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Title: Sultanism  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Social philosophy, Political theories, Index of social and political philosophy articles
Collection: Forms of Government, Political Theories, Social Philosophy
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


In political science, sultanism is a form of authoritarian government characterized by the extreme personal presence of the ruler in all elements of governance. The ruler may or may not be present in economic or social life, and thus there may be pluralism in these areas, but this is never true of political power.

The term sultanism is derived from sultan, a title used in Muslim societies for a secular sovereign or monarch, often in contrast with the religious title of caliph. In modern scholarly usage, sultanism is not limited to Muslim or Middle Eastern societies. In 1996, Juan Linz and Alfred Stepan listed the clearest examples of sultanism as: "Haiti under the Duvaliers, the Dominican Republic under Trujillo, the Central African Republic under Bokassa, the Philippines under Marcos, Romania under Ceauşescu, and North Korea under Kim Il Sung."[1]

According to Juan Linz and Alfred Stepan:

[T]he essential reality in a sultanistic regime is that all individuals, groups and institutions are permanently subject to the unpredictable and despotic intervention of the sultan, and thus all pluralism is precarious[1]

In sultanism, the sultan may or may not adopt a ruling ideology but is never bound by any rules or given ideology, even his own. The sultan may also use whatever forces he can to exercise his personal will, such as para-militaries or gangs. the extreme case, Sultanism tend[s] to arise whenever traditional domination develops an administration and a military force which are purely instruments of the master... Where domination... operates primarily on the basis of discretion, it will be called sultanism... The non-traditional element is not, however, rationalized in impersonal terms, but consists only in the extreme development of the ruler's discretion. It is this which distinguishes it from every form of rational authority.
— Max Weber, Economy & Society, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1978

See also


  1. ^ a b Linz & Stepan, Modern Nondemocratic Regimes in Problems of Democratic Transition & Consolidation, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 1996

Further reading

  • Max Weber, Economy & Society, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1978
  • Eke, Steven M.; Taras Kuzio (May 2000). "Sultanism in Eastern Europe: The Socio-Political Roots of Authoritarian Populism in Belarus".  
  • Guliyev, Farid (2005). Post-Soviet Azerbaijan: Transition to Sultanistic Semiauthoritarianism? An Attempt at Conceptualization. Demokratizatsiya: The Journal of Post-Soviet Democratization 13 (3): 393-435.
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