Dictatorship vs Autocracy
We are used to democracies as political systems in the civilized world, as it is considered the best form of governance these days. However, there are many other types of governance in place such as dictatorship and autocracy. While both refer to political systems where power rests in the hands of an individual, there are subtle differences that make the two forms of governance different from one another. This article attempts to highlight these differences.
Whenever the word dictatorship is used, the classic example of Hitler’s rule in Germany during WW II and Idi Amin’s rule in Uganda in the 70’s comes to one’s mind. Dictatorship is very similar to autocracy as the reins of power remain in the hands of an individual or a class of people such as military junta in Burma these days. The power of this individual, called a dictator, is unlimited and uncontrolled. He is not accountable to anyone and none of his actions are subject to judicial review. As such a dictator often turns tyrannical as he knows that he need not give a justification for any of his moves or policies. A dictator is supreme in his country, and he does not need the consent of the people to do anything he desires.
Dictatorship could be a result of a single party ruling the country with its head being the dictator or it could be military dictatorship with the head of military assuming all powers to himself. Dictatorships are often characterized by deaths, killings, or genocide because of greed, hatred, pride, and power. Hitler is believed to have caused millions of deaths of Jews whereas Idi Amin is believed to be responsible for killings of hundreds of thousands of Indians.
Autocracy is a political system where a single person is at the helm of affairs and controls the lives and destinies of all the people in his country. All decisions are taken by this man whose decisions are supreme and not subject to any law of the land. The word comes from Greek word that translates into auto and rule which means self-rule. However, this innocuous translation literally means a place where one man rules all other all by himself. There is no rule of law as is the case with democracy, and there is no other whom this supreme ruler consults while making decisions so that it is not even oligarchy.
What is the difference between Dictatorship and Autocracy?
• There is not much of a difference between dictatorship and autocracy as in both systems the country is ruled by a single man. However, dictatorship has negative connotations whereas autocracy is perceived as a lesser evil.
• An autocrat lacks the personality cult or charisma of a dictator and this probably restrains him from taking extreme decisions that could severely hurt his people.
• Another difference that emerges is that the dictatorship could be the rule of a particular party or class (such as a single party rule as in Hitler’s Germany, or the military junta, in Myanmar) while, in autocracy, it is always a single individual who is at the helm of the affairs.