Talk:Enlightened absolutism

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I removed the Spielvogel quote because I felt that it was lacking the elaboration that would have been necessary in order to make it relevant. If someone wants to write more about the questioning of enlightened despotism's usefulness, possibly from a more interesting point of view than that of an introductory level textbook, feel free to put it back. I would like to further rework this article when I have more time (class starts in an hour? ACK!), but for now this will have to do. --User:anakolouthon

Should this page include mention of Cyrus II? --Vaergoth 01:54, 17 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Agreed, I added it.-- 04:43, 18 August 2005 (UTC)

I don't know where this should go but someone's vandalized this, could someone revert it to whatever's good? I have no idea how to do this, I just read Wikipedia, but this article is messed up...


Just to let people know I intend to do a fairly serious re-write and expansion of this article. As a start I've removed references to such figures as Alexander the Great and Cyrus II being Enlightened Absolutists. The point being that Enlightened monarchs are influenced by the Enlightenment since these figures are pre-Enlightenment describing them as Enlightened seems to be nonsensical! Jezze 15:17, 7 September 2005 (UTC)

"In order to be considered "enlightened", they must allow religious toleration, freedom of speech and press, and the right to hold private property. They must foster the arts, sciences, and educations. Above all, they must not be arbitrary in their rules; they must obey the laws and enforce them fairly for all subjects." This paragraph in particular is dodgy, particularly the must, very few Enlightened absolutists fully embraced any of these principles. Eg. Catherine the Great set up different courts for different social orders and engaged in the continuing persecution of 'old believers' but is still considered by most historians to be an Enlightened Absolutist. Jezze 15:54, 7 September 2005 (UTC)

  • I have done some more work and will continue when I have a greater amount of time! (Hopefully with sources). Jezze 02:57, 10 December 2005 (UTC)
  • "Above all, they must not be arbitrary in their rules; they must obey the laws and enforce them fairly for all subjects." What laws? (the previous editor seems to have ignored that enlightened absolutists are still absolutists, the law derives from them!) Fair enforcement? (Even non-absolutist regimes later in history do not enforce law fairly ((e.g. the Committee of Public Safety, during the French Revolution, or the Cavalier Parliament and many other British Parliaments)). I decided to get rid of this outright since it really doesn't reflect the nature of enlightened absolutism. I think it confused the article rather than helped. Jezze 08:08, 7 March 2006 (UTC)
You make excellent points, Jezze, and I'd love to see this article fleshed out. Perhaps you should have a section explaining why a leader such as Alexander the Great or any other dictator who was considered to have been good or provided a positive effect on his/her people was not considered an Enlightened Monarch. For instance, I know that colloquially I thought of the Five Good Emperors when I first came upon this article. Let me know if you'd like any help with this. Elijahmeeks 18:27, 7 March 2006 (UTC)
  • I think it's important to keep in mind that the term "enlightened despotism" is a very well established term in scholarly historical literature which refers not to some general transhistorical, universal idea about which we are free to speculate, but rather denotes a set of very specific discourses about the art of governance developed in 18th century Europe by intellectuals, bureaucrats, and rulers. I think that this article should keep as much as possible to a discussion of the relevant 18th century texts and events, as well as modern historical writing about the period. I'm not sure that making a list of "enlightened monarchs" is a very good idea for this article, as there is no set criteria that would certify a monarch as "enlightened". "Enlightened" is not a normative term that we can simply apply to these historical persons. The question is not "Was King X 'enlightened' or not?" but rather "How did King X respond and relate, in their pronouncements and actions, to the discussion that was going on in European society about the philosophy and practices of 'enlightened despotism'?"
    —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:50, 21 February 2010 (UTC) 
  • Some more trends this article should probably discuss. First, the changes that the idea of enlightened despotism underwent in response to the French Revolution. As I understand it, the idea of enlightened despotism originated before the Revolution as a discourse responding to (1) a rationalization of the power sharing between monarchs, hereditary aristocrats, and the ever growing political power of bourgeois classes; (2) Enlightenment political and religious philosophy, which in many ways can be seen as an effect of the previous, and (3) modernization, that is, the growth of modern industry and cities, which required the oversight of an ever more technocratic and bureaucratic state. Discourses of enlightened despotism actively responded to the French Revolution, using it as justification for why enlightened monarchy was preferable to democratic or bourgeois revolution. Second, it could be useful to discuss the diffusion of the ideology of enlightened despotism from Western Europe into Eastern Europe and the non-European world and the reasons for the persistence of the ideology in the latter well after the establishment of democratic republics in Western Europe had put an end to the practice of enlightened despotism there. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:10, 22 February 2010 (UTC)

"Modern" enlightened absolutists[edit]

Does it make sense to include someone as a "modern" enlightened absolutist? The term was coined to describe an evolution in the ideals of government following the Enlightenment, so I don't see why modern rulers would be described in these terms. Did they form their philosophy of rule after an extensive perusal of Enlightenment documents? Surely there is a better way of describing these rulers. —Vivacissamamente 19:53, 19 March 2006 (UTC)

I agree. At the very least, it needs a reference. I have removed the section until it can be provided. Dmcdevit·t 20:02, 19 March 2006 (UTC)
I have removed the section once again. Besides the lack of reference, the controversy section in the article on Lee Kuan Yew suggests the suppression of free speech under his leadership, which doesn't fit with this article as it is written currently. 02:11, 17 July 2007 (UTC)
Continuing in this vein, I have removed "Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan"(sic) from the list of Englightened Absolutists. One, Pakistan is not a unitary absolutist state, and two, the extent to which Pakistan's generalissimo governs based upon Age of Reason polity is very debatable.-- 16:31, 17 September 2007 (UTC)


How would one characterize monarchs of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth? They were practicing "enlightened" principles far before the monarchs mentioned below, and did not conduct the oppression manifested by some of the aforementioned monarchs. How does King Stanislaus Poniatowski fit in, in light of the May 3rd Constitution and its provisions? -~~

Not at all. The kings of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth cannot be considered absolute monarchs, because 1. they were forced to share power with the nobility and 2. they issued a constitution. Almost by definition, absolutist monarchs do not issue constitutions. Lockesdonkey 16:01, 27 May 2006 (UTC)
I'd also say that there are two problems with Pol-Lit Commonwealth. It was a fragmented nation, and it wasn't entirely sovereign nation at the time. (It is known, that its neighbors, most notably Russia, would force Polish Sejm to make internal decisions they desired). So, while there doubtlessly were notable supporters of Enlightenment in the Commonwealth, they never managed to actually implement any of the policies, nor overcome reactionary noble opposition or push the foreign powers out of the country's politics. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:52, 15 October 2013 (UTC)


User:Lockesdonkey you clearly know more than a fair bit on the topic! The only criticism I would have of the edits you've made is the issue of constitution... I don't know what country you're from but written consitutions are a distinctly USA/French invention ie. the American Constitution and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen. In fact before the French Revolution, in Europe it appears, to me at least, that most constitutions of nations are based on what would now be called "common law" in working British Common Law, based on traditional rights and privileges as they existed. In the context both Absolutist and Enlightened Absolutist monarchs are exercising their rights within the existing, unwritten, Constitutions of the nations they rule... (Jezze 05:13, 28 May 2006 (UTC))

Maria Theresa[edit]

Unless I am mistaken, Maria Theresa was not merely "of Austria," but Maria Theresa, Holy Roman Empress. As per the orders of the Pragmatic Sanction, the Hapsburgs decided to allow the crown to pass to Maria Theresa, daughter of the otherwise heirless Charles VI. In addition to ruling in her own right as empress, she also was co-ruler with her son Joseph II for 15 years (1765-1780). (Kagan, Donald. The Western Heritage, 8th ed. Upper Saddle River, N.J. : Prentice Hall, 2003. ISBN 0-13-182839-8) Xcountry99 23:01, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

Yes, she was Holy Roman Empress, but no, not in her own right. Women were ineligible for the position, which was neither hereditary among nor at the disposal of the House of Habsburg. The position was theoretically elective, chosen by the (usually) four Electors, the Empire's highest ranking hereditary princes, plus the three highest Catholic prince-bishops. Since the 1400s, they always voted to elect a Habsburg, but any nobleman, even from outside the Empire, was legally eligible. What Maria Theresa's father obtained for her in the Pragmatic Sanction, by bribes, war and cessions, was the right to inherit most of the dynasty's vast hereditary lands in 1740, i.e. the archduchy of Austria, the kingdoms of Hungary and Bohemia, most of northern Italy, Silesia, the Austrian Lowlands (Belgium), etc. The electors also voted to give the Imperial crown to her husband, Duke Francis of Lorraine (who had to exchange Lorraine for Tuscany, since France was unwilling to allow the Habsburgs to rule a duchy on its border -- the Medici grand dukes were about to die out in Florence, so Tuscany was simply handed over to Francis by the Great Powers), and upon his death, to her son, with whom she shared rule. But real Habsburg power lay in their hereditary realms, not in the largely empty title of Emperor, which meant that all the German and some other reigning princes within the Empire owed him allegiance de jure, but since the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, they were de facto independent -- and even had the right to wage war on the Emperor. Lethiere 00:50, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
Maria Theresa doesn't belong in this list anyway. She was a provincial bigot; the only reason she didn't cleanse Austria of Jews was because of her son's opposition to that project. All of the more liberal tendencies in her government come from him. 2804:7F7:DC80:A1E6:0:0:0:1 (talk) 06:04, 9 October 2016 (UTC)

Napoleon Bonaparte[edit]

Personally I'm uneasy with his inclusion as an Enlightened Absolutist. While he does draw many ideas indirectly from the Enlightenment this seems more to do with post-Revolution culture in France, rather than the Enlightenment itself. I personally would not consider him an Enlightened absolutist but the first modern one. Any thoughts? Jezze 04:20, 2 February 2007 (UTC)

do you have a scholar to agree with you? or is there none that agree that he is an "enlighten absolutist"? Rds865 (talk) 04:46, 17 April 2008 (UTC)


Should Kemal Ataturk be added to the list? Just based on a little bit I've read about him. (talk) 13:15, 13 May 2008 (UTC)


Like, hello people? Plato was the one of the first advocates of Enlightened despotism in his Republic. Gabr-el 06:32, 4 December 2008 (UTC)

Plato idea were of many men like thoughts of today no ego- exsplained i can be a bad speller with no shame simple... example his projected moralitys of child like thoughts were clean and simple PURISM PROTOCAL Thoughts for another not oneself,projected as a simple passing smile and enlightened knollage,passed as a gift from simple engaged confersation and recieved as a gift not a tool.. and understand lightning stimulas,explain, thoughts of day are connected buetiful white light mindism a forgotten concept,natures wanted biths of the connected moralistic programe from the undeluded complex simple freed purism.. explained nature non-sinthetic, not man made intervention mans self amplified realism is truley of non-exsistance its only a act play of a clusster on intersepted thought thought role an agreement ..playwriter for socieity the modern haliquines man made charactors like cards in the wind rotating round the joker and the queen polatitions empriors and so on..

roman times so it be said so it be written was sureley so it be thought so it be wrote so it shall be played in realism like today the nowed.

heaven is the body of earth the mind is the universe your quesions are your answers dont make it real the undiluded complex.simple pure morality programe are the key and your the lock. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:53, 3 April 2009 (UTC)

Benevolent dictatorship[edit]

As my recent deletion of this section, which has been tagged since November 2007, was reverted, I would like to ask what the purpose of that section in this article is? The "characteristics" mentioned are only sourced with a news article about a specific case of one dictator that happens to be described as "Benevolent" by the journalist. It constitutes original research to make conclusions about this single case to "benevolent dictators" in general. The other source is Google Answers, where a person has listed his own homemade list of what he considers "benevolent dictators". I have not found a discussion concerning "Google Answers" in the archives of the Wikipedia:Reliable sources/Noticeboard, but considering it was generally just a forum, I think it does not constitute a reliable source. As Wikipedia has the policy that unsourced, irrelevant and largely erronous information should be removed, I fail to see what keeps this section in this article (or in Wikipedia at all).--Saddhiyama (talk) 19:57, 8 April 2009 (UTC)

I'd like anyone who questions whether or not "enlightened absolutism" should contain a section on "benevolent dictatorship" to go to google books and enter: enlightened absolutism benevolent dictatorship ; into the search bar and read at least the first few pages of references that come up. More than a few scholars relate the two, and a few demonstrate a direct connection. Of course, as a good wikipedian I should incorporate a vigorous citation effort into my defense, but I don't have time -- the section that was removed and returned doesn't conflict with standing academic opinion, and unless you can find a great deal of dissent over this connection which would usurp those arguments and observations of the academics who presently incorporate some benevolent dictatorships into the realm of enlightened absolutism, there is no reason that section should have been removed or should be removed. I mean, if you personally feel the two aren't connected and yet you accept the cited and referenced approach of Wikipedia to collecting knowledge of the world, all you had to do was google the two terms together. That's it. Scroll and read. If there existed a stalwart objection to the two being placed within the sphere of each other, that, too, could be found, which it isn't. Seriously. Anyone. Anyone at all who wants to spend time arguing about this. Just go to a library. Do a web search. Use an index of a scholarly journal. Anything. Just please don't make me waste my time. TeamZissou (talk) 17:01, 9 April 2009 (UTC)
No, actually I'll make it absurdly easy for you:

[1] [2] [3] [4] Now, all you have to do Saddihiyama is to read and click "next" on the bottom of each page. Maybe you would even want to click into some articles and weigh their value -- some are valuable and credible as sources worth citing, while others are not. Pretty neat, isn't it? How the same internet that connects to Wikipedia can be so readily used to access information with which to build or challenge information presently on Wikipedia? It's amazing! TeamZissou (talk) 18:05, 9 April 2009 (UTC)

Nice googling, but it does not in any way answer my original question. What is the "benevolent dictatorship" section doing in the enlightened absolutism article? What is the reason of trying to fit these two terms together into one article? None of the links you provide presents a scholarly theory that says enlightened absolutism = benevolent dictatorship (in the way that "benevoletn dictatorship" is presented in the text in this article). You could do a google search on "enlightened absolutism" and "republic", or just indeed another other word, and you would find those used together in the same book. It does not in any way support your claim that "it fits". The historiography of the term "enlightened absolutism" (or sometimes "enlightened despotism") is that is was used by historians to describe what they saw as "a form of personal rule tempered by awareness of public consensus around a programme of enlightened reform" (Thomas Munck, The Enlightenment - A comparative social history 1721-1794, p. 18). This concept was used by historians to label certain monarchs across (as well as outside) Europe within a certain timespan, roughly the era of enlightenment. This theory of enlightened absolutism has been questioned in recent years by other historians of the era, both in regards to the degree of enlightenment these rulers implemented, as well as regarding the degree of absolutism of their rule. Despite such criticism it is still a viable theory that warrants this article. The standard work on the this is H.M. Scotts book which is referenced in the article, but it does in no way cover the section of "benevolent dictatorship". Now, so far you have still to provide any connection between the term "benevolent dictatorship" as described in the article as "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" including such a wide variety of rulers as Pinochet, Mao, Musharraf, Franco etc, and the term "enlightened absolutism" as used by the historians quoted by Scott (and Munck). That is why I ask on what grounds this section is included, as well as the academic theories that it is based on. And apparently all that you can come up with is some condescending answer. I was not aware that the policy on Wikipedia, when unreferenced material is questioned, was to tell the reader to do a search on Google for sources, I though the policy was that the ones defending the claims should provide the relevant references. Especially so when the results of such googling is far from impressive. As far as I know the standing policy is to delete such material after a certain period of time has passed, and I think that 1½ years can be said to be enough time for someone to have come up with verifiable sources. --Saddhiyama (talk) 19:03, 9 April 2009 (UTC)

Despite TeamZissous most recent (and very eloquent) defense of this section, I still have not seen any sources that backs up the claim that these two concepts are the same. It being holidays and all I am giving him or any other editor a week to provide the section with such sources. In the event that this will not happen I propose to move the benevolent dictatorship section to benevolent dictatorship (which currently is a redirect) and add a "See also" to each article in both articles. I will provide some extra sources for the enlightened absolutism section within a week as well, hopefully making the concept and its historiography a little clearer. --Saddhiyama (talk) 18:48, 10 April 2009 (UTC)

Section has been moved to benevolent dictatorship. --Saddhiyama (talk) 14:50, 17 April 2009 (UTC)

joseph II[edit]

I found a mistake. my school webstie, as well as many other websites, say that joseph II said the quote "everything for the people, nothing by the people", but wikipedia says it is Johann Heinrich Gottlob Justi (1717-1771). that is wrong. i even asked my history teacher, and she says it is wrong too.Mschooler93 (talk) 19:28, 16 June 2011 (UTC)

With all due respect neither the homepage of your school or the testimony of your teacher qualifies as reliable sources for this according to Wikipedia policy. However I checked the cited source currently in the article, and it seems that Peter Wilson in the book Absolutism in Central Europe refers to Reinhold Kosers article "Die Epochen der absoluten Monarchie in der neueren Geschichte" in Historische Zeitschrift, 1889, vol. 61, part. 2. This article does mention the phrase (in German "Alles für das Volk, [...] Nichts durch das Volks", p. 285) but does not mention Justi at all (in fact the otherwise usually meticulous and strict Prussian historian and archivist has completely neglected to provide a citation for this particular quote in his article!).
Since I have not found any other source that credits this quote to Justi I am going to remove the claim and the citation. However I am also having trouble finding a reliable source that attributes it to Joseph II, even the German Wikipedia is unsourced in that regard, so I think it best to leave it out altogether until someone comes up with a proper citation for this. --Saddhiyama (talk) 20:18, 16 June 2011 (UTC)

Essay by Frederick the Great[edit]

I changed what is purported to be the title of an essay by Frederick the Great from "Benevolent despotism" to "Enlightened absolutism". Frederick wrote no work with "despotism" (or "despotisme" in French) in the title. See the bibliography of his works here. The source given is a collection of sources (The Portable Enlightenment Reader), and the title given in the index of that book is not necessarily the title of the original texts, as can be seen from numerous other examples in the index, but a title given by the editor Isaac Kramnick to a snippet of text taken from a letter or another work. As such it would be a misrepresentation of the source to claim he wrote an essay with that title. Also, to claim Frederick the Great would have defended a term called "enlightened despotism" is quite ludicrous, as "despotism" was a term of derision at the time in Western society. He would of course gladly have defended "absolutismus". --Saddhiyama (talk) 21:33, 15 November 2011 (UTC)

Requested speedy/move[edit]

Hi folks, there was a request for speedy deletion of the redirect on Enlightened despotism to make way for a move, because seeing the above discussion, it doesn't seem uncontroversial. Feel free to re-request if I'm mistaken. Martijn Hoekstra (talk) 19:37, 16 September 2013 (UTC)

Enlightened despotism had almost 2x google books hits and the same google search hits, while many of Enlightened absolutism results are mirrors of this page. And most of others wikis refers to it as despotism. Izraías (talk) 10:48, 18 September 2013 (UTC)
You were not mistaken, Martijn Hoekstra. A move of this article certainly requires a formal move request posted on this page with some more substantial arguments than dubious "google books hits" and WP:OTHERSTUFF arguments. --Saddhiyama (talk) 11:09, 18 September 2013 (UTC)

Antony Prashanth Gracian Gnanasooriyam[edit]

Proposed merge with Enlightened despotism[edit]

The subjects are exactly the same. The lead for Enlightened absolutism even lists "enlightened despotism" as a synonym in the lead. These two articles seem to have developed independently. Merge.  — Mr. Guye (talk) (contribs)  02:41, 6 July 2017 (UTC)

Agree per nomination. 03:25, 6 July 2017 (UTC)