Dictatorship and totalitarianism are often associated, but they are actually two separate phenomena. Dictatorship is a form of government in which the ruler has the power to govern without consent of those being governed. Dictatorship can also be defined simply as "a system that does not adhere to democracy," where democracy is defined as a form of government where those who govern are selected through contested elections. A dictator's power can originate in his or her family, political position, or military authority.
Many dictatorships are also totalitarian. Totalitarian governments are those that exert total control over the governed; they regulate nearly every aspect of public and private behavior. Totalitarianism entails a political system where the state recognizes no limits to its authority, and it strives to regulate every aspect of public and private life wherever feasible. Totalitarian regimes stay in political power through all-encompassing propaganda campaigns (disseminated through the state-controlled mass media), a single party that is often marked by political repression, personality cultism, control over the economy, regulation and restriction of speech, mass surveillance, and widespread use of terror.
In other words, dictatorship concerns the source of the governing power (where the power comes from—the people or a single leader) and totalitarianism concerns the scope of the governing power (what is the government and how extensive is its power). In this sense, dictatorship (government without people's consent) exists in contrast with democracy (government whose power comes from people) and totalitarianism (where government controls every aspect of people's lives) exists in contrast with pluralism (where government allows multiple lifestyles and opinions) .
President Nixon and Mao Zedong, 1972
In 1972, Nixon traveled to China and met with Mao Zedong, the leader of the totalitarian Chinese Communist Party.