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Religion, Naturalism, Modes Of Virtue, Limited Monarchy?, Bibliography

Monarchy derives from a Greek term that refers literally to rule by one person (as distinct from oligarchy, rule by the few, or democracy, rule by the people). Among political systems of a post-tribal nature, monarchy is certainly the most common form of human governance globally throughout human history. While the modern Western world tends to venerate nonmonarchic constitutions of the past—such as the city empires of Athens and early Rome, and, to a lesser extent, Babylonia—this elides the near-ubiquity of one-man rule. And while modern authoritarian or despotic regimes are not usually considered to be monarchies, they nevertheless contain elements associated with monarchic rule. The persisting appeal of monarchic governments may stem largely from the perception that, in contrast to populist and self-governing systems, they are more stable and more successful at maintaining peace and order. (This is perhaps encapsulated in Benito Mussolini's [1883–1945] famous declaration that in fascist Italy, under his quasi-monarchic leadership, the trains run on time.) Regardless of whether such a position is empirically true, it has been central to the ideology of monarchy.

The nearly universal acceptance of monarchic rule, at least until recent times, obscures important differences in the ways in which such regimes have been classified and legitimated. Monarchies are by no means of a piece in either their theory or their practice. Important questions remain open to dispute, including: whether the king should be dynastic or elected, and if the latter, by whom; whether in dynastic systems, women should be admitted to succession or men only, or indeed whether succession may even pass through a female line; and whether (and under what circumstances) a king may be removed from power, and if so, in what way. When viewed from this perspective, monarchy ought hardly to be treated as a singular phenomenon at all. Rather, examination of the diverging conceptions of the foundation and source of monarchic power yields recognition of the highly diverse principles upon which ideas about the nature of monarchy have rested over time and across cultural and geographical divides.

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