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How could "Enlightened Absolutism" form in a society from a successful slave revolt?

Discussion in 'World Building' started by WaffleSingSong, Oct 8, 2017.

  1. WaffleSingSong

    WaffleSingSong Dreamer

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    Hello, everyone,

    One of my nations, Cerela, is formed after a successful slave revolt against an unknown slaver peoples. The leader of the uprising, somehow, becomes an absolute monarch but does so in a way in which the system promotes a, for lack of a better term, a "liberal" governance. How would this naturally form?

    For some background to help out answers, it is within a dark ages/medieval setting, no one knows who the slavers were, many different ethnic groups were enslaved under the slavers, including natives (as other groups were from different regions.) The leader promotes an "existentialist, synthetic" promotion of "Cerelan" culture which, contrast to other countries, creates a form of "nationalism," and has the charisma and talent to hold various, usually conflicting, groups together through civic nationalism to build the nation. The society is also afraid of harsh rule for obvious reasons. Finally, the group who dominates Cerela is a professional/religious social class, similar to Celtic druids or Hindu Brahmin.

    This would also be amongst the only absolutist governments within the setting. Other nations usually run under feudal or devolved systems of governance and are traditionalist-minded. Cerela, in this case, would be 180 from this general trend of governments.

    Thanks in advance! If you want to ask questions, please do!
     
  2. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

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    Er.... just a couple of things...
    How can they not know who their enslavers were? Weren't the ones cracking the whips and chaining people up, a bit of a give-away? Or was the revolt so long ago that it has fallen out of the collective memory?
    And I take it that the Leader is a member of this priestly caste? Or that there is tension between the Leader and that priestly caste?
    A benign absolute monarch can form if that is what you want. People will follow a strong a charismatic leader.
    I have to say that the person that keeps going to mind as a charismatic leader, absolute in their power that used a distilled form of Nationalism as a route to power.... Hitler.
    He thought what he was doing was for the best of the country [but definitely not all the countries residents]. He was charismatic. He developed a Teutonic/Aryan mythos that played to peoples beliefs and fears. He ruled with seemingly absolute power.
    I don't think many people would have called him or Nazism liberal, though...
    But there again... I have trouble putting liberal and absolute in to the same political sentence...
    Absolute [to me] implies one point of view and any single PoV is going to be seen as illiberal to someone somewhere...
    All that said... it can work in a story. There have been plenty of people that got to the top of the heap and have tried to do the right thing as they saw it.
     
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  3. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

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    I actually have something very similar in my setting.

    First off, I'm going to assume that the liberalism you mean that all citizens are guaranteed civil liberty which includes the protection of property and equality under the law as outlined in their nation's constitution.
    None of these characteristics are necessarily incompatible with nationalism or autocracy if the nationalism is based around the distinction between citizens and non-citizens and the autocrat/state is seen as the primary protector of people's liberties.
    The really issue is the idea of a priestly class calling the shots in a liberal society but that ultimately depends on what the religion believes. I don't have enough information to say how that would work. If this clergy operates like the Brahmins, then that would imply a caste system which is an extremely anti-liberal idea.

    The thing with my setting is that the government formed after the slave uprising was a theocratic autocracy which was then gradually replaced with a more liberal government as the people's religiousness declined.
     
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  4. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    You could look to Periclean Athens as an example. The Greeks produced a few good tyrants, too. It can be done.

    I have more trouble with a society formed by slaves, especially when the slaves have been taken from diverse backgrounds. Slavery tends to shatter social bonds, forcing new bonds upon them. These people have different traditions, religions, marriage patterns, food, clothing, everything. Many would simply leave. Go home. Why would they stay?
     
  5. WaffleSingSong

    WaffleSingSong Dreamer

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    One of the big mysteries in this setting is who they were and how they were able to hide, and why. To give an in-world perspective on describing them, they apparently wore masks when they were on the field, and so no slave could distinguish their appearance. They wrote in an unusual glyphic system and apparently "sang" to speak. Their names, strangely, are called the Angels. People think their language gave them the name, but no one knows for sure. They only left architectural remnants and a couple of tools and weapons, which have imbued into the Cerelan culture.

    The leader is heavily respected by the caste as he is responsible for reforming the religion and organizing them into their position. The faith is empirical, pantheistic and has a looser creed than say OTL Abrahamic faiths. So, the caste functions much like a professional caste as a religious one, as learning and empirical experience are equatable to theological study.

    I really like the example of Hitler. While this figure here would be far more benevolent, I can definitely take some notes from Hitler's synthetic formation of culture and charisma.

    Absolutism refers to the organization of the rule of power. This system of governance would entail a monarchial rule, where governors or liege lords have very little to no autonomy compared to the Prime Royal of Cerela. During their death, the Prime Heir ascends the throne and all the titles to come with it. There is no division of land between heirs.

    The enlightened/liberal part refers to having a constitution which limits the power of the Prime Royal to some degree, mainly in allowing courts to make their own decisions on cases, and respecting private property and essential liberties to the citizens. There would be a council as well as a judicial body that would have some checks and balances against the Prime Royal, but not too many. It is still an autocracy, after all.

    [HR][/HR]

    The class isn't quite a traditional religious class. The religion is pantheistic, empirical-minded and loosely morally codified, and so this class also acts as a professional class as much as a religious one. Also, I use the term "caste" as they are merely a distinguished people that operate in many aspects of Cerelan life. There is no explicit, and comparatively hardly any implicit, barriers to social mobility in this society.

    [HR][/HR]

    A few links to help people out:
    Enlightened absolutism - Wikipedia Ideological inspiration from this government.

    https://mythicscribes.com/forums/re...-druidic-religion-i-am-developing-*long*.html The religion that is a part of the society.
     
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2017
  6. TheKillerBs

    TheKillerBs Inkling

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    Could be they can't go back. Maybe because of simple geographical reasons, as was the case with Haiti.
     
  7. WaffleSingSong

    WaffleSingSong Dreamer

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    TheKillerBs is correct. The primary ethnic group, the "Flaxen," have completely forgotten their culture, and so have no idea where they originate after being enslaved so long. They are the ones who most embrace the synthetic culture of Cerelan because of their lack of any other culture.

    Another ethnic group, the "Ebonies," were newly enslaved, and thus do remember things about where they come. However, they do not know precisely where their homeland is, and the technology for the continent just isn't advanced enough for ships to go out into the deep ocean to find out.

    Other ethnic groups that come from areas within the continent have made some exoduses to their homelands after the revolt. Some of these groups stay due to logistical reasons.
     
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2017
  8. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

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    Ah, the revolutions greatest threat is...

    ..the second revolution. A 'purging of the ranks,' so to speak. A consolidation of power, with the victor issuing many a glorious decree to 'set things right' and keep his supporters energized. There are abundant real world examples of revolutions that were hijacked in such a manner. That is probably what is required to bring about the situation described in the OP.

    One thing to take into account, though: discussing certain events during the revolution, be they battles, speeches, or alliances, WILL be completely forbidden. As in 'disappeared by the secret police' forbidden. Which makes for good story material.
     
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  9. pmmg

    pmmg Auror

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    Are you asking how a influential and charismatic individual could somehow grab the reigns of a more liberal society and become an absolute ruler?

    I don't think that takes too much imagination. I think anyone who has the right stuff, and begins to use it could gain quite a bit of 'power' in any type of society. With enough followers, they can pretty much act as they please.

    I would think it would be impossible to be both absolute and liberal (as you define it, and not as I might apply the word in today culture), as the two terms would seem mutually exclusive of each other. The existence of one, means the non-existence of the other. But, one could be absolute in his power in this way if he is successful in hiding that he is, or only letting it out when it does not matter that it gets shown. He could also be one who allows himself to be constrained by the constitution when it suits, and so just appears that there are controls on them.

    But, I suppose if an absolute dictator is only doing what his own constitution allows and what the people support anyway, no one may ever be the wiser.

    I must say though, if there was such a society and an absolute type emerged. I think the people would notice. They may be okay with it, but they would probably know they had a king and not a head bound by the constitution.

    Another though, suppose the constitution laid the role of political figures but put no restraints on the absolute ruler. Then the Absolute Ruler would never be in violation of his constitution.
     
  10. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

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    Hi,

    The question about having an absolutist monarchy and a liberal society is easy enough to answer for me. Go back to your uprising. Consider that the battle was hard fought, long and ultimately close. And that the slaves came from very different societies. Some were monarchists. Some from theocratic societies. Some from meritocracies etc. And it was completely impossible to win against the slavers without all the different groups cooperating. But of course there was a natural tendency for competition between the groups. Some would want to convert others to their ways.

    In the end the only way they could fight together as one and throw off their chains of slavery was to set down certain liberal values. Freedom of religion - anyone can preach anything, no one can condemn. Freedom of speech. Equal opportunities for women since the women had to fight too. And these things became the basis of the country that formed after it.

    As for having an absolute monarch - it was the only way they could win. They had to act with one will.

    So they created a king and a liberal constitution which he rules. I think that would be logical enough for most readers.

    My concern with your plot would be the not knowing who the slavers were. That I as a reader would have trouble accepting. And I don't think masks, singing and arcane scripts are enough to explain it. People take their masks off and surely some of the slaves would have been working in the homes of their slavers. They would have seen. They would have learned names etc. If you want to go for them not knowing, you really need something more. On overseer race perhaps, standing between the slavers and the slaves. And the slavers living completely apart from the slaves with absolutely no interaction. But I can't think why that would be done.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
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  11. WaffleSingSong

    WaffleSingSong Dreamer

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    This makes a decent point, and I am now considering having some overseer race, but the problem here is that the slaver group are supposed to be a near-complete unknown. No one should have any clue who they were, and I was planning to have multiple conspiracies. Maybe that overseer race could be magically programmed to follow the slavers, and they can not communicate with anyone after the revolt? Genocide via the revolters?
     
  12. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

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    Hi,

    Sorry for putting the cat among the pigeons. My thought would be magic. But in a strange way. Initially I was thinking that the overseers could be golems of some sort - but then if you have golems why have slaves at all. Now I'm thinking magical control collars. The people are abducted, never see who their abductors are and wake up wearing some sort of magical collar that tells them what to do and punishes them if they don't do it. But then I run into the question - how did the slaves break free?

    Cheers, Greg.
     
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  13. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

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    Simple enough.

    The magic failed. A system wide glitch. That same glitch hurt the slavers themselves very badly. The slavers who survived collected the bodies of their dead and as many of their toys as they could and bugged out. As to the cause of the glitch - perhaps they slapped a control collar onto a being way, way too powerful? Or the magical power source developed a undetected flaw of some sort.
     
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  14. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

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    Hi,

    Too easy I think. It has to be something big and hard that required immense self sacrifice by all members of all groups of slaves, probably resulted in many deaths, but which out of it came an understanding that all people have to be equal / free.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
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  15. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

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    Perhaps the glitch was only partial, affecting some slaves collars, rather than all of them. And maybe there was an overseer caste, comprised of favored slaves that had to be defeated as well.
     
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  16. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Auror

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    I don't know if the OP has read the Asoiaf but if you look at Daenaerys then you can see that its pretty much what's going on and how a charismatic leader could form a rule like that.
     
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  17. Night Gardener

    Night Gardener Inkling

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    The short answer is: yes, any system of governance is possible... however... some of your details suggest some additional factors might be worth considering.

    Many have touched on the 'forgetting/ fallen from collective memory angle'... while many types/systems of slavery have existed throughout human history with varying degrees of 'slave rights', Brutalists/ Absolute Slavers tend to do a few key things; typically in addition of revoking anything we'd consider basic human rights today, the system strips slaves of individuality, culture, customs, religious affiliations, 'rights', 'titles', etc. It's also of high priority for Slavers to supress literacy, oral traditions, and anything educationally or intellectually enriching beyond rudimentary, functional education. 'Dumbing down' is especially enforced in systems where hard, grueling manual labor is the driving factor to enslave - and not the enslavement of peoples for their talents or expertise. ( If you believe you are keeping people stupid or ignorant, it feels less threatening to the Slavers. Some things never change, and historically this is a false sense of security. )

    After several generations of this social conditioning, and the Slavers themselves being mysterious, you'd end up with a 'generic' slave culture. Over time, origins and identity would be lost, unless you adopted the history and culture of the Slavers. Maybe oral traditions could endure, but doubtless basic literacy and writing have been stripped from the slaves. You'd end up with more myth than facts as time passes, and stories lose comprehensible context and relevance over time.

    I would also have to suggest that spoken language and dialects would be an enormous contributing factor to a freed slave population having troubles attempting to assimilate into other societies. And probably be compounded by some stigma of being a former slave when and if they ever do.

    I think, if the Slavers speak amongst themselves 'singing', they would by necessity be bilingual, as to not be understood easily by their slaves. (Unless magic is used en mass, then I digress.) So, that leaves the question, What language(s) are your slaves speaking to each other? Or, more likely, What language are the Slavers using to command their slaves? Which way would it be more likely to happen? The Slaver learning the language of their slaves, or the slaves learning 'approved' language from their Slavers? They originally came from all over the place, but over time, the languages would either have to "fuse" into a hybridized language, (think Cajun/Creole) or your slaves would need to be multi-lingual, to understand both commands from their Slavers and interact amongst themselves. A hybridized language, evolving over time, would make it difficult to re-integrate an enslaved population at large into another culture. (The common roots of languages may be unrecognizeable or lost forever.) Especially if freed persons would have to then "invent" a system of writing and literacy to govern themselves. I would imagine adopting the sing-y language and writing systems of the Slavers would be, well, distasteful to a freed peoples under ideal circumstances.

    If you start out with a 'generic' culture, distilled of distinctions over time, that is basically united by the fact they are 1. aware they are slaves and 2. aware that they really don't like the status quo, anything can happen after a successful revolt and any system of governance is possible.
    ( Although, I don't think slavery would be agreeable anytime soon...)
     
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  18. WaffleSingSong

    WaffleSingSong Dreamer

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    I am getting into conceptualization territory, as I haven't gone this deep into the world like this. I appreciate it, everyone!

    By "singing," the language would be tonal like Mandarin or Hausa. It is just there is a lack of tonal languages on the continent of the story, so it sounds like "singing" to the slaves. I would say that for what I am thinking of right now, the slavers would indirectly communicate with the slaves via magically-animated automatons or golems, who would speak to the slaves in the language of the native Cerelans. The Flaxen (the people affected the worst by slavery and the majority population of Cerela) would embrace that language as their own, somewhat fusing with the native population. The Ebonies would remember their language but by the time of The Manumission/Revolt only very few people know about the language in its entirety, and so I would assume creolization would appear. Other people groups, who are native to the continent, would remember their languages, probably developing distinct dialects.

    In regards to the "dumbing down" of slaves, I was thinking of having some people being so dumbed down, that they are down-right feral. When the revolt happens, some of the ferals retreat into the mountainous jungles and form primitive tribal societies. Maybe they will be mingling/conflicting with natives of uncontacted tribes within the jungle.
     
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