In political science, a political system means the type of political organization that can be recognized, observed or otherwise declared by a state.[1]

It defines the process for making official government decisions. It usually comprizes the governmental legal and economic system, social and cultural system, and other state and government specific systems. However, this is a very simplified view of a much more complex system of categories involving the questions of who should have authority and what the government influence on its people and economy should be.

The main types of political systems recognized are democracies, totalitarian regimes and, sitting between these two, authoritarian regimes with a variety of hybrid regimes.[2][3] Modern classification system also include monarchies as a standalone entity or as a hybrid system of the main three.[4][5]


According to David Easton, "A political system can be designated as the interactions through which values are authoritatively allocated for a society".[6]. Political system refers broadly to the process by which laws are made and public resources allocated in a society, and to the relationships among those involved in making these decisions.[7]

Social political science

Further information: List of forms of government

World's states colored by form of government1

The sociological interest in political systems is figuring out who holds power within the relationship between the government and its people and how the government’s power is used. According to Yale professor Juan José Linz there a three main types of political systems today: democracies, totalitarian regimes and, sitting between these two, authoritarian regimes (with hybrid regimes).[3][8] Another modern classification system includes monarchies as a standalone entity or as a hybrid system of the main three.[4] Scholars generally refer to a dictatorship as either a form of authoritarianism or totalitarianism.[9][10][3][11]


Further information: Types of democracy

Democracy (from Ancient Greek: δημοκρατία, romanizeddēmokratía, dēmos 'people' and kratos 'rule')[12] is a system of government in which state power is vested in the people, or the general population of a state.[13] According to the United Nations, democracy "provides an environment that respects human rights and fundamental freedoms, and in which the freely expressed will of people is exercised."[14]


Authoritarianism is a political system characterized by the rejection of political plurality, the use of strong central power to preserve the political status quo, and reductions in the rule of law, separation of powers, and democratic voting.[15][16] Political scientists have created many typologies describing variations of authoritarian forms of government.[16] Authoritarian regimes may be either autocratic or oligarchic and may be based upon the rule of a party or the military.[17][18] States that have a blurred boundary between democracy and authoritarianism have some times been characterized as "hybrid democracies", "hybrid regimes" or "competitive authoritarian" states.[19][20][21]


Totalitarianism is a form of government and a political system that prohibits all opposition parties, outlaws individual and group opposition to the state and its claims, and exercises an extremely high if not complete degree of control and regulation over public and private life. It is regarded as the most extreme and complete form of authoritarianism. In totalitarian states, political power is often held by autocrats, such as dictators (totalitarian dictatorship) and absolute monarchs, who employ all-encompassing campaigns in which propaganda is broadcast by state-controlled mass media in order to control the citizenry.[22]


A monarchy is a form of government in which a person, the monarch, is head of state for life or until abdication. The political legitimacy and authority of the monarch may vary from restricted and largely symbolic (constitutional monarchy), to fully autocratic (absolute monarchy), and can span across executive, legislative, and judicial domains.[23]

The succession of monarchs in many cases has been hereditical, often building dynastic periods. However, elective and self-proclaimed monarchies have also been established throughout history.[24] Aristocrats, though not inherent to monarchies, often serve as the pool of persons to draw the monarch from and fill the constituting institutions (e.g. diet and court), giving many monarchies oligarchic elements.


Further information: Democratization and Democratic backsliding

A hybrid regime[a] is a type of political system often created as a result of an incomplete democratic transition from an authoritarian regime to a democratic one (or vice versa).[b] Hybrid regimes are categorized as having a combination of autocratic features with democratic ones and can simultaneously hold political repressions and regular elections.[b] Hybrid regimes are commonly found in developing countries with abundant natural resources such as petro-states.[42][31][43] Although these regimes experience civil unrest, they may be relatively stable and tenacious for decades at a time.[b] There has been a rise in hybrid regimes since the end of the Cold War.[44][45]

The term hybrid regime arises from a polymorphic view of political regimes that opposes the dichotomy of autocracy or democracy.[46] Modern scholarly analysis of hybrid regimes focuses attention on the decorative nature of democratic institutions (elections do not lead to a change of power, different media broadcast government point of view and the opposition in parliament votes the same way as the ruling party, among others),[47] from which it is concluded that democratic backsliding, a transition to authoritarianism is the most prevalent basis of hybrid regimes.[b][48][49] Some scholars also contend that hybrid regimes may imitate a full dictatorship.[50][51]

Sociological and socioanthropological classification

Social anthropologists generally recognize four kinds of political systems, two of which are uncentralized and two of which are centralized.[52]

See also


  1. ^ Scholars uses a variety of terms to encompass the "greyzones” between full autocracies and full democracies such as competitive authoritarianism or semi-authoritarianism or hybrid authoritarianism or electoral authoritarianism or liberal autocracy or delegative democracy or illiberal democracy or guided democracy or semi-democracy or deficient democracy or defective democracy or hybrid democracy.[25][26][27][28][29][30][31][32]
  2. ^ a b c d "Some scholars argue that deficient democracies and deficient autocracies can be seen as examples of hybrid regimes, whereas others argue that hybrid regimes combine characteristics of both democratic and autocratic regimes."[26] Scholars also debate if these regimes are in transition or are inherently a stable political system.[33][34][35][36][37][38][39][40][41]


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Further reading

  • Douglas V. Verney (15 April 2013). The Analysis of Political Systems. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-135-03477-1.
  • Almond, Gabriel A., et al. Comparative Politics Today: A World View (Seventh Edition). 2000. ISBN 0-316-03497-5.
  • Ferris, Kerry, and Jill Stein. The Real World An Introduction to Sociology. 3rd ed. New York City: W W Norton & Co, 2012. Print.
  • "political system". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2012. Web. 02 Dec. 2012.