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Chris Fox's Politics Section

Political Systems

A political system is the constitutional framework through which demands are put forward and decisions are made. It consists of the institutions, processes and relationships that are involved in the processes of agenda setting, policy formulation and decision making.

There are three types of political system: democracy, totalitarianism and oligarchy. In a democracy, power is held by the people, and may be exercised either directly by them (direct democracy) or on their behalf by freely chosen representatives (representative democracy). Demands are made through such channels as parties, pressure groups, the media and elections.

A totalitarian society is governed by a ruling elite whose power is based on ideological control. The underlying ideology is supposed to guide the actions of the people and mobilise their support for the system, and the control exerted over the people is underpinned by the use of coercion. The State controls every aspect of the political, social, economic and cultural life of the citizens. Civil liberties, human rights and political participation by the general public are either low or absent. Examples of totalitarian systems are one-party states and theocracies.

An oligarchy is ruled by a few people who govern in their own interests. Their interests may be economic, or they may simply consist of the desire to hold power. As with totalitarianism, few political freedoms exist and coercion is often used. Military dictatorship is an example of an oligarchy.

Anarchy, meaning "without rulers", describes a society in which there is no government. Anarchists favour the abolition of the State and all forms of political authority, especially the machinery of law and order.


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