Guided democracy, also called managed democracy, is a formally democratic government that functions as a de facto autocracy. Such governments are legitimized by elections that are free and fair, but do not change the state's policies, motives, and goals.
In other words, the government controls elections so that the people can exercise all their rights without truly changing public policy. While they follow basic democratic principles, there can be major deviations towards authoritarianism. Under managed democracy, the state's continuous use of propaganda techniques prevents the electorate from having a significant impact on policy.
The concept of a "guided democracy" was developed in the 20th century by Walter Lippmann in his seminal work Public Opinion (1922) and by Edward Bernays in his work Crystallizing Public Opinion (1923).
After World War II, the term was used in Indonesia for the approach to government under the Sukarno administration from 1957 to 1966. It is today widely employed in Russia, where it was introduced into common practice by Kremlin theorists, in particular Gleb Pavlovsky. Princeton University professor Sheldon Wolin describes this process as inverted totalitarianism for a growing tendency inside the US. There is furthermore an extent to which, given the lack of direct impact citizens of representative democracies have, that all representative democracies may be considered guided democracies.