Ireland's Child Care Institutions during the 20th. Century. Fo'T: The most vivid and passionate stories - banished babies, cruel orphanages, old abuses of power - have concerned things that went unnoticed, or at least unarticulated, at the time. News has often had to be redefined, not as the latest sensation but as that which everybody knew all along yet could not say.

Saturday, September 17, 2005


The term authoritarian is used to describe an organization or a state which enforces strong and sometimes oppressive measures against those in its sphere of influence, generally without attempts at gaining their consent and often not allowing feedback on its policies. In an authoritarian state, citizens are subject to state authority in many aspects of their lives, including many that other political philosophies would see as matters of personal choice. There are various degrees of authoritarianism; even very democratic and liberal states will show authoritarianism to some extent, for example in areas of national security.

Authoritarianism often arises from the governing bodies' presumption that they know what is right or wrong for the country and from intolerance of dissent.

The government then enforces what it thinks is right, often with use of considerable force and sometimes in blatant violation of human rights. Dissenting voices are ignored, or, more strikingly, are considered to be plotting against the best interests of the country. Such was, for instance, the case during the Reign of Terror in France; in Spain under Francisco Franco.

However, there can exist authoritarianism without any defining ideology or ideal of common good. Such is the case in dictatorships where the dictator maintains power more for the privileges associated with power than in the belief that he is conducting the right policies.

Authoritarianism is distinguished from totalitarianism both in degree and scope, authoritarian administration or governance being less intrusive and, in the case of groups, not necessarily backed by the use of force. For example, the Roman Catholic Church can be accurately described as authoritarian; however, in modern times it lacks the means to use force to enforce its edicts and is not a totalitarian establishment.

Typically, the leadership (government) of an authoritarian regime is ruled by an elite group that uses repressive means to stay in power. However, unlike totalitarian regimes, there is no desire or ideological justification for the state to control all aspects of a person's life, and the state will generally ignore the actions of an individual unless it is perceived to be a direct challenge to the state. Totalitarian governments tend to be revolutionary, intent on changing the basic structure of society, while authoritarian ones tend to be conservative.

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