political science Political science is the scientific study of politics. It is a social science dealing with systems of governance and power, and the analysis of politics, political activities, political thoughts, political behavior, and associated constitutions a ...
, a political system defines the process for making official
government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a State (polity), state. In the case of its broad associative definition, government normally consists of legislature, Executive (government), ex ...
decisions. It is usually compared to the
legal system The contemporary national legal systems are generally based on one of four basic systems: civil law, common law, statutory law, religious law or combinations of these. However, the legal system of each country is shaped by its unique history ...
, economic system, cultural system, and other
social system In sociology, social system is the patterned network of relationships constituting a coherent whole that exist between individuals, groups, and institutions. It is the formal Social structure, structure of role and status that can form in a small, s ...
s. However, this is a very simplified view of a much more complex system of categories involving the questions of who should have authority and what the government influence on its people and economy should be.


According to David Easton, "A political system can be designated as the interactions through which values are authoritatively allocated for a society".

Anthropological classification

Anthropologists generally recognize four kinds of political systems, two of which are uncentralized and two of which are centralized.Haviland, W.A. (2003). ''Anthropology: Tenth Edition''. Wadsworth:Belmont, CA. * Uncentralized systems **
Band society A band society, sometimes called a camp, or in older usage, a horde, is the simplest form of human society A society is a Social group, group of individuals involved in persistent Social relation, social interaction, or a large social grou ...
*** Small family group, no larger than an extended family or clan; it has been defined as consisting of no more than 30 to 50 individuals. *** A band can cease to exist if only a small group walks out. **
Tribe The term tribe is used in many different contexts to refer to a category of human social group. The predominant usage of the term is in the discipline of anthropology. The definition is contested, in part due to conflicting theoretical understan ...
*** Generally larger, consisting of many families. Tribes have more social institutions, such as a chief or elders. *** More permanent than bands. Many tribes are sub-divided into bands. *
Centralized government A centralized government (also united government) is one in which both executive and legislative power is concentrated centrally at the higher level as opposed to it being more distributed at various lower level governments. In a national contex ...
s ** Chiefdom *** More complex than a tribe or a band society, and less complex than a state or a civilization *** Characterized by pervasive inequality and centralization of authority. *** A single lineage/family of the elite class becomes the ruling elite of the chiefdom *** Complex chiefdoms have two or even three tiers of political hierarchy. *** "An autonomous political unit comprising a number of villages or communities under the permanent control of a paramount chief" **
Sovereign state A sovereign state is a political entity that is represented by one centralized government that has sovereignty over a geographic area. International law defines sovereign states as having a permanent population, defined territory, one government ...
*** A sovereign state is a state with a permanent population, a defined territory, a government and the capacity to enter into relations with other sovereign states. * Supranational political systems ** Supranational political systems are created by independent nations to reach a common goal or gain strength from forming an alliance. * Empires ** Empires are widespread states or communities under a single rule. They are characterized by the ruler's desire for unanimous religious affiliation or posing as a threat to other empires in times of war.* Empires - such as the Romans, or Americans - often made considerable progress in ways of democratic structures, creating and building city infrastructures, and maintaining civility within the diverse communities. Because of the intricate organization of the empires, they were often able to hold a large majority of power on a universal level.* * Leagues ** Leagues are international organizations composed of states coming together for a single common purpose.* In this way leagues are different from empires, as they only seek to fulfill a single goal. Often leagues are formed on the brink of a military or economic downfall. Meetings and hearings are conducted in a neutral location with representatives of all involved nations present.


The sociological interest in political systems is figuring out who holds power within the relationship of the government and its people and how the government’s power is used. There are three types of political systems that sociologists consider: * Authoritarianism ** In authoritarian governments, the people have no power or representation and it is characterized by absolute or blind obedience to formal
authority In the fields of sociology Sociology is the study of society, human social behaviour, patterns of social relationships, social interaction, and culture that surrounds everyday life. It is a social science that uses various methods of Empiric ...
, as against individual freedom and related to the expectation of unquestioning obedience. The elite leaders handle all economic, military, and foreign relations. A prime example of authoritarianism is a dictatorship. ** Totalitarianism is the most extreme form of authoritarianism because it controls all aspects of life including the communication between citizens, media censorship, and threatens by the means of terror. *
Monarchy A monarchy is a form of government in which a person, the monarch A monarch is a head of stateWebster's II New College DictionarMonarch Houghton Mifflin. Boston. 2001. p. 707. Life tenure, for life or until abdication, and therefore ...
** A monarchy is a government controlled by a king or queen determined by a predisposed line of sovereignty. In other words, it can be seen as an undivided rule or absolute sovereignty by a single person. In the modern world there are two types of monarchies, absolute monarchies and Constitutional monarchy, constitutional monarchies. An absolute monarchy works like a dictatorship in that the king has complete rule over his country. A constitutional monarchy gives the royal family limited powers and usually works in accordance with an elected body of officials. Social revolutions of the 18th, 19th, and 20th century overthrew the majority of existing monarchies in favor of more democratic governments and a rising middle class, as well as of authoritarian regimes like the Soviet Union. * Democracy ** A democracy is a form of government in which the citizens create and vote for laws directly, or indirectly via representatives (democratic republic). The idea of democracy stems back from ancient Greece and the profound works of ancient academics. However, the presence of democracy does not always mean citizen’s wishes will be equally represented. For example, in many democratic countries immigrants, and racial and ethnic minorities, do not receive as the majority citizens.

See also

* Government * Political structure * Polity *Systems theory in political science * ''Tractatus Politicus'' * Voting system



* Almond, Gabriel A., et al. ''Comparative Politics Today: A World View'' (Seventh Edition). 2000. . * Ferris, Kerry, and Jill Stein. ''The Real World An Introduction to Sociology''. 3rd ed. New York City: W W Norton & Co, 2012. Print. *
political system
. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2012. Web. 02 Dec. 2012.

External links

* For further resources on political theory and the mechanics of political system design, see the Governance and Social Development Resource Centre'
topic guide on political systems
{{Authority control Political systems, Political terminology