This could be the wealthy, a military group or even a family. Aristotle used the term oligarchia to designate the rule of the few when it was exercised not by the best but by bad persons unjustly. It is compared with both aristocracy, which is defined as government by a few chosen for their virtue and ruling for the general good, and various forms of democracy, or rule by the people. 'All Intensive Purposes' or 'All Intents and Purposes'? Oligarchy definition: An oligarchy is a small group of people who control and run a particular country or... | Meaning, pronunciation, translations and examples Subsequent writers of various persuasions have attempted either to expand on Michels’s thesis, extending it to legislatures, religious orders, and other organizations, or to restrict or criticize the thesis, charging that the iron law of oligarchy is not universal and that some unions and parties do maintain a viable system of democratic expression and governance. His reasoning was that, no matter how egalitarian or even radical the original ideology and goals of a party or union may be, there must emerge a limited group of leaders at the centre who can direct power efficiently, get things done through an administrative staff, and evolve some kind of rigorous order and ideology to ensure the survival of the organization when faced by internal division and external opposition. Those few ruling members have enough power to create policies that benefit them to the exclusion of the rest of society. Oligarchs will secure effective control whether the formal authority is vested in the people, a monarch, the proletariat, or a dictator. Aristocracy, oligarchy, monarchy, and democracy are old concepts of government which can be traced back to Ancient Greece. While every effort has been made to follow citation style rules, there may be some discrepancies. Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Besides these two, we have meritocracy “a system in which the talented are chosen and moved ahead on the basis of their achievement,” monarchy “a form of government in which a country is ruled by a king or queen,” ochlocracy “government by the mob," and gerontocracy “rule by elders,” among many others. When referring to governments, the classical definition of oligarchy, as given for example by Aristotle, is of government by a few, usually the rich, for their own advantage. Vilfredo Pareto elaborated the idea in his doctrine of the “elite.” The modern tendency to analyze social patterns in terms of an elite, though greatly reinforced by Pareto’s theory, goes further back than Marx and Engels, who employed elite to describe the class-conscious communists, the leading group within the proletariat. Ruling party. These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'oligarchy.' Such states are often controlled by families who pass their influence from one generation to the next, but inheritance is not a necessary condition of oligarchy. This article was most recently revised and updated by, https://www.britannica.com/topic/oligarchy, The Balance - Oligarchies: Pros and Cons, With Causes and Examples, oligarchy - Student Encyclopedia (Ages 11 and up). 'Nip it in the butt' or 'Nip it in the bud'. Delivered to your inbox! Aristotle defined aristocracy as government … The word oligarchy comes from a Greek word coined from the words oligoi (“few”) and arkhein (“to rule”). Thus, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels insisted that, throughout the history of capitalism, the key capitalists had controlled the government; they coined the dictum, “the state is the executive committee of the exploiting class.” The Italian political scientist Gaetano Mosca likewise insisted that a “ruling class” always constituted the effective oligarchic control. It comes from the Greek word oligarkhes, meaning “few to rule or command.” In practice, however, almost all governments, … Mary Altaffer/AP Photo Oligarchy” means government of and by a few at the top, who exercise power for their own benefit. Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article. Oligarchy is one of numerous English words for a type of rule or government. How to use a word that (literally) drives some pe... Do you know these earlier meanings of words? Slippery Words Quiz—Changing with the Times. Oligarchies in which members of the ruling group are wealthy or exercise their power through their wealth are known as plutocracies. Other articles where Constitutional oligarchy is discussed: democracy: Constitutional oligarchies: After the western Roman Empire collapsed in 476, the Italian Peninsula broke up into a congeries of smaller political entities. As a government structure, an oligarchy looks like a group of nobles with a royal family. The next form of government is oligarchy. Iran. Definition. Government by a small faction or group of families, from Greek words meaning “a few” and “chief” or “principal.” 2. Oligarchy is a term for a government in which power is held by a select few individuals or a small class of powerful people. Let us know if you have suggestions to improve this article (requires login). Jimmy Carter comments on the influence of money in politics ... “Oligarchy.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/oligarchy. An oligarchy is a small group of people who control and run a particular country or organization. Get a Britannica Premium subscription and gain access to exclusive content. The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle classified government into three main types: rule by one person, by a few people, and by many people. These people may be distinguished by nobility, wealth, education, corporate, religious, political, or military control. The classical definition of oligarchy, as given, for example, by Aristotle, is governance by a few, usually the wealthy, for corrupt or selfish purposes. Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible). The type of power held by a party boss in a democracy, while overwhelming in relation to any single member of the party, is very different from that wielded by the boss of the single party in a totalitarian or authoritarian system. For example, on… 2 : a government in which a small group exercises control especially for corrupt and selfish purposes a military oligarchy was established in the country also : a group exercising such control An oligarchy ruled the nation. In this sense, oligarchy is a debased form of aristocracy, which denotes government by the few in which power is vested in the best individuals. An oligarchy of Islamic clerics, relatives, and business associates runs the country. Political science and sociology have differentiated more carefully between various types of control and power. These two definitions explain the difference between oligarchy and plutocracy. An oligarchyis a form of government in which power is vested in the hands of a small group, because of factors which favor them, like wealth, race, political connections, military capability, education, etc. The valuations of target companies then explode, too, but street-level investors, once again, are shut out of these stratospheric early gains, which flow to the same impregnable, Many of New York's housewives have links to political, The alternative is in the hands of the progressive insurgents, those truth tellers whose agenda requires deficit spending to promote the public good, and not to feed the ravenous appetites of an entrenched, The judges Kennedy has appointed in the South are designed to protect the, On the fringe of the left there are those who want to overthrow the racist, cisgendered, patriarchal neoliberal, As a former senior military intelligence officer told Belton, the KGB once had to serve the, From 1994 to 2000, when Putin came to power, Russia was an, Post the Definition of oligarchy to Facebook, Share the Definition of oligarchy on Twitter, The Difference Between 'Hoard' and 'Horde'. 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