the growth of the absolute monarchy as the origin of the modern state. Most ofthe characteristic features of the modern state were more or less instituted* inthe France of Louis XIV and other contemporary* monarchies in Europe (seebelow).As for the economy, the decline of the feudal order also gave rise to the earli-est forms of Capitalism. In most European nations through the 1800s, the estab-lished guild* system was dissolved and replaced by the idea of free trade (i.e. aneconomic system in which goods and capital are traded in markets and profitsdistributed to owners).An intermediate step on the way to early Capitalism was, for many nations,an economic system called Mercantilism* that helped absolutist rulers to cen-tralize the economy. Mercantile theory claimed that the prosperity of a nationwas dependent upon its supply of capital, which was best increased through apositive balance of trade* with other nations. The ruling government should ad-vance this goal by encouraging exports and discouraging imports, notablythrough the use of tariffs* and subsidies*. In return, the taxes paid by the mer-51015202530
chants would help to fill the treasury* and thus give the monarchs the financialpower they were looking for. Take, for example, projects like Versailles: theamount spent on Louis XIV’s royal palace is estimated at ca. 1.3 billion (!) eu-ros.Features of Absolute RuleIn order to achieve eagerly awaited stability after long years of war (see above),absolutists made sure that the key elements of national government would besolely placed into the hands of the monarch: the armed forces, tax collection,and the judicial* system. These were powers normally enjoyed by the local no-bility in their territories; the national administration of these functions, however,required the formation of a nationwide bureaucracy* whose officials were an-swerable to the king alone. Consequently, this new type of bureaucracy had to make a stand against themost powerful institutional forces opposed to the king: the nobility, the church,legislative* bodies (parliaments), and regions which had been autonomous untilthen. In order to centralize the administration of the state, the absolute ruler hadto – some way or other – take political authority out of the hands of the nobleswho had no desire whatever to give that authority up! On the whole, Europeankings were successful in crushing any kind of aristocratic resistance, with theexception of the Stuarts in England who were defeated in their campaign for ab-solute rule (see below) and the Polish kings who had to accept a nobles’ democ-racy.Apart from the rise of professional bureaucracies, absolute states featured anational legislation*, a national jurisdiction,* a large, standing military under thedirect control of the king, and a national tax collection mechanism in whichtaxes went straight to the national government (i. e. the king’s treasury) ratherthan passing through the hands of the local nobility.