No. 25




Sultanism in the Modern World

14 June 2012


RiTo No. 25, 2012

  • Alo Raun

    Doctoral Candidate, Institute of Political Science and Governance, Tallinn University

One forms of authoritarian government bears a more colourful name than others – Sultanism.

At the same time it is an interesting fact that none of the post-WWII states that Juan Linz and his fellow thinkers have gathered under this name have been governed by a sultan during the time they have borne this title. The researchers that have studied Sultanism consider it such a peculiar type of regime that they regard Sultanism one of the three or four main types of authoritarian regime. At the same time they admit that not many such regimes exist nowadays. Therefore it would be interesting to study more closely if the countries that are classified under this title are really so different from others that they deserve to be brought out separately. The article tries to answer this question, relying on several books where the notion of Sultanism has been discussed and where Linz is the (co-)author, and also on a more recent analysis of political regimes that also concentrates on Sultanism (Alan Siaroff 2005). On this background it is examined in which meaning Max Weber used the term in the first decades of the last century.

According to the hypothesis of the article, the Sultanism of both Max Weber’s and Juan Linz’s school and the Sultanism with totalitarian influences that exists today are subdivisions of the ideal type of one and the same regime that are distinguished from each other by the nature of the preceding regime and the level of modernisation of the country, but which are quite similar in other aspects. In these regimes the state power is more modernised that the society in general, and this progress and the state power primarily serve the personal interests of the ruler, help to collect the power extensively in the hands of the ruler.

The research confirms the hypothesis, and it becomes clear that the Sultanist regimes not only deserve to be distinguished from others by their peculiar features, but it is also possible to speak of three sub-types: traditional, new and post-totalitarian Sultanism. In this way it is possible to overcome the contradictions between the pre-modern reality of Weber, the modernised reality of Linz’s school and today’s post-totalitarian regimes (Turkmenistan and North-Korea).

Full article in Estonian