Authoritarian conservatism is a political ideology that seeks to uphold order, tradition and hierarchy, often with forcible suppression of radical and revolutionary enemies such as communists, Nazis, and anarchists.[1] Authoritarian conservative movements and regimes have included Chiangism in China,[2] Metaxism in Greece,[3] and Francoism in Spain.[4]

Although the concept of authority has been identified as a core tenet of conservatism in general,[5][6] authoritarian conservatism is only one of many different forms of conservatism. It is contrasted with libertarian conservatism, which is the most common form of conservatism in the United States.[7]


Historical roots

The two philosophical forefathers of conservatism, Edmund Burke and Joseph de Maistre, inspired two separate forms of conservatism. Whereas the first was rooted in a more libertarian Whig tradition, the latter was ultramontane, ultra-royalist, and ultimately authoritarian.[8]

G. W. F. Hegel has also been identified as one of the most important conservative philosophers.[9][10] Especially his work Elements of the Philosophy of Right (1821) has exerted a powerful influence over conservative ideology.[11] Hegel inspired right-wing authoritarians such as Rudolf Kjellén in Sweden[12] and Giovanni Gentile in Italy.[13] Classical liberals have been critical of Hegel: Karl Popper identified him as the chief ideologue of the authoritarian Prussian state and considered him one of the main ideological enemies of an open society,[14] and Isaiah Berlin accused him as being one of the architects of modern authoritarianism.[15]

Modern exponents

German political theorist Carl Schmitt advocated authoritarian conservatism.[16][17] Referred to as "an acute observer and analyst of the weaknesses of liberal constitutionalism" by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Schmitt was a critic of parliamentary democracy, liberalism, and cosmopolitanism.[18] He developed a political theology around concepts such as sovereignty, claiming that "sovereign is he who decides on the exception" and arguing for a dictatorial presidential power who could step outside the rule of law under a state of exception.[19]

Italian esoteric traditionalist Julius Evola is another influential authoritarian conservative philosopher.[20]

Relation to fascism

King Alexander I of Yugoslavia (1888–1934) was assassinated by Croatian fascists

Authoritarian conservative movements were prominent in the same era as fascism, with which it sometimes clashed.[21] Although both ideologies shared core values such as nationalism and had common enemies such as communism and materialism, there was nonetheless a contrast between the traditionalist nature of authoritarian conservatism and the revolutionary, palingenetic and populist nature of fascism—thus it was common for authoritarian conservative regimes to suppress rising fascist and Nazi movements.[22][23] The hostility between the two ideologies is highlighted by the struggle for power in Austria, which was marked by the assassination of ultra-Catholic statesman Engelbert Dollfuss by Austrian Nazis. Likewise, Croatian fascists assassinated King Alexander I of Yugoslavia.[24]

Edmund Fawcett explains the difference between fascism and authoritarian conservatism as follows:

Fascism, to schematize, is a form of totalitarianism. It imposes control on every aspect of the state, society, economy, and cultural life. It works through a single party with an all-embracing ideology commonly under a charismatic leader claiming to speak for the people. Its enemies are pluralism and diversity. Fascism stifles opposition by violence and fear and stabilizes itself by mobilizing popular engagement. Authoritarianism, by contrast, allows independent economic and social bodies, forms of limited representation, and a degree of freedom of religion. Its enemy is democratic participation. It also stifles opposition by violence and fear but stabilizes itself by relying on passive acquiescence in a trade-off of social quiet for loss of political role. The fascist is a nonconservative who takes anti-liberalism to extremes. The right-wing authoritarian is a conservative who takes fear of democracy to extremes.[25]

The authoritarian conservative right is distinguished from fascism in that such conservatives tended to use traditional religion as the basis for their philosophical views, while fascists based their views on vitalism, irrationalism, or secular neo-idealism.[26] Fascists often drew upon religious imagery, but used it as a symbol for the nation and replaced spirituality with ultranationalism and statolatry. Even in the most religious of the fascist movements, the Romanian Iron Guard, "Christ was stripped of genuine otherworldly mystery and was reduced to a metaphor for national redemption."[27]

A term used by some scholars is para-fascism, which refers to authoritarian conservative movements and regimes that adopt some characteristics associated with fascism such as personality cults, paramilitary organizations, symbols and rhetoric without committing to fascist tenets such as palingenetic ultranationalism, modernism, and populism.[28][29]




Gnassingbé Eyadéma (1935–2005)

The Rally of the Togolese People was the ruling political party in Togo from 1969 to 2012. It was founded by President Gnassingbé Eyadéma and headed by his son, President Faure Gnassingbé, after the former's death in 2005. Faure Gnassingbé replaced the RPT with a new ruling party, the national-conservative Union for the Republic, in April 2012, dissolving the RPT.[30][31]



The Social Republican Party was a political party in Cambodia, founded by the then-head of state Lon Nol in 10 June 1972. Its platform was populist, nationalist and anti-communist, Lon Nol being determined to oppose North Vietnamese and Chinese influence in the region in the context of the Second Indochina War. The party's main function, however, was to support and legitimise Lon Nol's leadership of the country; he was later to develop a rather ramshackle chauvinist and semi-mystical ideology called "Neo-Khmerism" to back his political agenda.[32]


See also: Chiangism and Neoauthoritarianism (China)


The Iranian Principlists are one of two main political camps inside post-revolutionary Iran, the other being Reformists. The term hardliners that some western sources use in the Iranian political context usually refers to the faction.[33] Their ideology is clerical, theocratic, and Islamist.[34]

South Korea

Park Chung Hee was a South Korean politician and army general, who seized power in the May 16 coup of 1961 and then was elected as the third President of South Korea in 1963. He introduced the highly authoritarian Yushin Constitution, ushering in the Fourth Republic. Now ruling as a dictator, he constantly repressed political opposition and dissent and completely controlled the military. He ruled the country until his assassination in 1979.[35]



The Rexist Party was a far-right Catholic, corporatist, and royalist political party active in Belgium from 1935 until 1945.[36] In its early period — until around 1937 — it tried to win power by democratic means and did not want totally to abolish democratic institutions. During the German occupation of Belgium it became a fascist movement.[37]


Zveno was a Bulgarian political organization, founded in 1930 by Bulgarian politicians, intellectuals and Bulgarian Army officers. It advocated for rationalization of Bulgaria's economic and political institutions under a dictatorship that would be independent from both the Soviet Union and the Axis powers. They strongly opposed the Bulgarian party system, which they saw as dysfunctional, and the terror of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization. King Boris III, an opponent of Zveno, orchestrated a coup through a monarchist Zveno member, General Pencho Zlatev, who became Prime Minister in January 1935. In April 1935, he was replaced by another monarchist, Andrey Toshev.


Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim (1867–1951)

In the Finnish Civil War, rightist White Finland defeated the leftist Red Finland. The clashes took place in the context of the turmoil caused by World War I in Europe. The paramilitary White Guards were led by Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim and were assisted by the German Imperial Army at the request of the Finnish civil government.

The Lapua Movement was a radical Finnish nationalist, pro-German, and anti-communist political movement.[38][39] Led by Vihtori Kosola, it turned towards far-right politics after its founding and was banned after a failed coup d'etat attempt in 1932.[40] The Peasant March was a demonstration in Helsinki, attended by more than 12,000 supporters from all over the country with the intention to put pressure on the Finnish government to suppress communism in the country.


The Conservative Revolution was an influential ideological movement during the Weimar Republic. Although usually characterized with terms such as radical, revolutionary, ultra, and romantic, the movement also had elements of authoritarianism.[41] For example, Arthur Moeller van den Bruck published the influential book Das Dritte Reich (1923) in which he advocated a "Third Reich" that would unite all German classes under an authoritarian rule.[42]


The 4th of August Regime was an authoritarian, arch-conservative and royalist regime under the leadership of General Ioannis Metaxas, who ruled over the Kingdom of Greece from 1936 to 1941. The regime took inspiration in its symbolism and rhetoric from Fascist Italy, but retained close links to Britain and the French Third Republic, rather than the Axis powers.[43] Metaxas' ideology is known as Metaxism.


The National Renaissance Front was a Romanian political party created by King Carol II in 1938 as the single monopoly party of government following his decision to ban all other political parties and suspend the 1923 Constitution, and the passing of the 1938 Constitution of Romania. Largely reflecting Carol's own political choices, the FRN was the last of several attempts to counter the popularity of the fascist and antisemitic Iron Guard.[44] As Carol witnessed the failure of European countries to defend themselves from Nazi German advances, consecrated by the Anschluss and the Munich Agreement, he ordered the Iron Guard, whom he perceived as a fifth column for Nazi Germany, to be decapitated: during the following days, Corneliu Zelea Codreanu and the majority of top-ranking Guardists were assassinated.[45][46]


Authoritarian Ukrainian State headed by Cossack aristocrat Pavlo Skoropadskyi represented the conservative movement. The 1918 Hetman government, which appealed to the tradition of the 17th–18th century Cossack Hetman state, represented the conservative strand in Ukraine's struggle for independence. It had the support of the proprietary classes and of conservative and moderate political groups.

Latin America


Augusto Pinochet (1915–2006)

During the military dictatorship of Chile, the country was ruled by a military junta headed by General Augusto Pinochet. As an ideology, Pinochetism was anti-communist, militaristic, nationalistic and laissez-faire capitalistic.[47][48] Under Pinochet, Chile's economy was placed under the control of a group of Chilean economists known collectively as the Chicago Boys, whose liberalising policies have been described by some as neoliberal.[49]

North America

United States

Mainstream conservatism in the United States was always strongly influenced by libertarian ideals. Indeed, historian Leo P. Ribuffo notes, "what Americans now call conservatism much of the world calls liberalism or neoliberalism".[50] The topic of authoritarianism is therefore controversial within the American conservative movement. John Dean, a critic of Presidents George W. Bush and Donald Trump, writes in Conservatives without Conscience (2006):

Social conservatism and neoconservatism have revived authoritarian conservatism, and not for the better of conservatism or American democracy. True conservatism is cautious and prudent. Authoritarianism is rash and radical. American democracy has benefited from true conservatism, but authoritarianism offers potentially serious trouble for any democracy.[51]


The right-wing authoritarian personality (RWA) is a personality type that describes somebody who is highly submissive to their authority figures, acts aggressively in the name of said authorities, and is conformist in thought and behaviour.[52] According to psychologist Bob Altemeyer, individuals who are politically conservative often rank high in RWA.[53] This finding was echoed by Theodor W. Adorno in The Authoritarian Personality (1950) based on the F-scale personality test. A study done on Israeli and Palestinian students in Israel found that RWA scores of right-wing party supporters were significantly higher than those of left-wing party supporters.[54]

See also


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