Absolute monarchy played a progressive role, in unifying the country, thus allowing the emergence of a vast market and the administration of the state. Capitalism could not develop itself in a country where chaos reigned and where an organized market had not enough resources.
Therefore absolute monarchs had to produce a unifying ideology ; so did Akhenaten and Ashoka, Akbar the Great and Caesar, who built a new universalism, a new way of living, more modern and progressive.
The state brought about a leap of civilization, as the great integrator. In this perspective, we find in our country Philippe de Beaumanoir (1250-1296), who collected in 1283 all the customary laws and wrote the “Coutumes de Beauvaisis” and who was considered by Montesquieu, a major writer of the Enlightenment, as la lumière de son temps (“the light of his time”).
We should not forget how one of our major poets, Joachim Du Bellay (1522-1560), described France in a verse that became famous: “France, mère des arts, des armes et des lois” (“France, mother of the arts, weapons and laws”).
In India, it was Chāṇakya (c. 370–283 BCE) who played a central role, as minister and strategist of Chandragupta Maurya. According to him, there were four legs or limbs (chattushpadah) of law: dharma (the precept based on truth), vyavahara (evidence, agreement, usages), charitra (history, customs), rajashasan (royal edicts).
Ashoka organized, as grandson of Chandragupta Maurya, a concept of dharma suited to the new empire, beyond castes and brahmanism, the main method to implement this being empiricism.
And already for Chāṇakya, royal edicts were superior to the dharma, i.e. in fact, at the time, to religion; as he said in the “Arthashastra”, “the king is the state (raj-rajyam)”.
And the state equaes to a prosperous society. The hierarchy is strict. And of course, this means a highly developed administration, which the Arthashastra lists precisely. There is no state without administration:
“Rulership can be successfully carried out only with the help of associates. One wheel alone does not turn. Therefore, he should appoint ministers and listen to their opinions.”
In the same way, according to Barani, all administration must be supervised by the king, with a full list of ministers, an inner cabinet for the important decisions. Moreover the laws apparently follow the religious Sharia, but in fact obey to the “Zawabit”, i.e. the state's rules and regulations, in the name of istihasan (the public welfare).
We find here formulated the concept of nation in its primitive form; a military power using an administration explains its domination over a territory, a people, in an organic way.
In the Roman law, we find concepts to express this: the “summa potestas” (sovereign power) and the “plenitudo potestatis” (plenitude of power); in France, it was the concept of “Souveraineté” (sovereignty) that was used.
And this sovereignty goes far beyond the king itself; among the last words of Louis XIV, we find this central quote: “I am going, but the State shall always remain.”
The king is a tool – even if the main tool – of the state. The king must accept the reality as it is (and not religion), but not fall into it like a tyrant. He is all powerful, because the state is all powerful.
For this reason, the king must be forged like a tool only useful for the prosperity:
“Hindrances to gain are: passion, anger, nervousness, pity, shyness, ignobleness, haughtiness, a sympathetic nature, regard for the other world, piousness.”
“For, any one (of the three [goals of life]), spiritual good, material well-being and sensual pleasures, if excessively indulged in, does harm to itself as well as to the other two.” (Arthashastra).
This is also true for ministers. In his Political Testament, the minister Richelieu writes about this:
“ The virtue of a public ministry is averse to timorous, fastidious consciences, on the contrary there is nothing more dangerous for the government of the State, as a lack of conscience can bring forth plenty of injustice and cruelty ; scruples can generate many emotions and indulgences harmful to the public, and it is most certain that those who tremble in front of the most assured of things, for fear of losing themselves, will lose a State whereas they could salvage both themselves and the State.”
Politics is here born with the state's highest structure, which decides and holds sovereignty. It acts in a “scientific” way, with prosperity as a goal, without any point of view on what is good or bad.
The modern state is based on the organization of all society, that has to obey to the ruler, “figure” of the state, and this ruler must himself be subordinated to the “art” of politics.
The Siege of La Rochelle, for example, was led directly by the minister Richelieu from September 1627 to October 1628, and was particularly cruel. This city was one of the biggest cities in France, with over 30,000 inhabitants.
This main base of the Protestants was surrounded, isolated with fortifications 12 kilometers long, 11 forts and 18 redoubts. Access to the sea was even blocked by a 1,400 meter long seawall, built on foundations made of sunken hulks, filled with rubble.
In the end, the old, the women and the children were expelled from the city and died in the entrenchments, but even the 5 000 fighters finally had to surrender after 14 months.
The national interest was at this price; cruelty is part of the duty of the state. In his memoirs, Richelieu explains in this way the sense of this siege:
“It was true that if the King did not take La Rochelle this time, he would never take it, and the citizens and the Huguenots would be more arrogant than ever, and that each year would witness new wars led by Huguenots and the Great Factious, most of whom, and the petty individuals who aspired to making a fortune out of the confusion, feared that it should be taken, as much as England and Spain and all neighbouring princes; but if the King took the city, he would have peace for ever; his reputations would outlive that of its predecessors; he would be the most powerful king of Europe; he would be the arbiter of all affairs in the Christian world; that, such a design would assuredly be lain with obstacles, that he would meet a lot of difficulties, but that it was certain that, should he persevere, he would be the victor...
So was undertaken, in all fair jugement, the Siege of La Rochelle.”
We find here the very heart of the “raison d'Etat”, the “reason of the state” usually translated in English by the concept of “national interest”.