Dictatorship vs Absolute Monarchy?

Sep 2013
1,493
United States
Is it fair to say that the two are basically the same positions? In regards to their power? I know a monarch most of the time inherits. I'm focusing on the power aspect.

Or is the difference more of the connotations? Dictatorships, especially modern ones seem to be looked at in a negative light, whereas there is at least acknowledgement with monarchies that there can be good absolute rulers. Thoughts?
 

Tuthmosis III

Ad Honorem
Oct 2011
3,738
the middle ground
"One man rule" is never truly rule by a single individual of course, but the principle is the same. Officially there is no checking mechanism for the executive, however "good" or "bad" s/he is. To me, it seems the real difference between the absolute monarch and the modern dictator is that the former could only run the state at the speed of a horse.
 
Sep 2013
1,493
United States
"One man rule" is never truly rule by a single individual of course, but the principle is the same. Officially there is no checking mechanism for the executive, however "good" or "bad" s/he is. To me, it seems the real difference between the absolute monarch and the modern dictator is that the former could only run the state at the speed of a horse.
Good point. 20th and 21st century dictators had industrialization that allowed them to move that much more quickly.
 
Mar 2014
8,881
Canterbury
The gulf of speed of communication and travel is a fundamental difference that changes the nature and prospects of the state, so on that basis modern dictatorships and old-timey absolute monarchies are very dissimilar.

Plus, absolute monarchies normally developed an ethos that dictatorships don't tend to last long enough to create. They're resting on firmer social, cultural, and institutional foundations, and become embedded in something a little mystical that goes beyond their physical existence. Modern dictatorships are much more on-the-nose and practical about what they are, openly using armed force rather than privilege as their primary tool and cults of personality rather than cults of pomp to project their authority.
 
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kazeuma

Ad Honorem
Jun 2012
2,397
Most dictatorships are backed by the military in some form or fashion. But Absolute monarchs do not always have the backing of the military - it was army officers in league with the Duma that forced the last absolute monarch in Europe Nicholas the Second to abdicate. Most dictators do not see themselves as enlightened autocrats, but most absolute monarchs do - of course there are exceptions with Caesar and Napoleon who considered themselves both dictators and enlightened autocrats. The rule of one man is not always bad, but it is not always good either and when he dies -- then what - the usual rote is "the next boss is just as bad as his predecessor and most often worse" or "you might be the world's most benevolent dictator in the world, but the dictator after you might not be so benevolent".
 
Sep 2013
1,493
United States
The gulf of speed of communication and travel is a fundamental difference that changes the nature and prospects of the state, so on that basis modern dictatorships and old-timey absolute monarchies are very dissimilar.

Plus, absolute monarchies normally developed an ethos that dictatorships don't tend to last long enough to create. They're resting on firmer social, cultural, and institutional foundations, and become embedded in something a little mystical that goes beyond their physical existence. Modern dictatorships are much more on-the-nose and practical about what they are, openly using armed force rather than privilege as their primary tool and cults of personality rather than cults of pomp to project their authority.
Agreed, though I think countries such as North Koreo where there is a dictatorship seems to have privilege at play as well, seeing as the last three dictators are from the same family.

As for cults of personality, couldn't it be said that some monarchs had this at their disposal? Take Louis XIV of France for example.
 
Mar 2014
8,881
Canterbury
Agreed, though I think countries such as North Koreo where there is a dictatorship seems to have privilege at play as well, seeing as the last three dictators are from the same family
Ah, I meant privilege as a form of reward. As in, someone does a service for the monarch, they get greater legal right to do what they want, expressed through a title or a position or certain types of immunity. I'm borrowing from Montesquieu, who saw this as the bread-and-butter of monarchy. In modern dictatorships it's there, but the coercive element is more apparent: the major privilege is to not be shot as an enemy of the state, and other privileges for service are a bonus not an expectation (and often extra-legal or corrupt, under the regime's own laws).

As for cults of personality, couldn't it be said that some monarchs had this at their disposal? Take Louis XIV of France for example
They certainly did, though all-pervasive formality and pomp aimed at court was a much bigger source of authority and gravitas than it is in later dictatorships, which use cults of personality aimed at the populace more extensively.
 
Sep 2013
1,493
United States
Ah, I meant privilege as a form of reward. As in, someone does a service for the monarch, they get greater legal right to do what they want, expressed through a title or a position or certain types of immunity. I'm borrowing from Montesquieu, who saw this as the bread-and-butter of monarchy. In modern dictatorships it's there, but the coercive element is more apparent: the major privilege is to not be shot as an enemy of the state, and other privileges for service are a bonus not an expectation (and often extra-legal or corrupt, under the regime's own laws).

They certainly did, though all-pervasive formality and pomp aimed at court was a much bigger source of authority and gravitas than it is in later dictatorships, which use cults of personality aimed at the populace more extensively.
I see, well then now I understand what you mean in regards to privilege and I agree.
 

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,243
Italy, Lago Maggiore
Functionally an absolute monarch is equal to a dictator. May be we can note a difference when the dictator cohabits with a monarch.

The Italian case [Fascism] is a good example of this "mix". From an institutional viewpoint the dictatorial regime didn't touch the Monarchy. In fact in Italy the Monarchy was just an institutional organism [the crown didn't rule actually], so that to leave it to represent the State wasn't a problem for the "Duce".

[Franco in Spain did something different, just to underline that such a choice is connected with the nature of the dictatorship and with the relationships of its establishment with the Monarchy. But we should remind that France got the power after an other dictatorship, a Republican period and a bloody civil war].

So we could infer that a dictator is a more "essential", pragmatic power. The dictator can leave to institutional figures [like a King, or even like a President of the Republic without powers ... Hitler preferred not to have a President of the Republic during his regime, but technically the office was vacant] the management of the base functions of the state, just for a matter of form. That's not the power.

On the other hand, an absolute monarch concentrates in his person also the highest institutional formal offices of the State.
 
Nov 2015
45
Los Angeles
I agree, functionally they are the same. But their legitimacy/status comes from different sources. Monarchy of every kind is a sort of a mandate of heaven, and usually enjoys a wide-spread population support.
Dictatorship derives from use of power and population compliance. That's why it is much easier socially to remove a dictator and establish some other form of government, but you need great social changes to remove the monarchy.