Political Terms

A Guide to Political Terms


Knowledge of modern politics is an important aspect of being a contributing member to a country with free elections. Unfortunately, the number of political terms in use today is staggering. Considering that the definitions of these terms can change from century to century, or even from one decade to another, a guide to political terms can prove itself useful to students or simply to the average person looking to learn a little more about how government works.

Anarchism – A purposeful lack of any governing body, where each individual has complete liberty over themselves.

Authoritarianism – A form of government focused on the authority of the leadership. Political power is commonly exercised by small groups of unelected individuals, decisions made out of sight of the public, with no mandatory civil rights.

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Autocracy – A government with one ruler with absolute political power who appointed himself to the position. This term is generally synonymous with Despotism, in cases where the ruling body is a single person.

Communism – A form of society emphasizing common ownership and equality for all citizens. In its perfect form there would be no government necessary at all, with all people in the same class.

Conservatism – The political belief that leans toward maintaining the current state of affairs. In modern American politics, Conservatism means a focus on fiscal responsibility and minimizing the size of the government, and generally the Republicans are considered the Conservative party.

Democracy – A system of government where free elections allow the citizens to control the political power.

Dictatorship – An Autocratic body with no limits on the ruler's power, neither political nor social.

Fascism – A political movement that drives its citizens to put the interests of the state ahead of all. A Fascist state is generally ruled by a single party, with a dictator at its head.

Federalism – A system where political power is spread between a national and state or provincial governments with common interests.

Idealism – An international relations theory which states that the concepts important internally should be focused on internationally. Providing international aid to developing countries so that they can achieve new lows in starvation is Idealism in action.

Isolationism – A foreign policy focusing on not complicating matters at home by making relationships with other governments that may lead to wars, as well as avoiding all wars that don't have an impact on one's own territory.

Libertarianism – A number of different political philosophies which hold in common a high regard for personal freedoms.

Liberalism – A spectrum of political philosophies that focus on equal rights and individual liberty. Modern American Liberalism connects the term with the Democratic party.

Marxism – A form of Communism where class struggle, specifically the exploitation of the working class, is the most important aspect of social change.

Monarchy – A form of government where rule is held by an individual or small number of people who, rather than being elected, come from a family line.

Nationalism – An ideology with a major emphasis on the state, characterized by strong national pride.

Oligarchy – A governmental system where power rests with a small group of people. The word literally means “the rule of the few.”

Plutocracy – An Oligarchy where those who hold the wealth of the nation are also in control of its political power.

Progressive – A political ideology that approves of change and progress rather than maintaining the status quo.

Puppet state – A nation which may appear to have its own sovereign power, but for all intents and purposes is controlled by an external power or government.

Radical – One who espouses the most extreme views of their political ideologies.

Realism – A belief that countries work to further their own economic, political, and military power, in contrast to a focus on some set of ideals.

Republic – Any nation where the at least some of the citizens have some power over the government.

Socialism – A method of state rule with equality and national rule over the distribution of wealth, typically associated with Marxist views.

Theocracy – Any government with the political power held by those claiming to be in contact with a higher power, generally a deity or god.

Totalitarianism – A form of government where every facet of its citizen's lives are controlled by the ruling power.

Unilateralism – An ideology that strives toward one's own agenda with total disregard for other methods of thinking.

In all, it is important to keep up on the workings of your government in order to be a better informed citizen.

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