What is the difference between authoritarian and totalitarian?


The difference between an authoritarian government and a totalitarian government is not entirely known, since  even theorists disagree about the two. However, both forms of government use force and often fear to control, with totalitarian governments controlling every aspect of people's lives in a way that authoritarian governments sometimes do not.  Totalitarian governments will also try to create a cult around their leader, and the leader will often display charisma in addition to a push for loyalty, force, brutality and fear.

One example of totalitarian government control was  the Pol Pot regime.  From 1976 to 1978,  Pol Pot ruled over the Khmer Rouge region in Cambodia. Although he ran his political campaign on socialism, he was a true totalitarian. He used force to remove citizens from the cities and to put them on communal farms. These citizens were then forced to work and to be a part of a new communist society. If anyone disobeyed and refused to go, then they were not only tortured, but often murdered.

An example of an authoritarian government can be seen in China. However, it is a thriving country in many ways, and belongs to  the World Trade Organization. China is also  seen as a major international force in politics and economy.

Learn More

Related Questions