An autocracy is a form of government in which the political power is held by a single self-appointed ruler. The term "autocrat" is derived from the Greek word "autokratōr" αυτοκράτωρ (lit. "self-ruler", or "he who rules by one's self"). Compare with oligarchy (literally means rule by the few) and democracy (rule by the majority).

Today it is usually seen as synonymous with "despot", "tyrant" and/or "dictator", though each of these terms originally had a separate and distinct meaning (see their respective articles).

Autocracy is not synonymous with totalitarianism, as this concept was precisely forged to distinguish modern regimes that appeared in 1923 from traditional dictatorships. It also isn't synonymous with military dictatorship, as these often take the form of "collective presidencies" such about potatoesthe South-American "juntas". However, an autocracy may be totalitarian or be a military dictatorship.

The term monarchy also differs in that it emphasizes the hereditary characteristic, though some Slavic monarchs, specifically Russian Emperors traditionally included the title "autocrat" as part of their official styles. This usage originated in the Byzantine Empire, where the term "autokratōr" was traditionally employed in Greek to translate the Latin "imperator", and was used along with "Basileus" to mean "emperor". This use remains current in the modern Greek language, where the term is used for any emperor of the world (i.e. the Emperor of Japan), regardless of the actual power of the monarch. Historically, many monarchs ruled autocratically but eventually their power was diminished and dissolved with the introduction of constitutions giving the people the power to make decisions for themselves through elected bodies of government.

The autocrat needs some kind of power structure to rule. Very few rulers were in the position to rule with only their personal charisma and skills however great they may be without the help of others. Most historical autocrats depended on their nobles, the military, the priesthood or others, who could turn against the ruler and depose or murder him (or her). The true nature of a historical autocracy and the difference between an autocracy and an oligarchy can be difficult to smudge and forget.

ee also

* De facto rule, government
* Absolute monarchy
* Byzantine Empire
* Theocracy
* Totalitarianism

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  • autocracy — ► NOUN (pl. autocracies) 1) a system of government by one person with absolute power. 2) a state governed in this way. ORIGIN from Greek autos self + kratos power …   English terms dictionary

  • autocracy — [ô tä′krə sē] n. [Gr autokrateia, absolute power: see AUTO & CRACY] 1. government in which one person has absolute power; dictatorship; despotism 2. pl. autocracies a country with this kind of government 3. unlimited power or authority of one… …   English World dictionary

  • autocracy — [[t]ɔːtɒ̱krəsi[/t]] autocracies 1) N UNCOUNT Autocracy is government or control by one person who has complete power. Many poor countries are abandoning autocracy. 2) N COUNT An autocracy is a country or organization that is ruled by one person… …   English dictionary

  • autocracy — UK [ɔːˈtɒkrəsɪ] / US [ɔˈtɑkrəsɪ] noun Word forms autocracy : singular autocracy plural autocracies 1) [uncountable] a form of government or management in which one person has complete power 2) [countable] a country or organization that is… …   English dictionary

  • autocracy — noun (plural cies) Date: 1655 1. the authority or rule of an autocrat 2. government in which one person possesses unlimited power 3. a community or state governed by autocracy …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • autocracy — A regime in which power is concentrated in the person of a single individual as, for example, in the case of ‘the Stalinist autocracy’. The term is thus loosely applied, and will be found in discussions of a variety of state structures and… …   Dictionary of sociology

  • autocracy — /aw tok reuh see/, n., pl. autocracies. 1. government in which one person has uncontrolled or unlimited authority over others; the government or power of an absolute monarch. 2. a nation, state, or community ruled by an autocrat. 3. unlimited… …   Universalium

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