Certain forms of political organization have a totalitarian character: tyranny, absolutism, fascism and communism, among others. During the 18th century, some European monarchies went through history with a name: illustrated despotism. The term despotism is used synonymously with absolutism and the concept illustrated due to the period of the Enlightenment which was the movement of intellectual renewal that spurred a series of social and political changes. Illustrated Despotism
There are several monarchies that applied the Illustrated Despotism concept: Austria, Russia, Spain, Prussia and France
The old regime of the previous period was surpassed by the illustrated ideals. Science and knowledge positioned themselves independently of spiritual criteria and this circumstance gave rise to a series of thinkers who promoted a renewal in education , in the administration of the state and in the field of social values. For this reason, the 18th century was known as the century of lights. Among the Enlightenment men, Voltaire, Rousseau, Montesquieu and Jovellanos stand out. Illustrated Despotism
Some monarchs welcomed the enlightened spirit and carried out some legislative reforms, as well as a strengthening of the culture. Overall, there has been an improvement in public administration, fiscal reforms, limited church power and the development of public institutions such as the Royal Spanish Academy. However, there were no social changes. The people were not benefited and society was divided: the majority of the population remained submissive, without democracy, freedom and rights, in parallel, the elites spread knowledge in all orders. Illustrated Despotism
The government teamed up with intellectuals, artists and lawyers who were receptive to applying the changes
In fact, some of them were Enlightenmentists (Catarina II of Russia and Charles III of Spain). Historians classified these monarchs as benevolent dictators because they had absolute power, but exercised it with moderation and respect.
This contradiction was evident in the motto of Illustrated Despotism: “All for the people, but without the people”. This idea contemplates the spirit of this historical period and this phrase serves to describe the attitude of some rulers who had good intentions towards citizens and, at the same time, wanted the citizens to have a submissive and non-participatory attitude.