By Bernard Crick
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Extra resources for Basic Forms of Government: A Sketch and a Model
Autocracies practise political censorship and destroy, with or without the law, open political opposition; but autocracies can at times be tolerant of dissent within the party or ruling class, so long as it is not made public. The religious basis of autocratic authority wanes, but it is replaced by doctrines which attribute almost superhuman qualities to the leader or leaders of the moment. Hence censorship is a general but a negative institution, not a positive and total propaganda; hence there are proclamations, but neither regular nor even remotely objective and believable news; and therefore rumour, gossip and anonymous satires and 'libels' flourish as institutions.
Such imported oriental or lateHellenistic ideas were greeted by ribald, but largely private, derision by the old Roman aristocracy : they may have had some influence on the people, but they served to alienate the educated classes from the state. 24 It was said that to the Roman people all religions were equally true, to the philosophers equally false, and to the magistrates equally useful. A run of emperors of exceptional incompetence, cruelty and depravity put the selection for a time into the hands of the Palace or Praetorian Guard - when the famous auctioning of the office of Emperor occurred, a period which reached its climax in the 'year of the Four Emperors' when four rival armies fought for 32 their candidates.
To kill a rebel, for example, was customary, but to confiscate his lands was felt to be abominable, and a threat to all. Such a system grew to dominance in medieval Europe and in medieval Japan- that is to say right up to the end of the Tokugawa period in 1867 when a 'restoration' of imperial and central authority began an incredibly radical, swift and state-controlled policy of westemisation. Feudalism occurred so rarely elsewhere that it can be considered specific to these societies. 32 R. S.
Basic Forms of Government: A Sketch and a Model by Bernard Crick