Dans son Traité théologico-politique, Spinoza écrit que « la fin de l’État est en réalité l’Absolutisme PDF liberté ». La pensée politique de Spinoza s’inscrit dans la postérité de la théorie de Hobbes, qui fonde l’État sur un pacte, c’est-à-dire une institution volontaire.
Hobbes opposait explicitement sa propre doctrine au naturalisme aristotélicien. Souveraineté de l’Etat ou souveraineté du peuple ? Apogée du contrat ou fin du contrat ? European absolute monarchs during the 18th and 19th centuries who were influenced by the ideas of the Enlightenment, espousing them to enhance their power. An enlightened despot is a non-democratic or authoritarian leader who exercises their political power for the benefit of the people, rather than exclusively for themselves or elites. Enlightened despots distinguished themselves from ordinary despots by claiming to rule for their subjects’ well-being. They may focus government priorities on healthcare, education, nonviolent population control, or physical infrastructure.
Enlightened despots’ beliefs about royal power were typically similar to those of regular despots, both believing that they were destined to rule. Enlightened rulers may have played a part in the abolition of serfdom in Europe. The enlightened despot Emperor Joseph II of Austria summarized, « Everything for the people, nothing by the people ». Enlightened absolutism is the theme of an essay by Frederick the Great, who ruled Prussia from 1740 to 1786, defending this system of government.
Enlightened absolutists held that royal power emanated not from divine right but from a social contract whereby a despot was entrusted with the power to govern through a social contract in lieu of any other governments. The monarchs of enlightened absolutism strengthened their authority by improving the lives of their subjects. The difference between an absolutist and an enlightened absolutist is based on a broad analysis of the degree to which they embraced the Age of Enlightenment. Historians debate the actual implementation of enlightened absolutism. They distinguish between the « enlightenment » of the ruler personally, versus that of his or her regime. The concept of enlightened absolutism was formally described by the German historian Wilhelm Roscher in 1847 and remains controversial among scholars.