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  Dictatorship is a form of government in which an individual or small group assumes complete executive and legislative power without the constraints imposed by a constitution. Although the term is now used pejoratively to describe tyrannical authority figures, dictatorship initially referred to the constitutional appointment of an individual to take temporary charge of the Roman Republic during times of military emergency. (The Latin word dictator implied one who gave orders without needing to spend time in consultation.) Echoing the Roman custom modern dictators usually attempt to legitimize their assumption of power by emphasizing the necessity of autocratic control in times of instability. Modern dictatorships are more likely to occur where constitutional traditions are not strong, where the military has traditionally had an interventionist role in government, and where crises of modernization have become acute.

The ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ was the name envisaged by Karl Marx for the period immediately following the overthrow of capitalism, during which he thought the working class would have to seize control over the means of production and do what was necessary to smash the remnants of the bourgeois state apparatus. Marx thought that this dictatorship would, like the Roman model, be temporary, and after the success of the proletarian revolution the state would wither away. In practice however, the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ in Communist régimes has been a dictatorship of the Communist party. BO\'L

See also authoritarianism; Marxism.Further reading R. Chilcote et al., Transitions from Dictatorship to Democracy; , J. Ehrenberg, Dictatorship of the Proletariat: Marxism\'s Theory of Socialist Democracy.



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