Absolutism vs. Democracy

Absolutism is a political theory and form of government where unlimited, complete power is held by a centralized sovereign individual, with no checks or balances from any other part of the nation or government. In effect, the ruling individual has ‘absolute’ power, with no legal, electoral or other challenges to that power. In practice, people argue about whether Europe saw any true absolutist governments, or how far certain governments were absolute, but the term has been applied to various leaders from the dictatorship of Czar Peter the Great to the rule of monarchs like Louis XIV of France.

This form of government differed from that of a democracy where the power is focused on the people. Depending on the type of absolutism and democracy in question, the two systems can be opposed to one another or can potentially parallel. An absolutist government and a democracy are two distinct and frequently opposed political systems. A democracy is a government where the people rule and have rights, whereas absolutism is a government with one ruler and the people have limited rights.

An absolutist government is that with descending power. Unlike the ascending power held by a modern democracy, absolutism filters power from the king to the people. In the case of Louis XIV and Czar Peter, power was thought to be given to them from god and to go against god is a sin. This can also be described as the divine right theory. In a democracy the people are treated as equals and are expected to behave as such.

This form of government expects all eligible citizens to participate in political votes either directly or indirectly through a representative. Absolute monarchs can make any laws and rules they want unlike democratic leaders who cannot act as independently because they must get approval for most things from congress and stay within the law.

Also, absolute monarchs are usually born into their position as opposed to democratic leaders who are elected into office. Although absolutism and democracy are viewed as opposing political systems, this is not necessarily the case. If there are no legal limits on the power of the people, democracy can become absolutist. On top of this, in both forms of government the absolute monarchs and democratic leaders act as the top representative of their country. Louis XIV and Czar Peter were the heads of their nations like President Obama is to our modern society.

As well as being the sole ruler of their countries both rulers in an absolutist government and a democracy are faced with making major decisions for their people and having advisors by their side to help them. Louis XIV and Peter the Great were always surrounded by their adversaries and court in order to help them rule over their people while the president has his cabinet and second in command, the vice president. And though the world looked/looks up to these men in tremendous ways they are still observed and commented on by the common people, as most, if not all great leaders are.

The Age of Absolutism in Europe was a result of generations of monarchs who centralized their power. Absolutism concentrated the power of government in the hands of a single individual. This form of government was very unlike our modern day form of democracy, which concentrates power in the hands of the people. Though these two forms of government have blatantly different aspects that make them up it is evident that they are not on a completely different spectrum of political order and for that reason alone can they be used as models for modern day society.