What is the Definition of Absolutism?


Absolutism was a system of government, typical of traditional monarchies, in which all power was exercised by the king.

It was inscribed in the historical period known as the Old Regime, which extended from the 16th century, with the formation of modern states, until the 18th, when it reached its peak in the reign of Louis XIV of France, and would last until the beginning of the liberal revolutions, between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in Europe.

The main characteristic of absolutism was that the political power of the ruler was absolute, that is, he was not subject to any type of institutional limitation, outside the divine law itself, and all his acts were justifiable because they always sought the common good.

In absolutism, unlike the republican system, there was no division of powers. In this way, the king ruled the State at will: he legislated, administered and imparted justice, and always had the last word in all matters concerning the nation.

In fact, in absolutism, the king was identified as the personification of the State itself. In this sense, the main duty of his subjects was to obey, and his monarchical duty was to command.

On the other hand, history reflects that the monarch’s power had a divine character, because according to the theory of the divine right of royal power, the king had been chosen by God to lead the destinies of his people, and his power could only be inherited for their children.

Today there are no absolute monarchies in the European continent, but modern monarchies, where real power is conveniently limited by the democratic institutions of the State.

Illustrated Absolutism

Illustrated absolutism, also known as enlightened despotism, was the way in which the absolute monarchs of Europe exercised political power over their subjects in a benevolent manner, inspired by the ideals of the Enlightenment. The main concern of the monarchs was to enrich the culture and develop important reforms in education. Its historical period was especially the eighteenth century.