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Types of Regimes

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Political scientists refer to regimes using many different terms. Which term political scientists use often depends on two factors: the number of people with political power and the amount of power the government itself exerts.

The chart below organizes regimes by the number of people who hold political power.


Type of Regime

Number of People Who Hold Power


Monarchy One Nepal, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Brunei, medieval England
Dictatorship One Libya, Cuba, North Korea, Nazi Germany
Aristocracy A few (usually a small ruling class) Ancient Sparta
Oligarchy A few (usually a small group of wealthy individuals) Renaissance Venice
Democracy Many or all United States, ancient Athens

A wide variety of regime types exist. For example, the United Kingdom has a constitutional monarchy, in which Queen Elizabeth holds a limited amount of power. Theoretically, the queen is the English head of state, but over time the English monarchy has become largely ceremonial. Real governmental power now rests with the Parliament, the legislative, lawmaking body. In contrast, the Third Reich of World War II was a totalitarian dictatorship. Adolf Hitler controlled the government and the citizens of Nazi Germany.