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10 Popular Reasons Why Dictatorship Falls in the 21st Century

Dictatorship, a norm of the earlier centuries, has lost its legitimacy now. But how has a phenomenon so powerful lost all its relevance in the 21st century? Why dictatorship falls despite the existence of so many powerful dictators in the 21st century?

Dictators or leaders with dictatorial tendencies are losing popularity and are called out for their anti-democratic practices. Military coups, once extremely popular, are difficult to pull off now. Take the example of Turkey. When a military dictator tried to take over, the people came out on the streets and stopped the coup, but more on the topic later. 

Here is everything you need to know about why dictatorship falls in the 21st century. The article also highlights the features, history, and examples of dictatorship. So stay tuned. 

What Is Dictatorship?

A dictatorship is a form of government where authority lies with just one person or a small group of people. Dictators usually rule with an iron fist, negating all laws and taking away the liberty of individuals. 

Features of Dictatorship?

There is much debate on the features of leadership, however, here are the most common ones. 

1. One Party And One Leader

Dictatorships have one party and, usually, one ruler at a time ruling the entire country/nation. Other political parties are usually discouraged or intimidated, so they do not elect elections or stand up to the dictator. 

In some cases, other leaders or parties are outrightly banned or killed. 

2. No Individual Liberty For Citizens

Dictatorship demands absolute adherence to the laws-not matter how harmful or toxic these laws are. Moreover, individuals are not given any rights or liberty. Freedom of speech, press, and association is also limited or, sometimes, absent. 

To quote Mussolini, a famous dictator of the past “ No criticism against the dictator is tolerated. People are supposed to believe and obey.”

3. National Glorification

Dictators have a tendency to glorify their own personality, the importance of their nation, and the beauty of their nation to a larger extent. By using patriotism, they instill an illogical extreme association with one’s country. 

This is a dangerous precedent because it makes people see other countries and other nations in a negative light. 

4. Glorifying War

Wars have disastrous consequences. The world witnessed the destruction of so many communities during the two world wars and later in the Vietnam and Afghanistan war. Most of these wars were propelled, if not started, by dictators. 

By instilling an unfair amount of patriotism in the citizens, these leaders managed to create an intensely polarized society. Consequently, they were also able to push their own people to war. 

Hitler was of the opinion: “In eternal warfare, mankind has become great; in eternal peace, it will be ruined.”

5. Rise In Totalitarianism

Dictators lead from a position of fear, which is why they try to control and regulate all parts of a person’s private and professional life. Moreover, they also try to limit the social, political, religious, cultural, and educational liberties of an individual. This intense control allows for the principle 

Also Read: Why Fear-Based Leadership Is Counterintuitive to Self-growth

History of Dictatorship

Dictatorship has evolved over the years. Earlier, there used to be kings and leaders who enjoyed absolute authority over their subjects. Although societies were mostly ruled by aristocracy, there were still some elements of democracy that existed. Take the example of the early societies of Maryland and Virginia that developed in the US. These practices limited democracy and citizens’ voices were heard. 

During the 20th century, countries were still ruled by dictators-military and otherwise. People like Hitler enjoyed absolute freedom and authority. After the 2nd world War and after the establishment of the United Nations, countries started moving towards democracy. 

Today, dictatorship still exists, however, it has changed its form. Leaders usually adopt all the measures of dictatorship while keeping a facade of democracy. Populist leaders like Donald Trump and Tayeb Erdoğan have often been criticized for having dictatorial tendencies. Other leaders like Bashar al-Assad are outrightly dictatorial. 

It is worth noting that today, dictatorship tends to fall because it is restricted by law, constitutions, and social and political factors within the state. 

10 Reasons Dictators Fall

Regardless of the nature of a dictator, the underlying principles of dictatorship are so anti-progressive that make dictatorship fall every single time. Here are the top 10 reasons why dictators fall. 

1. One Man Has Absolute Authority

A dictator enjoys absolute authority and freedom to exercise their own will. Since they are not elected, they do not feel accountable to the masses or the institutions. This is dangerous because when things go south, dictators turn inwards and become insecure. They adopt a fear-based leadership style.

They lash out and try to blame everyone, but themselves, for the crisis at hand. Moreover, a one-man show means that there are no checks and balances that keep the leader at bay. 

2. Failure Is Attributed to One Man

When it comes to dictatorships, the dictator is always blamed for the crisis at hand. A dictator may enjoy the freedom that comes with absolute authority, but they are also bound to face the repercussions of it. 

Even if there is a benevolent dictator like Mustafa Kamal Ataturk of Turkey ruling the masses, dictatorship never survives long term. 

3. Creates Intense Polarization in Society

Societies have always faced dissent; however, a polarized society is so vengeful and filled with hatred that it becomes self-destructive. In such a society, it becomes difficult to have any meaningful or long-term reforms. 

Look at the example of the United States of America. The presence of leaders like Donald Trump who have dictatorial tendencies tends to create polarization in society. 

4. Creates Unrest and Instability in Society

Dictators use violence and coercion to repress their opposition and even their people when necessary. The strength and sustainability depend on this violence. When people in the 21st century have their rights taken, they raise their voices and, sometimes, protest violently. 

The increased violence and agitation from both sides create instability and unrest in society. This often leads to people picking up arms and forcing the dictator out. 

5. Takes Away Human Agency

Human beings have always enjoyed freedom and agency, when this is taken from them, they get uneasy. Dictators rarely pay any attention to the wishes of the common folks. They do the bare minimum and do not prioritize social development.

21st century globalized world has connected people and there is increased awareness, even in the most underdeveloped areas of the world. This is why dictatorship falls in the status quo-people are too socially aware to accept it. 

6. Centered Power Hampers Good Governance

Dictatorship ensures power is centered; this results in bad governance. Dictators do not feel comfortable when their power is devolved or diluted. Anytime this happens, they do their best to concentrate this power back into their office. 

Since there is the absence of any proper hierarchy and mechanism of good governance, civil institutions suffer a great deal. A common example is the lack of proper fund allocation to the subjects. 

7. Laws can be Changed Anytime

Compared to democracies, dictatorship regimes lack any proper accountability or hierarchy. There are no mechanisms in place that ensure the continuation of laws. If the dictator does not like a law, they can have it removed and replaced easily. 

Take the example of the many military dictators that ruled Pakistan. Dictators like Zia introduced highly unpopular laws like Hudood Ordinances, even after much opposition from society. Today, if laws that are unfavorable to the people are introduced, society rises up. 

8. The Dictator Leads From a Position of Fear

Dictators come into power through force or coercion; it is only natural for them to be kicked out similarly. Since they do not have any legitimacy to back them up, they lead from a position of fear. 

When someone is insecure about their position, they take extraordinary measures to secure their title and position. Dictators like Lenin and Stalin used to cut the heads of opposition leaders to remain in power. Replicating such measures would not do well in the current society. 

9. Thirst for Power Supersedes Desire for Stability

Dictators prioritize power over maintaining stability in society. They can go to any lengths like siding up with an enemy country or a terrorist organization to keep their power intact. Take the example of Bashar Al Assad. He has frequently sided with the terrorist organization in his country to sustain his power. 

When leaders do this in the 21st century, they rarely get away with it. The people of that country call out this behavior and force leaders to abdicate power. This is one of the reasons why leadership falls in the 21st century. 

10. Existence of Better Alternatives

There was a time when people had no other option but to rely on dictators to protect their country’s geographical boundaries. Gone are those days, and there are much better alternatives present today. 

Over the last century, democracies have developed. After the end of World War 2, and the introduction of the United Nations, more and more countries are following democratic norms. This makes it very hard for dictators to find the power vacuum to come through. 

5 Dictators and How They Failed?

The five most popular dictators include:

1. Adolf Hitler (1889-1945)

The most popular and certainly the most ruthless of all dictators, Adolf Hitler of Nazi Germany, was a fascist who was responsible for the death of millions of people. He instilled exaggerated nationalism in the hearts of his people, so much so that they felt justified in waging war against an entire race. 

2. Benito Mussolini (1883-1945)

Mussolini is famous for being the inventor of Fascism in Italy. He was an Italian politician who rose to power and introduced autocracy in Italy. He was part of the Axis power during the first world war. However, he soon lost the confidence of the Italian people and was put into custody. 

3. Nicolae Ceausescu

Nicolae Ceausescu was a dictator in Romania who ruled the country for 24 years after he became a general secretary in 1965. Although he had liberal tendencies in the beginning; his attitude greatly shifted, and he started becoming more authoritarian. 

4. Muhammad Gaddafi (1942-2011)

In the year 1969, Muhammad Gaddafi took over Libya after a bloodless military coup. He was a young military officer who soon ruled the country. He opposed the unfair economic practices exercised in the country and wanted to change that by introducing his own dictatorial government. 

5. Saddam Hussein (1937-2006)

Saddam Hussein is mostly known for being brutal and ruthless towards his own people. Moreover, his tenure saw the deaths of more than a million Iraqi people. Additionally, Saddam Hussein is known for a plethora of war crimes and waging war against his neighboring countries. 

Are There Any Pros Of Dictatorship?

With its many cons, dictatorship also comes with some advantages and pros for the people and the stability of the country. Here are the 5 pros of dictatorship

  • Since there are no opposing governments, there is a sense of stability in the top management circle. 
  • Benevolent dictators can implement the most favorable laws without any resistance from any other party. 
  • The dictator has the final say in who gets to be part of the government, which is why there is less politics involved in a dictatorial regime. 
  • A dictator has the ability to take the toughest of measures without having to ask for the consent of multiple parties. 
  • A dictatorship can help countries get out of the crisis because it is one man taking all the difficult decisions, and he does not have to follow the standard operating procedures. 

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If you were to tell people of the early 20th century that leaders like Stalin and Hitler will have no place in the 21st century, people would have surely laughed to your face. Extraordinarily, dictatorship saw such a sharp fall and the 21st century saw almost no existence of such leaders. 

However, there are still many leaders who are dictators or have dictatorial tendencies and hide behind the facade of democracy. Such leaders need to be called out and forced to amend their ways. That is the only way democracies can thrive. 


What Is the Main Purpose of Dictatorship?

A dictatorship can flourish when there is instability in a country and the dictator takes over to create stability. Moreover, it can be to quench the lust for power by the dictator. Lastly, dictatorship is welcomed because it helps protect the country from outside influences when there is a power vacuum. 

What Is an Example of a Dictatorship?

The world has seen thousands of dictators, including Napoleon Bonaparte and Hitler. Other than these ruthless dictators, there also have been benevolent dictators like Xi Jinping of China. 

What Are the 2 Types of Dictators?

There are two types of dictatorships:
1) Autocracy: this is when all the power rests within a single person.
2) Oligarchy: this is when power lies with a small group of very powerful people. 

Is a King a Dictator?

Kings of the earlier centuries ruled with an iron fist, and they were often considered as dictators. However, kings still maintained some sense of public and private liberty for the citizens of the country. 

Who Became the First Dictator?

According to many historians, the first person who had all the attributes of a dictator was Napoleon Bonaparte. He was not just ruthless in his endeavors, but also fiercely aggressive towards his enemies. 

Oleksandra Mamchii

Working as a academic lead at Best Diplomats.

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