Politics is the social structure and methods used to manage a government or state. Just as varying types of economic theories and systems exist, many varying political theories and systems exist as well.
Politics and Major Political Structure
The political system in use depends upon the nation‐state. A nation is a people with common customs, origin, history, or language. A state, on the other hand, is a political entity with legitimate claim to monopolize use of force through police, military, and so forth. The term nation‐state refers to a political entity with the legitimate claim to monopolize use of force over a people with common customs, origin, history, or language. Sociologists and political scientists prefer the term nation‐state to “country” because it is more precise.
While many different political structures have existed throughout history, three major forms exist in modern nation‐states: totalitarianism, authoritarianism, and democracy.
Totalitarianism is a political system that exercises near complete control over its citizens' lives and tolerates no opposition. Information is restricted or denied by complete control of mass media, close monitoring of citizens and visitors, and forbidding the gathering of groups for political purposes opposed to the state. Constant political propaganda, such as signs, posters, and media that focus the populace on the virtues of the government, characterizes these nation states. Obviously, some totalitarian governments maintain more extreme laws than others do. Totalitarian nation‐states include North Korea, Chile, many African and Middle Eastern nations, Vietnam, and others.
Authoritarianism is a political system less controlling than totalitarianism, but still denying citizens the right to participate in government. A dictatorship, in which the primary authority rests in one individual, represents one type of authoritarian government. Dictators rule China, Cuba, Ethiopia, Haiti, and many African nations. In these systems, strong militaries and political parties support the dictators. Another form of authoritarianism is a monarchy, in which the primary authority rests in a family and is passed down through generations. In the past, most monarchies exerted near absolute power—in Saudi Arabia the ruling family still does. Most remaining monarchies today, however, such as those in the Scandinavian nations, Great Britain, Denmark, and the Netherlands, are constitutional monarchies where the royal families serve only as symbolic heads of state. Parliament or some form of democratic electoral process truly governs these nation states.
Democracy is a political system where the government is ruled either directly by the people or through elected officials who represent them. Most democracies today rely upon a system of representatives to make decisions. The most common examples of democracies are the United States, Canada, Germany, and many other European nations.