Government refers to the legislators, administrators, and arbitrators in the administrative bureaucracy who control a state at a given time, and to the system of government by which they are organized. Government is the means by which state policy is enforced, as well as the mechanism for determining the policy of the state.
The word government is derived from the Latin verb gubernare, an infinitive meaning "to govern" or "to manage".
States are served by a continuous succession of different governments. Each successive government is composed of a body of individuals who control and exercise control over political decision-making. Their function is to enforce laws, legislate new ones, and arbitrate conflicts. In some societies, this group is often a self-perpetuating or hereditary class. In other societies, such as democracies, the political roles remain, but there is frequent turnover of the people actually filling the positions.
In most Western societies, there is a clear distinction between a government and the state. Public disapproval of a particular government (expressed, for example, by not re-electing an incumbent) does not necessarily represent disapproval of the state itself (i.e. of the particular framework of government). However, in some totalitarian regimes, there is not a clear distinction between the regime and the state. In fact, leaders in such regimes often attempt to deliberately blur the lines between the two, in order to conflate their interests with those of the polity.
Types of governments
- Authoritarian – Authoritarian governments are characterized by an emphasis on the authority of the state in a republic or union. It is a political system controlled by unelected rulers who usually permit some degree of individual freedom.
- Anarchism - Sometimes said to be non-governance; it is a structure which strives for non-hierarchical voluntary associations among agents.
- Constitutional monarchy – A government that has a monarch, but one whose powers are limited by law or by a formal constitution, such as the United Kingdom
- Constitutional republic – A government whose powers are limited by law or a formal constitution, and chosen by a vote amongst at least some sections of the populace (Ancient Sparta was in its own terms a republic, though most inhabitants were disenfranchised; The early United States was a republic, but the large numbers of African Americans and women did not have the vote). Republics which exclude sections of the populace from participation will typically claim to represent all citizens (by defining people without the vote as "non-citizens").
- Democracy – Rule by a government chosen by election where most of the populace are enfranchised. The key distinction between a democracy and other forms of constitutional government is usually taken to be that the right to vote is not limited by a person's wealth or race (the main qualification for enfranchisement is usually having reached a certain age). A Democratic government is, therefore, one supported (at least at the time of the election) by a majority of the populace (provided the election was held fairly). A "majority" may be defined in different ways. There are many "power-sharing" (usually in countries where people mainly identify themselves by race or religion) or "electoral-college" or "constituency" systems where the government is not chosen by a simple one-vote-per-person headcount.
- Dictatorship – Rule by an individual who has full power over the country. The term may refer to a system where the dictator came to power, and holds it, purely by force - but it also includes systems where the dictator first came to power legitimately but then was able to amend the constitution so as to, in effect, gather all power for themselves. See also Autocracy and Stratocracy.
- Emirate - similar to a monarchy or sultanate, but a government in which the supreme power is in the hands of an emir (the ruler of a Muslim state); the emir may be an absolute overlord or a sovereign with constitutionally limited authority.
- Monarchy – Rule by an individual who has inherited the role and expects to bequeath it to their heir.
- Oligarchy – Rule by a small group of people who share similar interests or family relations.
- Plutocracy – A government composed of the wealthy class. Any of the forms of government listed here can be plutocracy. For instance, if all of the voted representatives in a republic are wealthy, then it is a republic and a plutocracy.
- Theocracy – Rule by a religious elite.
- Totalitarian – Totalitarian governments regulate nearly every aspect of public and private life.
- ^ "government". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. November 2010.
- ^ Bealey, Frank, ed (1999). "government". The Blackwell dictionary of political science: a user's guide to its terms. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 147. ISBN 9780631206958. http://books.google.com/books?id=6EuKLlzYoTMC&pg=PA147.
- ^ Flint, Colin & Taylor, Peter (2007). Political Geography: World Economy, Nation-State, and Locality (5th ed.). Pearson/Prentice Hall. p. 137. ISBN 978-0-13-196012-1. http://books.google.com/books?id=GXz9xHdHeZcC.
- ^ Barclay, Harold (1990). People Without Government: An Anthropology of Anarchy. Left Bank Books. p. 31. ISBN 1871082161.
- ^ Holsti, Kalevi Jaako (1996). The state, war, and the state of war. Cambridge University Press. pp. 84–85. ISBN 9780521577908. http://books.google.com/books?id=5S_jQSUghsYC&pg=PA84.
- ^ Fotopoulos, Takis, The Multidimensional Crisis ad Inclusive Democracy. (Athens: Gordios, 2005).(English translation of the book with the same title published in Greek).
- ^ "Victorian Electronic Democracy : Glossary". July 28, 2005. Archived from the original on 2007-12-13. http://web.archive.org/web/20071213045132/http://www.parliament.vic.gov.au/SARC/E-Democracy/Final_Report/Glossary.htm.
- ^ American 503
- ^ CIA - The World Factbook - Field Listing :: Government type
- ^ American 1134
- ^ American 1225
- ^ American 1793
- Kjaer, Anne Mette (2004). Governance. Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 9780745629797. http://books.google.com/books?id=AY5SIsf1nI4C.
- Newton, Kenneth & Van Deth, Jan W. (2005). Foundations of Comparative Politics. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521536200. http://books.google.com/books?id=jkPIY_lVKUIC.
- Sharma, Urmila & Sharma, S.K. (2000). "Forms of Government". Principles and Theory of Political Science. Atlantic Publishers & Distributors. ISBN 9788171569380. http://books.google.com/books?id=qdZ3VRRLDrgC&pg=PA406.
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