The English suffix –ocracy derives from a Greek word for “power,” “rule,” or “authority.”
Six examples of such words are aristocracy, autocracy, democracy, kakistocracy,theocracy and plutocracy.
Some of the terms overlap.
Literally, an aristocracy is “rule by the best citizens.” In theory, the best citizens (IMHO) would be the most intelligent, best-educated, and most compassionate members of society. In practice, aristocracies are governed by citizens born to the upper classes, regardless of their personal character.
The element auto (“self”) says it all. An autocracy is run by an autocrat, one person (or party) that holds absolute power. Two modern examples are Saudi Arabia and North Korea.
The Greek word plouto signified “wealth” or “riches.” A plutocracy is rule by the wealthiest citizens.
Literally, a theocracy is “rule of God.” In practice, a theocracy is rule by a priestly order or religious political party. Laws in a theocracy are based on religious beliefs and/or sacred writings. Iran, for example, is both an autocracy and a theocracy.
Whereas an aristocracy is “rule of the best citizens,” a kakistocracy is “government by the worst citizens.”
In small societies, the basic form of a democracy is a gathering of all members of the group to make decisions that affect the group.
In large societies, the people elect representatives to govern in such a way as to ensure that all citizens have equal rights, “without hereditary or arbitrary differences of rank or privilege.”
Various forms of democracy exist in the modern world.
A liberal democracy may have different constitutional forms. For example, France, the United States, and Germany are republics. The United Kingdom, Japan, and Spain are constitutional monarchies. What they have in common is the existence of more than one political party, a separation of powers into different branches of government, and a commitment to a rule of law to protect the rights and liberties of all citizens, regardless of social status.
A social democracy embraces the ideals of a liberal democracy, but also focuses on universal access to public services such as education, medical care, transportation, child care, and care for the elderly. Sweden, Denmark, and Finland illustrate this model of democracy.
This phrase, coined by historian J. L. Talmon (1916-1980), sounds like an oxymoron, but it describes a type of democracy that appeals to voters who think about politics in a particular way. According to Talmon,
The essential difference between the two schools of democratic thought [liberal and totalitarian] as they have evolved is not, as is often alleged, in the affirmation of the value of liberty by one, and its denial by the other. It is in their different attitude to politics. The liberal approach assumes politics to be a matter of trial and error and regards political systems as pragmatic contrivances of human ingenuity and spontaneity. It also recognizes a variety of levels of personal and collective endeavor, which are altogether outside the sphere of politics.
The totalitarian democratic school, on the other hand, is based upon the assumption of a sole and exclusive truth in politics.