Chapter Summary

The executive is the government institution or the collection of government institutions that acts on behalf of the state. While the variety of executive institutions is boundless, most fit into one of four general categories. Authoritarian monarchies are single dominant leaders who are mostly unconstrained. Authoritarian oligarchies are executive leadership groups that are mostly unconstrained by other institutions of government. Democratic presidents are executives elected separately from their nations’ democratic legislatures, whereas parliamentary prime ministers are executives who come directly from the democratic legislatures and are dependent on the legislatures for support to remain in office.The historical development of the executive has generally featured the slow separation of other functions of government from the executive.

Students should learn two very important lessons from this chapter. First, being a king just ain’t what it used to be. Second, history has had a profound impact on the development of the modern executive institutions. The U.S. presidency is an excellent example, in that many of the elements built into the American system were explicitly included to prevent the United States from suffering the excesses the Founders observed among the kings and princes of Europe.