AUTHORITARIANISM (Latin auctoritas)—in a social-legal sense, a system of government in which power is exercised by one individual (absolutism), a bureaucratic apparatus, the army, a political party, or a religious leader.

Authoritarianism is the opposite of democratic governments although it does not preclude democratic institutions of a lower order (self-governments) or freedom in selected areas of life (in culture, economy, or religion). Political authority in authoritarian governments is not subject to social control and is often authority “by a strong hand”. Authoritarianism, however, is not based on a universal ideology or a “victorious idea”, as is the case in totalitarianism. For this reason, phenomena such as terror, the regimentation of different spheres of private or social life, the action of secret services, etc., are often only temporary and pragmatic.

In a psychological sense, authoritarianism is associated with a so-called authoritarian personality who is characteristically submissive to authorities, the government, dominant personalities, and it is associated with a mythologization of the representatives of the government, etc., while at the same time the authoritarian personality desires to be an authority himself. In this sense, authoritarianism is associated in social discourse (in the family, wider societies, and the state) with a preference for argumentation ex auctoritate, while dialogue, the exchange of thoughts, and democratic decisions are overlooked.

I. Czuma, Absolutism ustrojowy [Political absolutism], Lb 1934; W. Kornatowski, Zarys myśli politycznej starożytności [Outline of the political thought of antiquity], Wwa 1972; M. Sczaniecki, Powszechna historia państwa i prawa [General history of the state and law], Wwa 1973, 19976.

Krzystof Wroczyński

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