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Authoritarian vs. Dictator: Know the Difference

Shumaila Saeed
By Shumaila Saeed || Published on January 13, 2024
Authoritarian refers to a governing system with absolute power centralized in one person or a small group, while a Dictator is a specific individual who rules such a system, often with absolute control.
Authoritarian vs. Dictator

Key Differences

Authoritarianism is a political system where power is concentrated in the hands of a leader or a small elite not accountable to the public. Dictators are individuals who often assume or maintain power in such systems, typically through undemocratic means.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jan 13, 2024
Authoritarian regimes can vary in structure, with some allowing limited political pluralism, but they generally lack free and fair elections. A Dictator, however, personally embodies the regime, often suppressing political opposition and controlling various aspects of life.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jan 13, 2024
While an Authoritarian regime might have institutional frameworks, these often serve merely to legitimize the ruler's power. In contrast, a Dictator often centralizes power to such an extent that institutions become mere extensions of their personal will.
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Shumaila Saeed
Jan 13, 2024
Authoritarian governments may sometimes be led by a group of elites or a single party, with strict control over social and political life. A Dictator typically emerges as the singular face and authority of the regime, overshadowing any party or institution.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jan 13, 2024
In Authoritarian systems, the concentration of power is the key element, with limited political freedoms and often a lack of constitutional accountability. Dictators exert personal control over the state apparatus, often using charisma, force, or propaganda to maintain their rule.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jan 13, 2024
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Comparison Chart

Definition

A governing system with concentrated power
An individual who rules with absolute power
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Shumaila Saeed
Jan 13, 2024

Power Source

Centralized in a person or small group
Personal charisma, force, or manipulation
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Jan 13, 2024

Political Pluralism

Limited or absent
Often suppressed or nonexistent
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Accountability

Limited or none to the public
Usually unaccountable to the public or institutions
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Leadership Structure

Can be a single leader, party, or elite
Typically a single individual
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Authoritarian and Dictator Definitions

Authoritarian

Centralized Power
An authoritarian regime centralizes power in a single leader or party.
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 20, 2023

Dictator

Personal Power
The dictator's personal power overshadowed all institutions.
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Dec 20, 2023

Authoritarian

Limited Political Freedom
Authoritarian rule is marked by limited political freedom.
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 20, 2023

Dictator

Undemocratic Control
He became a dictator by overthrowing the democratic government.
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Dec 20, 2023

Authoritarian

Unaccountable Leadership
The leader's unaccountable decisions were characteristic of authoritarianism.
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Dec 20, 2023
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Dictator

Oppressive Leadership
Under the dictator's oppressive regime, freedoms were curtailed.
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Dec 20, 2023

Authoritarian

Suppressing Dissent
Authoritarian governments often suppress dissent and opposition.
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Dec 20, 2023

Dictator

Cult of Personality
The dictator cultivated a cult of personality to maintain control.
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Dec 20, 2023

Authoritarian

Characterized by or favoring absolute obedience to authority, as against individual freedom
An authoritarian regime.
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Dec 13, 2023

Dictator

An absolute ruler.
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Authoritarian

Tending to tell other people what to do in a peremptory or arrogant manner.
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Dictator

A tyrant; a despot.
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Authoritarian

Of, or relating to, or exhibiting strict obedience to an authority; favoring authoritarianism over civic and individual liberties.
The authoritarian personality
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Dec 13, 2023

Dictator

An ancient Roman magistrate appointed temporarily to deal with an immediate crisis or emergency.
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Authoritarian

Demanding obedience to authority; marked by authoritarianism; dictatorial, tyrannical.
The authoritarian government was demanding stricter laws for low-wage peasants.
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Dec 13, 2023

Dictator

One who dictates
These initials are those of the dictator of the letter.
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Dec 13, 2023

Authoritarian

Tending to impose one's demands upon others as if one were an authority.
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Dictator

A totalitarian leader of a country, nation, or government.
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Dec 13, 2023

Authoritarian

One who commands absolute obedience to his or her authority.
The dictator was an authoritarian.
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 13, 2023

Dictator

(history) A magistrate without colleague in republican Ancient Rome, who held full executive authority for a term granted by the senate (legislature), typically to conduct a war.
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 13, 2023

Authoritarian

One who follows and is excessively obedient to authority.
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Dec 13, 2023

Dictator

A tyrannical boss or authority figure.
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Dec 13, 2023

Authoritarian

Characteristic of an absolute ruler or absolute rule; having absolute sovereignty; - of governments or rulers; as, an authoritarian regime
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 13, 2023

Dictator

A person who dictates text (e.g. letters to a clerk).
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Dec 13, 2023

Authoritarian

Expecting unquestioning obedience: "he was imperious and dictatorial"; "the timid child of authoritarian parents"; "insufferably overbearing behavior toward the waiter"
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 13, 2023

Dictator

One who dictates; one who prescribes rules and maxims authoritatively for the direction of others.
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Dec 13, 2023

Authoritarian

Behaves like a tyrant.
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Dec 13, 2023

Dictator

One invested with absolute authority; especially, a magistrate created in times of exigence and distress, and invested with unlimited power.
Invested with the authority of a dictator, nay, of a pope, over our language.
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 13, 2023

Authoritarian

A person behaves in an tyrannical manner;
My boss is a dictator who makes everyone work overtime
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 13, 2023

Dictator

A speaker who dictates to a secretary or a recording machine
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Dec 13, 2023

Authoritarian

Characteristic of an absolute ruler or absolute rule; having absolute sovereignty;
An authoritarian regime
Autocratic government
Despotic rulers
A dictatorial rule that lasted for the duration of the war
A tyrannical government
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 13, 2023

Dictator

A ruler who is unconstrained by law
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 13, 2023

Authoritarian

Likened to a dictator in severity
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 13, 2023

Dictator

A person behaves in an tyrannical manner;
My boss is a dictator who makes everyone work overtime
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 13, 2023

Authoritarian

Expecting unquestioning obedience;
He was imperious and dictatorial
The timid child of authoritarian parents
Insufferably overbearing behavior toward the waiter
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 13, 2023

Dictator

Absolute Ruler
The dictator ruled the country with an iron fist, allowing no opposition.
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 20, 2023

Authoritarian

Strict Control
The government's authoritarian policies enforced strict control over media.
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 20, 2023

Repeatedly Asked Queries

What is an authoritarian?

An authoritarian is a leader or regime with centralized, non-accountable power.
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Shumaila Saeed
Jan 13, 2024

Who is a dictator?

A dictator is an individual who exercises absolute authority, often undemocratically.
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Shumaila Saeed
Jan 13, 2024

Can a democracy become authoritarian?

Yes, democracies can slide into authoritarianism through erosion of institutions.
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Shumaila Saeed
Jan 13, 2024

Is every dictator an authoritarian?

Yes, dictators are inherently authoritarian due to their absolute control.
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Jan 13, 2024

Do dictators always use force?

Many dictators use force, but some also rely on propaganda or legal manipulation.
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Shumaila Saeed
Jan 13, 2024

Can a dictator be elected?

Dictators can initially be elected but usually undermine democratic processes to gain absolute power.
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Shumaila Saeed
Jan 13, 2024

What are common features of authoritarian regimes?

Authoritarian regimes often feature limited freedoms, censorship, and centralization of power.
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Shumaila Saeed
Jan 13, 2024

How do authoritarians maintain power?

Authoritarians maintain power through control over media, suppression of dissent, and often manipulation of laws.
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Jan 13, 2024

What leads to authoritarianism?

Factors like political instability, economic crises, and social conflicts can lead to authoritarianism.
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Shumaila Saeed
Jan 13, 2024

What is the difference in leadership style between an authoritarian and a dictator?

Authoritarians may rule collectively or impersonally, while dictators often rule through personal charisma and control.
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Shumaila Saeed
Jan 13, 2024

How do dictators rise to power?

Dictators often rise to power through coups, elections followed by power consolidation, or inheritance.
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Jan 13, 2024

Can media be free in an authoritarian regime?

Media freedom is typically severely restricted in authoritarian regimes.
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Jan 13, 2024

How does international community respond to dictators?

The international community's response varies, ranging from sanctions and condemnation to engagement or non-intervention.
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Jan 13, 2024

Are all authoritarians dictators?

Not all authoritarians are dictators; some are part of a collective leadership.
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Jan 13, 2024

Can authoritarian regimes have good governance?

While rare, some authoritarian regimes can have periods of effective governance.
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Jan 13, 2024

What happens to opposition in authoritarian regimes?

Opposition is often suppressed, imprisoned, or marginalized in authoritarian regimes.
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Shumaila Saeed
Jan 13, 2024

Are dictators always military leaders?

Not all dictators are military leaders, but many have military backgrounds or support.
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Shumaila Saeed
Jan 13, 2024

Can authoritarianism lead to economic growth?

Some authoritarian regimes have achieved economic growth, though often at the cost of human rights.
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Jan 13, 2024

Do authoritarians have legal legitimacy?

Authoritarians often manipulate laws to gain or maintain a semblance of legitimacy.
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Jan 13, 2024

How do people live under a dictator?

Life under a dictator often involves repression, fear, and limited freedoms.
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Shumaila Saeed
Jan 13, 2024

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Shumaila Saeed
Written by
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed, an expert content creator with 6 years of experience, specializes in distilling complex topics into easily digestible comparisons, shining a light on the nuances that both inform and educate readers with clarity and accuracy.

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