Enlightened Absolutism Analysis

Topics: Age of Enlightenment / Pages: 7 (1508 words) / Published: Apr 14th, 2016
Enlightened absolutism was not a contemporary term to the European rulers it now describes. Consequently, interpretations of enlightened absolutists vary and are dependent on the time of analysis. The term was developed in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and since then its interpretation has evolved. The idea of enlightened absolutism, however, was observed and the principles were familiar in the second half of the eighteenth century among certain rulers. At first, the term was only applied to German speaking lands, but has since expanded geographically and to include French and Italian Enlightenment philosophy as well as German cameralism in its influences. The perceived benefits and faults of this style of ruling have transformed …show more content…
There certainly are factors of her policies and the general progress of Russia that negate the idea of her as an enlightened, rational, and caring monarch, but these negatives become understandable when viewed in context. Fundamentally, Catherine the Great ruled with the principles of the Enlightenment in mind and fulfills the basic definition of enlightened absolutism, at least in intention. However, she was not completely successful in execution. This nonetheless does not ruin her reputation as an enlightened absolutist and rather makes her more typical of her contemporaries. Catherine II’s policies and government endeavoured to improve the lives of Russians, believing this would further solidify her power. In essence, this is the guiding principle of enlightened absolutism and thusly Catherine II of Russia clearly solidifies herself as an enlightened absolutist. Her Russia was more liberal and enlightened than ever before, and arguably ever since. Her failures to follow enlightenment principles fully can be explained by a traditional outlook on foreign policy, advisors’ resistance to such radical ideas, and a fear of losing power. Above all, Catherine the Great was personally extremely “enlightened” given the historical context of her reign and this reflects itself in her earlier actions as empress and in her …show more content…
When Catherine II came to power, there were no institutional limits on the power of the ruler, no intermediate bodies as seen in the rest of Europe. Russia’s society was highly regulated and restrictive, while its government was lacking and negligent. The idea of a free citizen did not exist. With the second highest population in Europe, Russia was made up of millions of peasants and a small minority of nobility. Even the nobility was owned, in a sense, by the state. Until 1762, nobles were bound to serve the state in either the military or in civil service for twenty-five years or more. There was also a class of townsmen, registered in their town, collectively responsible for a series of unpaid tasks and the collection of a tax. The social institutions of Russia were extremely deep rooted and dissimilar to those in Western Europe; Catherine’s reforms to social structure would have to combat this severe system in a way other rulers would not need. It would be impossible to reform government because the structure of Russia was not able to handle internal administration as is. There were no established corporate structures, no noble assemblies, and no urban corporations, to which internal administration could be trusted. Catherine’s reforms began with organising and giving legal form and rights to

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