absolutism in Europe.doc - Q Discuss the dominant feature...

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Q. Discuss the dominant feature of the absolutist state in Europe (2008). Perry Anderson in lineages of the absolutist state calls the rise of the absolutist state in Western Europe in the sixteenth century the final outcome of political convulsions that marred the period. The centralized monarchies that emerged marked a break from the feudal, pyramidal and parcelised sovereignty. The nature of these monarchies has been a question of debate ever since Engels called the state a kind of mediator between the feudal nobility and the emerging bourgeoisie class and it acquires a certain independence from both. According to Marx and Engels assumptions, the absolutist state seems to be a bourgeois instrument, reflected mainly from the administrative structures. Anderson questions the assumption that the characteristics of the absolutist state appear ‘pre-eminently capitalist’, as the emergence of these features coincides with the end of serfdom, a core symbol of the feudal mode of production. Anderson disagrees with this viewpoint and argues that the Absolutist state in the west was ‘redeployed and recharged apparatus of feudal domination’ designed to clamp down the peasants back to their traditional social position. It was neither an arbiter nor an instrument of the emerging bureaucracy against the nobility. It was a new political shield for the threatened nobility. He says that even when the rural surplus began to be extracted in money rent rather than labour rent, as long as the aristocracy blocked a free market in land and there was no mobility of labour, production relations remained feudal. Anderson has analyzed the absolutist state and its characteristics in Europe to reveal that the whole structure of the absolutist monarchies had a surface modernity which betrayed a “subterranean archaism”. Anderson states two reasons that motivated the rise of absolutism. The first is identified as the class struggle between the nobility and the peasantry. The generalized commutation of dues into money rent would ultimately lead to ‘free labour’ and ‘wage contract’. This meant that the cellular unity of the political and economic oppression of the peasants was threatened; the feudal lords knew that their class power was at stake with end of serfdom. Classical feudal polity combined both political and economic exploitation but the appearance of money changed this. As a result, the feudal lords displaced political power to upwards to a centralized, militarized summit- the absolutist state. At the same time, there was an economic consolidation of the units of feudal nobility beneath this political apex. There was a strengthening of the titles of property of
the lords, landowning became less conditional for the lords as the central sovereign correspondingly became more absolute. The traditional restraints on the estates weakened as the power of the monarch increased, and although the nobility lost some of its political powers, they registered economic gains in land ownership.

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