Oligarchy

Oligarchy

Overview
Oligarchy is a form of power structure
Power structure
Power Structure may refer to:* Hierarchy* The Establishment...

 in which power
Political power
Political power is a type of power held by a group in a society which allows administration of some or all of public resources, including labour, and wealth. There are many ways to obtain possession of such power. At the nation-state level political legitimacy for political power is held by the...

 effectively rests with an elite class distinguished by royalty, wealth, family ties, commercial, and/or military legitimacy. The word oligarchy is derived from the Greek words "ὀλίγος" (olígos), "a few" and the verb "ἄρχω" (archo), "to rule, to govern, to command".

Throughout history, most oligarchies have been tyrannical
Tyrant
A tyrant was originally one who illegally seized and controlled a governmental power in a polis. Tyrants were a group of individuals who took over many Greek poleis during the uprising of the middle classes in the sixth and seventh centuries BC, ousting the aristocratic governments.Plato and...

, relying on public servitude
Servitude
Servitude may refer to:* Service* Conscription* Employment* Slavery* Indentured servitude* Involuntary servitude* Penal servitude* Servitude * Equitable servitude, a term of real estate law* Servitude in civil law...

 to exist, although others have been relatively benign.
Discussion
Ask a question about 'Oligarchy'
Start a new discussion about 'Oligarchy'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Unanswered Questions
Recent Discussions
Encyclopedia
Oligarchy is a form of power structure
Power structure
Power Structure may refer to:* Hierarchy* The Establishment...

 in which power
Political power
Political power is a type of power held by a group in a society which allows administration of some or all of public resources, including labour, and wealth. There are many ways to obtain possession of such power. At the nation-state level political legitimacy for political power is held by the...

 effectively rests with an elite class distinguished by royalty, wealth, family ties, commercial, and/or military legitimacy. The word oligarchy is derived from the Greek words "ὀλίγος" (olígos), "a few" and the verb "ἄρχω" (archo), "to rule, to govern, to command".

Throughout history, most oligarchies have been tyrannical
Tyrant
A tyrant was originally one who illegally seized and controlled a governmental power in a polis. Tyrants were a group of individuals who took over many Greek poleis during the uprising of the middle classes in the sixth and seventh centuries BC, ousting the aristocratic governments.Plato and...

, relying on public servitude
Servitude
Servitude may refer to:* Service* Conscription* Employment* Slavery* Indentured servitude* Involuntary servitude* Penal servitude* Servitude * Equitable servitude, a term of real estate law* Servitude in civil law...

 to exist, although others have been relatively benign. Plato pioneered the use of the term in Chapter Four, Book Eight of "The Republic" as a society in which wealth is the criterion of merit and the wealthy are in control. The actual literal translation from the Greek is "rule of the few". However oligarchy is not always a rule by wealth, as oligarchs can simply be a privileged group, and do not have to be connected by bloodlines as in a monarchy
Monarchy
A monarchy is a form of government in which the office of head of state is usually held until death or abdication and is often hereditary and includes a royal house. In some cases, the monarch is elected...

. Some city-states from ancient Greece
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

 were oligarchies.

Examples of oligarchies


Since the collapse of the Soviet Union on 31 December 1991, privately owned Russia-based multinational corporations, including producers of petroleum, natural gas, and metal have become oligarchs
Russian oligarchs
Business oligarch is a near-synonym of the term "business magnate", borrowed by the English speaking and western media from Russian parlance to describe the huge, fast-acquired wealth of some businessmen of the former Soviet republics during privatization in Russia and other post-Soviet states in...

. Privatization allowed executives to amass phenomenal wealth and power almost overnight. In May 2004, the Russian edition of Forbes identified 36 of these oligarchs as being worth at least US$1 billion
1000000000 (number)
1,000,000,000 is the natural number following 999,999,999 and preceding 1,000,000,001.In scientific notation, it is written as 109....

.

A fictional oligarchy is represented by the Party in George Orwell
George Orwell
Eric Arthur Blair , better known by his pen name George Orwell, was an English author and journalist...

's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four
Nineteen Eighty-Four
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell is a dystopian novel about Oceania, a society ruled by the oligarchical dictatorship of the Party...

.

Modern democracy as oligarchy


Robert Michels
Robert Michels
Robert Michels was a German sociologist who wrote on the political behavior of intellectual elites and contributed to elite theory...

 believed that any political system eventually evolves into an oligarchy. He called this the iron law of oligarchy. According to this school of thought, modern democracies
Democracy
Democracy is generally defined as a form of government in which all adult citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Ideally, this includes equal participation in the proposal, development and passage of legislation into law...

 should be considered as oligarchies. In these systems, actual differences between viable political rivals are small, the oligarchic elite
Elitism
Elitism is the belief or attitude that some individuals, who form an elite — a select group of people with intellect, wealth, specialized training or experience, or other distinctive attributes — are those whose views on a matter are to be taken the most seriously or carry the most...

 impose strict limits on what constitutes an acceptable and respectable political position, and politicians' careers depend heavily on unelected economic and media elites. Thus the popular phrase: there is only one political party, the incumbent
Incumbent
The incumbent, in politics, is the existing holder of a political office. This term is usually used in reference to elections, in which races can often be defined as being between an incumbent and non-incumbent. For example, in the 2004 United States presidential election, George W...

 party.

Corporate Oligarchy (Corporatocracy)


Corporate
Corporation
A corporation is created under the laws of a state as a separate legal entity that has privileges and liabilities that are distinct from those of its members. There are many different forms of corporations, most of which are used to conduct business. Early corporations were established by charter...

 oligarchy is a form of power, governmental or operational, where such power effectively rests with a small, elite group of inside individuals, sometimes from a small group of educational institutions, or influential economic entities or devices, such as banks, commercial entities that act in complicity with, or at the whim of the oligarchy, often with little or no regard for constitutionally protected prerogative
Prerogative
In law, a prerogative is an exclusive right given from a government or state and invested in an individual or group, the content of which is separate from the body of rights enjoyed under the general law of the normative state...

. Monopolies are sometimes granted to state-controlled entities, such as the Royal Charter granted to the East India Company
East India Company
The East India Company was an early English joint-stock company that was formed initially for pursuing trade with the East Indies, but that ended up trading mainly with the Indian subcontinent and China...

. Some (see Kalle Lasn
Kalle Lasn
Kalle Lasn is an Estonian Canadian author, magazine editor and activist. Near the end of World War II his family fled Estonia and Lasn spent his childhood in a German refugee camp. He was then resettled in Australia. In the 1960s, he founded a market research company in Tokyo, and in 1970, moved...

) are of the opinion that due to the effects of the unfettered laissez-faire
Laissez-faire
In economics, laissez-faire describes an environment in which transactions between private parties are free from state intervention, including restrictive regulations, taxes, tariffs and enforced monopolies....

 capitalism
Capitalism
Capitalism is an economic system that became dominant in the Western world following the demise of feudalism. There is no consensus on the precise definition nor on how the term should be used as a historical category...

 present in its economy, the increasingly powerful influence of corporations on its political system is turning (or has already turned) the modern United States into a corporate
Corporation
A corporation is created under the laws of a state as a separate legal entity that has privileges and liabilities that are distinct from those of its members. There are many different forms of corporations, most of which are used to conduct business. Early corporations were established by charter...

 oligarchy. While this claim is accepted by some, it is also rejected by others who voice that laissez-faire economics has never existed in true (or unfettered) form and that the collusion of regulators and industry would be the more plausible source of power.

Athenian techniques to prevent the rise of oligarchy


Especially during the Fourth Century BC, after the restoration of democracy from oligarchical coups, the Athenians used the drawing of lots
Sortition
In politics, sortition is the selection of decision makers by lottery. The decision-makers are chosen as a random sample from a larger pool of candidates....

 for selecting government officers in order to counteract what the Athenians acutely saw as a tendency toward oligarchy in government if a professional governing class were allowed to use their skills for their own benefit. They drew lots from large groups of adult volunteers as a selection technique for civil servants performing judicial, executive, and administrative functions (archai, boulē, and hēliastai). They even used lots for very important posts, such as judges and jurors in the political courts (nomothetai), which had the power to overrule the Assembly.

See also


Government terms:
  • Aristocracy
    Aristocracy
    Aristocracy , is a form of government in which a few elite citizens rule. The term derives from the Greek aristokratia, meaning "rule of the best". In origin in Ancient Greece, it was conceived of as rule by the best qualified citizens, and contrasted with monarchy...

  • Elitism
    Elitism
    Elitism is the belief or attitude that some individuals, who form an elite — a select group of people with intellect, wealth, specialized training or experience, or other distinctive attributes — are those whose views on a matter are to be taken the most seriously or carry the most...

  • Crony capitalism
    Crony capitalism
    Crony capitalism is a term describing a capitalist economy in which success in business depends on close relationships between business people and government officials...

  • Democracy
    Democracy
    Democracy is generally defined as a form of government in which all adult citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Ideally, this includes equal participation in the proposal, development and passage of legislation into law...

  • Dictatorship
    Dictatorship
    A dictatorship is defined as an autocratic form of government in which the government is ruled by an individual, the dictator. It has three possible meanings:...

  • Form of government
    Form of government
    A form of government, or form of state governance, refers to the set of political institutions by which a government of a state is organized. Synonyms include "regime type" and "system of government".-Empirical and conceptual problems:...

  • Kleptocracy
    Kleptocracy
    Kleptocracy, alternatively cleptocracy or kleptarchy, is a form of political and government corruption where the government exists to increase the personal wealth and political power of its officials and the ruling class at the expense of the wider population, often without pretense of honest...

  • Meritocracy
    Meritocracy
    Meritocracy, in the first, most administrative sense, is a system of government or other administration wherein appointments and responsibilities are objectively assigned to individuals based upon their "merits", namely intelligence, credentials, and education, determined through evaluations or...

  • Netocracy
    Netocracy
    Netocracy was a term invented by the editorial board of the American technology magazine Wired in the early 1990s. A portmanteau of internet and aristocracy, netocracy refers to a perceived global upper-class that bases its power on a technological advantage and networking skills, in comparison to...

  • Oligopoly
    Oligopoly
    An oligopoly is a market form in which a market or industry is dominated by a small number of sellers . The word is derived, by analogy with "monopoly", from the Greek ὀλίγοι "few" + πόλειν "to sell". Because there are few sellers, each oligopolist is likely to be aware of the actions of the others...

  • Plutocracy
    Plutocracy
    Plutocracy is rule by the wealthy, or power provided by wealth. The combination of both plutocracy and oligarchy is called plutarchy. The word plutocracy is derived from the Ancient Greek root ploutos, meaning wealth and kratos, meaning to rule or to govern.-Usage:The term plutocracy is generally...

  • Political family
  • Theocracy
    Theocracy
    Theocracy is a form of organization in which the official policy is to be governed by immediate divine guidance or by officials who are regarded as divinely guided, or simply pursuant to the doctrine of a particular religious sect or religion....

  • Timocracy
    Timocracy
    Constitutional theory defines a timocracy as either:# a state where only property owners may participate in government# a government in which love of honor is the ruling principle...

  • Power behind the throne
    Power behind the throne
    The phrase power behind the throne refers to a person or group that informally exercises the real power of an office. In politics, it most commonly refers to a spouse, aide, or advisor of a political leader who serves as de facto leader, setting policy through influence or manipulation.The...

  • Russian oligarchs
  • Fascism
    Fascism
    Fascism is a radical authoritarian nationalist political ideology. Fascists seek to rejuvenate their nation based on commitment to the national community as an organic entity, in which individuals are bound together in national identity by suprapersonal connections of ancestry, culture, and blood...

  • Anarchism
    Anarchism
    Anarchism is generally defined as the political philosophy which holds the state to be undesirable, unnecessary, and harmful, or alternatively as opposing authority in the conduct of human relations...



Relevant authors:
  • Vilfredo Pareto
    Vilfredo Pareto
    Vilfredo Federico Damaso Pareto , born Wilfried Fritz Pareto, was an Italian engineer, sociologist, economist, political scientist and philosopher. He made several important contributions to economics, particularly in the study of income distribution and in the analysis of individuals' choices....

  • Gaetano Mosca
    Gaetano Mosca
    Gaetano Mosca was an Italian political scientist, journalist and public servant. He is credited with developing the Theory of Elitism and the doctrine of the Political class and is one of the three members constituting the Italian School of Elitists together with Vilfredo Pareto and Robert...

  • Thomas R. Dye
    Thomas R. Dye
    Thomas R. Dye is the president of the Lincoln Center for Public Service . Dye is also an Emeritus Professor of Political Science at Florida State University and was formerly a McKenzie Professor of Government.-Academic background and preparation:Dye graduated from Pennsylvania State University...

  • Robert Michels
    Robert Michels
    Robert Michels was a German sociologist who wrote on the political behavior of intellectual elites and contributed to elite theory...

  • Plato
    Plato
    Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

  • Webster Tarpley

External links