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I'm doing some research for a story and I'm trying to find the correct word for a form of government where the best fighter or the strongest person leads the rest.

The usual words for forms of government are derived from Greek words suffixed with -archy (ἄρχω, árkhō, "to rule") or -cracy (κρατέω, krateo, "to have power over"), as in:
- Monarchy (rule of one)
- Oligarchy (rule of few)
- Plutocracy (rule by the wealthy)
- Theocracy (rule by God)
- Anarchy (without rule)
- etc.

The only existing word that is close to what I want is 'Stratocracy' (from στρατός, stratos, 'army'), which is rule by the military, but that seems like a different concept.

The Greek word for power is kratos, but 'Kratocracy' seems like a ludicrous word ("power power"). 'Might' or 'Strength' may be more appropriate, but that would be something like dynamis -> 'Dynamocracy', which also sounds silly.

Is there a proper word for this form of rule? If not, what would be an appropriate word to invent, in line with the current convention?

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    Greek for strong/mighty is 'ischyrós' (ισχυρός). Ischyrocracy? – ElendilTheTall Jul 2 '14 at 13:59
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    as a metaphor "wolf pack" is used often for a group where the leader is the most agressive/best fighter. It's the most primitive form of organisation and precisely what all other forms of -cracy -archy (including hereditary rights) are trying to avoid. I'm not not sure we can call that sort of power "government" as there's no stability, it's more the "law of the jungle". – P. O. Jul 2 '14 at 14:01
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    Though with a different suffix, I think you may consider: Tyranny: arbitrary or unrestrained exercise of power; despotic abuse of authority. – user66974 Jul 2 '14 at 14:07
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    @JPmiaou I, for one, welcome our new fish overlords – ElendilTheTall Jul 2 '14 at 18:12
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    Rule by the strongest, most manly man would be androcracy, from the Greek word andros (manly man), in contradistinction to anthropos (generic man). Or in California, it night be termed Schwarzeneggerocracy. – Sven Yargs Jul 2 '14 at 21:20
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According to wikipedia, Kratocracy is, actually, the word you're looking for. It's not much of an article (as of the time of this posting), but it says the definition is:

Kratocracy, (from the Greek κρατερός krateros, meaning "strong"), is [...] government by those who are strong enough to seize power through force or cunning.

The references list the Dictionary of Philosophy as the source.

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    I'm glad to see kratocracy at least put forward as a legitimate option here, notwithstanding the questioner's rather airy dismissal of it at the outset of the original post. – Sven Yargs Oct 13 '15 at 6:07
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Greek for physical force (or violence, e.g., rape) is βία, but that root does not seem to serve as first element in any English derivatives, per OED. (Biarchy exists but denotes “dual sovereignty, government by two”—i.e., not bia- + -archy but just bi- + -archy.)

But in Greek political philosophy, those who argue for rule by the stronger (like Thrasymachus in Book I of Plato’s Republic, and Callicles in the same author’s Gorgias) are arguing for that polity which goes by the name of tyranny, as exemplified (in Gorgias) by the régime of Archelaos of Macedon.

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Have you considered autocracy?

autocracy: Government by a single person having unlimited power; despotism; a country or state that is governed by a single person with unlimited power.

  • This would be my choice. Since the "autocrat" actually has the power in and of himself, it seems obvious to me the designation implies that he rules because he has power/strength. – FumbleFingers Jul 2 '14 at 14:52
  • It seems possible to have a system where rulership is determined by physical might without having it be an autocracy, per se - such a system could easily be hierarchical and representational, just as a plutocracy is not necessarily an autocracy in a strict sense. – adb Jul 2 '14 at 15:06
  • Why does an autocrat have to be the one who is physically strongest? I'm sure there have been autocracies where this wasn't true. – Barmar Jul 2 '14 at 21:25
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The strongest man in some form or other will always rule.

Throughout the history, changing social structures and cultural evolution created specific forms of leaderships which turned into governments.

In ancient times, when people were hunters and gatherers, tribes were small and ruled by the strongest male. The rise of agriculture began to change that mindset. People needed to be ruled by something more than physical power. It was necessary to impose rules with the increasing populations and needs.

In anthropology and in Freudian theory, the ancient tribes which were ruled by strongest males are called primal horde and this kind of ruling has the early senses of patriarchy.

(In Freudian theory) a hypothetical patriarchal unit of prehistoric human social organization.


Also, chiefdom is somewhat used in this sense in the history for the tribal societies which are ruled by warrior chieftains:

Tribal societies needed stronger leadership to defend themselves, retain access to grazing land, and develop the ability to raid villages and cities. The men became warriors, and warrior chieftains began to dominate tribal leadership. As manliness and fighting skills became more important, the position and authority of women receded into the background.

  • Hunter gatherers can but do not need to organize into tribes. Hunter gatherer communities can have fluid membership, especially when they are nomadic, and in this situation there are typically no chiefs, either. I would read "Nisa: The Life and Words of a !Kung Woman". The wikipedia article en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hunter-gatherer makes many good points too. – Merk Jul 2 '14 at 19:59
  • @Merk: I did not mean all of them but thanks for the details. There were egalitarian tribes in the history also. – ermanen Jul 2 '14 at 20:03
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    While I'm sure Obama could have beat McCain in a fight, I'm not so sure that Bush would have beat Gore. So I don't believe your premise that the strongest man always rules. The question is specifically about physical strength. – Barmar Jul 2 '14 at 21:27
  • @Barmar: My first sentence is just an introductory wordplay. It is not about physical strength and it is not the answer by itself. – ermanen Jul 2 '14 at 21:37
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I know this is a late answer, and perhaps not accurate to your question. But I was looking for a similar thing: "ruling of the best". Which is called aristocracy.

  • Why the downvote? – Aske B. Aug 16 '17 at 6:34
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I think here the word should be 'Chirocracy' which means govt by physical force.

protected by tchrist Jan 25 '18 at 3:26

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