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Encyclopedia > Theocratic
This article is part of the
series on Politics
Political philosophy
aristocracy, autocracy,
democracy, despotism,
monarchy, oligarchy,
plutocracy, theocracy
and tyranny.

Theocracy is a form of government in which a religion and the government are allied.

In the strictest sense of the word, theocracy consists of two distinct terms: "theo" which means "god" and "cracy" which means "form of government". Hence theocracy literally means "Rule by god".

In the most common usage of the term theocracy, in which some rulers are identical with some leaders of the dominant religion (e.g. the Byzantine emperor as head of the Church), governmental policies are either identical with or strongly influenced by the principles of a religion (often the majority religion), and typically, the government claims to rule on behalf of God or a higher power, as specified by the local religion. However, unlike other forms of government, a theocracy can be unique in that the administrative hierarchy of government is often identical with the administrative hierarchy of a religion. This distinguishes a theocracy from forms of governments which have a state religion or from traditional monarchies in which the head of state claims that his or her authority comes from God.



There are different forms of theocracy. One is caesaro-papism, in which power is shared between a secular ruler (an emperor) and a religious leader (a pope or archbishop). Theocracy can also be exercised directly by the clergy (as in Iran) or indirectly (such as via the divine right of kings). This form of government was advocated by reformer John Calvin.

Current theocratic nations today include:

Historically, many theocracies have existed on a national level, and many more have existed in communes and cloisters and cities.


The concept of theocracy was first coined by Josephus Flavius in the 1st century. He defined theocracy as the characteristic government for Jews. Josephus' definition was widely accepted until the enlightenment era, when the term started to collect more universalistic and undeniably negative connotations, especially in Hegel's hands. After that 'theocracy' has been mostly used to label certain politically unpopular societies as somehow less 'rational' or 'developed'. The concept is often used in sociology also, but rarely or never properly defined for objective scientific usage.

It could be argued that the British monarch is technically a theocratic ruler because of her title as Supreme Governor of the Church of England. However, as the monarch retains only ceremonial authority, most people do not consider the United Kingdom, or any other nations with the British monarch serving as Head of State, as a theocracy.

Theocratic parties and movements

  • Argentina
    • Christian Democratic Party (Argentina)
  • Armenia
    • Christian Democratic Party (Armenia)
  • Armenian Nagorno-Karabagh
    • Christian Democratic Party (Nagorno Karabagh)
  • Australia
    • Christian Democratic Party (Australia)
  • Austria
    • Christian Voters Community
  • Bangladesh
    • Islamic National Unity Front
    • Islamic Unity Front
    • Islam Conference Bangladesh
  • Belgium
    • Movement of Citizens for Change
    • New Christian Democrats
    • Noor Islamic Party

See also



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