What is Political Absolutism

Political Absolutism is a form of government in which the ruler has absolute power over their citizens and government. The history of absolutism can be traced back to ancient times. Rulers such as Pharaohs in Egypt and Roman dictators held immense power over their subjects. But it was not considered an actual absolutist regime; pharaohs and dictators had barriers they had to abide by. Those barriers were usually religious blockades that prevented them from full power over their country.

The period where total political absolutism was given to the monarchs in Europe was around (1500-1700). However, In recent history, absolutist regimes have sporadically been established in countries such as France, Russia, Iran, and Nazi Germany. Modern Historians can speculate why people would even consider absolutism as its governance structure. Still, people found it to be one of the only ways for a government to operate. For better or worse, citizens looked at it as the most proficient way to govern. However, governments weren’t as complex as they are now.

The History of Absolutism: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

History graphic

Political Absolutism is a political theory that theorizes for the state to run effectively, all power must be concentrated in the hands of a single ruler. The idea developed during the Renaissance era. As absolute monarchs began to assert their control over their states, the only entity that could challenge a monarch’s control was their military. So long as the monarch supported the military, the monarch held the power. The earliest and considered the most famous absolutist rulers were Louis XIV of France and Frederick the Great of Russia.


During the eighteenth century, absolutism began to decline as Enlightened thinkers advocated for more democratic forms of government. However, some absolute monarchs, such as Frederick II of Prussia, successfully implemented enlightened reforms while still maintaining their absolute power. Since he was considered a great leader and was beloved by the citizens, he was able to rule through a monarch structure successfully.

Louis XIV

Louis XIV

Louis XIV’s reign was a crucial point in French history; not only did it last for 72 years, but during his reign, France became the dominant power in Europe. His political determination led him to make absolutism a reality for his kingdom, something no other French king could do before or after him.
Louise XIV, also known as the sun king, reigned through ruthless policy driven by religious conviction.


Louis XIV was ambitious and hungry to expand the borders of France. But aside from his plans to increase French territory, he is known to boost the arts and sciences during his time in power. Artwork such as painting was created in an aesthetic sense that stressed emotion over reason; writers developed literature based primarily on personal feelings rather than facts. He allowed scientists to develop theories and experiments without being persecuted. Scientists were able to experiment and create new inventions and medicine, which benefitted the people of France. It paved the way for many people to find their passion in science.

Frederick II of Prussia

Frederick the II

Frederick II of Prussia was an absolutist who used his power for the greater good. He was one of the most influential rulers of Prussia. Because of his positively perceived leadership, his political counterparts and subjects were commonly referred to as Frederick the Great. Frederick II was born in 1712 and ruled Prussia from 1740 until his death in 1786.


Frederick II is considered one of the greatest military commanders in history. He was a pivotal figure in the Seven Years’ War, which resulted in Prussia’s emergence as a leading European power. Frederick II was also an enlightened leader who promoted religious tolerance and arts and culture while expanding Prussia’s territories. As a result of his tolerance, he attracted many great minds, such as scientists, artists, and authors, to establish an advanced culture within his reign.

Adolf Hitler

Adolf Hitler with Mussolini

An absolutist tyrant who abused his positional authority driven by racism and hatred was none other than Adolf Hitler, the leader of Nazi Germany during World War II. He was born in Austria and became a German citizen in 1932. After many years of political ambition, Hitler rose to power in 1933 and was appointed as Chancellor of Germany by President Paul von Hindenburg. Under Adolf Hitler’s leadership, the Nazi Party implemented an absolutist regime that would entail political practices giving Hitler full complete control of the newly constructed country.


Hitler could create laws and policies and structure the economy in a way that could benefit his appetite for war. Once military power was established, Germany initiated World War II in Europe with the invasion of Poland in September 1939. Adolf Hitler was also responsible for many atrocities, including the worst act in human history, known as the Holocaust. The Holocaust resulted in the death of more than six million people that identified as being Jewish. Hitler’s legacy is not only tarnished but the effects of what he did impacted Germany for several decades.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Absolutism

Most philosophers and political figures agree that Absolutism is not a form of government that should be entertained. There are advantages to the political theory that can pose attractive qualities to political members and their subjects. But is it worth the risk?

Below is a list of the advantages and disadvantages:


Advantages of Absolutism include the following:

  • There is a single ruler with complete control over the government who can make decisions quickly without consulting with others.
  • The ruler is not answerable to anyone except perhaps a higher power they believe in, so they have more freedom to act as they see fit. So long as their rule is in line with their subjects, Absolutism is considered a positive aspect.
  • Absolutist regimes are usually stable since the risk of power struggle or coups from within rarely occurs. Absolutists surround themselves with like-minded governors that usually profit immensely by keeping the regime intact. The leaders typically treat their generals and military members generously to prevent coups. However, generosity to military members gives lower-level people an opportunity to have a better life.

Disadvantages of absolutism include the following:

  • Since the ruler has absolute power, they can abuse their power and act tyrannically without consequence. They can enact insufferable tax laws and create terrible living conditions for their subjects.
  • There is no check on the ruler’s power, so they can make decisions that are not in the best interest of the people, the country, or their allies. A ruler can impose economic sanctions and start wars contrary to popular opinion.
  • Absolutist regimes tend to be less efficient since there is often corruption and nepotism, which defeats the entire purpose of political Absolutism.

The disadvantages outweigh the positives of Absolutism. The mere fact that a ruler can quickly pass laws and policies efficiently without consideration or regard is dangerous. If those laws are immoral and unethical, then the ruler’s subjects don’t have time to adjust or escape from such tyranny.

Philosophical Outlook on Absolutism

Philosophical thought on Absolutism Philosophical graphic

Absolutism plays a vital part in philosophy and life in general, even though many philosophers and political leaders, past and present, will more than likely condemn the political theory. Progressive higher thinking and developing philosophical idea’s had been created due to the oppressive nature of Absolutism. The most prominent philosophical concept was the Enlightenment era. The era would influence the forefathers of the United States of America to establish their own sovereign country and detach themselves from an absolutist government.


However, some philosophers defend Absolutism and find it an efficient way to govern a country. Thomas Hobbs and John Locke are the most influential philosophers to welcome political theory. The two philosophers felt that royalty played an essential role in society. Royalty established law and order for their nations and created states governed by appointed officials to become more stable or well-managed. A practice still followed in many governments today. They recognized some absolutists were incompetent and others predatory. Still, overall they felt that having a monarch making all of the decisions was for society’s best. They felt society was incapable of governing itself, nor did they know what was best for them. Without a governing authority, laws could not be enforced.


During the 17th Century, the law that many politicians and philosophers were focused on was “Natural Law.” Political scientists and philosophers were eager to try and define natural law. Thomas Hobbes’s theory of human nature is a bleak and dark view that humans are driven by only selfish interests, which leads to constant war and immorality. It was thought for people to be protected from one another. It could only be done through a ruler that obtained absolute power to control the people and establish a moral way to conduct themselves in life.


However, what Thomas Hobbs tried to convey and articulate could not have been done better than John Locke. In John Locke’s book, “Two Treatises of Government,” Locke argues that man has natural rights given by God that can never be taken away. Locke coined the phrase, life, liberty, and property. Does that Sound familiar?

He reiterated to safeguard these rights, rulers would need to give up some of their power and operate under strict limitations on what rulers can do. And vice-versa, the ruler’s subjects would need to give up some of their autonomy for the social contract between citizens and government to coexist. The government’s responsibility was to create laws that did not infringe on its subjects while also having the duty to enforce them. In Locke’s opinion, there was no better way to protect God-given rights than to have an established absolutist government.


Hindsight will always be 20/20. We can sit here today and know that Absolutism is not a good idea, nor does it work. A society that operates under an absolutist government structure may get lucky with leaders like Frederick the Great, or they can be led to ruin with leaders like Adolf Hitler. However, in the 16th and 18th centuries, Absolutism played a crucial part in how society developed today.

Philosophers like Thomas Hobbes and John Locke approved the absolutist political theory. It set forth ideas of how a government should operate for its subjects instead of oppressing them for personal gain. They only possessed a very limited view of what could have been possible during their time of observing Absolutism. Still, their ways of thinking inspired many to keep progressing to make life better for all.

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