Authoritarianism state is very near in meaning and content to a totalitarian state and is far away from the liberal democratic state.
The states, writes A.R. Ball, which do not fall between the two categories—Democracy and Totalitarian states—belong to the category of authoritarian states.
In Authoritarianism, the executive is excessively powerful and dominates the legislature. It is also not really responsible and accountable for its actions.
C.H. Dillon writes that in an Authoritarian State “all authority and power are concentrated in the hands of a few. It the government whose rule is essentially not responsible.” The people participate in few of their decisions but have to obey these all decisions.
Authoritarianism means dictatorship of the rulers. In it all the powers of the state are concentrated in the hands of a small group of rulers or even a single ruler who comes to power by force or revolt or by suppression and domination.
Under Authoritarianism, a single military or civilian dictator or military group or a revolutionary group usurps over. It comes to power either through a rebellion or by force or dominance and suppression or by rigging/manovering of elections. Further, when a democratically elected leader starts acting in an irresponsible way and centralizes all powers in his hands, the government comes to be authoritarian is its working. In this case the system works as a veiled dictatorship or authoritarianism in disguise.
The Authoritarian states have been classified by Almond and Powell into two:
(1) Stabilisational Conservative Authoritarian Government, and
(2) Modernising Authoritarian Government. The latter stand sub classified into (i) Civilian authoritarian system. A State ruled by small group of civilian leaders, and (ii) Military authoritarian systems, i.e. a state ruled by a military dictator or military junto.
SE Finer holds that an authoritarian state can be:
(a) A State with Military Rule:
Military regime in which powers is in the hands of a military dictator, or a military coup leader or a group of military generals;
(b) A State with a Family Rule:
Dynastic Regime in which power is in the hands of a dynastic family or a royal family or a rich family;
(c) An Unreal Democratic Rule:
Facade Democracy in which power is in the hands of a small group of leaders who claims to be the representative of the people and uses manipulations for holding power as well as for keeping the appearance of being an elected regime ;
(d) A State with a Single Party Rule:
Quasi-Democracies in which the power is in the hands of a single party which claims to be the sole representative of the people, and
(e) A Rule of a Single Centralised Group:
Totalitarian Regimes in which there is total regimentation and control, and power is in the hands of a centralised single party. Pakistan is currently ruled by a military regime which has been keeping itself cloaked with a democratic cover—a Facade Democracy.
Saudi Arabia and all the Gulf Countries can be classified as Dynastic Regimes, China can be described as a single party authoritarian regime or at least a Quasi-Democracy because it is living with a monopolistic singly party leadership rule.
When an authoritarian regime is established and ruled by a civilian group or junta which comes to power by force or manipulation or suppression, it is called Civilian Authoritarian Government or Dictatorship. When it is established by a military dictator or military clique or military junta, it is called Military Dictatorship.