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Wednesday, November 21, 2012


This word was coined in 1829 by combining the Greek kasistos (meaning worst) and the suffix of -cracy ( derived from the Greek kratos meaning power; the suffix itself means state or government). A kakistocracy, ironically enough, can be best explained by its etymologically opposite term, aristocracy. The term aristocracy was formed by putting together the Greek aristos (meaning excellent) and the suffix of -cracy together; translated literally it means "rule of the best (or best qualified citizens)". An aristocracy is defined as a government ruled by a nation's elite minority; as such, this minority is usually unaware and untroubled by the needs of the common people, who are most likely a majority. Since the role of a government and by extension, the roles of the individuals comprising the government, has been to meet the needs of the majority or the common people, an aristocracy is a form of government that is controlled by either the worst or the least qualified of citizens. Although the ancient Greeks may have made a distinction between an aristocracy and a monarchy; in later centuries, aristocracies and monarchies became analogous concepts around the world. The fact that the development of the term kakistocracy took place in the early 19th century, speaks to a change of ideologies towards government in the Western world. Prior to the French Revolution of 1789, the role of the government did not always extend to looking after the needs of the common people. This was due to the fact that most of the people who could be in government were the aristocracy and these individuals were mainly interested in maintaining the status quo. The French Revolution changed this attitude completely by having the common people demand a government that was for them, and created by them - not through the verdict of God, the wealthy, or the military. Literature of the late nineteenth and twentieth century has seen the use of this word dwindle in reference to monarchies and has been used in general to describe any sort of government that is either incompetent, does not take ample care of its citizens and their needs, or is not a democracy (regardless of how the people may actually feel about the government they have in place).


"Kakistocracy." In Online Etymology Dictionary. N.p.: n.p., 2001-2012. Accessed November 16, 2012.

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