Authors: Bobbio, Matteucci, Pasquino
Summary: This entry defines the term and surveys what leading political theorists have said about republics. In a conventional typology of regimes, republics-in which the government is directly or indirectly elected by the people-are opposed to monarchies based on hereditary succession. Cicero was the first thinker to articulate the main features of the res publica, the "public entity": common interest and common laws. This meaning was widely accepted until the French revolution.
An alternative typology, developed especially by Machiavelli and Montesquieu and increasingly influential in modern political thought, presents three regimes: monarchic, republican, and despotic. They differ in how they achieve order: in a monarchy from above, in a republic from below, and in despotism by the imposition of tyrannical force.
The first great modern republics were born in the age of democratic revolution: the United States (1776) and the French Republic (1792). The former was, and remains, a federal republic; the latter was a unified and indivisible republic. In the 20th century, the states that arose out of socialist revolutions took republican forms, but differed from liberal democratic republics by institutionalizing rule by one party.