Autocracy is a form of government in which a single individual holds unlimited power. It is an enhanced form of absolute monarchy in which the ruler shares no power with either the ministers or the ruling classes. An emperor may inherit power, but is considered an autocrat instead of a monarch when too much power is concentrated in his hands. A republic under dictatorship can also be an autocracy.

In the Western world, one can consider a model of autocracy that developed during the period of Imperial Russia, when the ruler assumed the title of Autocrat of All Russia, inspired by the model of the Byzantine Empire, in which the emperor had the title of “basileus and autocrat of the Romans”.

The term can also refer to a country that is ruled in this manner, such as Persia under the rule of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

An autocratic regime becomes an oligarchy when power is controlled by several people, but representing only a small part of the entire society. Autocracy gives preeminence to the state-apparatus regardless of the state-community.

Historical autocracies, in which the word of the sovereign or ruler had the value of absolute law and without constraints, were some empires of antiquity such as the Persian Empire, Ancient Egypt, the Macedonian Empire, the Roman Empire in the period of domination (after 235); also the Byzantine Empire and the Russian Empire, the Holy Roman Empire in certain periods, absolutist France (from Louis XIV, the “Sun King”), some recent dictatorships such as Hitler’s Nazi Germany. As much as we refer to communist states such as Stalin’s Soviet Union or Mao Zedong’s China as autocracies, in reality here power was shared, although in fact very limitedly, between the various offices of the government and the party.

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