Sultanism, another name for Despotism, is a form of authoritarian government characterized by the extreme personal presence of the ruler in all elements of governance. The ruler may or may not be present in economic or social life, and thus there may be pluralism in these areas, but this is never true of political power.

The term Sultanism is derived from the word Sultan, which is a title used in Muslim societies for a sovereign or absolute monarch. The Sultan was traditionally a secular office, unlike the Caliphate, and thus the term Sultanism should not be deemed anti-Islamic.

According to Juan Linz & Stepan:

... [T]he essential reality in a sultanistic regime is that all individuals, groups and institutions are permanently subject to the unpredictable and despotic intervention of the sultan, and thus all pluralism is precarious. Linz & Stepan, Modern Nondemocratic Regimes in Problems of Democratic Transition & Consolidation, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 1996.

In Sultanism, the sultan may or may not adopt a ruling ideology but is never bound by any rules or given ideology, even his own. The sultan may also use whatever forces he can to exercise his personal will, such as para-militaries or gangs.

The clearest examples of sultanism are "Haiti under the Duvaliers, the Dominican Republic under Trujillo, the Central African Republic under Bokassa, the Philippines under Marcos, Iran under the Shah, Romania under Ceauşescu, and North Korea under Kim Il Sung." (Linz & Stepan, Modern Nondemocratic Regimes). the extreme case, Sultanism tend[s] to arise whenever traditional domination develops an administration and a military force which are purely instruments of the master... Where domination... operates primarily on the basis of discretion, it will be called sultanism... The non-traditional element is not, however, rationalized in impersonal terms, but consists only in the extreme development of the ruler's discretion. It is this which distinguishes it from every form of rational authority. Max Weber, Economy & Society, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1978.

See also

Further reading

  • Eke, Steven M.; Taras Kuzio (2000). "Sultanism in Eastern Europe: The Socio-Political Roots of Authoritarian Populism in Belarus". Europe-Asia Studies 52 (3): 523–547.

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