absolutism


absolutism
absolutism, absolutist state
The term itself may be defined as a state-form typical of societies in the process of transition from feudalism to capitalism , wherein power is concentrated in the person of a monarch, who has at his or her disposal a centralized administrative apparatus. Viewed thus, the label has been applied to a wide variety of states , ranging from that of the sixteenth-century English Tudors to that of nineteenth-century Meiji Japan. This definition is, however, not uncontroversial: the label has also been applied to Tsarist Russia, where the transition was from feudalism to communism , and some would deny that Japan was ever a feudal society in anything other than the loosest sense.
There has also been great controversy about the role that such states played in the transition in question. Many historians have described this role in terms akin to that of the absolutist state having been a midwife of capitalism, an interpretation illustrated by the preference of some for the term ‘enlightened despotism’, rather than the (somewhat derogatory) alternative ‘absolutism’. (Others, however, have used this term in reference to the influence of Enlightenment rationalism on absolutism in Prussia, Austria, and so forth, rather than as a comment on the relationship of absolutism to capitalism.) By comparison, Marxists have (at least until relatively recently) tended to regard this role as closer to that of an abortionist, albeit an incompetent one. The problem that both parties to this dispute have had to address is the variability of the historical outcomes. Even within continental Europe, the rise of absolutist states appears, prima facie, to have been associated with both a rapid transition to capitalism in the West, and an intensification of feudal domination in the East.
For Max Weber (General Economic History, 1923) and non-Marxist scholars more generally, the explanation of the progressive role played by the absolutist or ‘rational state’ may be found in the immense contribution that these regimes made to the increasing predictability of action within their territorial boundaries, as they bureaucratized their own administrations, introduced elements of the rule of law, monopolized the legitimate use of force, and used this force to enforce their jurisdiction throughout society. Weber's response to the divergent outcomes of absolutism in Eastern and Western Europe was to portray what happened in the East as a delay rather than a regression, and to explain it as the result of the state's lack of allies in the wider society, which in turn reflected the more general economic and cultural backwardness of these societies.
The response of Marxists (such as Maurice Dobb, Eric Hobsbawm, and Perry Anderson) to this line of argument, has been to suggest that it owes more to the tendency amongst non-Marxists to accord a priori analytical privilege to the political realm, than it does to sound historical research. Given that the absolute monarchs and their most powerful supporters were always representatives of the feudal nobility, so Marxists have argued, it is the short-lived absolutisms of Western Europe (and especially of England and Holland) that require explanation, rather than the long-lasting ones of the East. The explanation that they provide revolves around the bold and controversial claim that the majority of continental states experienced a prolonged economic crisis during the sixteenth century, a crisis from which England and Holland were spared. The result was that in every society except those two, the feudal nobility was able to crush or constrain its capitalist rivals. For this reason, it was possible for the bourgeois classes of England and Holland to gain an early advantage over their potential competitors, an advantage which they enhanced still further by overturning their absolute monarchies in relatively short order. Putting to one side the many empirical objections that this thesis has encountered, it is important to note that it rests upon an analytical privileging of the economic realm that is arguably no more justified than the privileging of the political realm to which its proponents have rightly objected. Perhaps the most successful exception to both strictures is’s, French Absolutism: The Crucial Phase, 1620-1629(1968).

Dictionary of sociology. 2013.

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  • absolutism — absolutísm s. n. regim politic în care un monarh concentrează în mâinile sale întreaga putere. (< fr. absolutisme) Trimis de tavi, 08.01.2003. Sursa: MDN  ABSOLUTÍSM s.n. Regim politic propriu monarhiei absolute; putere absolută a unui monarh …   Dicționar Român

  • Absolutism — Ab so*lu tism, n. 1. The state of being absolute; the system or doctrine of the absolute; the principles or practice of absolute or arbitrary government; despotism. [1913 Webster] The element of absolutism and prelacy was controlling. Palfrey.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • absolutism — (n.) 1753 in theology; 1830 in politics, in which sense it was first used by British reformer and parliamentarian Maj. Gen. Thomas Perronet Thompson (1783 1869). See ABSOLUTE (Cf. absolute) and ISM (Cf. ism) …   Etymology dictionary

  • absolutism — ► NOUN 1) the principle that those in government should have unlimited power. 2) belief in absolute principles in philosophy. DERIVATIVES absolutist noun & adjective …   English terms dictionary

  • absolutism — [ab′sə lo͞o tiz΄əm] n. 1. the doctrine or system of government under which the ruler has unlimited powers; despotism 2. the quality of being absolute 3. Philos. any doctrine involving the existence of some metaphysical or axiological principle… …   English World dictionary

  • absolutism — absolutist, n., adj. absolutistic, adj. absolutistically, adv. /ab seuh looh tiz euhm/, n. 1. the principle or the exercise of complete and unrestricted power in government. 2. any theory holding that values, principles, etc., are absolute and… …   Universalium

  • Absolutism — The term Absolutism may refer to: * Absolute idealism, an ontologically monistic philosophy attributed to G.W.F. Hegel. It is Hegel s account of how being is ultimately comprehensible as an all inclusive whole. *Absolute monarchy, a form of… …   Wikipedia

  • absolutism — [[t]æ̱bsəlu͟ːtɪzəm[/t]] 1) N UNCOUNT Absolutism is a political system in which one ruler or leader has complete power and authority over a country. ...the triumphal reassertion of royal absolutism. 2) N UNCOUNT (disapproval) You can refer to… …   English dictionary

  • Absolutism — the position that in a particular domain of thought, all statements in that domain are either absolutely true or absolutely false: none is true for some cultures or eras while false for other cultures or eras. These statements are called absolute …   Mini philosophy glossary

  • absolutism — noun /ˈæbsəluːtɪzəm/ a) The state of being absolute; the system or doctrine of the absolute; the principles or practice of absolute or arbitrary government; despotism. , The element of absolutism and prelacy was controlling. Palfrey b) Doctrine… …   Wiktionary