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(This post is part of Politics for Worldbuilders, an occasional series.)

This series of exercises refers back to this post on “The Palace,” a regime type where power is centralized in a single autocratic figure like a dictator, a powerful king, or other ruler. If you like these exercises, first go back to the above-linked post and read it, then come back and work on the exercises.

  1. Thinking about your ruler, what is the source of his/her power?
  2. What claim justifies the ruler’s legitimacy? Why do the ruler’s followers obey? (Examples: is the ruler thought to be a god? Or anointed by God? Is the ruler part of a special bloodline? Or the victor in a ritual combat over the succession? Does the ruler have the most stock shares in the corporation? Is the ruler simply the richest or most powerful figure?) How does that claim to legitimacy exclude the possibility of popular sovereignty or other forms of rule?
  3. Does the specific form of legitimacy claimed by the ruler imply certain restraints on the ruler’s behavior? Must the ruler spend time propitiating the ancestral spirits, or delivering shareholder reports, or meditating and generating magical power?
  4. Who are the members of Palace “court”? How might their power or influence be dependent on the Palace? What privileges do “courtiers” have because of their proximity to the Palace?
  5. How might the Palace prevent the growth of independent powerful figures (“nobles”)?
  6. How can the courtiers influence the ruler?
  7. If the ruler is feckless or incapacitated, which courtiers might usurp effective (but not de jure) power?
  8. How might the ruler be overthrown? Is such an overthrow consistent with the existing ruling ideology, or would it need to put forward a new ideology?
  9. Looking back over all the ideas you’ve written down, which have the most resonance for your story?