Aristocracy:- form of government in which the sovereign power is vested in a small number of citizens who are theoretically the best qualified to rule, as opposed to monarchy, in which the supreme authority is vested in one person, and to democracy, in which the ultimate authority is exercised by the entire body of citizens or their representatives. In an aristocracy, although the power of government is wielded by a few, theoretically the administration of government is carried on for the welfare of the many. Whenever the interests of the people as a whole are made subservient to the selfish interests of the rulers, aristocracy becomes a form of government known as oligarchy.
During the Middle Ages no true aristocracy existed, for although political power reposed in the hands of a few, each feudal lord was sole master in his own domain. In England, the government from the accession of the house of Hannover in 1714 through the 19th century, although parliamentary in form, was in fact an aristocracy, since king and Parliament alike were under the control of a few great Whig families.
At present the term aristocracy is used loosely and in a great variety of combinations to denote a select few with superiority in various categories, for example, an aristocracy of birth, of wealth, or of intellect.
Autocracy:- political system under which one ruler wields unlimited power, restricted by no constitutional provisions or effective political opposition. Totalitarianism is a modern form of an autocracy. Usually, autocracy prevails in nations wherein the political, social, economic, or other conditions have made it impossible to develop institutions to protect the individual against the whims of one ruler. Modern examples of autocratic government include the tsarist regimes in Russia, the National Socialist, or Nazi, party in Germany (see National Socialism), and the Communist rule of Mao Zedong in China. An autocracy is considered the opposite of a democratic or constitutional government.
Communism:- a concept or system of society in which the major resources and means of production are owned by the community rather than by individuals. In theory, such societies provide for equal sharing of all work, according to ability, and all benefits, according to need. Some conceptions of communist societies assume that, ultimately, coercive government would be unnecessary and therefore that such a society would be without rulers. Until the ultimate stages are reached, however, communism involves the abolition of private property by a revolutionary movement; responsibility for meeting public needs is then vested in the state.
As a concept of an ideal society, communism is derived from ancient sources, including Plato’s Republic and the earliest Christian communes.
Democracy:- government by all the people, direct or representative; form of society ignoring hereditary class distinctions and tolerating minority views.
– political system in which the people of a country rule through any form of government they choose to establish. In modern democracies, supreme authority is exercised for the most part by representatives elected by popular suffrage. The representatives may be supplanted by the electorate according to the legal procedures of recall and referendum, and they are, at least in principle, responsible to the electorate. In many democracies, such as the United States, both the executive head of government and the legislature are elected. In typical constitutional monarchies such as the United Kingdom and Norway, only the legislators are elected, and from their ranks a cabinet and a prime minister are chosen.
Despot:- absolute ruler, unrestricted by any legal or constitutional process. In modern usage, the word carries connotations of cruel and oppressive policies, but in the original Greek usage it meant the master of a household, therefore the ruler of slaves, and denoted merely the possessor of unlimited power, as in the case of a provincial governor. In the Byzantine Empire, the term despot was used as a title of honor and was applied to the emperor and later to his immediate male relatives. Bishops and patriarchs of the Greek church were also called despots.
Dictator:- title of a magistrate in ancient Rome, appointed by the Senate in times of emergency, and ratified by the comitia curiata. The dictator held office usually for six months, and served as chief magistrate of the state, with limited power over life and death. Civil jurisdiction was retained by regular magistrates, who were subordinate to him, and his military jurisdiction was limited to Italian territory. In modern times those who have assumed sole power over the state have been called dictators.
Fascism:- modern political ideology that seeks to regenerate the social, economic, and cultural life of a country by basing it on a heightened sense of national belonging or ethnic identity. Fascism rejects liberal ideas such as freedom and individual rights, and often presses for the destruction of elections, legislatures, and other elements of democracy. Despite the idealistic goals of fascism, attempts to build fascist societies have led to wars and persecutions that caused millions of deaths. As a result, fascism is strongly associated with right-wing fanaticism, racism, totalitarianism, and violence.
Monarchy:- form of government in which one person has the hereditary right to rule as head of state during his or her lifetime; the term is also applied to the state so governed. The power of the monarch varies from absolute to very limited; the latter is exemplified in modern-day constitutional monarchies. Monarchs include such rulers as kings and queens, emperors and empresses, tsars, and kaisers.
Oligarchy:- in political philosophy, form of government in which the supreme power is vested in a few persons. Political writers of ancient Greece used the term to designate the debased form of an aristocracy, or government by the best citizens. In an oligarchy, the government is controlled by a faction that acts in its own interests to the exclusion of the welfare of the people it is governing.
Totalitarianism:- in political science, system of government and ideology in which all social, political, economic, intellectual, cultural, and spiritual activities are subordinated to the purposes of the rulers of a state. Several important features distinguish totalitarianism, a form of autocracy peculiar to the 20th century, from such older forms as despotism, absolutism, and tyranny. In the older forms of autocracy people could live and work in comparative independence, provided they refrained from politics. In modern totalitarianism, however, people are made utterly dependent on the wishes and whims of a political party and its leaders. The older autocracies were ruled by a monarch or other titled aristocrat who governed by a principle such as divine right, whereas the modern totalitarian state is ruled by a leader, or dictator, who controls a political party.
Source – Microsoft Encarta.