Forms of Government (Totalitarianism)

Forms of Government (Totalitarianism)

Forms of Government (Totalitarianism)

Part 3

Let us move on to another form of government as a part of our ongoing series.


  • Totalitarianism is a form of government and a political system that prohibits all opposition, whether it be individual or group, to the state and its claims and exercises an extremely high degree of control and regulation over public and private life.
  • Totalitarianism often traces its roots to Plato and his idea of Philosopher King. Hence Plato is called as the first Fascist by Karl Popper.
  • A totalitarian state often resorts to the use of propaganda as a means to control the populace.
  • Totalitarianism can be present in a Monarchy (Absolute Monarchy) or a Republican (Dictatorship) form of Government.


  • The word originated from the Roman title of a Dictator who was elected by the Roman Senate to rule the republic in times of emergency.
  • Hence the Dictator is often a common man who ceases power through popular support or a military coup.
  • The term Dictator did not have its current negative connotations during Ancient Rome as he was an elected official who was given extra ordinary powers for a limited time only.
  • It was Cornelius Sulla’s ascension to the dictatorship following Sulla’s civil war that gave the term its current meaning as that of a totalitarian ruler.
  • A dictatorship can be formed in multiple of ways such as:


  • The two, though different in name, espouses the same ideology, that of an all-powerful leader who can bring the country out of its struggles and usher in a golden age for its people.
  • It asks to the citizens to forgo their individual rights and freedoms for the promised ‘collective good.’
  • It is often xenophobic and promotes radical nationalism and complete subjugation to the state.
  • They used the philosophies of Friedrich Nietzsche, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and Henri Bergson as a means to declare themselves as the masters and those who oppose them as the inferiors.
  • They also used the ideas of Plato, Hobbes, and others to justify complete submission to the state.
  • These leaders are often highly charismatic and are able to make the common people believe in their version of reality.
  • These ideologies became prominent during the late 1920s and was the major reason behind starting second world war.
  • Hitler in Nazi Germany and Mussolini in Fascist Italy are the most well-known examples of these forms of government.

Military Dictatorship:

  • Military Dictatorship is when the civilian government is overthrown by the military in a (often violent) coup d’état.
  • This often results in the imposition of martial law and military taking over the powers of the civilian government.
  • There have been multiple examples of military coups throughout history.
  • Military Dictators, unlike Civilian dictators often do not enjoy popular support. However, they command immense support from the armed forces of the country which allows them to maintain their iron grip on power.
  • Countries like Pakistan and Myanmar go through multiple coups since in these countries, it is the military that holds the ultimate authority, and the civilian government often just acts as a rubber stamp.
  • The most recent coup in Myanmar is a visible reminder of that.
  • Pakistan, similarly, have been through multiple such coups with the coup by General Musharraf serving as the latest example of that.

Absolute Monarchy:

To know more about Absolute Monarchy click here

These countries often serve as a reminder of the multitudes of freedom that we get to enjoy in India as a citizen of a liberal democracy.