Autocracy: a form of monarchy in which, at least in theory, there are no constitutional restrictions on the power of the monarch.
Bourgeoisie: Originally, the inhabitants of a walled city, that is, merchants, craftsmen and professionals, such as doctors, lawyers and professors. In later usage, it was those members of the Third Estate who were not peasants. It has now come to mean any member of the middle class.
Capital: goods used in the production of other goods. Examples of capital include: money, factories, animals, tools and machinery.
Command Economy: an economic system in which the political authorities make major decisions regarding the production and distribution of goods and services.
Constitutional Monarchy: a form of monarchy in which the ruler is limited by a constitution. Usually the limitations take the form of a need to consult and representative body or religious authorities.
Democracy: A form of government in which political power is exercised by the citizens.
- Direct Democracy: A form of democracy in which political power is exercised by the citizens without representatives acting of their behalf.
- Representative Democracy: A form of democracy in which the citizens select other to act on their behalf.
- People's Democracy: A term used by many communist governments to describe a government in which the state acts on behalf of the people even though the citizens may not have chosen the government.
Dictatorship: A government in which political power is exercised by a single individual whose rule is considered illegitimate.
Empire: 1. A government ruling over a number of different peoples or ethnic groups. 2. A government that has expanded its territory through the use of force.
Ethics: the branch of philosophy concerned with evaluating human action. Some distinguish ethics, what is right or wrong based on reason, from morals, what is considered right or wrong behavior based on social custom.
Executive: that portion of the government responsible for the enforcement of laws and administrative decision making.
Federal System: a governmental form in which authority is divided between a central government and various local governments.
Feudalism: the system of relations between the members of the lords or knights of the upper class. These relations can include vassalage and chivalry.
Industrial Economy: an economy in which goods are produced primarily by machines driven by an inorganic power source, such as electric or gas motor.
Intendant: a political position first developed by Cardinal Richelieu during the reign of French King Louis XIII. Under Louis XIV, the intendant became the most important means for centralizing royal authority. The intendant was usually a non-noble, so his power and position were directly dependent on the favor of the king. He was granted full power over finance, justice and police. He could try cases, unseat judges, collect taxes and regulate local municipal governments among other powers.
Legitimacy: a government that has the moral authority to govern. This moral authority may be derived from lawful transfer of power, from the gods or tradition.
Manor: an agricultural estate under the control of a single individual or lord.
Manorialism: [sometimes referred to as the seignorial system] the system by which the lord exploited the serfs or tenants who worked his estate.
Nation: a form of imagined community in which the members of the community imagine themselves to share a common history and culture. A nation may or may not associated with a particular state.
Natural Religion: A religion based upon what can be known from nature or reason.
Parliamentary System: A political system in which the executive is chosen by the legislative body.
Presidential System: A political system in which the executive is chosen directly by the citizens.
Revealed Religion: A religion based on a deity communicating with the adherents of the religion in one form or anther. In some religions, the gods speak through priests or poets. In others it is through dreams or oracles.
Serf: one who has given up autonomy, been placed under the jurisdiction of a warlord and receives in return permission to farm on the lord's manor. While the nature of the arrangement between lord and serf varied greatly by place and time, the arrangement usually required to pay the lord some crops in kind, some rent in coin and provide some labor services.
Serfdom: an economic and social system characterized by serfs.
- Society of Orders or Estates: A society in which social divisions are marked by legally defined categories. For example, the Estates General in France at the time of the French Revolution recognized three orders: the clergy, the nobility and the commoners.
- Society of Classes: A society in which social divisions are marked difference in wealth.
Sovereignty: A government has sovereignty if it has authority over all that occurs within the state and its authority is not restricted by any authority outside it.
State: a government that exercises sovereignty.