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Enlightened Despotism


The concept of despotism is linked to abuse from power either moral or physical, imposing the use of force in dealing with a certain group of people. This concept is usually linked to a type of government that owns the absolute power and whose actions are not limited by laws existing.

The concept of illustrated , in turn, is related to that pertaining or relative to the illustration (The philosophical and cultural movement that emerged in the 18th century that postulated the predominance of reason over emotions and considered that the progress of all humanity resided in the use of intelligence).

During the Enlightenment there was a type of government that became known as Enlightened Despotism . Although at first glance this word can denote negative characteristics, that organization was far from being considered as such.

It was a political concept developed within the absolute monarchies and that included the adaptation to the field of politics of certain philosophical ideas from the most famous thinkers of the movement to which he responded, the illustration. This means that the monarchs who ruled continued to maintain the same social system that existed with the Old Regime , but with an aggregate: they tried to enrich the culture of their peoples.

The enlightened despotism is also often referred to as benevolent despotism or illustrated absolutism . Their leaders adopted a paternalistic attitude and, in their speeches, talked about the happiness of their subjects.

Louis XV in France , Carlos III in Spain , Catherine II in Russia and Joseph II in Austria they were some of the enlightened despots who promoted various changes in their monarchies, with the centralization of the public administration, the modernization of the economy , the promotion of trade, agriculture and industry and intervention in matters of church .

The emergence of enlightened despotism is usually explained as the lack of revolutionary will that moved most of the enlightened philosophers, despite feeling disgusted with the direction society took and criticizing the politics of the time, they didn't want to fight for a resounding change . Possibly, because they were afraid of what might arise as a result of the abrupt destruction of the regime, that is why they focused on promoting a peaceful and gradual change that was guided and led by the monarchs themselves.

Bases of Illustrated Despotism

During the 17th century the absolutism it was the most widespread political regime; This system was maintained towards the 18th century although it changed the way it was implemented. Thus, "Illustrated Despotism" emerged. If we look for the exact definition of the concept we will find that it was characterized by the use of illustrated ideology by absolute laws to maintain their absolutism.

The monarchs who ruled in this movement were called "enlightened despots", and it is important to note that they were kings who ruled with absolute power over their peoples. In fact, most took from the ideas of the Enlightenment those that suited them, which helped them maintain power size.

In this period a series of reforms were developed that helped the kings to end feudalism, and managed to encompass a greater power. Among the main actions are:

* Protection of agriculture through the channel construction and swamps
*Urbanization and modernization of cities
* Monument construction and public lighting.

Were also introduced judicial reforms (torture was abolished as a legal method of investigation), they created many educational centers and universities to get a better and effective schooling. All this was done by the motto of enlightened despotism: "Everything for the people but without the people."

It is important to mention that the rejection for political freedom which is surely one of the most important and renovating ideas of the Enlightenment, converts all the effort of these monarchs into totally contradictory and enemy people of that same movement they approved.

In turn, this was what led to the end of this type of government. Because that enlightened bourgeoisie, who at first had fully supported this movement, became a staunch enemy of absolutism and planned the subsequent revolution ; through which it was sought to achieve the most important thing a society can want: freedom .