Form of government in which one person or an oligarchy possesses absolute power without effective constitutional checks. With constitutional democracy, it is one of the two chief forms of government in use today. Modern dictators usually use force or fraud to gain power and then keep it through intimidation, terror, suppression of civil liberties, and control of the mass media. In 20th-century Latin America, nationalist leaders often achieved power through the military and attempted either to maintain the privileged elite or to institute far-reaching social reform, depending on their class sympathies. In Europe's communist and fascist dictatorships, a charismatic leader of a mass party used an official ideology to maintain his regime, and terror and propaganda to suppress opposition. In postcolonial Africa and Asia, dictators have often retained power by establishing one-party rule after a military takeover.
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For some scholars, dictatorship is a form of government that has the power to govern without consent of those being governed, while totalitarianism describes a state that regulates nearly every aspect of public and private behavior of the people. In other words, dictatorship concerns the source of the governing power (where the power comes from) and totalitarianism concerns the scope of the governing power (what is the government). In this sense, dictatorship (government without people's consent) is a contrast to democracy (government whose power comes from people) and totalitarianism (government controls every aspect of people's life) corresponds to liberalism (government emphasizes individual right and liberty). Though the definitions of the terms differ, they are related in reality as most of the dictatorship states tend to show totalitarian characteristics. When governments' power does not come from the people, their power is not limited and tend to expand their scope of power to control every aspect of people's life.
It's often alleged that the rise of these dictatorships were substantially influenced by the Cold War dynamic. Both the United States and the USSR managed to expand or maintain their influence zones by financing paramilitary and political groups and encouraging coups d'état, especially in Africa, that have led many countries to brutal civil wars and consequent manifestations of authoritarianism. In Latin America the threat of either communism or capitalism was often used as justification for dictatorship.
This is an incomplete list of dictators in modern times.