Authoritarianism is a non-democratic system of government in which one person or elite holds power. And in which political rights and civil liberties are widely restricted.

Authoritarianism is a type of autocratic regime. In other words, a non-democratic regime in which power is concentrated in a single person. In an authoritarian system, it is the dictator who holds the supreme power, but it does not mean that his power has no limits as in other systems. The authoritarian leader leaves a certain pluralism (very limited) and is quite influenced by the components of his government.

It must also be said that they have a conservative character, since what they are looking for is the paralysis of the regime in the face of a possible substantial or radical change. For this reason, culture and society do not usually vary much from the previous regime to the new authoritarian one.

Characteristics of authoritarianism

Juan José Linz, a renowned Spanish sociologist, developed authoritarianism as a system of government. The following characteristics are derived from his study:

  • Limited pluralism: Not all opposition is eradicated, but a slight pluralism is allowed, but never against the regime.
  • Heterogeneous elite: A specific group does not dominate, there are a series of diverse elites in which a certain balance occurs in the display and execution of power.
  • There is no very defined ideology: Unlike what happens in totalitarian regimes, in authoritarianism there is no strong ideology. The leaders have certain ideas and mentality of how the regime and society should be, but nothing more.
  • De-politicization: A slight ideological control is maintained over the population, which it passively abides by. The party does not have much weight and is weak, it can be created in advance or only to give body to the ruling elites.
  • Limited leadership: The leader or elite is not usually charismatic, and the power develops within limits that are not very well defined but quite predictable.

Types of authoritarianism

Linz also establishes three main types of authoritarian regimes.

  • Military bureaucratic regime: The governing coalition is made up of the military and bureaucrats. It is strongly de-ideologized and demobilized. It has a high military presence, but technocrats and high officials also carry a lot of weight. Ex: Chile of Pinochet, Greece of Papadopoulos, etc.
  • Authoritarian corporatist regime: The company has a slight participation, through structures controlled by the regime. Eg: Portugal of Salazar and Spain of Franco.
  • Mobilization regime in post-democratic societies: In these regimes, the rulers try to make society feel part of the regime and to approve and embrace its ideology. They compensate for the lack of plurality with more participation, thus trying to legitimize themselves. Ex: Egypt from Nasser and Turkey from Ataturk.

Francoist authoritarianism

To see with a practical example the features of an authoritarian regime, we are going to use the Franco regime that developed in Spain between 1939 and 1975. Describing the characteristics previously exposed with the Spanish case.

  • Limited pluralism and heterogeneous elite: Within the government there were several different "families" or groups: monarchists, Falangists, Catholics, military, and so on. There were discrepancies between them, but always within the guidelines set by the regime.
  • There is no well-defined ideology: At first there was a clear fascist predominance, but over the years and the need for the regime to adapt to survive in an increasingly democratized Europe, the regime became de-ideologized. Although Catholic values ​​prevailed.
  • De-politicization: An attempt was made to leave the population out of any political influence, except traditional and Catholic values. The party did not carry great weight. Even the dictator himself advised his ministers to dedicate themselves exclusively to their operational tasks, leaving aside the political plane.
  • Limited leadership: Franco, unlike other leaders around him, did not have great charisma, he was only exalted by his most staunch and extremist followers. He played a role of referee, giving and taking power to the components of his government.

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