The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle classified government into three main types: rule by one person, by a few people, and by many people. Jimmy Carter comments on the influence of money in politics ... “Oligarchy.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/oligarchy. Among industrialized countries that have been identified as oligarchies are Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union and China since that country’s embrace of capitalism in the late 1970s. 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. The next form of government is oligarchy. 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. Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible). Ring in the new year with a Britannica Membership. 1 : government by the few The corporation is ruled by oligarchy. Despite the spread of democracy in the 20th century, oligarchies continued to exist, including in countries that were nominally democratic in form. Down with the public schools! Oligarchy definition: An oligarchy is a small group of people who control and run a particular country or... | Meaning, pronunciation, translations and examples In the Aristotelian classification of government, there were two forms of rule by the few: aristocracy and its debased form, oligarchy.... Friedrich Engels, German socialist and supporter of Karl Marx, 1879. The Big Picture. 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. 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. Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free! Let us know if you have suggestions to improve this article (requires login). In practice, however, almost all governments, … An aristocracyis a type of government run by members of the traditional elite of a society, who are considered the most fit to rule. If effective control changes hands as rapidly as it does in a city of the United States or a British trade union, it is doubtful that those exercising it should be spoken of as a “class” or an “elite.” The expression “the few” is too abstract to convey much information. a country or industry that is controlled by a small group of powerful people, or these people considered as a group: The electricity industry has moved from being a state monopoly to being a de facto oligarchy. In a business environment, it may look like a family maintaining full control of the Board of Directors. 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. 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. Sanders said his former opponent would nominate justices prepared to overturn Citizens United. Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Noun (wikipedia oligarchy) (oligarchies) A government run by only a few, often the wealthy. 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. Russian oligarchs are business oligarchs of the former Soviet republics who rapidly accumulated wealth during the era of Russian privatization in the aftermath of the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the 1990s. Oligarchy Definition by Oxford Dictionary: Oxford dictionary is one of the most popular dictionaries. 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. 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. The word oligarchy is from the Greek words for "few" (ὀλίγios olígios) and "rule" (ἄρχeiv arkhein).. Jonathan Farrington's Blog. 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. The two forms of rule by the few were aristocracy and oligarchy. 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'. For example, on… 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. Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article. You can also refer to a country which is governed in this way as an oligarchy. Updates? Political unrest continued, however, in others; Colombia, for instance, experienced a series of civil wars toward…. Autocracy, democracy and oligarchy are terms used to define different systems of government. oligarchy (n.) "form of government in which supreme power is vested in a small exclusive class," 1570s, from French oligarchie (14c. Political science and sociology have differentiated more carefully between various types of control and power. They maintain their power through their relationships with each other. is that oligarchy is a government run by only a few, often the wealthy while monarchy is a government in which sovereignty is embodied within a single, today usually hereditary head of state (whether as a figurehead or as a powerful ruler). These people may be distinguished by nobility, wealth, education, corporate, religious, political, or military control. These two definitions explain the difference between oligarchy and plutocracy. 'All Intensive Purposes' or 'All Intents and Purposes'? Oligarchy, government by the few, especially despotic power exercised by a small and privileged group for corrupt or selfish purposes. In this sense, it is a degraded form of aristocracy, denoting government by a few in whom power rests with the best individuals.Most classical oligarchies have arisen when ruling elites were recruited exclusively from a ruling caste, a hereditary … The word oligarchy is from the Greek words for "few" and "rule".. Some political scientists have argued that the contemporary United States is an oligarchy or a plutocracy, because its great inequality of wealth and income (as compared with other industrialized countries) enables economic elites and corporations to influence public policy to their advantage, often against the preferences of the majority of ordinary citizens. Oligarchy becomes tyrannical and/or oppressive when there is a limitation in the separation of powers and when the rule of law is violated. Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way. Aristotle defined aristocracy as government … By signing up for this email, you are agreeing to news, offers, and information from Encyclopaedia Britannica. Delivered to your inbox! The ruling party in an … Children must be drilled … These groups of people may be distinguished by royalty, wealth, education, or military control. Oligarchyis a form of government in which all power resides with a few people or in a dominant class or group within the society. 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. Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox. “So nobody must be allowed to think at all. Those who make up an oligarchic government. 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. The increased revenues that burgeoning commerce provided allowed elites to consolidate more orderly political systems in some countries. It is a recurrent idea that all forms of government are in the final analysis reducible to the rule of a few. How to use a word that (literally) drives some pe... Do you know these earlier meanings of words? By definition, an oligarchy is a form of government where the power is in the hands of a small number of elite people. Likewise, the controlling group within an organization does not occupy the same position under democratic conditions (which allows for effective challenges to the group by outsiders at regular intervals) as it does under an authoritarian plan. An oligarchy is a power structure that allows a few businesses, families, or individuals to rule. Oligarchy is one of numerous English words for a type of rule or government. As per its definition, an oligarchy is a system of government where the few - be it families, businesses, scholars, or individuals - rule. Send us feedback. A daily challenge for crossword fanatics. This could be the wealthy, a military group or even a family. Aristotle used the term oligarchy to designate the government of a few when it was unjustly exercised by the best men, but who at the same time were the most unjust. Articles from Britannica Encyclopedias for elementary and high school students. 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. Athens was suffering under the rule of an 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). Corrections? 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. 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