Form of rule

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Form of rule denotes central terms in political science , sociology and political philosophy . These concern the specific manifestations of political rule , i. H. the central aspects of the exercise of power (scope, structure, mode of rule) and access to power. Depending on which aspects of the political are at the center of attention, there are different concepts and classifications of the forms of rule.



The constitutional debate handed down as part of the histories of the ancient historian Herodotus represents a formative source for typifying communities up to the early modern times due to the ancient reception and subsequent tradition . In this book, Herodotus compares the advantages and disadvantages of autocratic sovereignty by kings, the Equal rights for full citizens in isonomy and common government by the few, the chosen and the suitable ( aristocracy ). The relevant aspect of the political is on the one hand the legislation, which should be based on tradition and the common good, as well as the making of political decisions, which should be altruistic and also beneficial to the common good . In his distinction between sole rule, rule of a few and the rule of all full citizens, the forms of government monarchy , aristocracy and democracy are already anticipated. The “constitution” in the sense of Herodotus, however, goes beyond the form of government and also takes into account problems of government practice; this division persisted with adaptations into the early modern period. Today it is only rarely consulted because it is not clearly delimited from the definition of the forms of government . What remains, however - regardless of the modern differentiation - are overlaps between the concepts. For example, the term “monarchy” can still be seen today as both a state and a form of government.


The separation of the form of government from the constitution of the community and thus from the form of rule in the modern sense stems from the Aristotelian tradition, even if this strongly emphasized the advantage of a mixed constitution . In the politics of Aristotle , political systems are differentiated according to the quality of rule in "common good" forms of government (monarchy, aristocracy and politics ) and their "degenerations" ( tyranny , oligarchy , democracy). Aristotle's concept of politics corresponds more to that of modern constitutional democracy, and Aristotelian democracy more to that of populism .

Modern times

Based on the division of the Aristotelian tradition, constitutional cycles were developed in which the form oriented towards the common good is initially replaced by the form determined by particular interests with the same number of rulers until a crisis leads to the transition to the next (one → several → all). The instability of the crisis was seen as threatening the survival of the political community and therefore a mixed constitution was favored until modern times , in which the interests of the ruler, the noble and educated and the masses were mutually balanced and thus prevented the crisis (e.g. Niccolò Machiavelli or Giambattista Vico ). The examination of the forms of government received new impulses through the attempt to clearly delimit jurisdiction, legislation and executive action as well as political arbitrariness. An echo of the mixed constitutional theory can be found in modern theories of the separation of powers , while the question of the source of the law applicable to the community and the legitimacy of political decisions would be the starting point for modern theories of sovereignty .

Kant's "forms of domination"

During the Enlightenment, Immanuel Kant set up a new order model that divides the forms of government according to the “form of domination” or forma imperii and the type of government (Immanuel Kant: AA VIII, 351–353). The forma imperii corresponds to the tripartite division according to the number of rulers in Aristotle, which was previously also referred to as the form of government in constitutional and philosophical literature. However, Kant explicitly contrasted it with a forma regiminis (" form of government "), which corresponded either to the arbitrariness of the rulers or to rule by means of institutions and general laws (referred to by Kant as 'republican'). Thus he received six basic forms of civil constitution or state ; More important than the terminological shift, however, was the demoralization of the form of rule: Whether a monarch or a parliament ruled was not a question of correctness or justice, but whether this rule took place through representation and according to general laws.

Weber's Types of Legitimate Rule

For sociology , Max Weber fundamentally redefined the concept of power. He understood rule as “the authority to find obedience to a certain command from a certain group of people”, consequently as a social relation. For Weber, “a certain minimum of wanting to obey , that is, interest (external and internal) in obeying” belongs to every “real relationship of domination ”. Rule is thus based on the rulers' claim to legitimacy and the ruled's belief in legitimacy. For social groups, Weber distinguished between “three pure types of legitimate rule” that claim legitimacy and thereby create an institutionalized and relatively permanent supremacy and subordination: the legal-rational, the charismatic and the traditional rule.

Modern sociology, politics and law

In the current academic discourse, the term form of rule - especially in relation to the two other central terms of political theory, form of state and system of government - is no longer used in a uniform manner . Often the form of rule is understood to be differentiated from the form of government in the classical sense; While the latter is defined according to the form of the formal organization of rule and the political mode of rule, the form of rule describes the factual design of power . Here the bearer of state power , the sovereign , plays a decisive role. In the modern sense, there is often only one distinction between republic and monarchy with regard to the form of government, depending on the organizational form of a state and the position of the head of state . In the literature, several forms of rule are occasionally identified in a political structure, for example when a regime has theocratic and democratic elements (e.g. in the case of Iran ).

While some authors use the term explicitly synonymously with "system of government", other authors see the form of rule as a structure of power relations in a system of rule and the system of government as a specific institutional pattern in a certain type of regime . Often, the form of government is based in modern political science literature, the term on the based Immanuel Kant distinguish the format regiminis in legitimate -rechtsstaatlicher and illegitimate-arbitrary rule . The exact assignment of a form of rule to a political system can be further specified depending on the property. The system of government or the form of government is then differentiated according to the functioning of the government as well as the position or competence of the head of state, head of government and parliament, so republics can be presidential , semi-presidential or parliamentary , or monarchies on the level of the government system as parliamentary , constitutional or let mark absolute monarchy . This division primarily looks at the legality of political decisions, while the form of rule must differentiate in other ways in order to be able to answer the above-mentioned central question of the legitimacy of political action.

In contrast to this, especially in sociology, due to the substantive background, the typology of rule by Weber is used and the combination of the types of real political structures is examined - the normative question of legitimacy takes a back seat . Dominion is what finds obedience here. Accordingly, no uniform reading of the form of rule is possible; the respective interpretation depends on the subject area as well as on the subject of investigation.

See also


  • Becker / Schmidt / Zintl: Political Philosophy. Ferdinand Schöningh Verlag, Paderborn 2009.
  • Gerhard Himmelmann: Learning Democracy. As a form of life, society and rule. Wochenschau-Verlag, Schwalbach am Taunus 2001.
  • Pelinka / Varwick: Principles of Political Science. UTB, Stuttgart 2010.

Web links

Wiktionary: form of rule  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. See Hans-Joachim Lauth: Regime types: totalitarianism - authoritarianism - democracy. That. (Ed.): Comparative Government. An introduction. 3rd edition, VS Verlag, Wiesbaden 2010, ISBN 3-531-17309-X , pp. 95–116, here pp. 95 ff.
  2. Gisela Riescher , Marcus Obrecht, Tobias Haas: Theories of Comparative Government. An introduction. Oldenbourg, Munich 2011, ISBN 3-486-58903-2 , p. 34 f.
  3. Cf. Alexander Gallus : Typology of forms of government and political systems in the past and present. In: Ders., Eckhard Jesse (Hrsg.): Staatsformen. Models of political order from antiquity to the present. A manual. 2nd edition, Böhlau, Köln / Weimar / Wien 2007, ISBN 3-8252-8343-7 , pp. 19–55, here p. 23 ff.
  4. ^ Manfred G. Schmidt : Theories of democracy. An introduction. 5th edition, VS Verlag, Wiesbaden 2010, ISBN 3-531-17310-3 , pp. 27-48 (Chapter 1: The Aristotelian doctrine of the forms of government and democracy in the "State of the Athenians" ).
  5. Immanuel Kant, Collected Writings. Ed .: Vol. 1-22 Prussian Academy of Sciences, Vol. 23 German Academy of Sciences in Berlin, from Vol. 24 Academy of Sciences in Göttingen, Berlin 1900ff., AA VIII, 351–353 .
  6. a b Günther Bien: Form of rule (s) , in: Joachim Ritter / Karlfried founder (ed.): Historical dictionary of philosophy , Vol. 3, pp. 1096-1099.
  7. Johannes Winckelmann , Herrschaft, II , in: Historical Dictionary of Philosophy , Vol. 3, p. 1087.
  8. ^ Max Weber: Economy and Society. Outline of understanding sociology . Study edition, first half volume. Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Cologne / Berlin 1964 (1956), p. 157.
  9. ^ Petra Neuenhaus: Max Weber and Michel Foucault. About power and rule in the modern age. ISBN 3-89085-820-1 .
  10. ^ Stefan Breuer: Max Webers Herrschaftssoziologie , 1991, ISBN 3-593-34458-0 .
  11. See Heinrich Böll Foundation (ed.): Iran Report 08/2011.
  12. See Riescher, 2011, p. 31.
  13. See Lauth, 2010, p. 96.
  14. See Peter Schwacke, Eberhard Stolz: Staatsrecht. With general state theory and constitutional history (=  administration in practice and science ; Vol. 9), 2nd edition, Cologne 1988.
  15. Occasionally the tripartite division into democracy, autocracy and totalitarianism is used, cf. this z. B. Reinhard Kuhn: Politics , in: Hans Ritscher (Hrsg.): World of Politics. Textbook of social and community studies , Frankfurt am Main / Berlin / Bonn / Munich 1967, pp. 1–91. This tripartite division is highly controversial, especially since the pair of opposites democracy / autocracy already covers the entire range of the typology. In terms of political theory, totalitarianism is generally viewed as a sub-form of dictatorships.