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A Government is the body within a community, political entity or organization which has the authority to make and enforce rules, laws and regulations. .

Typically, the term "government" refers to a civil government or sovereign state which can be either local, national, or international. However, commercial, academic, religious, or other formal organizations are also governed by internal bodies. Such bodies may be called boards of directors, managers, or governors or they may be known as the administration (as in schools) or councils of elders (as in churches). The size of governments can vary by region or purpose.

Growth of an organization advances the complexity of its government, therefore small towns or small-to-medium privately-operated enterprises will have fewer officials than typically larger organizations such as multinational corporations which tend to have multiple interlocking, hierarchical layers of administration and governance. As complexity increases and the nature of governance becomes more complicated, so does the need for formal policies and procedures.

Types of State Government

  • Authoritarian – Authoritarian governments are characterized by an emphasis on the authority of the state in a republic or union. It is a political system controlled by nonelected rulers who usually permit some degree of individual freedom.
  • Constitutional monarchy – A government that has a monarch, but his/her power is strictly limited by the government. Example: United Kingdommarker
  • Constitutional republic – Rule by a government composed of representatives who are voted into power by the people.
  • Democracy – Rule by a government where all [citizens] are represented but power is held by the majority.
  • Dictatorship – Rule by an individual who has full power over the country. See also Autocracy and Stratocracy.
  • Monarchy – Rule by an individual who has inherited the role and expects to bequeath it to their heir.
  • Oligarchy – Rule by a small group of people who share similar interests or family relations.
  • Plutocracy – A government composed of the wealthy class. Any of the forms of government listed here can be plutocracy. For instance, if all of the voted representatives in a republic are wealthy, then it is a republic and a plutocracy.
  • Theocracy – Rule by a religious elite.
  • Totalitarian – Totalitarian governments regulate nearly every aspect of public and private life.

The political philosophy of anarchism opposes government, and is not a form thereof—it is the belief that governments are harmful and unnecessary.


For many thousands of years when people were hunter-gatherers and small scale farmers, humans lived in small, non-hierarchical and self-sufficient communities.

The development of agriculture resulted in ever increasing population densities. David Christian explains how this helped result in states with laws and governments:

The exact moment and place that the phenomenon of human government developed is lost in time; however, history does record the formations of very early governments. About 5,000 years ago, the first small city-states appeared. By the third to second millenniums BC, some of these had developed into larger governed areas: Sumer, Ancient Egypt, the Indus Valley Civilization, and the Yellow River Civilization.

States formed as the results of a positive feedback loop where population growth results in increased information exchange which results in innovation which results in increased resources which results in further population growth. The role of cities in the feedback loop is important. Cities became the primary conduits for the dramatic increases in information exchange that allowed for large and densely packed populations to form, and because cities concentrated knowledge, they also ended up concentrating power. "Increasing population density in farming regions provided the demographic and physical raw materials used to construct the first cities and states, and increasing congestion provided much of the motivation for creating states."

Fundamental purpose

According to supporters of government, the fundamental purpose of government is the maintenance of basic security and public order. The philosopher Thomas Hobbes figured that people were rational animals and thus saw submission to a government dominated by a sovereign as preferable to anarchy. According to Hobbes, people in a community create and submit to government for the purpose of establishing for themselves, safety and public order.

Early examples

These are examples of some of the earliest known governments:

Expanded roles

Military defense

The fundamental purpose of government is to maintain social order and protect property.

Militaries are created to deal with the highly complex task of confronting large numbers of enemies.

Once governments came onto the scene, they began to form and use armies for conflicts with neighboring states, and for conquest of new lands. Governments seek to maintain monopolies on the use of force, and to that end, they usually suppress the development of private armies within their borders.

Social security

Social security is related to economic security. Throughout most of human history, parents prepared for their old age by producing enough children to ensure that some of them would survive long enough to take care of the parents in their old age. In modern, relatively high-income societies, a mixed approach is taken where the government shares a substantial responsibility of taking care of the elderly.

This is not the case everywhere since there are still many countries where social security through having many children is the norm. Although social security is a relatively recent phenomenon, prevalent mostly in developed countries, it deserves mention because the existence of social security substantially changes reproductive behavior in a society, and it has an impact on reducing the cycle of poverty. By reducing the cycle of poverty, government creates a self-reinforcing cycle where people see the government as friend both because of the financial support they receive late in their lives, but also because of the overall reduction in national poverty due to the government's social security policies—which then adds to public support for social security.Bruce Bartlett. Social Security Then and Now. COMMENTARY. March 2005, Vol. 119, No. 3, pp. 52-56. In the online version on paragraph 13 it suggests that, During the Great Depression, Roosevelt wanted to suppress revolutionary tendencies by tying workers to the state—hence a state-run social security system. Also read the paragraphs above where it talks about populist demagogues and socialist revolutions in other countries. Tying workers to the state through social security was a politically strategic move designed to preserve the United States of America and its democracy.

Aspects of government

Governments vary greatly, as do the relationships of citizens of a state to its government.

Abuse of power

The leaders of governments are human beings, and given human nature, what constitutes good governance has been a subject written about since the earliest books known. In the western tradition Plato wrote extensively on the question, most notably in The Republic. He (in the voice of Socrates) asked if the purpose of government was to help ones friends and hurt ones enemies, for example. Aristotle, Plato's student picked up the subject in his treatise on Politics. Many centuries later, John Locke addressed the question of abuse of power by writing on the importance of checks and balances to prevent or at least constrain abuse. Many scholars believe that Thomas Jefferson was influenced by John Locke.


The concept of legitimacy is central to the study of governments. Statists have attempted to formalize ways to legitimize government or state authority.

Social contract theorists, such as Thomas Hobbes and Jean-Jacques Rosseau, believe that governments reduce people's freedom/rights in exchange for protecting them, and maintaining order. Many people question however, whether this is an actual exchange (where people voluntarily give up their freedoms), or whether they are taken by threat of force by the ruling party.

Other statist theorists, like David Hume, reject social contract theory on the grounds that, in reality, consent is not involved in state-individual relationships and instead offer different definitions of legitimacy based on practicality and usefulness.

Anarchists, on the other hand, claim that legitimacy for an authority must be consensual and reject the concept of states altogether; For them, authority must be earned not self-legitimated. For example, a police officer does not earn his authority as a doctor does since the authority is voluntarily transferred to the doctor while the police officer just takes it.

Criticised aspects


In the most basic sense, people of one nation will see the government of another nation as the enemy when the two nations are at war. For example, the people of Carthagemarker saw the Romanmarker government as the enemy during the Punic wars.


In early human history, the outcome of war for the defeated was often enslavement. The enslaved people would not find it easy to see the conquering government as a friend.

Religious opposition

People with religious views opposed to the official state religion will have a greater tendency to view that government as their enemy. A good example would be the condition of Roman Catholicism in England before the Catholic Emancipation. Protestants—who were politically dominant in Englandmarker—used political, economic and social means to reduce the size and strength of Catholicism in England over the 16th to 18th centuries, and as a result, Catholics in England felt that their religion was being oppressed.

Class oppression

Whereas capitalists in a capitalist country may tend to see that nation's government positively, a class-conscious group of industrial workers—a proletariat—may see things very differently. If the proletariat wishes to take control of the nation's productive resources, and they are blocked in their endeavors by continuing adjustments in the law made by capitalists in the government, then the proletariat will come to see the government as their enemy—especially if the conflicts become violent.

The same situation can occur among peasants. The peasants in a country, e.g. Russia during the reign of Catherine the Great, may revolt against their landlords, only to find that their revolution is put down by government.

Critical views and alternatives

The relative merits of various forms of government have long been debated by philosophers, politicians and others. However, in recent times, the traditional conceptions of government and the role of government have also attracted increasing criticism from a range of sources. Some argue that the traditional conception of government, which is heavily influenced by the zero-sum perceptions of state actors and focuses on obtaining security and prosperity at a national level through primarily unilateral action, is no longer appropriate or effective in a modern world that is increasingly connected and interdependent.

Human security

One such school of thought is human security, which advocates for a more people-based (as opposed to state-based) conception of security, focusing on protection and empowerment of individuals. Human security calls upon governments to recognise that insecurity and instability in one region affects all and to look beyond national borders in defining their interests and formulating policies for security and development. Human security also demands that governments engage in a far greater level of cooperation and coordination with not only domestic organisations, but also a range of international actors such as foreign governments, intergovernmental organisations and non-government organisations.

Whilst human security attempts to provide a more holistic and comprehensive approach to world problems, its implementation still relies to a large extent on the will and ability of governments to adopt the agenda and appropriate policies. In this sense, human security provides a critique of traditional conceptions of the role of government, but also attempts to work within the current system of state-based international relations. Of course, the unique characteristics of different countries and resources available are some constraints for governments in utilising a human security framework.


Anarchists are those who disagree with using government violence as a means to solve complex social issues - or, in other words, they say that no entity can be self-legitimated to use force and explicit consent is necessary for legitimacy within a collective group or government. There are many forms of anarchist theories but under anarchy, these many different groups and individuals would seemingly need to deal with each other in the same way that people deal with their neighbors in the real world. Some anarchists, such as anarcho-syndicalists or anarcho-primitivists, advocate egalitarianism and non-hierarchical societies while others, such as anarcho-capitalists, advocate free markets, individual sovereignty and freedom.

Related pages


  1. Fotopoulos, Takis, The Multidimensional Crisis and Inclusive Democracy. (Athens: Gordios, 2005).( English translation of the book with the same title published in Greek).
  2. American 503
  3. American 1134
  4. American 1225
  5. American 1793
  6. American 65
  7. Christian 245
  8. Christian 253
  9. Most of this sentence is in the present tense because the process is still ongoing.
  10. Christian 271
  11. The concept of the city itself became a self-reinforcing cycle. "The creation of such large and dense communities required new forms of power", and since cities concentrate power, the new (sovereign) rulers had incentives to build and expand cities to further increase their power.(Christian 271,321)
  12. Christian 248
  13. Schulze 81
  14. Dietz 68
  15. Social Contract Theory
  16. Dietz 65-66
  17. Hobbes idea of the necessity of the formation of government is known as the social contract theory.
  18. The field of study and thought about the necessity of governments and governments' relationships with people is known as political philosophy.
  19. Christian 294
  20. Higham, "Indus Valley Civilization"
  21. Adler 80-81
  22. Nebel 165-166
  25. Christian 358


*Kenoyer, J. M. Ancient Cities of the Indus Civilization. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998
*Possehl, Gregory L. Harappan Civilization: A Recent Perspective. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1993
*Indus Age: The Writing System. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996
*“Revolution in the Urban Revolution: The Emergence of Indus Urbanisation,” Annual Review of Anthropology 19 (1990): 261–282.

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