Enlightened absolutism


Enlightened absolutism

Enlightened absolutism (also known as benevolent despotism or enlightened despotism) is a form of absolute monarchy or despotism in which rulers were influenced by the Enlightenment. Enlightened monarchs embraced the principles of the Enlightenment, especially its emphasis upon rationality, and applied them to their territories. They tended to allow religious toleration, freedom of speech and the press, and the right to hold private property. Most fostered the arts, sciences, and education.

Enlightened absolutists' beliefs about royal power were often similar to those of absolute monarchs, in that many believed that they had the right to govern by birth and generally refused to grant constitutions, seeing even the most pro-monarchy ones as being an inherent check on their power. The difference between an absolutist and an enlightened absolutist is based on a broad analysis of how far they embraced Enlightenment. In particular, the Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II can be said to have fully embraced the enlightened concept of the social contractFact|date=November 2007. In contrast, Empress Catherine II of Russia entirely rejected the concept of the social contract while taking up many ideas of the Enlightenment, for example by being a great patron of the arts in Imperial Russia and incorporating many ideas of enlightened philosophers, especially Montesquieu, in her Nakaz, to a committee meant to revise Russian law.

In effect, the monarchs ruled with the intent of improving the lives of their subjects in order to strengthen or reinforce their authority. For example, the abolition of serfdom in some regions of Europe was achieved by enlightened rulers.Fact|date=November 2007 In the spirit of enlightened absolutism, Emperor Joseph II said, "Everything for the people, nothing by the people."

Voltaire was a prominent Enlightenment philosopher who felt enlightened despotism was the only real way for society to advance.

Enlightened absolutists

*Akbar the Great
*Alexander I of Russia
*Charles III of Spain
*Catherine II of Russia
*Gustav III of Sweden
*Frederick II of Prussia
*Frederick VI of Denmark
*Henry IV of France
*Joseph I of Portugal
*Joseph II, Holy Roman Emperor of Austria
*Leopold II, Holy Roman Emperor, Grand Duke of Tuscany
*Maria Theresa of Austria
*Emperor Meiji of Japan
*Muhammad Ali of Egypt
*Napoleon I of France
*William I of the Netherlands
*Peter I of Russia
*Kangxi Emperor of China, who originally influenced Voltaire's thoughts on the subject.

Benevolent dictatorship

The benevolent dictator is a more modern version of the concept, being an undemocratic or authoritarian leader who exercises his or her political power for the benefit of the people rather than exclusively for his or her own self-interest or benefit, or for the benefit of only a small portion of the people. A benevolent dictator, for example, may focus government priorities on matters of public importance, such as healthcare, education, population control, or general city infrastructure. [ [http://www.sustainer.org/dhm_archive/index.php?display_article=vn210singaporeed Singapore Leads the Good Life Under a Benevolent Dictator] The Donella Meadows ArchiveVoice of a Global Citizen. The Sustainability Institute.] He or she may be committed to peaceful relations, rather than wars or invasions of other states, and may even allow for some democratic decision-making to exist, such as through public referendums.

Characteristics

Most dictators' regimes unfailingly portray themselves as benevolent, and often tend to regard democratic regimes as messy, inefficient, and corrupt. Additionally, many dictators may attempt to openly spread misinformation about their benevolence in an attempt to create a personality cult.

Like many political classifications, the title of benevolent dictator suffers from its inherent subjectivity. Such leaders as Napoleon Bonaparte, Fidel Castro, Benito Mussolini (at least until war against Ethiopia), António Salazar, Francisco Franco, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, Augusto Pinochet, Caterina de' Medici, Pervez Musharraf, Medici dynasty, and others have been characterized by some as benevolent dictators. In all these cases it depends largely on one's point of view as to just how "benevolent" they were or are. [ [http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview?id=312404 Google Answers.] Subject: Re: LIST OF BENEVOLENT DICTATORS (aka ENLIGHTENED DESPOTS) THROUGH HISTORY. kriswrite-ga on 01 Mar 2004] In many cases dictators who serve in office for a very lengthy period are more likely to be regarded as benevolent, for the simple reason that they will often be forced to pay some attention to the public's interests in order to remain in power, and more importantly, to be regarded as politically legitimate. Dictators who hold office for a brief period of time, or are simply members of a rotating dictatorial elite (for example, some juntas) may have less charismatic authority and prove to be forgettable and easier to demonize.

In the Spanish language, the word "dictablanda" is sometimes used for a dictatorship conserving some of the liberties and mechanisms of democracy. (The pun is that, in Spanish, "dictadura" is "dictatorship", "dura" is "hard" and "blanda" is "soft").

References


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