Global rise in neo-absolutism and the challenges it brings along


In the 16th Century Europe which was emerging from feudalism after capturing Alhambra in Granada in 1492 and expelling the Muslims from the Iberian Peninsula, the Europeans embarked on three things.

 The first was to contrive amnesia in order erase the past and to manufacture new identities of white superiority over other humans. This organised ‘forgetfulness’ explains the ‘Inquisition’, forced conformity, and attempted destruction of unpleasant knowledge through the defiguring of ‘Mosques’ and burning of books.

The second was to heighten imperial competition for grabbing overseas land. They subjected people into assorted forms of slavery in the guise of civilisation and elimination of ‘savagery’ through savage behaviour on conquered imperial victims. Third, leaders in emerging states made efforts to consolidate power in what evolved as competing ‘nation-states’. Within a nation-state, the governing principle was that of absolutism in which the ruler/king/queen, called the sovereign, was unquestionable.

The logic of absolutism was that unquestionability was necessary for the stability of ‘nation-states’ that were barely emerging from feudalism and presumed ‘Christendom’ with the ‘Pope’ as the absolute head of a quasi-political and spiritual entity. That emergence went hand in hand with the destruction of ‘Christendom’, called the Reformation, which had culturally and spiritually held the Europeans together as the only source of common identity. The destruction of ‘Christendom’ was thus necessary for the creation of absolutist nation states which also competed for looting wealth outside Europe.

Competing to loot and to dehumanise people outside Europe led to rudimentary international law. While they respected the sovereignty of the ‘sovereigns’ in particular nation-states to be absolutist, they repeatedly fought wars over who had sovereignty outside Europe. Since each was ‘sovereign’ within itself and free to operate freely in the high seas, they reached agreements on looting outside Europe which became the basis of what developed into ‘international law’ without affecting the needed sovereignty of individual nation-state.  

While absolutism in a state, with all the associated atrocities on the subjects, was accepted in the name of sovereignty, it still needed justifications that hinged on order and ‘stability’. Two justifications for absolutism stand out. First was Thomas Hobbes ‘necessity’ or survival argument requiring a society to have strong unquestioned ruler. People come together in a covenant, Hobbes claimed in the Leviathan, and surrender power to a strong ruler to avoid wars and self-destruction. A different argument for the same absolutism came from French Bishop Jacques Benigne Bossuet who claimed that God wanted kings to have absolute power as he promoted the divine rights of king doctrine. The subjects, he claimed had to obey the king even if he was cruel. The only option available was to remonstrate and pray to God to change the ‘king’s’ heart to stop being cruel.

The enlightenment concept that replaced absolutism in the West was a self-contradiction in theory and practice. While it trashed absolutism through political revolutions in America, France and Haiti, it remained in the minds of such ‘enlightenment’ champions as John Locke and Emmanuel Kant who liked applying racial absolutism on Africans through slavery and colonial states. In the colonial states, administrators were virtual sovereigns in their little ‘kingdoms’. Anti-colonialism challenged colonial absolutism after which post-colonialism deteriorated into neo-colonialism and contrived deep dependency. It encouraged neo-absolutism, a post-enlightenment yearning for governance unquestionability.

There is a rise of neo-absolutism worldwide. Those with tyrannical desires try to gain unquestionability and confuse positions with competence. They virtually downgrade people from being ‘citizens’ into becoming ‘subjects’ to be ruled and exploited. They assume unlimited power to do anything to ‘subjects’ and waste state resources with extravagant expenditures for families and cronies. To pay for their extravagance, they overburden people with questionable taxes. Leaders lose common sense and ignore looming chaos in their self-assurance as prompted by sycophantic cronies. Plunging their states into likely neo-absolutism, they court revolutionary disaster.

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