Forms of Government | Types & Definition

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Forms of Government

Forms of Government | Types & Definition
Forms of Government | Types & Definition

There are different types and forms of government. However, the form of government been adopted by a country depends to a great extent on the customs, beliefs, history, law and institutions of the state, and the type of people controlling the government.

The form of government being operated by a state will also vary with a particular functions of the people and rulers of a state which a government do undertake.

Types of Government

The most important forms of government to be considered in this article include Monarchy, Republic, Autocracy, Democracy, Oligarchy, Aristocracy, Fascism, Feudalism, Totalitarianism, Plutocracy, Capitalism, Socialism and Communism.

  • Monarch

A monarchy is a country or state which has it’s head of state as King or Queen who reins by hereditary right. There is generally no problem of seccession since the nearest relative becomes monarch on the death of the king or queen. Britain is an example of a state operating the monarchical system of government.

A republican form of government on the other hand has no hereditary head of state. Instead, the head of state is usually elected by the people. Examples include Nigeria, the United States of America (U.S.A.) and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (U.S.S.R.).

  • Democracy

Democracy means government of the people, by the people, and for the people. The term ‘democracy’ is derived from two Greek words, ‘demons’ meaning ‘people’ and ‘Kratia’ meaning ‘ruled by government’s. Democracy there for signifies a government to set up by the whole people, run and directed by the whole people for the benefit of the people.

Autocracy could be said to be the direct opposite of democracy. It means that government is under the control of a person who has usually achieved his position by the use of force. In other words, autocracy mean absolute by one man who is a dictator.

In an autocratic government, there are few or no limitations on the person exercising power in the country. Hence, this form of government is usually characterized by arbitrary rule, minority rule and the absence of opposition.

Another form of government which is similar to autocracy is totalitarianism. Totalitarianism involves the attempt by government to exercise control over many or all the spheres of human activity. It is a political system in which a single person or political party controls all thought and action and hardly allows opposition parties to exist.

Under this system of government, the individual is expected to be totally committed to the central government, and no aspect of his life or thought should go contrary to the official ideology.

Countries in which totalitarianism has been practiced include Italy under Benito Mussolini, Communist Russia, Germany under Adolf Hitler, China and Cuba under Fidel Castro.

  • Fascism

Fascism is an anti-communist, a deathly nationalistic creed which began in Italy and was developed by Benito Mussolini.

It is a political system in which all industrial activity is controlled by the state, no political opposition is allowed, nationalism is strongly encouraged and socialism strongly discouraged.

Thus, in the words of Mussolini, Fascism repudiates democracy, socialism, pacifism and individualism. Fascism is authoritarian and believes in the subordination of individuals and groups of individuals to the State.

Under a fascist regime, there is also an official ideology covering all aspects of human existence to which every member of the society must adhere. In contrast to democracy, fascism believes in the principle that authority is exercised for the sake of the community, but is not derived from the community.

  • Aristocracy

Aristocracy is government by the best citizens. In other words, it is government by the nobility, that is, people of the highest social class.

Oligarchy on the other hand is the rule by a few but often perverted for selfish reasons.

Feudalism is a form of government which prevailed in the mediaeval period. It was founded upon land ownership and was characterized by the holding of land by a vassal from a lord. Under this form of government, the individuals relation to land tended to determine his political rights and duties.

The essential characteristics of feudalism were the holding of land by a vassal from a lord; the existence of a close personal bond between the lord and the vassal; and the full or partial rights of sovereignty which the holder of an estate hard over those living on it.

In addition, there was a hierarchy in which the kings of the earth were vassals of the emperor, who was God’s vassal. They received their dominions as fiefs to be held on conditions of loyalty to the lord.

Each King in turn, parcelled out his kingdom into a certain number of large divisions, each of which he granted to a single man, who promised in general to be faithful to him and to serve him.

Finally, the tenants – in – chief of the King divided their lands among vassal on like conditions.

Capitalism is an economic system in which private individuals own the means of production (farms, mines, factories etc) and paid workers of various kinds (labourers, miners, factory workers etc) to work for them. Capitalism is practiced in countries such as the United States, Japan, Germany and most countries of the western world.


Socialism is a form of government whereby all property, means of production and distribution belong to the state. Examples of countries that practice socialism include the Soviet Union (U.S.S.R.) and the German Democratic Republic. It is worth mentioning that most socialist countries adopt the one-party system of government which is usually organised and the principle of democratic and centralism.

Closely related to socialism is communism. This is a system of government whereby all property, means of production and distribution belong to the state, and every citizen is expected to contribute his best to the state economy, but to everyone is giving according to his needs.

Hence, communism operates on the principle of:

from each according to his ability to each according to his.”

Those who practice socialism or communism opposed capitalism greatly. This is because they believe that capitalism prevents wealth from being shared equally among all people. Rather, the Socialists and Communists believe that government on behalf of the people should take over some or all of the means of production so that profits can be used for the good of the state as a whole and not just for the good of the capitalists.

  • Plutocracy

A plutocracy or plutarchy is a society that is ruled or controlled by people of great wealth or income. The first known use of the term in English dates from 1631. Unlike systems such as democracy, liberalism, socialism, communism or anarchism, plutocracy is not rooted in an established political philosophy.

  • Technocracy

Technocracy is an ideological system of governance in which a decision-maker or makers are elected by the population or appointed on the basis of their expertise in a given area of responsibility, particularly with regard to scientific or technical knowledge.

  • Theocracy

Theocracy is a government by priesthood or religious leaders. It is divine and the laws made are through divine inspiration. The Vatican City in Rome, for example, of the theocratic state headed by the Pope.

  • Gerontocracy

gerontocracy is a form of oligarchical rule in which an entity is ruled by leaders who are significantly older than most of the adult population. – Wikipedia

  • Timocracy

A form of government in which possession of property is required in order to hold office.


Anarchy is the state of a society being freely constituted without authorities or a governing body. It may also refer to a society or group of people that entirely rejects unjustified hierarchy. The word anarchy was first used in 1539, meaning “an absence of government”. – Source : Wikipedia

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