Interesting social sciences/Forms of Government

Aristotle. Classification of forms of government.

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The problem of classifying of forms of Government



How many forms of government did it exist in the history of mankind? What forms of government did it exist in the history of mankind? To answer this controversial issue, it is necessary to choose correctly criteria which distinguish one form of government from another. The comparative analysis of the forms of government is a condition for their successful classification. A form of government is a kind of structure of supreme power in the country. Several attempts to make similar classification are known from history of philosophy.

The classification of Aristotle


                This classification is stated in the book of Aristotle "Politics"[1]. This classification is borrowed by Aristotle at Plato entirely, but Aristotle has managed to state this classification in more systematic form.

Aristotle has named six forms of government which are allocated according to two criteria:

  • Number of ruling persons.
  • Valuation of the forms of government.
Valuation of forms of Government. The number of the ruling persons is one The number of the ruling persons is minority. The number of the ruling persons is majority.
The bad. Tyranny. Oligarchy. Ochlocracy.
The good. Monarchy. Aristocracy. Democracy.

Classification of Niccolò Machiavelli

Niccolò Machiavelli

Only two forms of government exists in classification of Niccolò Machiavelli:

  • republic
  • monarchy.[2]

My opinion about the classification of forms of Government


In my opinion, a classification of five forms of government can be drawn up:

  • tyranny or kingdom
  • aristocracy or oligarchy
  • direct democracy
  • hereditary monarchy
  • representative democracy

This classification is drawn up on the basis of four criteria:

  • number of rulers or voters,
  • kinds of methods of conflict for the power,
  • kinds of the fighting groups and the place or the arena of their fight,
  • kinds of vices or shortcomings of each form of government.

The second criterion is the most important of these four criteria, since types of the social conflict and social control is the main basis for construction of social structures.        

Name of forms of government. Tyranny. Kingdom. Aristocracy. Oligarchy. Direct democracy. Ochlocracy. Hereditary monarchy. Representative democracy.
The number of rulers or voters. One tyrant Privileged minority Majority Dynastic family,   impostors.  All citizens.
Methods of conflict for power 1. The armed seizure of power.  2. The civil war. The elections in the privileged meeting. Elections in the popular assembly. 1. Transfer of throne by inheritance without conflict.   2. The palace coups. National election. The conflict limited by the constitution between three branches of the power.
Kinds of fighting groups and place or arena of their conflict. 1. Groups of rebels in army. 2. Cliques within bureaucracy. 1. Factions in the Roman Senate, 2. Factions in Central Committee, Politburo of communist party. 3. Criminal authorities in meeting of mafia Demagogues and groups in the popular assembly 1. Groups of guardsmen headed by representatives of a dynasty. 2. Impostors. 1. Parties at the elections. 2. Factions in Parliament.  
Kinds of vices or shortcomings of each form of Government 1. Arbitrariness and abuses of tyrants. 2. Harm from civil wars. 1.Degeneration of oligarchs. 2. Revolts of majority deprived of civil rights. 1. Abuses of demagogues. 2. It is impossible to construct of direct democracy in the big territory of country. 1. Degeneration of a dynasty. 2. Lack of selection of rulers. 1. It is too much of rulers and deputies. 2. They make the decision too long.
Bust of Solon from the National Museum, Naples.
The Acropolis of Athens by Leo von Klenze (1846).

Representative democracy is the best from five forms of government because representative democracy has no vices, and representative democracy has only small shortcomings. But construction of representative democracy is the most difficult task. To overcome these small shortcomings in a case of emergencies – in a case of wars, natural disaster or mass riots – parliament should give the President extraordinary powers on limited duration. Society rolls down to the archaic forms of government – tyranny, oligarchy or ochlocracy in case of failure of similar construction of representative democracy, as it happened in 1917 in Russia under Bolsheviks. Ochlocracy is a worst from five forms of government, for example, ochlocracy is power of criminals and terrorists today in some Arab countries like Libya. The USA and other western countries have crushed by the military method of such tyrants as Muammar Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein, the USA and other western countries gave weapon to terrorists. As a result these tyrants were killed or executed, but the power in this Arab countries has passed to terrorists of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and these Arab countries have plunged into the abyss of civil war. The West wanted to play the similar scenario in Syria, the West wanted to take away at Russia the last naval base abroad, the West wanted to overthrow Bashar al-Assad who is considered in the West as protege of Russia. But Russia has interfered, Russia has sent the troops in Syria and Bashar al-Assad has almost beaten terrorists with military support of Russia. A conclusion consists of these events that the ochlocracy is worse than tyranny because the ochlocracy leads to civil war often, because the ochlocracy brings to power by criminals, because the number of the victims of a civil war under ochlocracy are more, than the number of the victims of state terror under tyranny.

Tyranny was invented in the countries of the Ancient East, the aristocracy was invented by Lycurgus in Sparta, direct democracy was invented in Athens, a hereditary monarchy in the form of custom about a succession to the throne, about transfer of a throne to the eldest son or elder brother was invented in the Grand Duchy of Moscow. Representative democracy was invented in Great Britain and the USA.

Russia is a unique country where the authorities tried to introduce all five forms of government in turn during 20 century. A hereditary monarchy was under Nicholas II of Russia till 1905. Nicholas II of Russia tried to construct representative democracy in the form of constitutional monarchy from 1905 to February 1917, but this attempt of the emperor has ended by a failure. The Russian parliament and a multi-party system were created for this purpose. Political freedoms and free elections were guaranteed for this purpose, but the constitution wasn't adopted, and the right of appointment of members of the government remained in the emperor's hands, but not in the hands of parliament. The diarchy of Russian Provisional government and Soviet power was established from March to November 1917, elections to the Constituent assembly which had to choose the form of government was held.

Bolsheviks have seized power in October, 1917 and Vladimir Lenin has constructed oligarchy where "the Lenin guard" instead of the Russian nobility became as privileged layer, opponents of Bolshevist oligarchy have been physically destroyed during civil war and Cheka terror. Bolsheviks have destroyed the ochlocracy of Nestor Makhno in Ukraine. General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Joseph Stalin has constructed tyranny in 1937, there was a change of elites again – replacement at top of the power of "Lenin guard" on the Nomenklatura at the same time. General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Nikita Khrushchev has restored oligarchy. Nikita Khrushchev has arrested and ordered to execute of Lavrentiy Beria as new applicant in tyrants. The merit of General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev consists that Mikhail Gorbachev has loosened oligarchy before the basis. First president of Russian Federation Boris Yeltsin has destroyed oligarchy and Boris Yeltsin has established representative democracy. Second president of Russian Federation Vladimir Putin has destroyed ochlocracy and the center of civil war in Chechnya, and then Vladimir Putin has established more conservative and authoritative variant of representative democracy, Vladimir Putin has brought order after Boris Yeltsin's reforms.

Citations and references

  1. Aristotle. A treatise on government.