Totalitarianism vs Dictatorship: Difference and Comparison

Totalitarianism is a political notion in which the state and all citizens in society, both public and private, are monitored, controlled, and governed by the political party in power.

However, Dictatorship is an autocratic form of government. The military, judiciary, civilians, and even government are all under the control of a single person in this type of society.

Key Takeaways

  1. Totalitarianism encompasses control over all aspects of society, while dictatorship focuses on political power.
  2. Totalitarian regimes utilize propaganda, mass surveillance, and indoctrination to maintain control.
  3. Dictatorships can exist within various political systems, whereas totalitarianism implies a specific, oppressive system.

Totalitarianism vs Dictatorship

Totalitarianism is a political system in which the state controls all aspects of citizens’ lives, and the government uses propaganda and terror to maintain absolute control. A dictatorship is a form of government in which a single person holds complete power and authority obtained through unconstitutional means.

Totalitarianism vs Dictatorship

In totalitarianism, laws and regulations are enacted, and citizens and civic institutions are obligated to obey the laws enacted by the ruling party.

Totalitarianism’s governance is founded on ideas associated with a dominant political philosophy. The will of the ruling party, or the party in power, is frequently reflected in the concept of totalitarian governance.

The Dictatorship idea of governance has no legal laws or regulations. The words of the ruler or dictator, on the other hand, are held in such high regard that everyone must obey them.

Dictatorship is not founded on hegemonic political beliefs. However, the concept could be based on any belief. The dictator’s will is mirrored in the concept of dictatorial governance.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonTotalitarianismDictatorship
OrdersGiven by ruling partyGiven by the Dictator
Will reflectionOf ruling party
Of an individual/dictator
Ruling party Is made by the ruling partyNo rules and regulations exist
Political IdeologiesPolitical ideologiesMay or may not be based on political ideologies.
ExamplesIran, North Korea and China.Some famous dictators- Fidel Castro, Idi Amin, Hitler

What is Totalitarianism?

Totalitarianism is a political notion in which the state and every citizen in society, both public and private, are monitored, controlled, and governed by the political party in power.

Under the concept of governance of Totalitarianism, loyalty is unquestioned to the state. However, by the government, it is considered sacrosanct. The same is done by most of the countrymen and the ruling party as well.

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In this concept, the ideologies of the state and the ruling party are almost considered the same. In the concept of totalitarian governance, the will of the governing party, or the party in power, is reflected.

The regimes of the totalitarian government implement the laws in a highly ruthless manner. Moreover, this kind of government is aggressively nationalistic.

Some of the examples of totalitarian governments that could be witnessed in history are communist rule which existed in Cambodia, and the Soviet Union and Nazi rule existed in Germany.

Apart from that, In the present-day context, countries like Iran, China, and North Korea witness the Totalitarianism form of government.

What is Dictatorship?

Dictatorship is an autocratic idea in the government system. In the Dictatorship form of governance, any citizen who goes against the laws or words of the dictator and disobeys them is being eliminated either mentally or physically.

The power is given to the dictator by a variety of means, like an emergency, hereditary, electric, military coup, etc.

However, the dictator also experiences fear of losing his kingdom or territory to any other potential competitor. The potential competitor ought to be ambitious, powerful, and brutal, which makes the dictator even more barbaric and crueler.

In this system, power is concentrated in the hands of a single individual who is known to have control over the military, courts, civilians, and even the government.

A set of people are always there to support the dictator, like powerful businessmen and highly manipulative People from abroad. Some examples of famous dictators ever existed in history are Idi Amin, Hitler, Muammar Gaddafi, Mobutu Sese Seko, etc.

Main Differences Between Totalitarianism and Dictatorship

  1. Totalitarianism is a concept that is based on political ideas where the state, every citizen in the society, both public and private, is monitored, controlled, and governed by that political party that retains power. On the other hand, Dictatorship is an autocratic concept in the system of governance. In this type of system, the power is centralized to a single person who is known to have control over the military, judiciary, citizens, and even government.
  2. In the case of Totalitarianism, laws and regulations are formed, and the citizens along with all the civil institutions, are bound to follow the laws made by the party holding power and governance. On the other hand, In the Dictatorship concept of governance, no such rules and regulations of law exist. However, the words of the person in power or the dictator are considered so important that everybody is bound to obey them.
  3. The governance of Totalitarianism is particularly based upon the concepts related to a political ideology that is hegemonic in characteristic. On the other hand, dictatorship is not based on hegemonic political ideologies. However, there is a fair chance that the concept may also be based upon any ideology.
  4. In the concept of the governance of Totalitarianism, the reflection of the will of the ruling party, or the party which is in power, occurs. On the other hand, in the case of the concept of the governance of dictatorship, the will of an individual or the dictator is being reflected.
  5. In the case of the Totalitarianism form of governance, the control is being taken and done by the party only. However, everything is portrayed as if the whole state is establishing control. On the other hand, a dictatorship’s governance does not consider any layman’s consent. Here power acquisition is the main motive, and everyone is forced to follow the orders of the dictator.
  6. The scope of the concept of Totalitarianism is centered on the government. On the other hand, the scope of the concept of Dictatorship is centered on absolute power.
  7. Totalitarian form of governance, the authority of power is retained by the party in power. On the other hand, absolute power is retained by the dictator who is an individual.
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Last Updated : 14 October, 2023

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10 thoughts on “Totalitarianism vs Dictatorship: Difference and Comparison”

  1. I feel the post could include some real-world contemporary examples of totalitarianism and dictatorship to make it more engaging and relatable.

  2. The tone of the post seems to be neutral, it might be inclined towards the totalitarian side. It would have been better if a more balanced point of view was presented.

  3. The way the article provides a thorough understanding of the concepts along with a brief historical context makes it a compelling read.

  4. The post provided a detailed explanation about the difference between totalitarianism and dictatorship, and also offering some historical examples and references to back up the information.

  5. The factual and academic tone of the article may appeal to readers who are genuinely interested in grasping the nuances of political theory and governance systems.

  6. The extensive and detailed comparison of the two forms of governance is commendable. This article can definitely add significant value to the understanding of political theory.

    • I agree, the analysis is highly informative and thought-provoking. It provides a comprehensive understanding of these complex political concepts.


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