7 Differences Between Totalitarianism and Authoritarianism

If you have been searching the Internet to get a clear explanation of the difference between Totalitarianism and Authoritarianism, then you are in the right place. In this article, we would comprehensively discuss the meaning, Characteristics and differences between the two systems of government. I enjoin you to read carefully as everything is explained step by step.

Authoritarianism vs totalitarianism
Authoritarianism vs totalitarianism

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Meaning of Totalitarianism

One would wonder what totalitarianism is all about: Totalitarianism is a system or form of government which prohibits any other form of political party from existing in the state asides from the ruling party, the individual opposition of the state is being outlawed and it exercises and claims a high degree of control over public and private life. Totalitarianism is always regarded as the complete form of authoritarianism. In this system of government, the powers of the state are always held by dictators, absolute monarchs, autocrats.

Meaning & Differences Between Totalitarianism and Authoritarianism
Meaning & Differences Between Totalitarianism and Authoritarianism

This form of government theoretically, does not permit any form of individual freedom and always strives to subordinate any form of individual or independent citizens’ life to the powers and authority of the state.

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Characteristic of Totalitarianism

1. In totalitarian system of government, the traditional organization of the people, social institutions and organization are normally controlled or suppressed by the government. Thereby weakening the social fabric and gathering of the people, and subconsciously they are brought together into a uniform organization or gathering which is totally controlled by the government.

2. A totalitarian system of government is usually distinguished from the dictatorial form of government, despotism, or tyranny by its substitution of the political institutions with new and fresh ones and its neglects of legal, social, and political traditions.

The totalitarian system specifically pursues a particular goal like conquest or industrialization, to the exclusion of all others. All the resources of the state are usually directed to achieving this irrespective of the cost or what it would take to achieve it.

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Meaning of Authoritarianism

An authoritarian system of government is a system of government in which is characterized by the total rejection of a political plurality. It is the use of a powerful and a strong power coming from the state central to preserve the country’s political status quo, and the active reduction of the known rule of law, separation of powers and democratic voting. An authoritarian system of government could either be an autocratic system of government or an oligarchy in nature and it is usually based on the rule of the party or coming from the military.

What is the difference between totalitarian states and other authoritarian states
What is the difference between totalitarian states and other authoritarian states

Juan Linz has defined authoritarian system of government as possessing four (4) qualities. There are:

Having a limited political pluralism, realized with a lot of constraints and restrictions on the legislature, political parties and interest groups.

Political legitimacy based upon appeals to emotion and identification of the regime as a necessary evil to combat “easily recognizable societal problems, such as terrorism, or insurgency.

Badly defined executive powers, often vague and always shifting which extends the power of the executive.

Minimal political mobilization and suppression of anti-regime activities.

In an authoritarian system of government, the legislative arm of the government unlike other systems of government, are not elected directly by the citizens, and there is no free, competitive, direct or an indirect election for the executives and even for the legislatures.

An authoritarian system of government involves all the state which lacks the right to freedom of religion and the right to civil liberties. Also it involves a country which may have an opposition party but they do not alternate or change powers as there is no competition between them, and no free and fair election is conducted.

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Characteristics of Authoritarianism

An authoritarian system of government is usually highly characterized by the concentration of power and the centralized form of government, whereby the power is usually maintained by the political oppressors with the exclusion of no opposing parties or challengers challenging the government. Political parties and mass organizations are one tool in which it uses to mobilize people together in other to achieve the goals of the regime.

The authoritarian system of government tends to embrace the unregulated and the informal exercise of the political powers, meaning that this form of leadership was self appointed and has little to no business with citizens’ appointment, even if the citizens so appointed them, they do not answer to the citizens.

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Difference Between Totalitarianism and Authoritarianism

Both forms of government have similar things in common as they are both interested in the total control of the government and over the lives of the citizens. However, they have some differences between them regardless of the fact that they want absolute control. Those differences are:

1. In totalitarian system of government, the power of the government over the people of the state is literally unlimited. The government controls all aspect of the citizens existence like the economy, culture, politics, society, education, religion, arts, sciences, including morality and reproductive rights are all controlled by the totalitarian government. While in authoritarian system of government, the power is being held by a single dictator or by a group of individuals. The people here are allowed a limited amount of political freedom.

2. In the authoritarian system of government, the economical institutes and social institutes are but a few which are outside the control of the government. The authoritarian system requires and wants the full political power of the government and do not go beyond that while the totalitarian system of government wants the power over everything. It wants to control everything. Powers beyond the governmental axis are being sort by this system and they wish to control the thoughts and ideologies of the citizens.

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3. In a totalitarian system of government, the leader is usually a charismatic leader and this works in his advantage in getting the citizens and subjects to obey him and follow their direction, while in the authoritarian system of government, the leader is not a charismatic leader and cannot enforce his entire will directly on the citizens.

4. The economy in an authoritarian system of government is really different from the totalitarian system. In authoritarianism, there is provision for a private property and private enterprise. There is a free market for the people and the rich and the poor are abounding. While in totalitarian system of government, there is no provision for the private property market and the all means of production in the state is owned by the government, and the output, product or anything gotten from the production would be distributed accordingly.

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5. The authoritarian system of government is usually filled with bribery, corruption, cronyism, and nepotism while in a totalitarian system of government, there is little or no corruption as the officials are being selected or appointed by the leader whom they must be answerable to. Their loyalty belongs to the leader of the state.

6. In an authoritarian system of government, if in any way one is caught committing an offence, the person could be sent into exile, abused, tortured, or imprisoned. While in a totalitarian system of government, one would be spying on their neighbors and if any rule is defaulted, they may be torture, imprisoned or killed. However, the citizens believes in the ideals of the government and do not disobey therefore, there is no need to punish them.

7. The authoritarian system of government is made up of tyrants, dictators, and despots that rule the country with an iron fist, by force and by fear. While this is not mostly applicable to the totalitarian system of government.

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Totalitarian system of government and authoritarian system of government are somewhat not totally different from each other.