1 the organization that is the governing authority of a political unit; "the government reduced taxes"; "the matter was referred to higher authorities" [syn: authorities, regime]
2 (government) the system or form by which a community or other political unit is governed; "tyrannical government"
3 the act of governing; exercising authority; "regulations for the governing of state prisons"; "he had considerable experience of government" [syn: governing, governance, government activity]
EtymologyFrom Latinised Greek gubernatio "management, government", from κυβερνισμός, κυβέρνησις (kybernismos, kybernesis) "steering, pilotage, guiding", from κυβερνάω (kybernao) "to steer, to drive, to guide, to act as a pilot" + -ment.
- the body with the power to make and/or enforce laws for a country, land area, people, or organization.
- a group of people who hold a monopoly on the legitimate use of force in a given territory.
- the state and its administration viewed as the ruling political power.
- the management or control of a system.
- the tenure of a chief of state.
Usage notesIn the United States, "government" most often refers to the permanent body of the bureaucracy, courts, etc., what might be called the state in Britain. The British sense of "the government" is the prime minister and his cabinet ministers, what Americans would call an administration. In Canada government is used in both senses and neither state nor administration are used.
- Afrikaans: regering
- Albanian: qeveri
- Arabic: (ħukú:ma)
- Armenian: կառավարություն (karravarutyun)
- Bosnian: vlada
- Breton: gouarnamant , gouarnamantoù p
- Bulgarian: правителство
- CJKV Characters: 府
- Catalan: govern
- Chinese: 政府 (zhèngfǔ)
- Croatian: vlada
- Czech: vláda
- Danish: regering
- Dutch: regering
- Finnish: hallitus, hallinto, valtiojohto
- French: gouvernement
- Frisian: regear
- German: Regierung
- Greek: κυβέρνηση (kyvérnisi)
- Hebrew: ממשלה (memshalá)
- Ido: guberno
- Indonesian: pemerintah
- Irish: rialtas
- Italian: governo
- Japanese: 政府
- Korean: 정부 (jeongbu)
- Sorani: حوکمهت
- Latin: administratio, gubernatio
- Latvian: valdība
- Malayalam: സര്ക്കാര് (sarkkaaru)
- Maltese: gvern
- Norwegian: regjering
- Polish: rząd
- Portuguese: governo
- Russian: правительство (pravítel’stvo)
- Scottish Gaelic: riaghaltas
- Slovene: vlada
- Spanish: gobierno
- Swedish: regering
- Telugu: ప్రభుత్వం (prabhutvaM)
- Vietnamese: chính phủ
- ''For the government of parliamentary systems, see Executive (government).
A state of sufficient size and complexity will have different layers or levels of government: local, regional and national.
Types of government
- Monarchy - Rule by an individual who has inherited the role and expects to bequeath it to their heir.
- Despotism - Rule by a single leader, all his or her subjects are considered his or her slaves.
- Dictatorship - Rule by an individual who has full power over the country. See also Autocracy and Stratocracy.
- Oligarchy - Rule by a small group of people who share similar interests or family relations.
- Plutocracy - A government composed of the wealthy class.
- Democracy - Rule by a government where the people as a whole hold the power. It may be exercised by them (direct democracy), or through representatives chosen by them (representative democracy).
- Theocracy - Rule by a religious elite.
- Anarchy - Absence, or lack of government.
Some countries have hybrid forms of Government such as modern Iran with its combination of democratic and theocratic institutions, and constitutional monarchies such as The Netherlands combine elements of monarchy and democracy.
Origin of government
For many thousands of years, humans lived in small, "relatively non-hierarchical" and mostly self-sufficient communities. However, the human ability to precisely communicate abstract, learned information allowed humans to become ever more effective at agriculture, and that allowed for ever increasing population densities. David Christian explains how this resulted in states with laws and governments:
As farming populations gathered in larger and denser communities, interactions between different groups increased and the social pressure rose until, in a striking parallel with star formation, new structures suddenly appeared, together with a new level of complexity. Like stars, cities and states reorganize and energize the smaller objects within their gravitational field.David Christian, p. 245|Maps of Time
The exact moment and place that the phenomenon of human government developed is lost in time; however, history does record the formations of very early governments. About 5,000 years ago, the first small city-states appeared. The role of cities in the feedback loop is important. Cities became the primary conduits for the dramatic increases in information exchange that allowed for large and densely packed populations to form, and because cities concentrated knowledge, they also ended up concentrating power. "Increasing population density in farming regions provided the demographic and physical raw materials used to construct the first cities and states, and increasing congestion provided much of the motivation for creating states."
Fundamental purpose of governmentThe fundamental purpose of government is the maintenance of basic security and public order — without which individuals cannot attempt to find happiness. The philosopher Thomas Hobbes figured that people, as rational animals, saw submission to a government dominated by a sovereign as preferable to anarchy.
Early governmentsThese are examples of some of the earliest known governments:
- Ancient Egypt—3000 BC
- Indus Valley Civilization—3000 BC
- Sumer—5200 BC One of a great many examples would be Wang Mang's attempt to reform the currency in favor of the peasants and poor in ancient China.
At a bare minimum, government ensures that money's value will not be undermined by prohibiting counterfeiting, but in almost all societies—including capitalist ones—governments attempt to regulate many more aspects of their economies. However, very often, government involvement in a national economy has more than just a purpose of stabilizing it for the benefit of the people. Often, the members of government shape the government's economic policies for their own benefits. This will be discussed shortly.
Social security is related to economic security. Throughout most of human history, parents prepared for their old age by producing enough children to ensure that some of them would survive long enough to take care of the parents in their old age. In modern, relatively high-income societies, a mixed approach is taken where the government shares a substantial responsibility of taking care of the elderly.
Governments play a crucial role in managing environmental public goods such as the atmosphere, forests and water bodies. Governments are valuable institutions for resolving problems involving these public goods at both the local and global scales (e.g., climate change, deforestation, overfishing). Although in recent decades the economic market has been championed by certain quarters as a suitable mechanism for managing environmental entities, markets have serious failures and governmental intervention and regulation and the rule of law is still required for the proper, just and sustainable management of the environment.
Positive Aspects of GovernmentGovernments vary greatly, and the situation of citizens within their governments can vary greatly from person to person. For many people, government is seen as a positive force.
Upper economic class supportGovernments often seek to manipulate their nations' economies — ostensibly for the nations' benefits. However, another aspect of this kind of intervention is the fact that the members of government often take opportunities to shape economic policies for their own benefits. For example, capitalists in a government might adjust policy to favor capitalism, so capitalists would see that government as a friend. In a feudal society, feudal lords would maintain laws that reinforce their powers over their lands and the people working on them, so those lords would see their government as a friend. Naturally, the exploited persons in these situations may see government very differently.
Support for democracyGovernment, especially in democratic and republican forms, can be seen as the entity for a sovereign people to establish the type of society, laws and national objectives that are desired collectively. A government so created and maintained will tend to be quite friendly toward those who created and maintain it.
ReligionGovernment can benefit or suffer from religion, as religion can benefit or suffer from government. While governments can threaten people with physical harm for observed violations of the law, religion often provides a psychological disincentive for socially destructive or anti-government actions. Religion can also give people a sense of peace and resolve even when they are in trying circumstances, and when an individual's religious beliefs are aligned with the government's, that person will tend to see government as a friend—especially during religious controversies.
Negative Aspects of GovernmentSince the positions of individuals with respect to their governments can vary, there are people who see a government or governments as negative.
In the most basic sense, a people of one nation will see the government of another nation as the enemy when the two nations are at war. For example, the people of Carthage saw the Roman government as the enemy during the Punic wars.
In early human history, the outcome of war for the defeated was often enslavement. The enslaved people would not find it easy to see the conquering government as a friend.
There is a flip side to the phenomenon of people's ability to view a government as a friend because they share the government's religious views. People with opposing religious views will have a greater tendency to view that government as their enemy. A good example would be the condition of Catholicism in England before the Catholic Emancipation. Protestants—who were politically dominant in England—used political, economic and social means to reduce the size and strength of Catholicism in England over the 16th to 18th centuries, and as a result, Catholics in England felt that their religion was being oppressed.
Whereas capitalists in a capitalist country may tend to see that nation's government as their friend, a class-aware group of industrial workers—a proletariat—may see things very differently. If the proletariat wishes to take control of the nation's productive resources, and they are blocked in their endeavors by continuing adjustments in the law made by capitalists in the government, then the proletariat will come to see the government as their enemy—especially if the conflicts become violent.
The same situation can occur among peasants. The peasants in a country, e.g. Russia during the reign of Catherine the Great, may revolt against their landlords, only to find that their revolution is put down by government troops.
Critical views and alternativesThe relative merits of various forms of government have long been debated by philosophers, politicians and others. However, in recent times, the traditional conceptions of government and the role of government have also attracted increasing criticism from a range of sources. Some argue that the traditional conception of government, which is heavily influenced by the zero-sum perceptions of state actors and focuses on obtaining security and prosperity at a national level through primarily unilateral action, is no longer appropriate or effective in a modern world that is increasingly connected and interdependent. One such school of thought is human security, which advocates for a more people-based (as opposed to state-based) conception of security, focusing on protection and empowerment of individuals. Human security calls upon governments to recognise that insecurity and instability in one region affects all and to look beyond national borders in defining their interests and formulating policies for security and development. Human security also demands that governments engage in a far greater level of cooperation and coordination with not only domestic organisations, but also a range of international actors such as foreign governments, intergovernmental organisations and non-government organisations.
Whilst human security attempts to provide a more holistic and comprehensive approach to world problems, its implementation still relies to a large extent on the will and ability of governments to adopt the agenda and appropriate policies. In this sense, human security provides a critique of traditional conceptions of the role of government, but also attempts to work within the current system of state-based international relations. Of course, the unique characteristics of different countries and resources available are some constraints for governments in utilising a human security framework.
Government is sometimes an enemy and sometimes a friend. Government exalts some of us and oppresses others of us. At times, governments are aligned with our religious, economic and social views, and at other times—misaligned.
The role of government in the lives of people has expanded significantly during human history. Government's role has gone from providing basic security to concern in religious affairs to control of national economies and eventually to providing lifelong social security. As our societies have become more complex, governments have become more complex, powerful and intrusive. The controversies over how big, how powerful and how intrusive governments should become will continue for the remainder of human history.
- Higham, Charles F. W. "Indus Valley Civilization." Encyclopedia of Ancient Asian Civilizations. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2004. Ancient and Medieval History Online. Facts On File, Inc. http://www.fofweb.com/activelink2.asp?ItemID=WE49&iPin=EAAC0309&SingleRecord=True (accessed December 7, 2007).
- Kenoyer, J. M. Ancient Cities of the Indus Civilization. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998
- Possehl, Gregory L. Harappan Civilization: A Recent Perspective. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1993
- Indus Age: The Writing System. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996
- “Revolution in the Urban Revolution: The Emergence of Indus Urbanisation,” Annual Review of Anthropology 19 (1990): 261–282.
- Higham, Charles F. W. "History of ancient and medieval Asia." Encyclopedia of Ancient Asian Civilizations. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2004. Ancient and Medieval History Online. Facts On File, Inc. http://www.fofweb.com/activelink2.asp?ItemID=WE49&iPin=EAAC0871&SingleRecord=True (accessed December 7, 2007).
government in Amharic: መንግሥት
government in Arabic: حكومة
government in Official Aramaic (700-300 BCE): ܡܕܒܪܢܘܬܐ
government in Min Nan: Chèng-hú
government in Bengali: সরকার
government in Belarusian (Tarashkevitsa): Урад
government in Bosnian: Vlada
government in Bulgarian: Правителство
government in Catalan: Govern
government in Czech: Vláda
government in Welsh: Llywodraeth
government in Danish: Regering
government in German: Regierung
government in Modern Greek (1453-): Κυβέρνηση
government in Spanish: Gobierno
government in Esperanto: Registaro
government in French: Gouvernement
government in Irish: Rialtas
government in Galician: Goberno
government in Korean: 정부
government in Hindi: सरकार
government in Croatian: Vlada
government in Indonesian: Pemerintah
government in Icelandic: Ríkisstjórn
government in Italian: Governo
government in Hebrew: ממשלה
government in Luxembourgish: Regierung
government in Lao: ລັດຖະບານ
government in Lithuanian: Vyriausybė
government in Hungarian: Kormány (állami szerv)
government in Maori: Kāwanatanga
government in Malay (macrolanguage): Kerajaan
government in Dutch: Regering
government in Japanese: 政府
government in Norwegian: Styresmakt
government in Norwegian Nynorsk: Styresmakt
government in Polish: Rada Ministrów
government in Portuguese: Governo
government in Romanian: Guvern
government in Russian: Правительство
government in Sicilian: Cuvernu
government in Simple English: government
government in Slovenian: Vladavina
government in Serbian: Влада
government in Swedish: Regering
government in Tagalog: Pamahalaan
government in Tamil: அரசு
government in Thai: รัฐบาล
government in Vietnamese: Chính phủ
government in Ukrainian: Уряд
government in Yiddish: רעגירונג
government in Chinese: 政府
Geopolitik, John Bull, Kreis, Uncle Sam, Washington, Whitehall, administration, archbishopric, archdiocese, arrondissement, auspices, authority, bailiwick, bishopric, borough, canton, care, charge, city, civics, claws, clutches, command, commune, conduct, congressional district, constablewick, control, county, cure, custodianship, custody, departement, diocese, direction, disposition, district, domination, dominion, duchy, electoral district, electorate, empery, empire, geopolitics, governance, grip, guardianship, guidance, hamlet, hand, handling, hands, hundred, husbandry, international relations, iron hand, jurisdiction, keeping, lead, leading, magistracy, management, managery, managing, manipulation, metropolis, metropolitan area, ministry, oblast, okrug, ordering, oversight, parish, pastorage, pastorate, pastorship, patronage, pilotage, poli-sci, political behavior, political economy, political geography, political philosophy, political science, political theory, politics, power, precinct, principality, protectorship, province, public administration, raj, regime, region, regnancy, regulation, reign, riding, rule, running, safe hands, sheriffalty, sheriffwick, shire, shrievalty, soke, sovereignty, stake, state, steerage, steering, stewardship, superintendence, supervision, sway, talons, territory, the Crown, the Establishment, the authorities, the conn, the government, the helm, the wheel, town, township, tutelage, village, wapentake, ward, wardenship, wardship, watch and ward, wing