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Despots and Dollars. The Impact of the Enlightenment on Politics and Economics. Politics and the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment was more about social criticism than actual social change Many new political theories were thought of and intellectually explored in the works of the Philosophes

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despots and dollars

Despots and Dollars

The Impact of the Enlightenment on Politics and Economics

politics and the enlightenment
Politics and the Enlightenment
  • The Enlightenment was more about social criticism than actual social change
  • Many new political theories were thought of and intellectually explored in the works of the Philosophes
  • However, none wee implemented in the real world
  • But, one interesting political development did take place
  • The concept of the “Enlightened Despot”
enlightened despotism
Enlightened Despotism
  • This is a Monarch (King, Queen, Prince etc.) who declared themselves “Enlightened.”
  • They would read the ideas of the Philospohes and use these ideas to improve the situation of their country and people
  • An enlightened despot would serve the people and be logical and practical in the creation and implementation of Policy
  • All these despots courted intellectuals, initiated reform and reduced the influence of religion
  • They thought of themselves as wise Philosopher-Kings that were advancing culture, protecting society and creating a better state.
fredrick the great
Fredrick the Great
  • There are 3 main examples of Enlightened despots: - Catherine II of Russia (or Catherine the Great) - Joseph II and his mother Maria Theresa (Austria) - Fredrick II of Prussia (or Fredrick the Great)
  • Fredrick is the greatest example
  • He was a poet, author, philosopher and musician
  • He became close friends with Voltaire
  • He vastly increased the power and influence of Prussia in Europe
the reality of enlightened despots
The reality of Enlightened Despots
  • They did some positive things (more religious toleration, economic reform, agricultural advancements)
  • However, these despots were unwilling to give any power to the people
  • They were ultimately self-interested and most would disregard enlightened thought when it did not suit them
  • Fredrick talked peace and reform but built an army 3 times bigger than his predecessor, fought unnecessary wars and often disregarded his own treaties
  • Being enlightened was “Fashionable” and that is really what enlightened despotism was all about – the appearance of being enlightened
  • Voltaire eventually abandoned Fredrick as a friend
  • Again, as typical with the Enlightenment, it was all talk and little action
economic theory
Economic Theory
  • Mercantilism became a vast burden on the people who colonized the new world
  • They resented working only to improve the wealth and power of the mother country
  • Many sought economic freedom as badly as they sought personal freedom
  • The theory of Mercantilism was challenged economists Quesnay and Turgot – they worked to develop a science of Economics and Laws of Economic behavior
  • It was Turgot that coined the Phrase “Laissez-Farie, Laissez-Passer” - Allow them to do, Allow them to pass
the wealth of nations
The Wealth of Nations
  • Adam Smith wrote the ‘Wealth of Nations,” the most influential work on the development of modern economic theory
  • He is considered the father of Economics
  • He claimed that wealth was not fixed.
  • Rather, it was based on labour and trade
  • He encouraged competition
  • He stated that the economy was naturally self-regulating according to the laws of supply and demand (The concept of free markets)
  • Mutual Self-Interest guided and preserved the system (The concept of the Invisible hand)
  • The entire system of capitalism is built on Adam Smith’s theories
the impact of smith
The Impact of Smith
  • The western world is powered by Smith’s ideas – his importance cannot be overstated
  • He was also a major contributor to future revolutions as people strived to control the economic lives as well as their personal lives
  • Money is power . . . If you can control your own wealth, then you are truly free.
  • Smith might be the most important philosophe of all
  • The Enlightenment had effects on politics and economics
  • Enlightened despots tried to model the philosophies of the age – however, it was more for show, few real changes took place
  • New concepts of economics were developed and mercantilism was openly challenged
  • Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations lay the foundations of modern Capitalism (free markets, open competition, mutual self interest & supply and demand)