Political power is often ideas on
government and society that
have captured the minds of a
culture, or at least a certain
section of one.
Ideologies such as
Communism have influenced nations, started wars, and
attempted to dominate the world. Political power is also
military force, or more correctly put, the will to use such
force. Leaders and their nations have since the beginning
of history attempted to subjugate others with their way of
thinking. While political power has shifted to different
places, classes, and ideologies, it is still the thing that
makes the world go around.
Absolutism is the complete centralization of
power into the hands of one leader.
These leaders have few, if any restraints
on what they can do within their borders. Absolutism
appears in various places throughout history, most notably in
Akbar the Great in the 16th
century, Spain under Charles V and
Philip II also in the 16th century, France
Louis XIV in the 17th century, and in
Peter the Great in the
late 17th - early 18th centuries. These leaders exercised
complete control over all aspects of their populations lives.
Reaction to this form of government was often violent, many
times resulting in
revolutions seeking greater political,
social, and economic freedoms.
The Enlightenment developed as an extension
Scientific Revolution. During
the Scientific Revolution, Europeans discarded
traditional beliefs and began using reason to
explain the world around them. While the
Scientific Revolution focused on the physical world, the
Enlightenment attempted to explain the purpose of
government, and describe the best form of it.
The most influential Enlightenment thinkers were
de Montesquieu, and
Jean Jacques Rousseau.
The writings of these men has had a tremendous impact on the way
government works. Most
democratic nations today can
their ideological origins to the Enlightenment. Political
thought in this case is power, in that it changed the behavior
Enlightenment ideas also helped to stimulate people's sense
of individualism, and the basic belief in equal
rights. This in turn led to the
Revolution is Britain, the
French Revolution, and the
Latin American Revolutions. Some of these
revolutions resulted in government based upon the ideas
of the Enlightenment.
Elsewhere, a few monarchs
retained absolute control of their countries while also
enacting reform based on Enlightenment ideas.
These monarchs are called
Maria Teresa and her
Joseph II both introduced reforms
based on Enlightenment ideas. They reduced the tax
load on the peasants, provided free education,
censorship in their empire. In Russia,
Catherine the Great introduced
similar reforms. She enacted laws for religious
toleration and free education, and
also sought the advice of nobles and peasants in the
running of government. However, these reforms seldom
outlived the monarchs who had enacted them.
Karl Marx was a German socialist during
the 19th century who co wrote a book with
another German socialist by the name of
Friedrich Engels. The book was called
Communist Manifesto, and put forth the new
political ideology of
scientific socialism, commonly referred to
as communism. Marx and Engels believed
their theory to be based on scientific principals and
the study of history. They state that human life
has consisted of a struggle between the people who
have economic wealth, and those who do not. The
people who have, called the
always in power and use the "have nots", called the
proletariat, to stay there. Marx and Engels
capitalism would make the
proletariat poorer, which would result in a
revolution. They predicted an end to
capitalism and the creation of a classless society where
all had what they needed.
occurred throughout as a result of this ideology. Most
notably, Russia and China became communist states
replacing long standing monarchies. However, communism did
not developed as Marx and Engels predicted. Instead, most
communist countries develop into
with a small, elite class of people running everything.
Fascism is totalitarian rule that is
nationalistic, and anti-communist.
The anti-communist part is interesting as both regimes share
many of the same ideas. Fascism appeared in Italy and
World War I as both countries struggled with
political and economic ruin. Benito Mussolini
in Italy and Adolf Hitler in Germany
used this new ideology to gain power and control
over their countries. Their rise in power resulted in the
greatest war in human history,
World War II,
as both countries had imperialistic ambitions. In the end,
only the combined strength of the United States,
Great Britain, and the Soviet Union,
were able to defeat the Fascists.
Fascism and Communism
rule by dictator
use of terror & violence
state control of economy
The evolution of modern democracy is really a study in the
evolution of British democracy and the political
thoughts of the Enlightenment thinkers. Since this time,
modern democratic government has become the goal of most peoples
around the world. Modern democracies operate under the
human rights and freedoms,
limited government, and participation in
government. While practiced in many parts of the world,
truly free democracies only exist in a few countries, such as
Great Britain, the United States,
Canada, New Zealand, Australia, as well
League of Nations
The League of Nations began as an idea of United
Woodrow Wilson following the first
World War. The
Versailles created a League with over 40
different countries joining. Interestingly
enough, the United States was not one of them. The
League of Nations was to be an international body that
would settle future problems through negotiations
instead of warfare. The member nations were
to work cooperatively through economic and
military means to enforce its decisions.
However, since the United States did not join, the
League never achieved its intentions. While the
League did attempt to halt the aggressiveness of
Hitler's Germany, their inherent weakness prevented them
from stopping World War II.
United Nations was formed after World War II
with the same intentions as the earlier League of Nations. This
time the United States did join, and the U.N. has grown into a
major power in world affairs.
The U.N.'s power is manifested through the cooperation of
its member nations. Since 1945, the U.N. has
sent peacekeeping forces around the world to stop
terrorism, and abuse of human rights.
U.N. forces, lead by the United States, pushed communist forces
out of South Korea during the
attempted to halt the war in Bosnia, protect the Kurds
in Iraq, and end the reign of warlords in Somalia.