Social Institutions Authoritarian or Totalitarian? There is disagreement among theorists about the exact difference between authoritarianism and totalitarianism. Both tend to use brutal tactics to suppress perceived opposition. Totalitarian governments, however, extend their control into virtually all aspects of people’s lives and feature a “cult of personality” around their leader. Totalitarianism Totalitarianism is a political system under which the government maintains tight control over nearly all aspects of citizens’ lives. Example: Cambodia under the regime of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge from 1976 to 1978 was totalitarian. Under the banner of socialism, Pol Pot attempted a radical reformation of Cambodia. He forced the evacuation of the country’s cities and relocated citizens to communal farms in the countryside, where they were to be “reeducated” to become part of an idealized communist agrarian society. Pol Pot’s secret police tortured and murdered over a million “dissenters,”
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