A government is an institution entrusted with making and enforcing the rules of a society as well as with regulating relations with other societies. In order to be considered a government, a ruling body must be recognized as such by the people it purports to govern. A person or group that considers itself the leading body of a society has no power if the members of the society do not recognize the person or group as such.

Types of Governments

Most of the world’s governments fall into one of four categories: monarchy, democracy, authoritarianism, or totalitarianism.


Monarchy is a political system in which a representative from one family controls the government and power is passed on through that family from generation to generation. Most of the world’s monarchies are constitutional monarchies, in which the reigning member of the royal family is the symbolic head of state but elected officials actually do the governing. Many European countries have constitutional monarchies.

Example: Saudi Arabia is a monarchy. Until recently it was an absolute monarchy, meaning that the king had complete control of the country. The Saud royal family introduced a constitution in 1992.


Democracy is a political system in which citizens periodically choose officials to run their government.

Example: El Salvador has a democratic form of government. Throughout most of the nineteenth century, El Salvador was beset by revolution and war, and from 1931 to 1979 it was ruled by military dictators. From 1980 to 1992, the country was torn apart by civil war. The country currently has a stable government and elected president.

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