The concept of despotism refers to the abuse of power or force that an individual or a group exert against others in inferior conditions. The concept is used to refer to absolute authority, which is not limited by law.

Although it is generally understood that this is a concept with a negative connotation, this is not necessarily the case. In fact, on a historical level, despotism emerged and had a positive meaning for many years. Here are two examples:

*In the 17th century, the political notion of enlightened despotism arose, with absolute monarchies that decided to include the philosophical precepts of enlightenment. These monarchs tried to enrich the culture of their people through paternalistic practices, which is why they are known as benevolent despots.

*During the 18th century this type of government was maintained and the phrase “all for the people, but without the people” became popular. At this time, the reigns of Carlos III and José I were very famous.

In the era of despotism, as a form of monarchical government, other concepts emerged from it: despot or despotes (a Byzantine title that was granted in various empires and that gave character and importance to a person; it was similar to the title of “Lord”), despot (title born from the previous one and that arose from the Fourth Crusade to link certain lords with a certain land; “despot of Serbia”, for example).

Despotism and dictatorships

Today the term is used more in a negative sense; referring to certain types of governments that remain in power by instilling fear in citizens. Those who enjoy absolute power because there are no opponents or because those who try to rebel are suppressed by force. We are talking about non-democratic government organizations such as dictatorships, which are characterized by acting with extreme tyranny.

Some examples where this meaning of the term appears are: “The government has to put despotism aside or it will have to confront the people in the streets”, “The Asian leader once again displayed his despotism by signing a decree that prohibits the display of western films”, “The writer dedicated much of his youth to the fight against despotism”.

In colloquial speech, the adjective despot is used to characterize someone who has a certain power and who makes use of it regardless of the rights and needs of those around him. In this sense, a despot can be someone who wants something with great ambition and who has no problem stepping on whoever is necessary in order to achieve it; and takes advantage of his social or economic condition to do so.

For example: a person has a lot of money and wants to acquire some land to build a large mansion. The problem is that these lands have been donated by an organization for the State to build a school for disadvantaged children. The despot manages to dupe the State (by buying it with his money), seizes the land and builds his house. He acts with despotism because he abuses his economic power to get something, even if he has to harm others (the children, in this case) who cannot do anything to change the situation.

Currently everything linked to despotism has a negative charge. That is why it is usually an accusation pronounced by sectors opposed to governments that abuse their stay in power and promulgate measures in favor of their interests.


Despotism Guide