despotism


Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Legal, Financial, Wikipedia.
Related to despotism: Oriental despotism

despotism,

government by an absolute ruler unchecked by effective constitutional limits to his power. In Greek usage, a despot was ruler of a household and master of its slaves. The title was applied to gods and, by derivation, to the quasi-divine rulers of the Middle East. In the Byzantine Empire, despot was a title of honor of the emperors and their relatives and of vassal princes of the tributary states and dignitaries of the Eastern Church. The Ottoman Empire perpetuated the term as applied to church officials and territorial princes. The 18th-century doctrine of the Enlightenment influenced such absolutist rulers as Frederick the Great of Prussia, Catherine II of Russia, and Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II toward a rule of beneficent intent known as benevolent despotism. However, despot is now a term of opprobrium.

Bibliography

See L. Krieger, ed., An Essay on the Theory of Enlightened Despotism (1975); K. A. Wittfogel, Oriental Despotism: A Comparative Study of Total Power (1981); F. J. Maitland, The Theory of Despotism in Germany (1988).

despotism

see ORIENTAL DESPOTISM.

Despotism

 

a form of government and administration in which an autocratic ruler exercises unlimited power, treating his subjects as if he were their master and lord. Classic despotic governments existed in antiquity in the Near and Far East (for example, Assyria, Babylon, Egypt, India, Iran, and China), where the basic power to dispose of land and the main means of production was concentrated in the hands of a central governmental power. Engels observed that “in the period when the commune works the land collectively or allows individual families to use the land only temporarily and where private ownership of the land has not yet developed, state power takes the form of despotism” (K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 19, p. 497). Examples of feudal despots include the caliph of Baghdad (eighth through ninth centuries), the Great Moguls in India (16th-17th centuries), and the rulers of the Ottoman Empire (14th-16th centuries).

In the history of political thought the concept of despotism as a special form of rule was first proposed by Aristotle. Later , the concept was used by progressive critics of absolute and autocratic rule, unlimited monarchy, and elitist totalitarian states. Marx wrote: “The only principle of despotism is contempt for man and dehumanization of man” (ibid., vol. 1, p. 374).

V. S. NERSESIANTS

despotism

the rule of a despot; arbitrary, absolute, or tyrannical government
References in periodicals archive ?
American politicians should realize that these revolutions are against Western support of despotism, occupation, corruption and submission to foreign dictates.
Moreover, the heart of the Montesquieu volume, entitled "The Modern Republic Explored," is simply reprinted (slightly condensed and retitled "The Modern Republic Examined") to form the first section of Soft Despotism.
Robertson approvingly quotes Orwell, but misses a more instructive passage where Orwell notes that "empire is a despotism--benevolent, no doubt, but still a despotism with theft as its final object.
Contemplate the number of states that vacillate between anarchy and despotism.
Herman Melville used Islamicist conventions to "infidelize the moral majority of his age, and perhaps, even allude to the despotism of his country," ridicule the Protestant work ethic, and expose the self-deceptive tenets of western "snivelization.
While cultural elites were modernizing, opening themselves to the world, renewing themselves by constant intercourse with the great intellectual and cultural centers of contemporary life, Latin American politics, with very few exceptions, remained anchored to an authoritarian past of caudillos and cliques who practiced despotism, looted public funds, and kept economic life frozen in feudalism and mercantilism.
Putin is grasping on to power with as much zeal as the old Tsars of Russia and the whole nation seems to be going back to the days of totalitarianism and despotism.
forces could be any "tougher in this part of the world" without replacing the despotism they claim to have defeated.
AND, IT WAS THIS UNITED COUNTRY THAT TWICE SAVED EUROPE FROM DESPOTISM IN THE 20TH CENTURY.
In part the book follows the lead given by the 1795 book, The Spirit of Despotism, a radical attack on the war and a demand for reform.
As Jefferson, the first Democrat, and the first democrat, once explained: "An elective despotism was not the government we fought for; but one which should not only be founded on free principles, but in which the powers of government should be so divided and balanced among general bodies of magistracy, as that no one could transcend their legal limits, without being effectually checked and restrained by the others.
Another prospect is a return to tyrannical despotism.