Absolutism is the theory or practice of absolute government. Government is ‘absolute’ in the sense that it possesses unfettered power: government cannot be constrained by a body external to itself. The most prominent manifestation of absolute government is the absolute monarchy. However, there is no necessary connection between monarchy and absolute government. Unfettered power can be placed in the hands of the monarch, but it can also be vested in a collective body such as the supreme legislature. Absolutism nevertheless differs from modern versions of dictatorship, notably totalitarianism. Whereas absolutist regimes aspire to a monopoly of political power, usually achieved by excluding the masses from politics, totalitarianism involves the establishment of ‘total power’ through the politicization of every aspect of social and personal existence. Absolutism thus differs significantly from, for example, fascism.
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