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Political power – Political regimes

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Political regimes according to legitimacy

In order to exercise itself without encountering opposition, political power has always endeavored to justify its legitimacy. This can be based on:

  • tradition and heredity, case of traditional regimes, monarchies and aristocratic systems;
  • divine will, the case of theocracies but also of the monarchy of divine right;
  • expression of the rights of peoples and individuals (popular sovereignty); this is the case of democracies but also of authoritarian regimes but claiming the popular will (some fascist regimes);
  • merit and quality of the leaders. This is the theory induced by regimes governed by “wise men” (case of certain local or tribal powers), bourgeois oligarchy (suffrage) or technicians;
  • concern for the effectiveness of political action, officially for the good of the people, even if the latter is – temporarily or permanently – not deemed fit to exercise power. These are the regimes inspired by positivism, the technocracies;
  • chance (stochocracy).

Historically, it seems that in a number of early civilizations, political power did not appear distinct from religious power. The confusion of political and religious power, or the submission of political power to religion, or the very close proximity of the two, is called theocracy.

Other typologies of political regimes

Politics consists first of all in the organization of power in society. A distinction is made between several decision-making systems.

A distinction is traditionally made between monarchies and republics, an institutional distinction ultimately deemed irrelevant nowadays given the diversity of types of monarchy (from the Scandinavian or British parliamentary monarchy to the Saudi theocracy) and types of republics.

Current distinctions are based more on the degree of democracy, democratity, characterizing the regime. A distinction is thus made between democratic, authoritarian and totalitarian regimes.

Political powers

Political power is made up of at least two distinct functions:

  • an executive power, which takes decisions and, once adopted, implements and enforces them through an administration;
  • a legislative power (one or more assemblies), ensuring the representativeness of the people or at least of the elite, which accepts or not the decisions of the executive and can sometimes propose them itself.

Added to this are powers that are not directly “political” but participate in the political system:

  • the judiciary, responsible for judging;
  • media power, is often referred to as the fourth power given its supposed or real ability to influence public opinion.

In Western democratic political thought (born in Britain and then formalized by the French philosopher Montesquieu), which currently serves, at least on paper, as a model at the international level, powers must be separated. In democracies a distinction is thus made between:

  • the presidential system;
  • the parliamentary or assembly system;
  • mixed forms.

Territorial powers

The modes of territorial organization constitute another aspect of the organization of power. In this regard, we distinguish:

  • unitary states practicing the centralization of power;
  • unitary states practicing a greater or lesser degree of decentralization of power;
  • federal states, practicing federalism, conferring significant power on territorial divisions (called state, land, region, province, etc.).

Classically, states include two main types of territorial subdivisions:

  • large regional entities often corresponding to well-defined historical entities, having sometimes known during their history periods of independence or autonomy (such, in Europe, Brittany, Scotland, Catalonia , Bavaria, etc.);
  • municipalities or villages, historically constituting the basic unit of local life.

Between the two, there are sometimes political or administrative levels such, in France, the department and the cantons.

Above the national framework, there are more or less flexible “regional” (such as the European Union) and global (such as the United Nations) political structures.

Includes texts from Wikipedia with license CC BY-SA 3.0, translated and adapted by Nicolae Sfetcu

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