Hail to the Chief
August 29, 2007 7:13 PM   Subscribe

Trying to figure out if there is an "ism" or "acy" word for a governmental system of ruler worship (i.e. like the ancient Egyptian systems which considered their rulers Gods). Any specific terms for this?
posted by l33tpolicywonk to Law & Government (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
posted by cog_nate at 7:16 PM on August 29, 2007

Other forms that might also be descriptive of such a situation: autocracy, despotate, dictatorship, kleptocracy, absolute monarchy, self-proclaimed monarchy, hierocracy, kakistocracy, plutocracy.
posted by WCityMike at 7:39 PM on August 29, 2007

Best answer: I don't think theocracy quite hits the mark, but it's fairly close. Not sure if there's an official word for what you're looking for, but if you're interested in making up your own I would suggest Pharaohism or Pharocracy.
posted by Alabaster at 8:02 PM on August 29, 2007

I'd agree with theocracy
posted by Roger Dodger at 8:06 PM on August 29, 2007

Best answer: It was a theocracy, but, since the Pharaoh also took control of the religion, rather than the other way around, it was also a caesaropapist system.
posted by cerebus19 at 8:22 PM on August 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

It's not a word, but I wonder if you could get away with "Deocracy"?
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 8:23 PM on August 29, 2007

Not theocracy, as is indeed supported by cog_nate's own link. Governing one's state in accordance with divine or supposedly divine guidance is not the same thing as deifying the rulers themselves. I like Alabaster's neologisms, particularly Pharocracy.
posted by redfoxtail at 8:25 PM on August 29, 2007

(I mean, yes, it was a theocracy, as cerebus19 says, but that doesn't address the specific feature you have in mind.)
posted by redfoxtail at 8:27 PM on August 29, 2007

No, not "theocracy": that's the rule of God with the High Priest or Pope or whatever as God's vice-ruler.

Based on my Googling I'll second Pharaohism. It's not in common use, but I'm thinking an academic in the relevant fields would know it. I myself would have to think about it for a few seconds but then I can be slow all over.

(I gather languagehat's asleep?)
posted by davy at 8:32 PM on August 29, 2007

Well, here's how the OED defines it (some formatting lost, italics and bold mine):

A form of government in which God (or a deity) is recognized as the king or immediate ruler, and his laws are taken as the statute-book of the kingdom, these laws being usually administered by a priestly order as his ministers and agents; hence (loosely) a system of government by a sacerdotal order, claiming a divine commission; also, a state so governed: esp. applied to the commonwealth of Israel from the exodus to the election of Saul as king.
1622 DONNE Serm. (ed. Alford) V. 209 The Jews were only under a Theocraty, an immediate Government of God. a1652 J. SMITH Sel. Disc. VII. iv. (1821) 346 Josephus..properly calls the Jewish government [nasty Greek characters omitted] ‘a theocracy’, or ‘the government of God himself’. 1737 WHISTON Josephus, Agst. Apion II. §17 (1814) IV. 340 He [Moses] ordained our government to be what, by a strained expression, may be termed a Theocracy [again, nasty Greek characters omitted]. 1741 WARBURTON Div. Legat. V. ii. II. 365 Thus the Almighty becoming their King, in as proper a Sense as he was their God, the Republic of the Israelites was properly a Theocracy; in which the two Societies, Civil and Religious, must..be intirely incorporated. 1811 PINKERTON Mod. Geog., Peru (ed. 3) 694 The government of the incas was a kind of theocracy. 1836 J. H. NEWMAN Par. Serm. (ed. 2) II. xxi. 283 When they tired of the Christian Theocracy, and clothed the church with ‘the purple robe’ of Cæsar. 1863 STANLEY Jew. Ch. vii. 155 The ‘Theocracy’ of Moses..was a government by God Himself, as opposed to the government by priests or kings. 1864 BURTON Scot Abr. I. v. 276 It [the Church of Calvin] was a theocracy, dictating to all men the rule of the Deity as to their daily life. 1878 MACLEAR Celts ii. (1879) 17 The Druids were at once the ministers of a theocracy and the judges and legislators of the people.

b. transf. A priestly order or religious body exercising political or civil power.
1825 WELLINGTON Desp. (1867) II. 597 The Roman Catholic clergy, nobility, lawyers, and gentlemen having property, form a sort of theocracy in Ireland, which in all essential points governs the populace.

So, I think it's a little loose but still a pretty good definition.
posted by cog_nate at 8:36 PM on August 29, 2007

"Imperial cult" is how it's often described in the Roman context. I think deocracy, if it existed, might end up meaning the same thing as theocracy (theocracy has a Greek root with theos meaning god just as deus means God in Latin) - although I can see why such a word could be coined.
posted by greycap at 8:42 PM on August 29, 2007

Response by poster: cog_nate: While I (obviously) considered theocracy, I think at least the implication of theocracy is a ruler who claims to speak for God's will in leadership. If there was an event that clearly demonstrated a discord between the leader and God, they could then be conceptually divided.
cerebus19 gives the good dictionary word (Caesaropapism, which seems exclusively Christian, but still the best approximate)
Alabaster gives the word which ought be in the dictionary (Pharoahism). Google produces about 60 hits on Pharoahism (including a 1972 text "None Dare Call It Conspiracy" by Gary Allen, found by way of Peter Hitchens and a Journal of Politics reference also from 1972 contrasting Pharoahism with Arabism as the stages of Egyptian political development, found by way of JSTOR) Anybody got friends at Webster or OED that can get this in? :)

Thanks everybody.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 9:12 PM on August 29, 2007

"Imperial Cult" is the most accurate term, but it's not an "ism" or an "asy." And of course "caesaropapist" would seem slightly misapplied in an Egyptian context. I guess you could be mucho loosey goosey and go with "imperial cultocracy," or something to the like, although that would be redundant, since imperial cult brings with it the notion that the emperor is viewed as a god, and the "crasy" affix denotes ruling power......
posted by polytropos at 9:41 PM on August 29, 2007

"Deified Monarchy" would do as a more generalised version of "Pharocracy", I think.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 10:38 PM on August 29, 2007

Post-Stalin, we've generally called them personality cults.
posted by eritain at 12:30 AM on August 30, 2007

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