as types and were either transformed or removed. In France the monarchical form, attempted periodically during the nineteenth century, had been effectively destroyed by the French Revolution. Only Bonapartism had any genuine normative success. In Britain the secularization process began with the transformation of the monarchy or, symbolically, with the beheading of Charles i. The Act of Settlement of 1701, whereby the sovereign occupies the throne under a parliamentary title, established parliamentary supremacy, although it took many generations before the full implications were worked out (Dicey 1885). Real structural changes in the form of decentralization were embodied in the widening of parliamentary control over the executive and in popular representation from 1832 onward (Gash 1953). If the record of historical cases of secular-centralized government is any guide, then one useful proposition can be stated as follows: as sacred political norms become secularized through ritualization, government must decentralize, since its legitimacy disappears. [SeeMonarchy.]

Examples of secular-centralized governments include czarist Russia (although there were important theocratic elements incorporated in the role of the czar), and Bismarck’s Germany. More recent cases are colonial administrative governments in British and French Africa, south Asia, the Netherlands, the East Indies, and the Belgian Congo.

Many of the new nations have gone from one form of highly centralized system, under colonialism, to another, in the form of one-party government, but with a change in the quality of political norms. The norms often become endowed with intense attachment to primordial loyalties associated with race and nation and, to a lesser degree, with some aspects of socialism and public ownership, all wrapped up in a particular ideological message, such as Nasserism in Egypt, Nkrumahism in Ghana, or “Communocracy” in Guinea.

Sacred and decentralized governments

Where new constitutional governments have been most successful, they have evolved a shared set of political norms deriving from a previous period when such norms were explicitly sacred, either in an ecclesiastical form, as in the case of the Puritan commonwealths, or in a more directly political form. This suggests the following proposition: decentralized–secular governments are most stable and effective when they have developed out of an earlier centralized–sacred or decentralized–sacred form, with norms of self-control becoming behaviorally widespread. Modern democratic government emerged when the decentralization of authority and secularization of political norms proceeded more or less simultaneously with a corresponding increase in the standard of individual civic obligation (Almond & Verba 1963).

The origins of Western democratic governments derive from a synthesis of generally agreed religious values, which is associated with a generalized Christian ethic. The theocratic origins of democratic government are not to be taken lightly. Even the American experience assumed a unified set of Christian (mainly variants of deistic and Protestant) theological precepts. Law was based on the prior conception of agreed principles of political propriety. The formation of these principles can be found in many different theologically articulated forms, including the religious wars between Catholics and Protestants and between various Protestant groups as well. Nor was the body of precept within the Catholic church much more unified. Certainly the conflicts over conciliarism and the role of the church councils, not to speak of the nationalization of the church itself within each country, all testify to the explicitly political consequences of religion. These issues were so important to politics that much of the process of secularization can itself be traced to the search for some mutually agreeable and satisfactory common denominator of precept in order to render politics more secular. [SeeChristianity.]

In the United States this was most clearly recognized in the works of Brooks and Henry Adams, both of whom saw the modern economic state, with its emphasis on instrumental values, economic exchange, and corporate finance, as destroying the implicit basis of the original Christian values. Nowhere is this more explicit than in Henry Adams’ essay on Mont-Saint-Michel (1904; see also Brooks Adams 1898). Such views, which tended to idealize the classical and medieval civilizations, were romantic expressions of this religious ideal. But in addition to energy, there was doctrine and creed. The church militant was not always composed of simple stuff. Even in Catholic Spain during the “golden century,” the conquistadors, who combined the adoration of the Virgin with great greed in plundering the New World and founding an empire, were vastly different in their political aims from the various religious orders, Jesuit, Benedictine, and Dominican, and these in turn had their constitutionalists, such as Juan de Mariana, Francisco Suárez, and Bellarmine (Lewis 1954).

The secularization of political norms can be seen as occurring in three historic steps. The first was nationalization of the church. By this means the political universalism of the church, symbolized in the term “Holy Roman Empire,” was restricted, and various national churches arose.

The second step was the extension of that process to government. It was symbolized in the expression “divine right of kings,” whereby authority was traced to the Deity through the principle of royal inheritance and kinship. This established the idea of a sovereign government as a legitimate unit with rights to protect itself against external sacerdotal power.

The third step was the growth of Protestantism, associated first with the unfolding of Christian principles through equity and with the radicalization of instrumental values. The transition was particularly significant because Protestantism emerged as a particular religious ideology with a mutually reinforcing synthesis between sacred values and instrumental objects germane to industrialization. In this sense, Protestantism was the mode of transition from the more explicitly religious form of government to a more secular one, which merely reflected religious values. This is why the roots of modern Western constitutional ideas are so deeply embedded in the Protestant ideal of the community. [SeeProtestant political thought.]

In a sense, the secularization of religion emerged as a result of the utter loneliness of Protestantism, which in Calvin’s doctrine excluded even the church from participation in individual salvation. Weber makes the point that this is the singular difference between Catholic and Protestant doctrine, and the result was an emphasis on an individualism held in check by the concept of a calling embodying good works and sobriety. Rationality was reflected in a political community of individuals. Thus, selfcontrol became the founding ethic of representative government, in conjunction with the economic doctrine of capitalism. Catholic doctrine, in sharp contrast, “punishing the heretic but indulgent to the sinner,” retained a conception of the organic community that, although not necessarily antagonistic to decentralized government, did not support its basis in individualism and the doctrine of individual representation (Weber 1904-1905; McNeil 1954).

The consequences of Protestantism and Dutch, British, and American capitalism helped to create the conditions of secularization, with a greater degree of emphasis on legal and constitutional political devices. Weber quotes John Wesley: “I fear wherever riches have increased, the essence of religion has decreased in the same proportion” (Weber 1904-1905, p. 175 in the 1958 edition). This view is central to modern secular democratic government, where law has replaced religion as the foundation of the community. Thus, secularization in political terms is important in the West because, as a process containing a constitutional element the object of which is to establish a framework of government responsive to change, it leads to an explicit acceptance of the idea of the sovereignty of the people. Secularization paid particular attention to the accumulation of wealth as a duty, which favored rapid economic growth. The process is its own problem, however. Secular and decentralized government has wrestled with the question of how to retain the idea of obligation and responsibility in the face of continuous radical secularization.

It should not be assumed that there is a linear progression from centralized to decentralized or from sacred to secular systems. The opposite occurred (and in a peaceful manner) in Weimar Germany. Legitimacy was withdrawn from the constitutional government when the voters freely chose the Nazi party. This implies that the norms of a secular and decentralized system were relatively weak and insufficiently institutionalized. It also means that such a system can operate only when self-control and nonpolitical restraints on behavior predominate.

Secular and decentralized governments

As secularization occurred in Western societies, theological obligations were changed into codes of civic responsibility. Law replaced religion as the basis of political norms. With the rising prosperity of Europe, there developed a general belief that free, democratic governments with maximum political participation for all would provide a beneficial political condition. Indeed, struggles during the nineteenth century were over the speed and thoroughness with wij’^h constitutional democracy would incorporate the entire membership of a system rather than over structural principles of government. [SeeDemocracy.]

A view of government analogous to the approach of classical economics was widely accepted. The community is composed of voters, who are like consumers, and their choice is tantamount to consumer sovereignty. The election system represents the market, in which voters choose their representatives on the basis of stated preferences. Government, consisting of parliament and cabinet as well as administrative cadres, is similar to the productive unit and manufactures decisions, which the public evaluates through the electoral mechanism. The courts are present to ensure that the rules of the system are not violated.

The principles on which the system works include a high level of information, rationality as an attribute of voting and decision making, and equal representation (Downs 1957; Easton 1966). Such principles underlie the American form of presidential government and the utilitarian systems advocated by John Stuart Mill and the Benthamites in England. Advocates of this form emphasize the improvement of information,- the uses of education in order to reach rationality (only the informed voter can be rational), and, in particular, the improvement of electoral systems in order to achieve the maximum reproduction of public wants in a representative chamber. Hence, for example, one of the problems considered most important is whether proportional representation is preferable to simple plurality voting or some combination of weighted balloting or lists. [SeeElections, articleonElectoral systems.] Important questions also arise about the role of political parties in government. How do parties, acting as agents by which public desires are transformed into government cognizance, facilitate the political process? In this respect political parties are designed to emphasize certain publicly held priorities and make them explicit, so that as the problems confronting government become more complex and individuals cannot make their views known on all of them, politicians stand for some symposium of priorities and on this basis are accepted or rejected by the voters.

The principle of majority rule implies in effect that the rightness of a doctrine is measured by the degree of support it obtains and that support creates power. Hence, majority rule is a principle of power which credits the rationality of the majority and elevates reason, plus numbers, over abstract morality. It is because of this that instrumentalities begin to take on their own moral proprieties. [SeeMajority rule.]

Not all democratic polities accepted this highly individualistic form of government. Two alternative forms, one older and one very modern, have stressed the idea of the organic community rather than the more mechanistic doctrine of individualism. The first of these forms, an extension of medieval doctrine, incorporates Catholic beliefs in the context of a decentralized state. This includes various specific approaches to democratic government, such as Christian socialism and Christian democracy. The second form is democratic socialism, which emphasizes the democratic state as a means of fulfilling conditions of equality and freedom in conjunction with the development of the moral and material basis of the community.

Both of these forms see an inadequacy in democracy, resulting from a contradiction between private ownership of the means of production and the maintenance of civic obligation. How can government be secular and decentralized yet retain authority? If the achievement of democratic government is that it is secular in practice and therefore free of formalized commitments to a higher set of priorities than those desired by a majority, the problem is how to retain that self-control implicit in Calvin’s formula. One answer is to study the new roles in government, particularly those which provide a “calling,” such as the roles of civil servants, of members of professions, and of scientists, whose sense of responsibility and commitment to the exchange of free ideas is perhaps one of the most important characteristics of democratic government in highly industrial societies. [SeeBureaucracyandScience, article onScience-government Relations; see also Friedrich 1937; Jouvenel 1963; Sartori 1962.]

Types of democratic governments . Democratic governments require further differentiation. First, they can be divided into unitary and federal forms. Unitary governments are based on the position that all powers not otherwise reserved belong to a central government. Federal governments take the position that residual powers lie with the component geographical units which make up the federation. [SeeFederalism.]

Second, they can be classified as presidential and parliamentary forms. In a true presidential system, a president elected by the population is responsible to them, rather than to the legislature. The legislature, in turn, is responsible to the population which elects it, and not to the president. This provides checks and balances, with the public acting as arbiters during periodic elections, held at fixed intervals. [SeePresidential government.] The parliamentary system shows parliament supreme, with a prime minister responsible to it and holding office at its pleasure. Through votes of confidence and changes in parliamentary party membership, a government can fall, in which case a new general election to parliament is necessary; the majority or plurality of seats won by a political party provides a mandate to form a government. Under such a system the president (or monarch) is largely a figurehead. Where the parliamentary government is a constitutional monarchy, the transition from earlier forms of monarchy has generally been smooth, rather than abrupt, and has been achieved by virtue of internal structural changes. Notable cases are Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Great Britain.

Much of the present concern of democratic government lies with the problems associated with the growing complexity of modern life and the increasingly broad responsibilities which individuals expect a seculargovernment to take upon itself. Whereas the problem in the first half of the twentieth century was the improvement of electoral and representation methods and of local government and administration, the present emphasis is on the work load of parliaments and congresses. Both federal and unitary systems today accept the principle of one man, one vote, and “popular sov ereignty” tends to mean a form of parliamentary representation embodying territorial and demographic bases. How to maintain debate on important issues and get through a heavy legislative work load is therefore a critical matter. In Great Britain, for example, the widening of the franchise was accompanied by the decline of the role of the private-member bill as the work load of the committees increased. Parliament divides according to the lines laid down by the party whips, and a free vote, each member voting according to his conscience, becomes rare (see Wheare 1955; McKenzie 1955). Discipline in parliament has given rise to the term “cabinet dictatorship.” [SeeParliamentary Government.]

How well parliamentary or cabinet forms of decentralized representative government work depends a great deal on how political parties carry on the work of government. Different structural rules obviously affect this. Since all decentralized and democratic forms of government have some means to control the executive, this may lead, in multiparty systems, to cabinet instability, as it did in France and does in Italy. The stability of such parliamentary governments, therefore, depends on the stability of coalitions. Where two parliamentary parties are characteristic, instability is rare, partly because of rigorous party discipline. [SeeParties, Political, article onParty Systems; Interest Groups; see also Laski 1951.]

How to improve decentralized and democratic government has posed serious problems of political theory. It is not surprising, therefore, that highly individualistic conceptions of democracy have been replaced by notions of group representation, block voting, and the responsiveness of government to various groups, such as professional bodies, business lobbies, trade unions, cooperative movements, civic and veterans’ organizations, churches, and educational and cultural groups. [SeePluralismandPolitical Group Analysis; see also S. E. Finer 1958.] Indeed, so important have group the ories become that interest groups have been called in Britain an “anonymous empire.”

All of these questions relate directly to the relations between community and government. More precisely, they are devoted to an examination of intervening variables between community and government, such as political parties and interest groups, and even of subgroups within government itself. (See Figure 3.)

Government in new nations

Governments formed in new nations—those achieving independence after 1945—present some of the most interesting and challenging material confronting constitutional experts, political theorists, and politicians alike. New governments tend to include characteristics of all the forms we have discussed (Apter 1965). For example, in Africa and parts of Asia there are attachments to primitive governments, which remain in competition with central government for the loyalties of the population. Regional clusters associated with a religious or linguistic affiliation may represent powerful primordial loyalties, denying legitimacy to a central government or countering it with a preference for local primordial attachments. Thus, unity and legitimacy within the context of a nation are urgent problems facing political leaders. Inasmuch as certain aspects of primitive government represent a rightful heritage, it may be that traditional qualities of legitimacy should be applied to modern governmental forms, as has been attempted under such ideological forms as “African socialism” or “communocracy.” [SeeNation.]

Furthermore, new nations commonly emphasize the positive role of government as the great “engine” of social change, actively intervening in all aspects of life, from family relationships to educational opportunities, from road building to the development of local airways. Government in this respect is seen as an independent variable, much as it is, for example, in the Soviet Union.

At the same time, most constitutional patterns follow the line of Western parliamentary government. With sufficient control over parliament, through the instrumentality of party discipline, it is possible to retain popular government, based on

parliamentary practice and a cabinet system, with few formal checks on executive authority.

In a very real sense, then, the governments of new nations tend to become amalgams of the other types we have discussed—theocratic, communist, fascist, and democratic. Their roots in primitive government become identified in normative terms, with a mythical past providing a national identity. The communist emphasis on puritanism, public ownership, and discipline is represented in the recruitment of a developmental elite and in its method of exercising power. The representation of corporate functional groups has much in common with fascist governments. And, the populist democratic emphasis and the pattern of parliamentary government represent Western democratic ideals and some of its procedures.

All this is confusing because the various systems of government described appear to be so antithetical that it would seem impossible to blend them into a viable and effective system. This is to a certain extent true; hence, virtually all new governments are in the process of changing into some more stable type. It is not surprising that quite often what holds such a government together is allegiance to a particular political leader, associated with revolution or the development of a mass movement. Indeed, the outstanding common feature of these new governments is their dependence on a personalized leader supported by a dominant political party. This tends to be the case whether or not the system is formally a single-party state, as long as there is a dominant party which is capable of controlling large regional areas. In the special case of new governments, therefore, the crucial factors are the relationship between the leader of the government and the leader of the party, and the role of the party. Ordinarily the first two are the same person, and the party operates government.

In terms of the various models employed here, new governments incline in theory to the position that government is an independent variable. In practice, however, government is likely to be an expression of an elite which manipulates a mass party that is itself a reflection of a wide diversity of interests. In other words, government and social system tend to become incorporated into the broad concept of a single party. Party becomes the independent variable, with government the intervening one, and social system the dependent one. (Even where there is more than one party, the situation is not very different. There may be several dominant regional—tribal or linguistic—parties, rather than one party; however, none are deeply committed to a single ideology, and in this they differ sharply from communist or fascist parties.)

The situation illustrated in Figure 4 is found in its clearest form under conditions of radical trans formation from dependent to independent status or directly after a revolution. Since the framework within which the parliamentary and cabinet systems operate is not entirely eliminated, it intervenes between government and changes in the social system. In other words, the role of government, derived through the formal decision-making process, is the making of technical decisions, while the main lines of policy are generally laid down by governmental leaders, who are also senior party leaders. Classic examples are Nyerere’s Tanzania, Ghana under Nkrumah, Nasser’s Egypt, and Al geriaunder Ben Bella. [SeeModernization.]

How can new governments be evaluated? Normative criteria involve those associated with demo cratic systems and would include the adequacy of the protection of individual rights, and the degree of pluralism tolerated in government and parliament. On this score governments in new nations show a mixed record. Some, such as Ghana under Nkrumah, have a declaration of fundamental principles to which the president has sworn adherence, but these declarations cannot be enforced in the courts. Nigeria has a bill of rights. Burma emphasizes the social ownership of the means of production. Ghana and India have preventive-detention ordinances. It is safe to say that the protection of civil rights and liberties varies less with governmental form than with the general spirit in which government functions.

Since the legitimacy of new governments tends to be rather weak and is often associated with highly personahstic leaders (a very vulnerable structural condition), another normative criterion is how successfully a government develops primordial loyalties. The quality of such attachments provides a basis for evaluation of new governments and describes the depth of its emerging political culture. [SeePolitical culture.]

Primordial attachments tend to become linked to problems of economic growth. Planning, technical skills, manpower surveys, and the like, are important areas of governmental decision making. [SeeEconomic growth.] In addition, they are moral or normative concepts associated with the objectives which commonly take the form of socialism, since socialism explicitly validates a development ideal and is represented, through party and government, in evolutionary ideal terms. Socialism also justifies political demands for personal sacrifice and loyalty. How well socialism (or its variants) can embody new economic rationality and enforce commitment to savings, work, education, and development becomes a third evaluative criterion. [SeeSocialism.]

Behavioral consequences of normative beliefs thus emerge. A combination of political norms, nationalist primordial sentiments, and philosophical ideological expressions of socialism combine to form the motivational system of the society. Structurally these elements are organized less frequently in parliamentary or representative institutions than in functional or corporate bodies within and around a political party. Party wings and various related interest groups are the devices that link individuals to the government.

Despite all the integrative efforts, the most striking feature of new governments is the behavioral weakness in their population vis-a-vis government. Changing allegiances and ritualization of authority, not to speak of the stresses and strains of rapid economic change and industrialization, all require much study of motivation, of the sources of personal identity, and of learning. Indeed, what is now called the identity problem, involving examination of the conditions under which individuals are able to establish a set of personality boundaries compatible with changing normative and structural conditions, is a growing concern. Only a few studies of the relationship between government and identity have been attempted, though many problems of governing derive from the search for identity (Pye 1962; Erikson 1958; Edelman 1964).

Contemporary research and theory

The author has tried to demonstrate a few of the emphases associated with the study of government and has employed both normative and structural variables to differentiate types of systems. Historically, the most elaborately studied aspect of government has been its normative side, which is still important in trying to determine how governments will evolve because it helps us to relate political means and ends. The structural dimension, almost as well studied in the literature as the normative, has been heavily weighted in favor of the study of the constitution as the foundation of government. Different constitutional systems have been distin guished through enumeration of their characteristics. More recently, work on the structural dimension, developed along the lines of institutionalist analysis and heavily influenced by the work of Max Weber, Karl Mannheim, and others, has related government to art, religion, philosophy, education, and other social institutions. The main concern of these scholars has been to study democracy as a universal system originating in Western civilization and to contrast it with less evolved forms of government, such as monarchy or oligarchy.

This work led to the development of functional analysis in the study of government, with its emphasis on the derivation of more-universalized comparative categories. Such studies have by and large employed one of two forms of systems theory. [SeeSystems analysis.] The first tends to follow the organismic analogy. Government is seen in its intimate relationships to society. A good set of functional categories for government will do the following: allow comparison of widely diverse forms and actions in terms of their implications for government as a whole; segregate critical activities from less critical ones; allow one to observe explicit levels of explanatory theory (Almond & Coleman I960; Apter 1965).

The second emphasis in contemporary systems theory follows a mechanistic tradition. Some of the recent work, based on theories of coalitions, is originally derived from economic theories and attempts to use principles of rational calculation and maximization in order to predict political group behavior [seeCoalitions]. Several of the efforts to deal with coalitions begin with the group basis of politics and draw their original inspiration from the writings of A. F. Bentley [seePolitical group analysisand the biography ofBentley]. The most powerful form of systems analysis following this tradition is to be found in cybernetics models and game theory. These represent more-generalized structural models than the ones used for functional analysis. The rules derived for one unit apply to all group behavior. In the game-theory approach these deal primarily with the consequences for action of communications and information. Systems analysis of this type involves analysis of attempts, according to explicit rules, to maximize gains and minimize losses. Formulation of such highly rationalistic models can help us to understand political competition and government actions in priority and other settings. [SeeGame Theory; see also Downs 1957; Snyder 1961.]

Emphasis on groups has also given rise to an important literature with behavioral, as well as structural, implications. Behavioral and structural aspects of government depend on the analysis of government as a group, with reference to its size, its patterns of communications, and the ways in which motivation and memory are structured within it. Work in this area draws on the theories of psychologists, e.g., Kurt Lewin, R. Lippitt, and Theodore Newcomb, concerning leadership, interaction processes, cohesiveness, control over deviance, internalization of norms, etc., and tends to treat decision making as the main object of analysis. [SeeDecision Making; see also Cartwright & Zander 1953.] Today such an emphasis can be in tegrated with informational analysis, group theory, and game theory in certain cybernetics models applied to government. This form of systems theory uses the concept of an information grid, in which a political system represents the flow of messages or of “cues” and government the critical “trans former,” i.e., a coding and decision-making instrument. It is concerned with adaptability, and emphasizes the capacity of different systems to learn and adjust, with government performing an essentially creative role. One modern political theory which attempts to bring together these functional and other emphases very systematically is Karl Deutsch’s application (1963) of the general cyber netics model, which is an attempt to solve problems of learning, creativity, and adaptation in politics.

To account for these new developments, a more general way of analyzing governments is required. The formulation illustrated in Figure 5 helps to move the analysis of government to a highly generalized level, incorporating the various approaches, new and old, in a single model. In this model political behavior is the independent variable. Political norms and structures can therefore be treated as intervening variables. Their effectiveness is subject to change because political structure is bound and limited by the legitimacy pattern established by the relationships between political behavior and political norms. Political structure can be seen in terms of its consequences for decision making, which in turn is designed to maintain a sustained pattern of political behavior consonant with the maintenance of norms.

It is possible, of course, to enlarge the complexity of this model. More important, it is necessary to rotate these variables for different purposes and to hold each of them independent in turn, in order to estimate their effects. Many of the variations in approach to the study of government derive from holding different of these variables independent without realizing the specific methodological implications of doing so. The selection of variables to be held independent is entirely arbitrary. To estimate the effectiveness of different forms of government, however, it might be useful to treat political structure as the independent variable and see how various types—democratic, totalitarian, centralized, decentralized, monistic, pluralistic, monopolistic, competitive—affect both political norms and political behavior. How does each of these alternative types allow political learning to take place? How does government preserve continuity? How does it affect the course of change? In addition to rotating the variables, it is possible to add new intervening variables. These may be normative ones, such as ideologies, or structural ones, such as political parties, administrative organizations, and the like.

Any general theory of government will require a model which is sufficiently explicit to account for the limits of variation, sufficiently flexible to handle diverse methodological emphasis, and empirical enough to be fully operationalized. We are still far from able to construct such a model, but the fore going discussion shows that at least the foundations of the model and the theory have been laid. Still needed are improved techniques of gathering data, as well as analytical paradigms by means of which such data can be related to the appropriate theory. These concerns connect the analysis and study of government to the philosophy of science by emphasizing logical and epistemological problems, and also cause us to speculate about the application of highly advanced mathematical and statistical techniques and computer programming to the care ful mapping and testing of propositions about government. The concept of government thus remains

a critical point of departure for both the evaluation of the normative issues of political life and the structural and behavioral analysis of politics.

David E. After

[Related to the concept of government are the entriesAdjudication; Administration; Elections; Legislation; Political executive; Representation. Guides to other relevant material may be found underLaw; Political Anthropology; Political Science.]


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Government is as old as human beings themselves. All human societies are governed by rulers, no matter what their titles and characteristics may be. On the theoretical level, government is intrinsic to human societies. Nevertheless, at a more tangible level, nothing about government is static. Structures and functions of governing are constantly in change.

The word government has a Greek origin, kyvernites, which means governor, or rudder. Government is a body or organization that has the power to make and enforce laws and regulations for a certain territory. Government refers to the act of governing, meaning exercising authority over a community or a country. It is a system by which a political unit is governed. The two central features of government are the ability to make collective, binding decisions and the capacity to enforce them. Thus, the core functions of modern government are to make law (legislation), to implement law (execution), and to interpret law (adjudication). On the national level, the basic duty of any government is to ensure a countrys survival. Survival involves two basic tasks: defending independence against external threats, and maintaining internal security and preventing civil war or secession. In parliamentary systems, the political executive alone is referred to as the government.

Each efficient government should have an authority, or a legitimate power. Power is the ability to influence the behavior of others, whereas authority is the right to exercise that power and to get the peoples obedience by using various means, including direct physical coercion, threats, exile, banishment, and so on. Such an authority should be legitimate, that is, as Max Weber noted, the use of force by a government should be recognized as legitimate and justified by both the powerful and the powerless. Legitimacy is considered a basic condition for governing, and without a minimal amount of legitimacy, a government will deadlock or collapse.

Government differs from other social or private organizations in many ways, as noted by Austin Ranney (1996). It has legitimate monopoly of vast force (the army, the police, etc.), and can use coercion to enforce its rules and to punish rule breakers. Furthermore, government has inclusive and authoritative powers; that is, whereas rules made by nongovernmental organizations apply only to the members of those organizations and often conflict with those set by other organizations, governmental rules apply to all members of the country and usually are considered to be binding upon all members of a society. In any conflict between the decisions of government and the decisions of nongovernmental organizations, government decisions should prevail. Additionally, while membership in most organizations other than government is voluntary, citizenship is largely involuntary; most people become subject to governmental rules and decisions without any intentional choice.


There are several ways to classify governments. One traditional classification is based on who holds political power: one man or woman (autocratic government), a few (oligarchic government), or a majority (democratic government).

An autocratic government is a government in which one individual holds all power, as is the case in absolute monarchies and dictatorships. One feature of most hereditary monarchies is that the monarch usually rules as head of state for life. In absolute monarchies, monarchs hold substantial power over every aspect of the country. Contemporary examples of such a form of government include Brunei, Bhutan, and Saudi Arabia. In other hereditary monarchies, real authority is held by military rulers, as was the case in Japan during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Under the fascists Benito Mussolini (18831945) in Italy and Francisco Franco (18921975) in Spain, the two countries were officially monarchies. Some current monarchies are established by tradition, thus the monarch has little real authority. Examples of such a form of government include democratic constitutional monarchies in the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, and Spain.

Dictatorships are usually regarded as synonymous with other forms of autocratic governments, such as totalitarianism and authoritarianism, though each of these forms has a different meaning. Dictatorship refers to absolute, repressive rule by one leader who is unrestricted by any law or constitution. Many dictators tend to suppress any opinion that disagrees with their own, and often use military and security forces, propaganda, and arbitrary detention to enforce their will. Such dictatorships survive because of the fear of the dictator. Some dictators create single-party regimes, without democratic elections or with rigged ones, in an attempt to acquire popular legitimacy.

Totalitarian government is a term employed by political scientists to describe modern regimes in which a regime regulates nearly all aspects of public and private behavior. Totalitarian rulers mobilize entire populations in support of the state and a political ideology. Such rulers do not tolerate political activities by individuals or groups such as labor unions and political parties. They maintain themselves in power by means of widespread use of terror tactics, secret police, a one-party system, propaganda, and restriction of freedoms and free discussion. Examples of such regimes include the Soviet Union and the Nazi regime of the 1930s and 1940s.

Authoritarianism is a form of government in which rulers are not appointed via free and fair elections. Authoritarian leaders tend to enforce strong and oppressive acts against those in their domain of influence. Examples of such regimes include the Peoples Republic of China and Cuba.

In contrast, an oligarchic government is a government where political power is held by a small group of individuals such as aristocrats (the upper class) or plutocrats (the wealthy). Another example of an oligarchic rule, one based on race, was in South Africa under the apartheid system, where the white minority held power. Some theorists such as Gaetano Mosca, Vilfredo Pareto, and Robert Michels argue that in a capitalist society, political and economic power is held by a few members of the capitalist class that seek to maintain the capitalist system at the expense of other classes. In his book Political Parties (1968), Michels mentions the iron law of oligarchy, arguing that all forms of organizations, including the political system, will eventually develop into an oligarchy.

A democratic government is one in which the majority of the people hold political power. Democracy could be direct (all citizens exercise power, as was the case with Athenian democracy) or indirect (where power is exercised by elected representatives, as is the case with contemporary representative democracies in the West). The core characteristic of a democratic government, in the contemporary usage, is the rule of law. This means that a democratic system is a constitutional government in which the law is supreme, and all citizens and classes are equal before the law. According to the nineteenth-century British jurist Albert Venn Dicey, the objective of this principle, the rule of law, was to substitute a government of laws for a government of men. The rule of law is not a new value: The Romans provided the foundations of the rule of law and limited government in the West, and in fact the rule of law in Arabic-Islamic civilization antedated the Western principle. There is more than a century between the emergence of this principle in the Islamic state in the seventh and eighth centuries and its recent manifestation in the thought of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century liberal thinkers and, later, in the democratic systems in western Europe and North America.

A democratic government is also a government in which all citizens, rather than one autocratic leader or a few people, have the right and opportunity to participate in the decision-making process. In a democratic system, the people are the ultimate source of authority, and the authority of the majority is limited by law (a written or unwritten constitution) as well as institutional means (such as separated and shared powers, checks and balances, and leadership succession through frequent and fairly conducted elections) so that the rights of individuals and minorities are protected. This form of government exists in western Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and other regions and countries.


The constitutions of modern democratic governments are the main mechanisms by which the principles of constitutional democracy can be enacted into specific institutions and procedures. On the practical level, modern democratic governments can be classified according to the basis of the institutional organization of the political executive body and the relationship between executive and legislative bodies into parliamentary, presidential, and semipresidential systems.

The executive power is composed of two organs in parliamentary governments. First is the head of the state, who is often a monarch or a president. Second, the government, which includes the head of government (called the prime minister, or chancellor) and the council of ministers, or the cabinet. The head of state is an inherited or elected figurehead with minor and ceremonial duties. He or she may have reserve authority (either by convention or by constitutional rule) that is usable in a crisis. Such authority, however, is usually exercised upon the advice and endorsement of the prime minister. The prime minister and the ministers of the cabinet are usually members of the parliament. The leader of the leading party (or group of parties) in the parliament is often appointed to be the prime minister. The government depends on the support of the parliament. Either the entire cabinet or single members can be removed by the parliament through a vote of no confidence. In turn, the executive body can dissolve the parliament and call for new elections. Thus, there is no clear-cut separation between the executive and legislative powers. The origins of this system go back to the British political system. The system also exists in many other democratic countries such as Spain, Japan, Sweden, Canada, and Australia.

In a presidential government, the executive organ, the president, is elected independent of the legislative institution. The president is both head of state and head of government, and there is sharp separation between the executive president and the legislature. Thus, the president is not a member, nor can he or she propose bills. Most importantly, the president cannot be removed by a vote of no confidence or any other political procedures. The president is elected for office for a fixed term and heads most of the agencies charged with executive functions such as enforcing and administering acts of the legislature. The president appoints a group of assistants (known as a cabinet) as heads of the executive departments and supervisors of the administrative agencies. This system of governing originated in the United States. Other countries with presidential systems include Indonesia, the Philippines, Mexico, and most countries in South America.

A semipresidential government is a system that has a cabinet and a president who both have substantial executive duties. This system differs from the parliamentary government because it has an elected president who is assigned substantial duties. Moreover, a semipresidential government differs from the presidential one in that it has a prime minister and a cabinet who are dependent on the support of the legislature. As in the parliamentary government, the cabinet, or a single minister, can be removed by a vote of no confidence in the parliament, and the president can dissolve the legislative assembly. France, Finland, Portugal, Romania, Taiwan, and Ukraine have semipresidential systems.


Modern states may be also classified according to the distribution of power at different levels of government into two main systems: unitary and federal. A unitary state is a state where the ultimate authority lies exclusively with a central government that controls central and local affairs. In such a system, local and regional authorities may make and implement policies, but they must have the permission of the central government. This form of government has emerged in former monarchies and empires such as France, Britain, and Japan. It also exists in countries with no ethnic divisions, such as the Scandinavian states, Egypt, and Turkey. The other form is a federal state, where political power is constitutionally shared between a federal government and local governments of constituent states or provinces. The function of the federal government is to handle foreign affairs, defense relations, and some internal functions such as monetary affairs. The local governments of the provinces or states usually handle education and law enforcement. The existence and functions of the provinces or states may be changed only by amending the constitution, a process that protects them from the federal power.

SEE ALSO Administrative Law; Authoritarianism; Authority; Autocracy; Citizenship; Civil Society; Corporatism; Democracy; Dictatorship; Due Process; Fascism; Franco, Francisco; Judicial Review; Judiciary; Michels, Robert; Military Regimes; Monarchy; Mussolini, Benito; Oligarchy; Oligarchy, Iron Law of; Pareto, Vilfredo; Public Administration; Republicanism; Rule of Law; State, The; Totalitarianism


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Abdel-Fattah Mady

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Government is the set of formal institutions used by a society to organize itself; government sets rules for general conduct by citizens. These rules are usually based on customs that have evolved in that society. Most governments include formal organizations that serve legislative, executive, or judiciary functions. These are called branches of government. Government may also be organized into levels: national government and subordinate governments such as states or provinces, counties, and cities or towns.

federal agency area of responsibility
source: Antista, James V.; Boardman, Dorothy Lowe; Cloud, Thomas A.; et al. (2001). "Federal, State, and Local Environmental Control Agencies" In Treatise on Florida Environmental and Land Use Law. Tallahassee, FL: The Florida Bar.
epa air pollution water pollution
  solid waste disposal
  hazardous waste disposal
  toxic substances
department of the interior  
fish and wildlife service threatened and endangered species
national park service (nonmarine)
bureau of land management wildlife refuge management
  national parks management
  mining on public lands
department of defense  
army corps of engineers regulation of filling in waters and wetlands
department of commerce  
national marine fisheries service threatened and endangered species (marine)
national oceanographic and marine mammal protection
atmospheric administration coastal zone management  
department of agriculture  
national forest service forest management
animal and plant health inspection service animal and plant health
food and drug administration food and drug safety  
council on environmental quality national environmental policy act  

Democracy and Representation

The U.S. system of government is a representative system rather than a pure democracy. In a pure democracy, citizens decide together what actions the government should take. The New England town meeting reflects this concept most closely. Generally, the U.S. representative system, also called "republican" (after the Roman form of government), functions by agents: Relatively few citizens elected periodically by the populace at large make decisions about what the government should act on.

Politicians campaign or make decisions based on a mix of their political party's position and their constituents' needs and viewpoints. If constituents view an issue as important, they are likely to make their preferences known to their representatives. These active attentives are aware of issues and communicate their preferences, thus demanding that elected officials act as delegates. If an issue does not affect constituents directly, they are likely to remain quiet, allowing representatives to act as trustees and make the decision themselves.

The Development of the U.S. Government

The first U.S. government, established in 1781, was a "treaty of friendship" called The Articles of Confederation. This treaty among independent nation states (the thirteen colonies) allowed each state to establish its own laws, coin its own money, and tax import goods. Jointly, each state was obliged to assist the others in defense and to pay a share of the Revolutionary War costs. Common laws were to be enacted only when state delegates to a "Congress" agreed on them unanimously. There was no president and no bureaucracy; the government engaged in no day-to-day operations.

This confederation soon proved ineffective, and in 1787 a Constitutional Convention was called to create a stronger system. This new government required each state to give up power to the national, or federal, government so it could act without requiring unanimous agreement by the individual states.

The modern U.S. government system consists of three levels of government and three branches. The three levels of government are the federal (national), state, and local governments. The federal government deals largely with international agreements, treaties, and broad public issues affecting constituents across the nation. State governments primarily govern areas that affect the well being of its citizens; some of these are national in scope. When states address issues that are national, the general rule is that they can always "do more" than the federal government, but not less. They can require cleaner air and water than federal standards, for example. Local governments (counties, cities, towns, and special districts such as school districts) are seen as service providers who make our daily life easier; these services include snowplowing, public schools, and garbage collection.

Citizens may fail to notice all that local and state governments do. Yet, decisions to plow roads have a great deal to do with protecting the water supply for both drinking and recreation, because it includes a decision to use sand or salt to create safer winter driving. And a heavy spring snowmelt, once it enters the sewage treatment system, can cause flooding, sewage backups, and create health risks. Likewise, garbage collection is just the first step in local solid waste management that can end at an incinerator or a landfill. Thus the direct delivery of services such as snowplowing and garbage collection that citizens normally see, bring into being the less visible management programs of our state and local governments.

Often, local and state governments are seen as "policy laboratories" for the federal government. When a problem reaches national attention, the federal government looks to states and local governments with existing policies for examples of what works, and uses their policy as a model for a national one. This "ratcheting effect" is particularly evident in pollution control policies during the twentieth century. Cities enacted the first clean air statutes around 1900; county and state air quality policies grew out of these local laws by the 1950s. The national Clean Air Act of 1970 was, in turn, modeled after several state policies.

The three branches of governmentexecutive, legislature, and judiciaryserve as a system of checks and balances to limit the power of any one branch of government. These limits derive from separate powers (authority given to one branch to act on an issue), shared powers (where it takes two or more branches acting together to accomplish something), and checks (where one branch can stop another branch from acting).

Comparative Democratic Governments

The movement to "harmonize" legislation and open borders in Europe under the European Union (EU) is a confederated system similar to the United States under the Articles of Confederation. The EU is a representative overgovernment, (i.e., a governing body that is instituted with authority to make and representatives from the existing EU nations). The EU now shares a single currency (the Euro) among these several nations and formal administrative agencies, including the European Environment Agency, something the early U.S. system lacked.

The unitary system is also a form of democratic government. It is used in the United Kingdom and other nations that have a parliamentary government. A unitary government combines the executive and legislative branches and operates on several levels. Elected legislators choose by vote from their own group a prime minister to run the government. The lower levels of government carry out national policies, but do not make their own.

Canada is part of the British Commonwealth and has a parliamentary system that combines the executive and legislative branches. While the monarchy of the United Kingdom is also the monarchy of Canada, and appoints a governor-general to act as its representative, the governor-general is a symbol of the monarchy, rather than a political leader. Governance of Canada resides in the prime minister and the parliament. The Canadian parliament has two houses, similar to the U.S. Congress. However in Canada, the prime minister recommends and the governor-general appoints the members of the upper house, the Senate. Senators may hold office until age seventy-five. Elections are held for members of the lower house, the House of Commons. Canada is a federal system with multiple provinces, each having their own constitutions and laws. The ability to legislate over certain natural resources is a shared power between the Canadian provinces and the federal Canadian government.

The United Mexican States, the U.S. southern neighbor, shares with Canada and the United States a federal system of states and a centralized national government. But like the United States, Mexico has a presidential system with a separate executive branch. The bicameral, or two house National Congress (Congreso de la Union) consists of a Senate (Camara de Senadores) and a Federal Chamber of Deputies (Camara Federal de Diputados). As in the United States, the Senate has fewer members than the Federal Chamber of Deputies (128 to five hundred). However, in both houses the members are chosen in two ways. Some members are elected to a particular seat, while others are allocated a seat in their house of the legislature based on the proportion of a party's vote in the last election, (thirty-two seats allocated in the Senate, two hundred allocated in the Chamber of Deputies). This proportional method of allocating seats ensures that minor parties have a voice in government. While this broadens the democratic input, it can sometimes cause more conflict and gridlock.

Sharing borders with the United States, both Canada and Mexico have joined with the United States to create the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a treaty similar to that which gave rise to the European Union. Rather than creating a new level of government over the nations, this treaty addressed commerce across borders. However, many citizens believed NAFTA caused many social problems, including environmental problems. To address public concern, the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation, along with other side agreements, was drafted to protect the environments of the three nations. Among the provisions of this agreement are the promotion of sustainable development within Canada, the United States, and Mexico, and to foster protection of the natural environments of these nations.

The Function of Government in Society

The role of government in a society rests on the answer to one question: Are humans essentially "good" or "bad"? A society that views humans as essentially good sees little need for government (hence, the government would be limited and inactive). A society answering essentially bad sees the need for a large and active government. Environmental issues center on this question. Are people and corporations self-interested (or bad) and thus in need of governmental regulation? Or are people able to act for the good of society as well as themselves, requiring less regulation?

The United States has historically responded to this question with mixed answers. From the federalists (who wanted a larger, more powerful government) and antifederalists beliefs about the appropriate size and functions for government have combined with what citizens "value" for society make up a set of commonly held ethics that are referred to as the political culture. In the United States, multiple views or cultures exist; ours is seen as a pluralist. nation. These disagreements form the basis of environmental policy debates.

The government achieves its goals through different policy mechanisms. Environmental legislative policies use two primary methods: regulation that prescribes particular allowed behaviors, which are then monitored and enforced, and market incentives that offer financial incentives to obtain a desired outcome, but allow individuals and firms to decide how to achieve it.

Interactions between levels and branches of government are common. Organizations of government officials, such as mayors and governors, have been created. These act as interest groups that jointly address common problems or lobby higher levels of government for policy solutions. Transboundary pollution agreements between states evolved this way, ratcheting policy from local to state to national governments. Increasingly, such escalation has included shifting policy to the international level. Common international problems require the negotiation of treaties among often very different countries. The interests of each country therefore influence the governance of international issues. But international policies specify standards, often calling for changes in national policies, as seen in the Kyoto Protocol and the environmental side agreements of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Similarly, the United Nations Environment program Agenda 21, an out-growth of the UN Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992, is a global plan of action that influences individual national policies. Agenda 21 encompasses international efforts to promote sustainable development and provides guidance on how nations may change their own environmental policies.

see also Agenda 21; Environment Canada; Laws and Regulations, International; Laws and Regulations, United States; Legislative Process; Mexican Secretariat for Natural Resources (La Secretaría del Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales); Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC); Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA); Politics; President's Council on Environmental Quality; Public Policy Decision Making; Right to Know; Treaties and Conferences; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.


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Bagdikian, Ben H. (1983, revised 1990). The Media Monopoly, 3rd edition. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.

Dahl, Robert A. (1989). Democracy and Its Critics. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Gandy, Oscar H., Jr. (1982). Beyond Agenda Setting: Information Subsidies and Public Policy. Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing Company.

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Lowi, Theodore J. (1985). The Personal Presidency: Power Invested Promise Unfulfilled. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

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Neustadt, Richard E. (1990). Presidential Power and the Modern Presidents: The Politics of Leadership from Roosevelt to Reagan. New York: The Free Press.

Weber, Edward P. (1998). Pluralism by the Rules. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.

Internet Resources

U.S. Congress Web site. "Legislative ProcessHow a Bill Becomes a Law." Available from

U.S. Library of Congress. "Committees and Their Procedures in the U.S. Congress." Available from

The United Kingdom Parliament. "Welcome to the UK Parliament." Available from

Sara E. Keith


The Legislature

The branch of government that proposes and enacts laws. Usually comprised of one or more "chambers" or houses, whose members are usually elected, though sometimes they may be appointed. A legislature debates and decides what laws to enact. In the United States, the national legislature, the U.S. Congress, has two houses: the Senate, with a greater focus on international policy and administration of government, and the House of Representatives, with a stronger focus on domestic or internal policy and budget and taxation.

While members of most legislatures are elected by citizens to represent their interests by geographic region, this is not always true. The parliament of the United Kingdom has one house whose members are elected, the House of Commons, and a second house, the House of Lords, composed of members of the aristocracy, or peers, who inherit their seats. In the late 1990s, the parliament of the United Kingdom was reorganized, and the seats held by a number of the peers were eliminated.

The Executive

The branch of government that implements the laws and conducts the daily operations of government. In the United States, the national executive branch consists of the president and various administering bureaucracies. These bureaucracies include cabinet offices (such as the Department of Interior, Housing and Urban Development, Commerce), independent agencies (like the Environmental Protection Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency), regulatory commissions (including the Securities Exchange Commission, the Federal Elections Commission, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission), and government corporations (the U.S. Postal Service).

The executive branch often promotes particular policies and so works to enact laws as much as it enforces and implements laws. In the United Kingdom and other unitary systems, lower levels of government (counties or "shires") are seen as administrative arms of the national government. In the United States, the states enact and carry out their own laws as well as being responsible for upholding federal laws.

The Judiciary

In the United States, the judiciary is the branch of government that resolves disputes. Some disputes are over facts, as in a jury trial for a criminal case between the plaintiff (government) and the defendant (one or more citizens). Civil cases are controversies between two or more citizens or a citizen and an organization. In all disputes over facts, there is some previous rule, law or policy established that specifies appropriate behavior. The disagreement over facts determines who did, or did not, violate that appropriate behavior.

Disputes also arise over questions of what the law is intended to mean. These cases, called appellate cases, are decided by a panel of judges. Usually, there are between three and nine justices who vote on the best way to interpret the law, and agreement occurs by majority vote (the U.S. Supreme Court has nine justices; lower federal and state appellate courts generally have fewer justices).

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185. Government

See also 62. BUREAUCRACY ; 94. COMMUNISM ; 152. FASCISM ; 322. POLITICS ; 376. SOCIETY .

the theory and exercise of complete and unrestricted power in government. See also autarchy , autocracy , despotism , dictatorship , monarchy , oligarchy . absolutist, n., adj. absolutistic. adj.
1 . a political theory advocating the elimination of governments and governmental restraint and the substitution of voluntary cooperation among individuals.
2 . the methods and practices of anarchists. Cf. Nihilism. anarchist, n. anarchic, adj.
an absence of government and law; political disorder, often accompanied by violence. See also 301. ORDER and DISORDER .
rule by angels.
Rare. the principle of opposition to all forms of government, or to all restraint of individuals by laws. antarchist, n. antarchistic, adj.
the policy of strict racial segregation and political and economie discrimination against non-whites practiced in the Republic of South Africa.
1 . the science of government.
2 . the science of origins.
rule by that group which holds the numerical majority in a state. arithmocratic, adj.
1 . an absolute sovereignty.
2 . an autocratic government.
3 . autarky. autarch, n. autarchie, autarchical, adj.
1 . a government in which one person has unrestricted control over others.
2 . a country with an autocratic system. autocrat, n. autocratic, adj.
1 . the power or right of self-government.
2 . a self-governing community. Cf. heteronymy. autonomous, adj.
the rule of a nation, state, or community by two persons.
1 . a legislative body having two branches, houses, or chambers.
2 . advocacy of bicameral structure. Cf. unicameralism. bicameralist, n. bicameral, adj.
the state of being composed of members of two parties or of two parties cooperating, as in government. bipartisan, adj.
the domination of areas in Spanish and Latin America by local political bosses. Also caciquismo.
the practices of the carpetbaggers, Northerners who, after the Civil War, sought private gain in the South from the Reconstruction government. carpetbaggery, n.
the doctrines and policies of Fidel Castro, communist premier of Cuba.
a system, especially in government, in which power and administration are concentrated in a central group or institution. centralist, n., adj. centralistic, adj.
a system with one thousand rulers.
rule by a single race.
the implementation of various political, economic, and social policies to enable a state to maintain or extend its authority and control over other territories. colonialist, n., adj. colonialistic, adj.
International Law. a joint sovereignty over a colony or dependent territory by several states. condominate, v.
constitutional monarchy
a system in which the powers of a monarch are defined and limited by law.
control of the whole world.
decarchy, dekarchy
the control of a governmental system by ten persons. Also called decadarchy.
a form of government in which sovereign power resides in the people and is exercised by them or by officers they elect to represent them. Cf. republicanism. democrat, n. democratic, adj.
1 . the power of demons.
2 . government or rule by demons. demonocratic, adj.
1 . a form of government with a ruler having absolute authority; autocracy.
2 . a system ruled by a tyrant or dictator having absolute, usually oppressive power. despot, n. despotic, adj.
diarchy, dyarchy
a government controlled by two rulers; biarchy. diarch, dyarch, n.
1 . a despotic system ruled by a dictator possessing absolute power and absolute authority.
2 . the office of a dictator. dictatorial, adj.
doulocracy, dulocracy
Rare. a government controlled by slaves.
government by two persons.
1 . a position in government held jointly by two men.
2 . the two people holding such a position.
1 . a system of government in which a sequence of rulers is derived from the same family, group, or stock.
2 . the reign of such a sequence. dynast, dynasty, n.
the belief or practice that government should be by a self-appointed group who consider themselves superior to those governed by virtue of their higher birth. elitist, n., adj.
a centralized government.
a government controlled by workers.
the rank and position of a governor of a province or people. ethnarch, n.
the quality of being a clique or combination, as within a larger organization. Also called factionalism. factionist, n. factionary, adj.
1 . the tenets of a centralized, totalitarian, and nationalistic government that strictly controls finance, industry, and commerce, practices rigid censorship and racism, and eliminates opposition through secret police.
2 . such a government, as that of Italy under Mussolini. fascist, n. fascistic, adj.
language typical of the federal government, especially bureau-cratie jargon.
1 . a union of states under a central government distinct from that of the separate states, who retain certain individual powers under the central government.
2 . (cap.) the principles of the American Federalist party, especially its emphasis during the early years of the U.S. on a strong central government. federalist, n., adj. federalistic, adj.
a European system flourishing between 800-1400 based upon fixed relations of lord to vassal and all lands held in fee (as from the king), and requiring of vassal-tenants homage and service. Also feudality. feudal, feudalistic, adj.
government or domination of society by fools.
the system in which the rulers are old men.
a theory that advocates the extension of governmental activity. governmentalist, n.
1 . a system of government by priests.
2 . a state so governed.
1 . a system of rule by persons considered holy.
2 . a state so governed.
a system of rule by 100 persons.
1 . government by seven persons.
2 . a group or confederacy of seven political units.
3 . English History. the seven principal concurrent early English kingdoms. heptarch, heptarchist, n. heptarchal, heptarchic, heptarchical, adj.
1. the state or condition of being ruled, governed, or under the sway of another, as in a military occupation.
2 . the state or condition of being under the influence or domination, in a moral, spiritual, or similar sense, of another person, entity, force, etc. Cf. autonomy. heteronomous, adj.
a group or confederacy of six political units.
the system of government or authority of a hierarchy. hierarchization, n. hierarchial, adj.
a government in which there is equality of power among all the people. isocrat, n. isocratic, adj.
government by Jesuits.
a fascistic theory of government in Argentina under the Peron administration involving government intervention and economic control to ensure social justice and public welfare; Peronism.
a system of rule by the worst men.
a state in which the worst possible conditions exist in government, society, law, etc. See also 406. UTOPIA .
Rare. the rule, over ancient Israel, of the judges.
a supporter of legitimate authority, especially of claims to a throne based on the rights of heredity. legitimism, n.
1 . the system of manorial social and political organization, as in the Middle Ages.
2 . Sometimes Pejorative. any small, strong unit of local political and social organization.
1 . a matriarchal form of government.
2 . a family, tribe, or other social group ruled by a matriarch or matriarchs. matriarchic, adj.
a society organized with the mother or oldest female as head of the tribe or clan, with descent being traced through the female line. matriarch, n. matriarchal, adj.
government or dominance of society by the mediocre.
government by the mob; the mob as ruler or dominant force in society. mobocratic, adj.
1 . a person who advocates government by the mob.
2 . a member of a mobocracy.
the doctrines and principles of a monarchical government. monarchist, n. monarchical, adj.
1 . a governmental system in which supreme power is actually or nominally held by a monarch.
2 . supreme power and authority held by one person; autocracy. monarchie, monarchical, adj.
government or domination of society by the rich.
a system ruled by one person; autocracy.
1 . the process of self-government by cities, towns, or municipalities.
2 . a doctrine advocating such government. municipalist, n.
a system controlled by ten thousand rulers.
the adherence to the doctrines of Napoleon and his dynasty. Napoleonist, n. Napoleonic, adj.
a government by amateurs.
the principles of a Russian revolutionary movement in the late 19th century, advocating the destruction of government as a means to anarchy and of ten employing terrorism and assassination to assist its program. nihilist, n., adj. nihilistic, adj.
a provincial system of government, as in modern Greece, under officials called nomarchs.
2 . the office or jurisdiction of a nomarch. Also called nome.
a policy under which government regulation of private industry is reduced or nonexistent. noninterventionist, n., adj.
1 . a system of rule by a few persons.
2 . the people who form such a government. oligarch, n. oligarchie, oligarchical, adj.
the office of or territory governed by a nobleman with royal privileges.
Rare. a realm or dominion that includes the universe.
a utopian community where all are equal and all rule. pantisocratist, n. pantisocratic, pantisocratical, adj.
a system in which power is held by the printed media.
advocacy of the parliamentary system of government. parliamentarian, n., adj.
fatherlike control over subordinates in government. paternalist, n. paternalistic, adj.
a patriarchal government in a society or a church. patriarchist, n.
a society organized to give supremacy to the father or the oldest male in governing a family, tribe, or clan. patriarch, n.
rule or government by pedants; domination of society by pedants.
1 . the rule of the rich or wealthy.
2 . the rich or wealthy who govern under such a system. Also called plousiocracy. plutocrat, n.
1 . government by many rulers.
2 . the condition of being polyarch. polyarchist, n. polyarchical, adj.
the state of relating to the administration or lifestyle of Pretoria, South Africa.
the theories, actions, and principles of the Prussians. Prussian, n., adj.
a system of rule by the poor.
the civil government of Italy, as contrasted with the papal government of the Vatican. Quirinal, adj.
the tenets of royal supremacy, especially in church affairs.
the principles of a theory of government in which the supreme power rests in the body of citizens entitled to vote and exercised by representatives they elect directly or indirectly and by an elected or nominated president.
the action taken and the policies followed by a government determined to recover a lost territory. revanche, n. revanchist, n., adj.
the customs of Saba, an ancient Arabic kingdom that flourished from 950 to 115 B.C. Sabaean, adj.
Persian Empire, the system of provincial governments ruled by satraps, each of whom answered to the Persian emperor.
an excessive devotion to the interests of one particular section of a country or community. sectionalist, n.
a feudal social and economic system in which persons of the lower class are bound to the soil, subject to the will of and service for their lord, and transferable to the new owner if the land is sold or otherwise deeded. Also serfdom.
a theory of government based upon the ownership and control of capital, land, and means of production by the community as a whole.
collective government or government by society as a whole.
Sovietism, sovietism
1 . the soviet system of government and the principles and practices of such a government.
2 . a policy, action, etc., typical of the Soviet Union. Sovietist, sovietist, n., adj.
statism, stateism
1 . the principle of concentrating major political and economic controls in the state.
2 . the support of the sovereignty of the state. statist, n., adj.
a system of rule by the military.
an early Irish rule of succession in which the successor to a Celtic chief was chosen from among eligible males during the chiefs lifetime. tanist, n.
1 . a theory and movement of the 1930s advocating the control of production and distribution by technicians and engineers.
2 . a system of government based on this theory. technocrat, n. technocratic, adj.
1 . the Roman practice of dividing authority over provinces among four governors.
2 . a system of rule by four authorities. tetrarch, tetrarchate, n. tetrarchic, tetrarchical, adj.
1 . a system of government by God or a god.
2 . an order or system of deities. thearchic, adj.
1 . a system of government in which God or a deity is held to be the civil ruler; thearchy.
2 . a system of government by priests; hagiarchy.
3 . a state under such a form of rule. theocrat, n. theocratic, adj.
1 . Platonism. a state in which a love of honor and glory is the guiding principle of the rulers.
2 . Aristotelianism. a state in which the ownership of property is a qualification for office. timocratie, timocratical, adj.
Ancient History. a small state or division of a larger state, as Judea.
1 . a system of highly centralized government in which one political party or group takes control and grants neither recognition nor tolerance to other political groups.
2 . autocracy in one of its several varieties.
3 . the character or traits of an autocratic or authoritarian individual, party, government, or state. totalitarian, n., adj.
1 . the rule of a nation, state, or community by three persons.
2 . a set of three joint rulers. Usually called triumvirate.
3 . a country divided into three governments.
4 . a group of three districts or three countries, each under its own ruler.
1 . the customs, life, and organization of a tribal society.
2 . a strong loyalty to ones tribe, party, or group.
the former Chinese practice of governing provinces through warlords, or tuchuns.
1 . a representative form of government with a single legislative chamber.
2 . an advocacy of unicameral structure. unicameralist, n. unicameral, adj.
the state of being one-sided. unilaterality, n. unilateralist, adj.
1 . the feudal system of lands held in fee and of mandatory vassaltenant homage, fealty, and service.
2 . the condition of a person owing homage and fealty to a superior; vassalage.
local government by assemblies of parishioners, usually meeting in the vestry of the church. Also vestrydom. vestryish, adj.
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The terms "government" and "state" are frequently confused. Broadly considered, government is the concrete system through which the objective of the statethe common goodis attained. This article discusses the definition of government, the nature of political power, and historic classifications of the forms of government.

Definition. Man is a social animal, and he requires various kinds of social organization to achieve his specific and varied objectives. One of these is the state, whose end is broader than that of any other element of society. As Jacques Maritain says, "it specializes in the interests of the whole" (Man and the State [Chicago 1951] 12). Nevertheless, it is to be distinguished from society, whose discrete and varied objectives are only partially achieved by the state as such. Traditionally, the state is conceived as including population, territory, sovereignty, independence, and government. Robert MacIver defines it as "an association which, acting through law as promulgated by a government endowed to this end with coercive power, maintains within a community territorially demarcated the universal external conditions of social order" (Modern State [Oxford 1926] 22).

Government, as one of the several elements that constitute the state, is the machinery through which the state operates. Concretely, it consists of the combined organisms and mechanisms such as the legislature, the courts, the executive branch, the bureaucracy, and the political parties that shape and implement public policy. While government is an apparatus, it is also a process through which the people of the state seek to meet the common problems that inevitably arise in the course of social living. Since the problems that face man in the course of history change and since government is a social invention of man designed to meet his needs, it is obscurantist to conceive of government as unchanging in form or frozen in its functions.

Power and Government. While man is a social animal, as Aristotle described him, he is also, in Christian terminology, the product of original sin. The extent to which man's social nature predisposes him to orderly living in society and the extent to which his individual egoism prompts him to seek personal aggrandizement at the expense of others have become opposite poles of reference for political theorists in expanding or contracting the extent of power to be allowed to government. Thus, Thomas hobbes (15881671) conceived of man as reflexively selfish, compelled only through fear of coercion to live an orderly life in society. On the other hand, Jean Jacques rousseau (171278) in some of his works conceived of man as naturally good and presaged the Jacksonian view of man as fully capable of self-government and properly subject only to minimal restraints.

If power is defined generally as the capacity to make and enforce decisions (rules and regulations) affecting the behavior of individuals or groups, it is apparent that it is possessed by many individuals and subsocieties, including the family. Without the ability to enforce decisions, one cannot speak realistically of power or of government. But power is not to be conceived of solely in terms of physical coercion. Custom, tradition, education, and habit develop attitudes of compliance as well as pomp, pageantry, and charisma of leadership. Power is more than force, and the state is more than power. And although these are shared with other groups in society besides government, nevertheless, in modern times only the government in the name of the state may legitimately use physical coercion. Government is distinguished in this facet of power both by the intensity and the extent to which it may apply it.

The philosophical tradition of the West has admitted the need for some kind of coercive power to be possessed by government as a necessary condition for minimal order. Individual interests no less than those of corporate bodies within the state must bow to the legitimate broader ends of the state, preferably through conviction, but if necessary through coercion. In his Disquisition on Government even John Calhoun (17821850), who was congenitally concerned about checks and balances in government, defined government as "controlling power" in society (Works [6 v. New York 1854] 1.4).

But while most schools of political thought grant the use of coercive power to government, few grant it without qualification. plato (c. 427347 b.c.) believed that until philosophers are kings and kings are philosophers, the world will never cease from ill. In this view, wisdom rather than consent of the people is the legitimate condition for the exercise of power. For a considerable period of history primogeniture in hereditary succession was the badge of legitimacy. In more modern times and under the influence of the modern natural right school, selection by the people and acceptance of contractual limitations are the necessary conditions for the exercise of coercive power. Thus, for most nations of the West (Russia included) some kind of constitution, written or unwritten, forms the basis for government and spells out the structure and conditions of governing. What that structure is and what the conditions are depend upon the historical experience of the people, the prevailing political philosophy, and perhaps the social milieu in which the government is formed. To invest the political power with authority, that is, to make it legitimate by meeting the expectations of the governed concerning the wielding of authority, is the central goal of all government and politics.

In Western culture, the basic condition for the legitimate use of power has been that it be used for the good of the people. What that good is depends, of course, upon the particular nature of man as conceived by any particular society. The Greco-Roman-Christian tradition would reject a concept of absolute sovereignty in the state. Government has to be morally responsible and its powers are limited by the nature of man and the common good. As the Apostle Paul said, "There exists no authority except from God, and those who exist have been appointed by God" (Rom 13.1) and are responsible to a higher power. Even Plato's philosopher-king, who is above positive law, remains subject to the moral law. The right to power, therefore, in the Western traditionignoring the aberrations of some of the German idealists and of machiavelli (14691527) and Hobbes among othershas always been a qualified right. Absolute sovereignty, as Maritain says, is not a characteristic of government in the West. Might never makes right. (see authority, civil.)

Historic Classifications. Governments have been grouped according to different criteria ever since Aristotle attempted the first systematic classification in his famous studies of Greek constitutions. The great Greek classified them according to the number of men involved in governing, ranging from one-man rule (monarchy) to rule by the majority (polity). He also distinguished government according to the interests served. Thus, one man rule in the interest of the whole community is called monarchy; but if it is conducted in the interest of the ruler himself, it is termed "tyranny." By the same reasoning, aristocracy is opposed to oligarchy and polity to democracy, then defined as the rule of the many for their own selfish benefit. This classification persisted through many centuries, being used variously by Roman political theorists and by many medieval writers, including St. thomas aquinas (c. 122574).

Logically, there are other possible classifications that might more accurately reflect the true nature of contrasting governmental forms. For instance, the parliamentary form may be distinguished from the presidential form, best exemplified by England and the United States, respectively. The parliamentary system fuses legislative and executive powers by making the executive in theory the creature of the legislative body, but often in practice, because of party discipline, the executive actually is master. Also, the titular head of the government is most often a purely ceremonial figure without power, such as the monarchy in England. Only the maximum time is fixed for terms of office and the legislative product is not subject to judicial review.

The presidential system, on the other hand, makes the president independent of the legislative branch and elects him or her from a different constituency than that of the legislators. Terms of office are fixed, judicial review is provided in some instances, and separation of powers is prescribed in the basic instrument. There is no guarantee that the same party will control both the presidency and the Congress, or even both houses of Congress.

Another classification is made according to the concentration or dispersal of authority over a geographical area. The so-called unitary state, for example, has a central source of authority. Local governments are merely the creatures of the central government and owe their legal existence to it. Their powers and even their boundaries are subject to the higher authority, as is the case in the relationship of municipal government to state governments in the United States. Great Britain and France have unitary governments. It should be noted that unitary government does not necessarily imply highly centralized government, since authority may be freely decentralized through delegation to subunits.

In contrast is a form by which unity is achieved, in the midst of diversity, through federalism. The United States is one example; Canada and Russia are others. Federalism is simply the distribution of powers and functions of government between two or more semiindependent levels of government in the same state. It is differentiated from the separation of powers, which is the division of powers and functions at a particular level of government.

Normally, all levels of government in a federal system have some independence of action and each possesses its own three organs. Like the separation of powers, federalism poses some obstacles to the solution of modern problems that are intergovernmental in character but the solutions to which are not legally located at any single level. Such problems as control and conservation of river systems, labor-management relations, and interstate crime have perplexed the advocates of strict federalism, since the problems transcend the jurisdiction of state governments but are not clearly the responsibility solely of the central government. A cooperative approach is sometimes called "cooperative federalism," although both Congress and the federal courts have in recent years been willing to concede rather large areas of jurisdiction to the central government where the jurisdiction is not legally clear-cut, or where the states are obviously incapable of attacking the problem effectively. In the cases of some states, such as Russia, the system is formally federal but actually highly centralized because of the tight discipline of a pervasive party system.

A fourth classification is made according to the groups that exercise power in the state, namely, political parties. This involves a description of the basic party system as a one-party, two-party, or multiparty structure. A one-party system such as that of the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany obviously can corrupt the formal structure of the government as defined in the constitution. The existence of a single party state is considered by most political scientists as more revealing of the real dictatorial nature of the state than the existence of traditional checks on power such as judicial review or representative assemblies. Two-party systems have proved to promote stability more than multiparty systems; France prior to Charles de Gaulle provided the best modern illustration of party-induced instability.

Finally, governments have been classified according to the scope of power resident in them. Anarchy at one extreme considers coercive power in government as an undiluted evil and reserves to society itself or to associations within it the functions normally given to government. Underlying anarchism is a denial of fallen human nature. As Thomas Paine put it, "Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence" ("Common Sense," Complete Writings, ed. P. S. Foner [New York 1945]1.4).

Totalitarianism, on the other hand, places the totality of functions that society has to perform for man in the hands of the government rather than judiciously distributing them between the government and subsocieties within the state. Nothing is properly exempt from government regulation; voluntary groupings such as church and school are regarded in Hobbesian terminology as "worms in the entrails of a natural man" (Leviathan 2:29).

All types of government line up somewhere between these two extremes including the laissez-faire government of the classical economists. Philosophically the battle continues to rage over whether government is, as Jefferson regarded it, "a necessary evil," or whether, as in Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, and modern papal teaching, it is a positive help in reaching the good life.

Bibliography: r. rienow, Introduction to Government (3d ed. New York 1964). s. h. beer and a. ulam, Patterns of Government (2d ed. New York 1963). r. m. maciver, The Web of Government (New York 1947). a. d. lindsay, The Modern Democratic State (New York 1943). r. w. brewster, Government in Modern Society (2d ed. Boston 1963). c. j. friedrich, Constitutional Government and Democracy (rev. ed. Boston 1950). w. elliott and n. mcdonald, eds., Western Political Heritage (New York 1949). j. maritain, Man and the State (Chicago 1951). g. sabine, A History of Political Theory (rev. ed. New York 1950). e. s. corwin, The "Higher Law" Background of American Constitutional Law (Ithaca, N.Y. 1955).

[e. l. henry/eds.]

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Exercise of authority over and the performance of functions for a political unit; usually classified by the distribution of power within it.

The modern Middle East is a large and diverse region, the differences well illustrated by the structures and dynamics of governments in the area. There are nearly as many types of government as there are states, and many of the systems undergo almost constant change as the need to accommodate domestic and international pressures emerges. Since the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 some states are seen by the United States and other nations as failed or rogue states that pose an imminent threat to world security, and international forces have compelled "regime changes" in the region (Afghanistan, Iraq).

Constitutional government is not deeply rooted or widespread in the Middle East. Israel's democracy rests in part on a series of basic laws that provide a framework for governmental action rather than on a formal written constitution, but this does not affect its role as a parliamentary democracy. Syria has a constitution with the trappings of constitutional government, yet hardly qualifies as a democratic regime. Other states have written constitutions, but these rarely provide a clear guide to governmental action. The Republic of Turkey, however, is a significant exception.

The legislative institutions of Middle East states generally are limited in number and power. In much of the Middle East, the legislatures are rarely representative bodies, although when present they often perform useful functions. In some of the Persian Gulf states, such as Saudi Arabia, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates, there exist consultative bodies that generally serve at the pleasure of the ruler but also tend to legitimate the ruler's actions. This function has proven particularly critical in times of crisis and challenge to the regime. In some instances elected (although not in wholly unfettered processes) legislatures are involved in lawmaking and engage in criticism of the regime despite regime-imposing limitations. Such legislatures have existed in Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Syria, and Yemen. Qatar, Bahrain, and Kuwait experiment with such systems, whereby the democratization process in Kuwait after the liberation from Iraqi occupation was slow. The form of legislative dynamic most familiar to Western observers exists in Israel and Turkey (and did exist in Lebanon until the 1975 civil war). In Israel the parliament has antecedents in the British model. The Turkish government has been subjected to periodic military interference, but parliament has been empowered to bolster Turkey's membership plea for the European Union. In both countries legislatures are freely elected, real political opposition exists, and multiparty competition is the norm.

Throughout most countries of the Middle East, political opposition is still controlled, as are elections. Morocco is undergoing a constitutional reform since the coming into power of King Mohammed VI in 1999. The recent dramatic change in the foreign policy of Libya has not yet changed the autocratic regime within. Algeria is still in a process of reconstruction of civil society, and the reform process in Tunisia is still slow as of early 2004. As in Morocco the key to democratization in all these countries is an approach to give human rights (not at least the rights of women) a prominent place on the reform agenda.

The politics of the Middle East are dominated mostly by the individuals of the executive branches of government who control a country's system and its decisions. More often than not, this is a single authoritarian individual, whether his title is king, prince, general, or president. Most Middle Eastern governments can be classified as authoritarian; the autonomy of their political institutions is limited, and there are serious constraints on personal political freedoms. Individuals' political rights and personal freedoms are not accorded considerable attention in most of the region's systems, and are rarely guaranteed. Nevertheless, despite the range and extent of government control over the public sector and formal governmental activity, totalitarian regimes are not a conspicuous regional feature, as there is often a clear separation between the public and private sectors, with the private sector insulated from governmental interference.

Forms of Government

Authoritarian systems include several major forms of government, including monarchy (absolute or constitutional) with a king, prince, or sultan at its head. The monarchic principle is firmly rooted in Middle Eastern tradition and history. Such leaderscaliphs, sultans, shahs, khedives, shaykhs, and amirshave held the reins of government in some areas for centuries, often sustaining control through hereditary succession. Monarchies have been seen as legitimate forms of government, even if individual monarchs were given to excesses in the assumption or exercise of power. Monarchies were established by the British, or at least with their acquiescence, in Iraq and in Transjordan during their respective mandates. The coup in Iran after World War I shifted dynasties, but monarchy was retained until the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Egypt retained its monarchy until 1952 and Libya until 1969; Morocco, Jordan, and the Persian Gulf states still maintain the tradition of monarchical rule. Turkey's caliphate-sultanate was terminated after World War I; the imamate of Yemen survived until the 1950s. The formal change from monarchy to republic does not, however, assure an end to personal control of the affairs of state. On the contrary, often the deposed monarch has been succeeded by a popular leader or dictator, such as Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in Turkey, Gamal Abdel Nasser in Egypt, or Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

A republican form of government was formally established during the French mandate over Syria and Lebanon, and these two states emerged from French control after World War II as republics. Nevertheless, they soon moved in very different directions, with Lebanon retaining at least the form of a republic and Syria establishing a single-person system, which has been dominated by the al-Asad family since the early 1970s.

Political pluralism is a rare feature in the Middle East, restricted to Israel and Turkey and, arguably, Lebanon and some minor Gulf states. In Israel, the tradition of proportional representation and coalition government, which originated in the British model for the prestate Zionist structures in Palestine, has helped to generate party pluralism. In Lebanon, the National Pact of 1943 divided elected and appointive government positions proportionately among the various religious denominational groups. Although it has survived since the French mandate and has been modified various times since, its premise of proportional ethnic and religious representation remains a central feature of Lebanese politics, albeit buffeted by civil war. Turkey is a prominent example of a state that has moved from a one-party to a multiparty system since 1945.

Periodically, suggestions have been advanced for political change and reform as well as for further democratization of the states in the region, but these have rarely advanced beyond the stage of pronouncement, thereby allowing the retention of existing structures and types of government. As part of its "War on Terror," the administration of U.S. president George W. Bush has argued for a democratization of the region, whereby the use of foreign force for such regime changes is seen as a legitimate tool. The transitional constitution in Iraq may pave the way for such approaches, as it is a consensus of major ethnic and religious factions under U.S. guidance.

Islamic governments (theocracies) have been the exception, not the rule, in the Arab worldIsrael is a Jewish state but not a theocracy, and Turkey abolished the caliphate in the 1920s and proclaimed itself a secular state. An Islamic government was installed in Iran only after the Iranian Revolution and the ouster of the shah in 1979. The role of Islam in government has varied. Most Islamic states are so described because the majority of their populations are Muslims and they utilize elements of Islam to guide their activities. Many of their constitutions include provisions that the state is Islamic, that Islam is the established religion, or that certain officials (generally, the head of state) must be Muslim, but in most states some of the elements of Islam coexist with extensive borrowings from Western and secular conceptions of government and political life. In some states, Islam has been used as a mechanism for achieving and sustaining the legitimacy of the regime; in others it has been a mobilizing force to generate popular opposition to government policies. The Iranian revolution (1979) established a regime in which Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and the clerics who supported him dominated the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government as well as the military, the media, and the Revolutionary Guards, and traditional Islamic law was enshrined as the law of the land. The structure of government was one peculiar to the Shiʿite system of Iran as molded and guided by Khomeini; it achieved its form only after significant internal discord among varying interpreters of the legacy of Shiʿism. The Iranian model has not been emulated in other states, and it is under pressure in Iran itself. No Arab country has yet formally established an Islamic government, although Saudi Arabia has many of the trappings, including a shariʿa -based legal system and the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques (king) as head of state (king).


Bill, James A., and Springborg, Robert. Politics in the Middle East, 5th edition. Glenview, IL, and London: Longman Publishing Group, 1999.

Black, Antony. The History of Islamic Political Thought: From the Prophet to the Present. Edinburgh, U.K.: Edinburgh University Press, 2001.

Hudson, Michael C. Arab Politics: The Search for Legitimacy. New Haven, CT, and London: Yale University Press, 1979.

Long, David E., and Reich, Bernard, eds. The Government and Politics of the Middle East and North Africa, 4th edition. Boulder, CO, and London: Westview Press, 2002.

bernard reich
updated by oliver benjamin hemmerle

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Since the mid-nineteenth century, one government establishment has existed to fill the printing, binding, and distribution needs of the federal government. Established on June 23, 1860, by Congressional Joint Resolution No. 25, the government printing office (GPO) has provided publication supplies and services to the U.S. Congress, the executive departments, and all other agencies of the federal government. The definition of the duties set forth in the 1860 resolution has stayed essentially the same over the years, with only one amendment in all that time, 44 U.S.C.A. § 101 et seq.

The GPO is overseen by the Congressional Joint Committee on Printing. The head of the GPO works under the title public printer and is appointed by the president of the United States with the consent of the Senate. The public printer is also legally required to be a "practical printer versed in the art of bookbinding" (44 U.S.C.A. § 301).

The GPO uses a variety of printing and binding processes, including electronic photo composition; letterpress printing; Linotype and hand composition; photopolymer platemaking; offset photography; stripping, platemaking, and presswork; and manual and machine bookbinding. The GPO also provides supplies like blank paper and ink to federal agencies, prepares catalogs, and sells and distributes some publications to civilians.

The GPO offers catalogs that detail publications available to the public. All catalogs are available from the superintendent of documents at the GPO. The GPO Sales Publications Reference File, which is issued biweekly on magnetic tape, lists the author, the title, and subject information for each new publication. A more comprehensive listing, the Monthly Catalog of U.S. Government Publications, serves as an index to all the publications handled by the GPO.

The GPO also offers two free catalogs for people who are interested in new or popular publications: U.S. Government Books and New Books. The first lists the titles of best-selling government publications, and the second is a bimonthly listing of government publications for sale.

The approximately 20,000 publications listed in these catalogs can be purchased by mail from the GPO's superintendent of documents. In addition, the books and catalogs published by the GPO can be purchased at the approximately two-dozen GPO bookstores open to the public. Most of the bookstores are located in government hub cities such as Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, and Los Angeles. Publications are also available for public perusal at select depository libraries around the United States.

Owing to the large volume of documents produced by the various federal agencies, the GPO does not handle all of the printing and binding services for the government. In some instances, the GPO takes bids from commercial suppliers and awards contracts to those with the lowest bids. From there, the GPO serves as a connection between ordering agencies and contractors. The booklet How to Do Business with the Government Printing Office provides a background and instructions for contracting with the GPO and submitting bids. The booklet can be requested from any GPO regional printing

procurement office. Any printing or binding contract inquiries can be directed to one of thirteen offices, located in Atlanta; Boston; Chicago; Columbus, Ohio; Dallas; Denver; Hampton, Virginia; Los Angeles; New York; Philadelphia; St. Louis; San Francisco; and Seattle.

Since the mid-1990s, many of the documents published by the GPO have been available in electronic formats. During the mid-1990s, GPO distributed CD-ROM products containing government documents to thousands of American libraries. Many of these documents are now available through GPO's Web site, known as GPO Access. The site contains hundreds of thousands of individual documents from the various federal departments and agencies. It has become particularly useful for attorneys who need to locate such information as administrative regulations and legislative history of federal statutes.

further readings

"Keeping America Informed: The United States Government Printing Office." Available online at <> (accessed July 26, 2003).

U.S. Government Manual Website. Available online at <> (accessed November 10, 2003).

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Congress of the United States; Legislative History.

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gov·ern·ment / ˈgəvər(n)mənt/ • n. 1. [treated as sing. or pl.] the governing body of a nation, state, or community: an agency of the federal government| [as adj.] government controls. ∎  the system by which a nation, state, or community is governed: a secular, pluralistic, democratic government. ∎  the action or manner of controlling or regulating a nation, organization, or people: rules for the government of the infirmary. ∎  the group of persons in office at a particular time; administration: the election of the new government. ∎  another term for political science. ∎  (governments) all bonds issued by the U.S. Treasury or other federal agencies. 2. Gram. the relation between a governed and a governing word. DERIVATIVES: gov·ern·men·tal / ˌgəvər(n)ˈmentl/ adj. gov·ern·men·tal·ly / ˌgəvər(n)ˈmentl-ē/ adv.

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GOVERNMENT. In GRAMMAR, the way in which the use of one word requires another word to take a particular form, especially in highly inflected languages. In LATIN, prepositions govern nouns: ad is followed by an accusative of movement (ad villam towards the villa), in by either an accusative of movement (in villam into the villa) or an ablative of location (in villa in the villa). Though the concept is not strictly applicable to a mildly inflected language like English, prepositions require object pronouns where they exist: of me (not *of I), to them (not *to they), for us (not *for we). The term is usually contrasted with agreement or concord, a condition in which two words interact. Some grammarians extend the term to the way in which some verbs require a particular preposition before a following noun phrase, as in ‘We insist on seeing you tomorrow’ and ‘I will not compromise with them on a matter like this.’

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This entry consists of four separate articles: Overview, Local, State, and Territories.