A couple days ago, someone searched my blog, asking for “books that have a very different type of government in fantasy.” I did make a post of fantasy clichés a while back, and in there, I briefly suggested a few other types of government.
But now I want to cover those types of governments in a bit more detail and have a more exhaustive list for you guys. So in this post, I am covering a bunch of different types of government and giving a brief description of each type. If you want more information, you will need to look it up elsewhere, but hopefully, my list gives you a few new ideas along with reviewing the typical governments.
Almost any of these types of political organization can be used for any genre—not just fantasy. However, there is one type of government will solely lends itself to religious fiction, but I will be discussing that below.
This is where a group of people is governed directly by God. Though there may or may not be priests who work for God, it is important to note that in a true theocracy the God makes the calls and directly interacts with the people like an absolute monarch. Naturally, this type of government is really only use in religious fiction and mainly fantasy and sci-fi.
One word of advice if you choose to use this type of government: it takes away a sense of realism to your story because, in real life, God isn’t our actual king or physically present. It also lessens the need for your characters to have faith. Though ancient Israel (before the kings) was a theocracy, this type of a government in your story world easily can be messed up.
Please note that you can have a false theocracy where a single mortal/non-divine claims to be a god and rules likewise. However, this is not a true theocracy but rather an absolute monarchy with the support of the priesthood. Also you could have false gods/demons rule a society. From my Christian perspective, this would not be a theocracy (since I believe in only one God) but simply a supernatural monarchy. However, if you choose, you can have a government like this in your novel.
I consider this to be the most common fantasy world government. In fact, I mentioned it as a cliché in the post I mentioned earlier. It is even pretty common for sci-fi, too. A monarchy is simply where a people is ruled by a king or queen, and the power passes down to the child of the previous ruler.
There are variations on this government, though. A Constitutional Monarchy is where the king is bound to a constitution and cannot violate it. Some Constitutional Monarchies even have a parliament which has significant power (England is a real life example of this type.) Or you can have a Feudal Monarchy where the king is supported by nobles, lords, knights, and serfs.
This is a government where the people directly rule themselves by voting for ever decision. Please note that there are no representatives of the people; a democracy is not a republic. A democracy is based on majority rule. Honestly, there are not examples of large scale democracies in the real world because it is impractical to have everyone vote every time a decision needs to be made. However, this can work on a smaller scale like in a town.
In a republic, the people select representatives who make all the discussions. Please note that besides selecting the representatives, the people have not say in any other discussions. Also a republic may or may not have set terms for the representatives. It all depends.
This is a cross between a democracy and a republic. The people still vote for representatives, but the people can also vote for certain decision which are made. Typically, the representatives have set terms. The idea of this is to keep the representatives honest and doing what the people actually want.
Often a democratic republic will have an electoral college who are recommended to vote according to the will of the people they represent but still have the free will to vote as they choose. This prevents the majority/mob rule which democracy encourages.
A real life example of a democratic republic is the United States. This type of government can become very complicated, so if you want to learn more, you can take a government class in school 😉
This is where the country is ruled by the rich. Often times, the rich are the merchants and traders or those who own large corporations. However, in a fantasy world, the rich could be those with magic as opposed to those who don’t have magic. Also who the rich are depends on the society’s exports and trades. The wealthiest farmers could be the rich ruling class in certain areas.
In a plutocracy, the rich band together in their own little “clubs” and decide what is best for themselves and then act on it. It is important to note that there is no one ruler but a bunch of people plotting together. There tends to be a lot of back stabbing among the rich, plotting, and poverty among the common people. Also there really won’t be a middle class in a plutocracy.
Personally, this is my favorite type of government to use in fiction, but not because I think it is a great model 😉 A totalitarian government is ruled by the military. Real life examples of totalitarian governments range from Nazi Germany to when the Khans ruled the Mongols to early Rome. The highest commander in the army is in charge of the political realm, too (though sometimes there can be three or so commanders who are on the same level and rule together; however, this most often results in internal war and one rising above the rest.)
A totalitarian government has to be constantly at war or else it ceases to be totalitarian and transforms into something else. A lot of times, the people are enlisted into the army for a set period of time but not always. War is almost always the focus and becomes a way of life for these societies.
This is where a chief rule over each village, and often times, a more powerful chief will rule over a group of smaller chiefs. Typically, the people have a fierce loyalty to their tribe and their chief. Sometimes, the chief has absolute power over his tribe, but more often, he has advisors and can be removed from power. Sometimes, the chieftainship will be passed down to the chief’s children, but more often, the people compete for the spot.
A lot of times, there is fighting among the tribes, and the tribes become very war centered. However, they may be peaceful and participate more in trading than anything else—especially is there is a head chief.
This type of government is very simple because there is none. There is no law or ruler in charge. Typically an anarchy does not last very long because someone takes over, but it is possible for an anarchy to be prosperous.
In a rural setting, an anarchy can work if the people trade for goods and stay out of each other’s way. However, anarchy generally causes gangs to rise up and bully the common people. Anarchy tends to be very violent and destructive. Also since there is no official currency, the people tend to trade goods for other goods; however, this also causes lots of fraud. Crime tends to be rampant since there is no government to punish anyone.
Now you cannot just have a commune and call it good. A different type of government has to take on a communist role. For instance, you can have Totalitarian Communism, Tribal Communism, Plutocratic Communism, or Monarchial Communism. Each takes on a little different spin on who is in charge, but communism is essentially where everyone shares everything. There is no such thing as private property, and everything is split evenly between everyone.
The issue is that whoever is in charge of the commune tends to become corrupt, and the people tend not to work as hard because they “will get paid anyways.” This tends to get rid of the middle class. However, small communes of willing participants can succeed for short periods of time (not multigenerational.)
And yes, I know that there is a difference between Communism and Socialism, but they are so similar that I decided not to get into the difference here.
Now, I don’t believe it is just enough to choose a type of government and run with it. What the people believe in and hold in high esteem greatly changes how the society is set up. However, since this post is running a bit long, next week’s post will talk about different cultural focuses.
So what types of government do you have in your world? Did I miss any types?
World Building Series:
- Map Making
- Types of Government
- Having a Cultural Focus
- Using a Base Culture
- Creating History, Legends and Myths
- Thinking Through Technology
- Guest Post: Developing Fantasy Races