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Definition: government from Britannica Concise Encyclopedia

Political system by which a body of people is administered and regulated. Different levels of government typically have different responsibilities. The level closest to those governed is local government. Regional governments comprise a grouping of individual communities. National governments nominally control all the territory within internationally recognized borders and have responsibilities not shared by their subnational counterparts. Most governments exercise executive, legislative (see legislature), and judicial (see judiciary) powers and split or combine them in various ways. Some also control the religious affairs of their people; others avoid any involvement with religion. Political forms at the national level determine the powers exercised at the subnational levels; these have included autocracy, democracy, fascism, monarchy, oligarchy, plutocracy (government by the wealthy), theocracy, and totalitarianism.

Event: government

Keywords: government

Summary Article: Government
From The SAGE Glossary of the Social and Behavioral Sciences

A political system through which a body of people is administered and regulated. The fundamental purpose of government is to maintain basic security and public order. Governments serve several functions. Most exercise executive, judicial, and legislative powers, as well as provide internal and external security. Many also provide welfare services, regulate the economy, and establish educational systems. Some governments control the religious affairs of their people.

The form of government instituted in a state differs according to the power holders of that state. Power may be held by one individual as in a monarchy, dictatorship, or autocracy. Plutocracy and theocracy are examples of rule by a few individuals. Democracies exemplify rule by the majority.

Although governments may operate only on a national level, others consist of more than one level of government. Their systems contain local governments, which are smaller and have lesser powers than the national government. Their administration may also be partially or wholly subsidized by the national government.

Governments also differ according to the distribution of power at the local level. This distribution may be unitary, federated, or confederated. In unitary governments, smaller organizational units within a country are governed constitutionally as one single unit, and the national government has the right to recall delegated power. Federations comprise separate smaller units that have a separate constitutional existence and are both partially self-governing and united by a central government. Confederations consist of governments of several political divisions, or states, in which each division retains considerable independence.

See also

Autocracy, Confederation, Democracy (political science, public administration), Dictatorship, Monarchy, Theocracy

Copyright © 2009 by SAGE Publications, Inc.

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