AskDefine | Define autocracy

Dictionary Definition



1 a political system governed by a single individual [syn: autarchy] [ant: democracy]
2 a political theory favoring unlimited authority by a single individual

User Contributed Dictionary



From Ancient Greek αυτοκρατής italbrac autokrates “one who governs alone”, from αὐτός italbrac autos “single, self, same, alone” + κράτος italbrac kratos “power”.


  1. A form of government in which unlimited power is held by a single individual.


Extensive Definition

An autocracy is a form of government in which the political power is held by a single self-appointed ruler. The term autocrat is derived from the Greek word autocratic (lit. "self-ruler", or to: "rule by one's self"). Compare with oligarchy (literally means rule by the few) and democracy (rule by the majority).
Today it is usually seen as synonymous with despot, tyrant and/or dictator, though each of these terms originally had a separate and distinct meaning (see their respective articles).
Autocracy is not synonymous with totalitarianism, as this concept was precisely forged to distinguish modern regimes that appeared in the 1920s from traditional dictatorships. It also isn't synonymous with military dictatorship, as these often take the form of "collective presidencies" (see the South-American juntas). However, an autocracy may be totalitarian or be a military dictatorship.
The term monarchy also differs in that it emphasizes the hereditary characteristic, though some Slavic monarchs, specifically Russian Emperors traditionally included the title "autocrat" as part of their official styles. The actual power of the monarch may be limited. Historically, many monarchs ruled autocratically (see absolute monarchy) but eventually their power was diminished and dissolved with the introduction of constitutions giving the people the power to make decisions for themselves through elected bodies of government.
The autocrat needs some kind of power structure to rule. Very few rulers were in the position to rule with only their personal charisma and skills however great they may be without the help of others. Most historical autocrats depended on their nobles, the military, the priesthood or others, who could turn against the ruler and depose or murder him (or her). The true nature of a historical autocracy and the difference between an autocracy and an oligarchy can be difficult to judge.
autocracy in Asturian: Autocracia
autocracy in Bosnian: Autokratija
autocracy in Catalan: Autocràcia
autocracy in Czech: Autokracie
autocracy in German: Autokratie
autocracy in Spanish: Autocracia
autocracy in Persian: حکومت استبدادی
autocracy in French: Autocratie
autocracy in Galician: Autocracia
autocracy in Hungarian: Autokrácia
autocracy in Indonesian: Otokrasi
autocracy in Italian: Autocrazia
autocracy in Macedonian: Автократија
autocracy in Japanese: 専制政治
autocracy in Lithuanian: Autokratija
autocracy in Dutch: Autocratie
autocracy in Polish: Autokracja
autocracy in Portuguese: Autocracia
autocracy in Russian: Автократия
autocracy in Serbo-Croatian: Autokracija
autocracy in Simple English: Autocracy
autocracy in Slovenian: Avtokracija
autocracy in Serbian: Аутократија
autocracy in Swedish: Autokrati
autocracy in Ukrainian: Автократія
autocracy in Chinese: 独裁
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