Form of government

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The form of government characterizes the organizational form, "constitution" and external system of rule of a state and is thus an important feature of the basic state order . It relates, among other things, to how the head of state is determined and legitimized and whether there is a separation of powers . The form of government is therefore essential for both the internal and external appearance of the state.

In the older specialist literature, the form of the state in the narrower sense is often only related to the dichotomy between monarchy and republic as pure forms, between which the form of a mixed constitution occurs. These forms were further differentiated, the validity of this classification is, however, decreased in the 20th century: Since by parliamentary and democratic , if it is not the political significance of the monarchies and the heads of state of government is, have declined, the distinction is of monarchies to republics rather uninteresting while, on the other hand, the term republic can be used with little distinction as a designation for different systems of rule. In the meantime, other criteria for the classification of government forms have been established and are widely used. Another fundamental distinction is made between federal state and unitary state .

Use of the term

The theory of state forms is a classic subject of political philosophy and law . The concept of the form of government is therefore of particular interest to philosophy as well as to political science and public law . In addition, the forms of government are also relevant in other humanities and social sciences . It should be noted that in constitutional law the state is understood more as a set of norms, but in the social sciences as a social subsystem.


Forms of government form a central conceptual component in determining political systems. Following Niccolò Machiavelli, the variety of forms of government is sometimes reduced to the dichotomy of republic versus monarchy . This results in the possibility of demarcation from the forms of rule .

According to the three-element theory, a further distinction between the forms of government results from the different forms of governmental power , which can be theoretically classified according to different types. In practice, they can appear in different forms and in mixed forms. In the classical theory of the forms of government, different methods of classifying the forms of government result in different main and sub-types:

Forms of government
differentiation according to
Holder of state authority Head of state Internal structure
(state organization)
monarchy aristocracy democracy

(general assembly,
rural community)
republic monarchy
Unitary state State
federal state
Alternatives to the division of government forms

There are several main types, each of which can be further subdivided. Combinations and alternative divisions are also conceivable, for example the monarchy into hereditary and elected monarchies , other types are one-party systems , dictatorships and people 's republics , Islamic republics and divine states . A real state can certainly have the features of several types. In the field of political science, at least since Karl Loewenstein, the basic distinction between autocracy and democracy (Loewenstein still “constitutional form of government”) has been relevant, which Loewenstein himself describes as forms of government and which ties in with the classification of the forma regiminis from Immanuel Kant's book On Eternal Peace .


The form of government can be conceptually differentiated from:

In the older literature, however, the terms rule, government and state were often used synonymously. For example, the term monarchy can still be seen today as both a form of government and a form of government. The undifferentiated use is no longer common in legal and political science literature.

See also


  • Alexander Gallus , Eckhard Jesse (Ed.): State forms. Models of political order from antiquity to the present. A manual. Böhlau Verlag, Cologne / Weimar / Vienna 2004, ISBN 3-412-07604-X . (also available from bpb )
  • Alfred Katz: Constitutional Law. Basic course in public law. 18., completely reworked. Edition, CF Müller Verlag, Heidelberg 2010, ISBN 978-3-8114-9778-8 .

Web links

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

Individual evidence

  1. a b Jutta Frohner, Entry Form of State , in: Christian M. Piska, Jutta Frohner: Specialized Dictionary Introduction to Law , Facultas, Vienna 2009, ISBN 978-3-7089-0298-2 , p. 152 in the Google book search.
  2. ^ Manfred G. Schmidt : Form of government. In: ders .: Dictionary on Politics (=  Kröner's pocket edition , vol. 404). 2nd, completely revised and expanded edition, Alfred Kröner Verlag, Stuttgart 2004, ISBN 3-520-40402-8 , p. 673.
  3. Falco Federmann: The constitutionalization of the European Union - considerations against the background of the ongoing European constitutional process (= Jean Monnet series; Vol. 7), Josef Eul Verlag, Lohmar / Cologne 2007, ISBN 978-3-89936-619-8 , P. 24 .
  4. So still in the article form of government , in: Johann Georg Krünitz: Ökonomisch-technologische Enzyklopädie , Volume 121 (1812), p. 577 f. ( electronic edition from Trier University Library ).
  5. Manfred G. Schmidt: Dictionary of politics. 2nd edition, Kröner, Stuttgart 2004, keyword “Monarchie”, p. 461 f., Keyword “Republik”, p. 615; see. also Jürgen Hartmann : Western government systems: parliamentarism, presidential and semi-presidential system of government , 3rd edition 2011, ISBN 978-3-531-18132-5 , p. 14 .
  6. ^ Christoph Grabenwarter , Michael Holoubek : Constitutional Law - General Administrative Law. Facultas, Vienna 2009, ISBN 978-3-7089-0451-1 , p. 31 f. in Google Book Search.
  7. ^ Alfred Katz, Staatsrecht , 2010, § 4 I Rn 50 .
  8. ^ According to Alfred Katz: Staatsrecht , 2010, p. 29, fig. 4.
  9. Eckhard Jesse: Staatsformenlehre , in: Dieter Nohlen : Dictionary State and Politics , 3rd edition, licensed edition for the Federal Agency for Civic Education, Bonn 1998, ISBN 3-89331-341-9 , pp. 730-733.
  10. Cf. Karl Loewenstein: The monarchy in the modern state. Frankfurt am Main 1952, p. 18.