Follow TV Tropes

Following

Multiple Government Polity

Go To

Most modern western audiences, especially in the United States of America, are used to modern local/sub-national governments acting like miniaturized versions of their national government. But historically that wasn't always the case and some fiction reflects that.

The Federation might form from an alliance of kingdoms and republics, or The Empire might allow subjugated governments to run their territories for them.

Advertisement:

This kind of polity tends to be prone to Allowed Internal War, though.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Overlord (2012): After Ainz unintentionally vassalizes the Empire, there are only two major changes in the law, as Ainz has quite enough trouble ruling his own domain: the place of Nazarick denizens (above everyone else), and condemned criminals are to be shipped off to Nazarick. And it turned out one guy was framed, so he was sent back to the Empire. The Emperor is seen to be a lot happier once this happens, both because he no longer has to worry about Ainz invading him, effortlessly destroying the work he and his ancestors worked so hard to build up over the years, but also because Nazarick now uses its own inexhaustible military to defend the Empire's borders (he finds that his workload is now vastly lightened, because whenever a complaint he can't deal with himself comes to him, he only has to send back "take it up with Ainz" for the complainer to suddenly decide it wasn't that important).

    Fan Works 
  • Earth's Alien History has the Terran Treaty Organization, which is formally The Alliance but in practice is basically The Federation. Its charter (heavily based on the United States Bill of Rights) does enforce certain democratic and republican principles and freedoms as requirements for membership, but its members are otherwise granted full autonomy in both internal and external political matters. There are therefore all kinds of governments involved, from federal democracies to constitutional monarchies to non-totalitarian communist states.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Star Wars, the Old Republic appears to be a parliamentary republic and the Galactic Empire is a dictatorship, but member states take multiple forms: Alderaan appears to be a hereditary monarchy (albeit a widely popular one with a likely constitutional model), while Naboo is some form of presidential republic that uses the titles and regalia of a monarchy. Some places like Tatooine, meanwhile, don't have a true planetary government (though it's questionable whether Tatooine is even part of the Republic).
Advertisement:

    Literature 
  • Star Trek Expanded Universe and Star Trek Novelverse:
    • Member states of the United Federation of Planets use a variety of forms of democratic government. For example, United Earth has a president and a separate prime minister, Vulcan is ruled by an elected executive council, Trill is stated to have a president and senate, and Bajor (joined in 2376) is a presidential republic with significant elements of The Theocracy.
    • Star Trek: Articles of the Federation also states that the Articles of Federation (the Federation's constitution) leaves selection methods for Federation Councillors (federal legislators) up to member states: Bajor's is appointed by the First Minister and confirmed by the Chamber of Ministers, while Betazed uses direct popular election.
  • In M.C.A. Hogarth's Paradox universe the Alliance is governed on the whole by representative democracy but some member planets are governed by other ways, such as feudalism for the Hinichi.
  • The Empire of the Star in the Eldraeverse contains several polities of different types including direct democracies and corporate states, though not representative democracies as they decided long ago that was a bad idea.
  • In the Para Imperium 'verse the Federation of Parahuman Species encompasses numerous planets of different forms of government. Of the three Core Worlds alone Alpha Centauri (the capital) is a Hereditary Republic, Tau Ceti is a post-feudal constitutional monarchy, and Epsilon Eridani is a corporate technocracy.
  • In Kris Longknife, the United Sentients/United Society (what the protagonist's home planet Wardhaven's political bloc names itself after the dissolution of the Society of Humanity in the first book) is technically a constitutional Elective Monarchy, with a relatively powerful elected king (the protagonist's great-grandfather Raymond Longknife) who serves a single 25-year term and advises the legislature. Member planets are permitted any form of government they choose, provided it's a democracy in some form and makes provisions to protect any minority groups on the planet: New Eden, one of the oldest settled planets in human space, has three vice presidents and three legislative houses (one for each of the original Earth nations that settled it), while Hikila is a constitutional monarchy with a legislature organized by city-states and a queen permitted a veto on measures she views as impinging on the islanders' culture. Wardhaven itself is a center-left-leaning parliamentary republic (Kris's father is prime minister for most of the series, barring a snap election-induced 10-Minute Retirement in Defiant).
  • The "Hundred Thousand Kingdoms" of N. K. Jemison's Inheritance Trilogy are all client states to the ruling Arameri family, and send representatives to the city of Sky to participate in a parliament-type body. Old enmities and Allowed Internal War are still maintained, but nobody is allowed to technically shed blood without Arameri permission. This sometimes results in an army waltzing in and conquering a neighbor simply by showing up.
  • In the Emberverse, the High Kingdom of Montival encompasses a variety of smaller political units. While a number of these are kingdoms, other forms of government are also represented, including representative (Boise) and direct (Topanga) democracies, oligarchies (Corvallis), theocracies (Deseret), tribal councils (the Seven Fires Council), and clan chiefs and councils (Mackenzie).
  • The Thousand Cultures operate much like this. There is political continuity, of a sort, as each human world is linked to each other by trade and law, but there is no cultural hegemony, and as long as some basic standards are kept, no one cares much what each government is doing.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Traveller the Third Imperium is feudal on the interstellar level, owing to the difficulties of galactic governance, but individual planets are left to govern themselves.
  • Warhammer Fantasy: The Empire is made up up multiple territories belonging to various nobles, who theoretically owe fealty to the Emperor. There's also the city of Marienburg, which purchased its freedom centuries earlier and which the Empire would very much like to get back, as it's just about the only port where elves will trade.
  • Warhammer 40,000: Given the difficulties in interstellar travel and the vastly different living conditions of different planets, there is little incentive or attempt at making a universal system of government: there's usually a planetary governor who may or may not have inherited his position, and as long as he pays the tithes on time and keeps heresy stamped out he's pretty much left to his own devices (the Inquisition is always happy to send an assassin in cases of incompetence or treachery). Space Marine recruiting worlds and forge worlds are also exceptions to Imperial rule (as much as the Administratum would like to change that), as they form their own hermetic societies within the Imperium.
  • 2300 AD has the Confederation of Palestine, where the area currently held by Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, and Palestine becomes one nation with four cooperating governments. Each government rules its own citizens, and the four governments together manage international relations.

    Video Games 
  • In Crusader Kings II it is entirely possible to mix-and-match government forms within a given realm, with some areas controlled by theocracies, others by republics or merchant republics, and others under feudalism. There is a -20 opinion penalty from vassals ranked count or above towards a liege of a different government type. It's particularly common for players with feudal PCs to create a vassal merchant republic, which tends to pay more taxes than feudal vassals do.
  • Europa Universalis has the Holy Roman Empire (detailed in the Real Life section). Though it wasn't until EUIII that different government types existed in terms of the gameplay, thus allowing HRE members to act as different types of government.
    • EUIV can also import save files from Crusader Kings II, allowing one to play as a multi-government polity of their own creation.
  • Mass Effect: The Citadel is essentially a Fictional United Nations, with the ruling Citadel Council, composed of representatives of the asari, turians, and salarians (and later the humans), given close to absolute power in mediating disputes between members. Member states vary in governance: the Asari Republics are a confederation of e-democracies (with considerable variation between them), the Turian Hierarchy is a meritocratic military dictatorship, the Salarian Union is a feudal state, and the human Systems Alliance is a federation of Earth nation-states and colonies.
  • Though some AI personalities and ideological factions don't get along with certain types of government, Stellaris allows dictatorships and democracies to get together and form a Federation, or for one to vassalize another.
  • The main setting of The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky is a form of this. The Kingdom of Liberl is a traditional hereditary monarchy ruled by a queen. It's divided into five regions made up of a capital city and the surrounding villages and farms. Each city is run by a mayor, but the position varies in the different regions; Bose's leadership is implied to be hereditary, Ruan's leadership is explicitly run by a hereditary nobility (and experiments with democracy after the mayor is arrested and stripped of his position without an heir), and Zeiss is a corporate dominion run by the local Central Factory and doesn't have a mayor (the factory's director also handles governance.) Meanwhile, Grancel is the seat of the national government and is therefor governed directly by the Liberl queen and doesn't have a local government.
  • The Lycian League of Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade and Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade are a collection of duchies and marquisdoms, each with their own ruler but allied and pledged to support one another if one comes under attack. At least, that's the idea; in practice, some of them prove quite willing to sell each other out when The Empire comes calling.
  • The Elder Scrolls: Throughout the series, the Cyrodiilic Empire has traditionally allowed their provinces to run in a downplayed version of this trope. Typically, when a province is captured by the Empire, a monarch (usually but not always receiving the title of "King") is appointed by the Emperor to rule the land in the name of the Empire. Often, these monarchs are members of the race native to the province in order to foster positive relations with the natives. However, there are a few notable exceptions:
    • One exception who plays the trope straight is Morrowind, homeland of the Dunmer. Protected for thousands of years by their guardian "God-Kings", the Tribunal, the Dunmer were able to resist all takeover attempts by Cyrodiil. However, in the 2nd Era, the Dunmer were blocked from "recharging" their divinity by their reformed ancient enemy, Dagoth Ur. With the legions of Tiber Septim threatening to invade, one of the Tribunal, Vivec, met with Septim and offered that Morrowind become a Voluntary Vassal in order to prevent undue suffering to the Dunmer people. Vivec also offered Septim the Numidium, a Humongous Mecha of Dwemer construction, in exchange for special privileges that the other provinces did not get. These included continued free worship of the Tribunal (although the Imperial Nine Divines religion has to be allowed as well), the continued practice of slavery (which was illegal throughout the Empire), and the continued rule of the Great Houses (although the Empire still appointed a Puppet King of Morrowind). The resulting Culture Clash can be most prominently seen during the events of Morrowind.
    • Skyrim similarly maintains the Nordic system of government, with a king who is elected by the regional jarls (and can be challenged to a Duel to the Death for his throne). This was generally left to benign neglect under the Septim dynasty that rules until Oblivion, as the Nords were generally loyal to the Imperial throne and the dynasty's founder Tiber Septim was originally a Nord warlord and became the Imperial god Talos after his reign... until Skyrim, when a civil war breaks out over the Empire banning the worship of Talos under the terms of their peace treaty with the Aldmeri Dominion. This prompts the nationalist Jarl Ulfric Stormcloak to challenge and kill the loyalist High King Torygg, and the Empire to break with tradition and support Torygg's widow Elisif against Ulfric.
    • There is no indication High Rock has a single figure appointed to rule the land in the name of the Empire throughout the Septim Empire (or its precursor Alessian and Reman Empires and the Potentate), instead being internally divided into a patchwork of smaller feudal governments that recognise themselves as part of High Rock and the Empire but lack any unified administration outside the Imperial bureaucracy (the events of Daggerfall leads to significant consolidation, and one kingdom petitioning for separate provincial status, but High Rock remains divided).

    Real Life 
  • One of the earliest recorded examples was the Achaemenid Persian Empire (you know, the one established by Cyrus the Great). The Persians had a reputation for not caring how their subject peoples ran their domestic affairs as long as they paid their taxes and didn't revolt. As a consequence, various forms of non-monarchical rule were allowed to continue in certain parts of the empire, including Athens-like democracies in the Greek cities of Persian-ruled Ionia (what is now western Turkey), oligarchies in the cities of Phoenicia, and rule by the High Priests in Judah. And of course, when the locals did traditionally have a monarchy, the Persians usually allowed it to survive in some form; frequently, the last independent ruler would have been given an opportunity to surrender and remain on the throne, so the situation on the ground would have hardly changed at all. (This did not happen with certain subject peoples who had resisted fiercely and were prone to revolt; Egypt was a particular headache for successive generations of Persian kings, as was Babylonia.)
  • After Alexander the Great conquered the Achaemenid Empire, he and his successors generally continued the Persian policy of noninterference with local systems of government to stay in place, at least at first (some rulers later tried to mess with this, which is why, e.g., the Jews rebelled against the Seleucids when the Seleucid king tried to mess with the High Priests' authority). Post-Alexandrian Greek kings also would often found new city states inside their empires, often with a government based on the Athenian constitution, and give them a great deal of autonomy.
  • The Roman Republic and early Empire tended to leave the prior governments of their provinces in place, albeit watched by a Roman governor and a few Legions to keep them in line. Though sometimes these local rulers and ethnarchs got unruly and were deposed and replaced with direct Roman rule, as with Cleopatra.
  • The Holy Roman Empire was a patchwork of feudal estates, clerical states, and free cities. Towards its end, the joke about it was that it didn't fulfill any part of its name.
  • The People's Republic of China has two special administrative regions, Hong Kong (a former British colony) and Macau (a former Portuguese colony), with local governments that are allowed multiple parties in elections. There's also five autonomous regions whose governments are given more local authority in making some laws; these regions generally correlate to having high numbers of non-Han Chinese.
  • States of the United States of America all have a government fairly similar to the federal government, with an executive governor, a legislature, and a court system. (It is, in fact, written into the Constitution that all states are to be governed as republics.) However, there is nothing that prevents American states from experimenting with new structures of (democratic) government, so long as they are "republican" in nature (as required by the text of the Constitution, so no making up a Principality of Delaware with a DuPont as ceremonial constitutional monarch) and respect the principle of one-person-one-vote (under the Supreme Court's jurisprudence regarding the Fourteenth Amendment). Of course, that’s exactly why segregation lasted as long as it did (the "one-person-one-vote" case law didn't come into the picture until the 1962 Baker v. Carr and 1964 Reynolds v. Sims). As the general rule of American law is "If it isn't prohibited it's permitted", how a state's government functions varies a lot from one to the next:
    • At the state level, governors and lieutenant governors have varying levels of power, lieutenant governors might be elected by voters or selected by the state's legislative body or just not exist (five states don't have one), whether a state's judges or cabinet secretaries are elected (federal judges and secretaries are appointed by the President), Louisiana uses civil law based off of the French system rather than the English-derived common law used everywhere else, Nebraska has a nonpartisan and unicameral legislature (unique in the country), and there is significant variety in the use of popular referenda for legal action (referenda are not used at the federal level at all).
    • The powers and responsibilities of a county (or its equivalent — Alaska has boroughs, Louisiana has parishes, the District of Columbia isn't part of any state, and some cities in Maryland, Missouri, Nevada, and Virginia aren't part of any county) in a US state also vary considerably by region. Southern and Western states in general have the strongest counties and the greatest responsibilities, with them being responsible for things like school districts, museums, airports, and law enforcement/fire departments for the smaller towns which can't afford their own. At the other extreme, New England counties are so weak they're functionally nonexistent in day-to-day life and are pretty much relics of the past (several in Connecticut and Massachusetts don't even have functioning governments any more), with towns and cities taking up the slack for things below state level. Mid-Atlantic and Midwestern states' counties are usually somewhere in between.
    • At the local level, many cities have a "city manager" hired by the town council rather than an elected mayor. Some cities even have both, in which case the city manager usually holds most of the actual authority while the mayor is more of a ceremonial position with, at most, some token executive powers. Some municipalities don't have a single mayor so much as a mayoral council among whom the position of mayor rotates (more common in the Northeast).
    • A "charter township" in Michigan (the only state in the nation to have such a community) is run by a township board that's typically led by a supervisor (and may sometimes have an appointed superintendent or manager).
    • Historically, there was greater variation with a number of states trying various ways of doing things; the most famous is probably Pennsylvania's Constitution of 1776, which experimented with a unicameral legislature and multi-member ("directorial") Supreme Executive Council rather than a unitary governor. (This system inspired both the short-lived Directory of the post-Thermidorian First French Republic and—through that—the current structure of Switzerland's federal government.)
    • Jurisdictions under Native American tribal law also have legal autonomy from the rest of the country. For example, some Native nations profit greatly from casinos because they're the only places in a given region that allow gambling (though this doesn't necessarily benefit the average person living on The Rez).
    • The US also has several unincorporated island territories: Puerto Rico, the United States Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, and Guam. These territories are self-governing but (like Washington, D.C.) have limited representation in the US federal government.
    • The United States is not a Direct Democracy at the national level, but all 50 states have some degree of Referendum process ranging from extremely limited to the ability to petition an amendment to the State Constitution.
    • As of 2016, Maine uses Ranked Choice Instant Runoff Voting for national offices, as opposed to First Past the Post voting.
  • This was a common means of administration in colonial empires that left local governments in place but subordinated them to European rule. For example, The Raj's princely states were under the leadership of native monarchs who became voluntary vassals of The British Empire in exchange for cementation of their local status. The Dutch East Indies (which became known as Indonesia upon independence) likewise had a number of autonomous sultanates (Zelfbesturen or "self-rulees"), beholden to the colonial government but more or less sovereign over their own citizens; the modern Republic of Indonesia is presently a parliamentary presidential republic but the province of Yogyakarta is governed by a hereditary Sultan.
  • The United Kingdom is so named because it's comprised of four countries: England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. (Note that the first three are located in Britain, while Northern Ireland is of course on the neighbouring island of Ireland, the rest of which comprises the independent Republic of Ireland.) As per this trope, the countries outside England have gained a degree of political autonomy over the years. Also note that surrounding Britain are a number of islands (The Channel Islands of Guernsey and Jersey, as well as the Isle of Man) that exist as self-governing Crown dependencies outside the UK proper.

Top

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:

/

Media sources:

/

Report