Totalitarianism vs. Authoritarianism: What’s the Difference?

What is the Difference Between Totalitarianism vs Authoritarianism?

There are so many systems of governance that have existed throughout the course of human history. Many of these systems have been totalitarian or authoritarian in nature, but what is the difference between the two? Which countries have had totalitarian or authoritarian regimes? And, how are totalitarian and authoritarian governments different from one another? 

In order to best move forward, we must best understand the past. This cliché is an obvious yet accurate reflection of the development of the human race. Many of the mistakes that were made in the past are repeated – either out of ignorance or lack of foresight. This is why it is important to study the past. So, let’s begin with a little history lesson.

What is an Authoritarian Regime?

An authoritarian regime is a form of government in which a single person has absolute control over the government and every aspect of society. This individual is the sole decision-maker. Some may argue that this type of government is not really a “regime” because it is not a system of government. However, this is the common definition of this term in political science.

An authoritarian regime is also sometimes called a “dictatorship”, a “totalitarian regime”, or a “single-party state”. This is because a dictator has absolute control over the government and society. There is no separation between an authoritarian regime and a dictatorship.

Authoritarian regimes are especially common in developing countries. Unfortunately, some of these countries lack the economic power, military strength, and industrial prowess to be able to provide a high quality of life for their citizens. This is especially true in countries that are dependent on other countries for their economic prosperity.

Some of the most famous authoritarian regimes include those of Benito Mussolini in Italy, Francisco Franco in Spain, and Francisco P. Ramirez in Venezuela.

What is a Totalitarian Regime?

A totalitarian regime is a form of government in which the state has control of the economy and social life. The state has total control over the people, and the people are not able to resist the control of the state. The state has total social control.

Totalitarian regimes are also sometimes called “fascist regimes” or “police states”. Totalitarian regimes are quite similar to authoritarian regimes in that they are both characterized by a lack of democracy and a lack of separation of powers.

Totalitarian regimes are most common in developing countries. They are most often found in former Soviet satellites, such as in Eastern Europe. Totalitarian regimes are also quite common in the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, and even in Asia.

Some of the most famous totalitarian regimes include those of Adolf Hitler in Nazi Germany, Joseph Stalin in the Soviet Union, and Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran.

What is the Difference Between a Totalitarian and Authoritarian Regime?

A totalitarian regime is a single-party system that has complete control over all aspects of society. In other words, the state is all-encompassing.

An authoritarian regime is similar to totalitarianism in that it is a single-party system, but it does not have complete control over all aspects of society. In other words, the state is not all-encompassing.

In totalitarian regimes, the state is believed to be the ultimate expression of power. This is why totalitarian governments are often totalitarian in nature. In other words, the government has complete power over the people and the country. The people are seen as extensions of the state and as such, they are meant to act as a collective.

In authoritarian regimes, the state has the power and the citizens have the state. Citizens are expected to be loyal to the state, but the state generally has no obligation to the citizens.

Authoritarian regimes often rely on the military to maintain and enforce order. Likewise, totalitarian regimes are far more oppressive than authoritarian regimes. Authoritarian regimes are easily corruptible. For example, there are many instances in which the government of an authoritarian regime will be overthrown by the people or the military.

Why Were Totalitarian Regimes So Common?

Totalitarianism existed in many countries during the 20th century for various reasons.

The Bolshevik Revolution in Russia was the catalyst for the spread of totalitarian regimes in the 20th century. The communist revolution in Russia was the first instance of a communist system being created. Although the Russian Revolution was not necessarily a totalitarian regime, it did show what was possible.

The spread of communism was not just limited to the Soviet Union. Communist parties were created in other countries. For example, communist parties were created in Germany, Italy, and France. Because communism was so easily corruptible, these parties were able to gain power and influence.

Once in power, these communist parties were able to spread their influence and create totalitarian regimes. For example, the Nazi party gained control of the German government in 1933. The Nazi party was a fascist party, but it was also a totalitarian regime.

Totalitarian regimes were created in many other countries as well. For example, communist parties were able to gain enough support in China to have a communist revolution in 1949. Since that time, the Chinese government has been a single-party totalitarian regime.

Why Were Totalitarian Regimes So Destructive?

Totalitarian regimes tend to be destructive because they are driven by ideology.

In totalitarian regimes, the state is based on an ideology. Ideology is a philosophy or a set of beliefs. For example, in the Soviet Union, the ideology was communism.

The state was the embodiment of the ideology. This meant that the state controlled everything; therefore, the ideology was forced onto all citizens.

The problem with forced ideology is that it is often inconsistent. For example, an authoritarian regime may be fair and just to all citizens, but it still restricts certain freedoms.

However, in a totalitarian regime, the ideology is forced onto the people. This means that citizens are forced to act a certain way, think a certain way, and unite under one identity.

Authoritarian Countries and Dictatorships

Authoritarian Countries and Dictators - Fidel Castro

The political landscape of the 20th century was also filled with authoritarian countries and dictatorships. Authoritarian countries are not totalitarian regimes, but they are similar.

An authoritarian country is a country that has a single individual that has complete control over the government. An authoritarian country is not a totalitarian regime, but it is similar, as a dictator has complete control over the government. However, the dictator is not necessarily part of the government but is instead a separate entity.

For example, Fidel Castro was the dictator of Cuba for many years. Castro was not part of the government, but he had complete control over everything that happened in Cuba. Fidel Castro was not part of the government, but he was a dictator.

The 20th century was filled with authoritarian countries and dictatorships because of the rise of totalitarian regimes. The spread of communism and fascism created a world that was filled with totalitarian regimes. The totalitarian regimes influenced the authoritarian countries and dictatorships.

Totalitarianism vs Authoritarianism, Differences in Philosophies

There are two major types of authoritarian governments (dictatorships, etc): Totalitarianism and Authoritarianism. The difference between totalitarianism and authoritarianism is in their philosophies.

Totalitarian Philosophy

Totalitarianism is an ideology that puts the state and the government above all else and places the government, and the state above the citizens. The government is often viewed as being an entity unto itself, and totalitarianism is often associated with dictatorships, communism, socialism, etc.

Totalitarian governments are not just oppressive and dictatorial, they are also very secretive and covert. The government controls everything and everyone, often keeping the people willingly ignorant of the truth. The government is typically viewed as a benevolent entity and the government is often referred to as “The Fatherland” or “Motherland” (depending on the country).

Totalitarianism is a philosophy based on the “all-powerful state” where the government controls everything and nothing is allowed to exist outside of its control. Totalitarianism is a philosophy of control. The chief characteristics of totalitarianism are control or suppression of opposition, the complete subordination of the individual to the state, and control of all means of communication.

Authoritarian Philosophy

Authoritarianism, on the other hand, is a government in the hands of one singular person, group of people, or political party. Even though authoritarianism is a type of dictatorship, it does not necessarily have to be a totalitarian government. Authoritarian regimes may rule with an iron fist, but their philosophy in many ways is less oppressive.

Authoritarian governments are often oppressive and dictatorial, but they do not always have to be. Authoritarian governments are often characterized by abuse of power, but not necessarily. Authoritarianism is a philosophy of government based on the belief that a state can be led and ruled by a single person or group of people who hold power through force or power.

Authoritarianism is usually associated with dictatorships, but authoritarianism is not the same as dictatorship. Authoritarianism can also be associated with many different political parties and ideologies.

Final Thoughts

Totalitarianism is a philosophy based on control and suppression of the opposition, and the complete subordination of the individual to the state. Authoritarianism is a philosophy of government based on the belief that a single person or group of people can rule, but it’s often done with an iron fist or a form of oppression.

While authoritarianism is not always a totalitarian government, totalitarianism is always an authoritarian government. Authoritarianism and totalitarianism are two different forms of government that have different philosophies.

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