In philosophy, a contrast to relativism in any of its senses.

In its political sense, a description (more frequently than justification) of government without constitutional restrictions. The authority to govern cannot be qualified or restricted, because if it is, whatever restricts it is itself the final power.

Historically, one form it has taken has been the doctrine of the ‘divine right of Kings’, which was popular in Stuart England.

Though this doctrine was expressed in the course of 16th and 17th century debates over sovereignty, the term absolutism became current only in the 19th century to describe regimes having either such a character or such an aspiration.

Notable supporters of political absolutism have included Friedrich Hegel and Benito Mussolini.

Also see: divine right

David Miller et al, eds The Blackwell Encyclopaedia of Political Thought (Oxford, 1987)


  • Absolute monarchy, in which a monarch rules free of laws or legally organized opposition; especially in the period c. 1610 – c. 1789 in Europe
    • Enlightened absolutism, influenced by the Enlightenment (18th- and early 19th-century Europe)
  • Autocracy, a political theory which argues that one person should hold all power


General philosophy

  • Absolutism, the view that facts are absolute rather than merely relative (sometimes called “universality”)


  • Moral absolutism, the belief in absolute standards against which moral questions can be judged, regardless of context
  • Graded absolutism, the view that a moral absolute, such as “Do not kill”, can be greater or lesser than another moral absolute, such as “Do not lie”

Hegelian philosophy

  • Absolute (philosophy), the Hegelian concept of an objective and unconditioned reality, said to underlie perceived objects
  • Absolute idealism, an ontologically monistic philosophy attributed to G. W. F. Hegel


  • Absolute theory, in physics
    • Absolute space, a theory that space exists absolutely; contrast with relationalism


  • Splitting (psychology), also called black-and-white thinking or all-or-nothing thinking

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