The first thing to do when learning about the term autocracy is to discover its etymological origin. In this case we have to state that it is a word called cultism that is the result of the sum of two Greek elements:
-The term “autos”, which can be translated as “by itself”.
-The noun “cratos”, which is synonymous with “government” and “power”.
More specifically, there are those who consider that autocracy was a word that was shaped in the early nineteenth century by the poet Robert Southey. It was determined that he shaped it to refer to Napoleon Bonaparte. However, it seems that this is not the case because not only was it already used by the Russian tsars but it can even be found in the works of Greek philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle or Plutarch.
Autocracy is called the type of government whose highest law is the will of a single individual.
In an autocracy, one person holds all power. The notion can also be used when a group of subjects exercise power without limitations or regulations.
Among the main characteristics that define an autocracy we can highlight the following:
– Power is in the hands of a single person, who is the one who concentrates it completely.
-The usual thing is that in an autocracy, the human rights of all people who think differently from the one who holds power are violated.
-Violence and corruption are common in any autocracy.
-As a general rule, autocracy can be defined by terms such as authoritarianism, despotism and tyranny.
-It must also be established that in an autocracy it usually happens that an oligarchy is shaped, which means that both those who hold power and their relatives end up benefiting from the situation.
The idea of autocracy emerged in a consolidated way in Russia. The tsars were authorities who, when making decisions and implementing measures, did not face any conditioning. The absolutism of Louis XIV in France is also often regarded as an autocracy.
In general, all the ancient monarchies were close to autocracy. The king came to power by inheritance or divine will and was not accountable to any body. The rest of the people, therefore, lacked the possibility of participating in political life (they did not vote for their representatives, for example).
With the advancement of history, monarchies had to adapt to the principles of democracy. Thus arose the parliamentary monarchies and constitutional monarchies, where the powers of the king are limited and there are other figures and bodies of power (prime minister, president, legislators, etc.).
Ultimately, it can be said that the opposite of autocracy is democracy. In a democratic system, power is distributed in society through various mechanisms. This means that the decisions made by the rulers have legitimacy since whoever governs does not do so on their behalf, but on behalf of the people.