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. oligarchy 1. 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. Most classic oligarchies have resulted when governing elites were recruited exclusively from a ruling caste—a hereditary social grouping that is set apart from the rest of society by religion, kinship, economic status, prestige, or even language. An example of an oligarchy is a society in which a small group of dictators is in charge of the … Oligarchy Definition by Oxford Dictionary: Oxford dictionary is one of the most popular dictionaries. The increased revenues that burgeoning commerce provided allowed elites to consolidate more orderly political systems in some countries. What made you want to look up oligarchy? oligarchy (n.) "form of government in which supreme power is vested in a small exclusive class," 1570s, from French oligarchie (14c. The people who hold the power in an oligarchy are called “oligarchs” and are related by characteristics such as wealth, family, nobility, corporate interests, religion, politics, or military power. As per its definition, an oligarchy is a system of government where the few - be it families, businesses, scholars, or individuals - rule. Some of these words, such as plutocracy, have an exceedingly similar meaning (both may be used to refer to rule by an economic elite, but oligarchy often has the additional connotation of corruption). Learn a new word every day. Send us feedback. Please refer to the appropriate style manual or other sources if you have any questions. See the full definition for oligarchy in the English Language Learners Dictionary, Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for oligarchy, Nglish: Translation of oligarchy for Spanish Speakers, Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about oligarchy. Oligarchy (from Greek ὀλιγαρχία (oligarkhía); from ὀλίγος (olígos) 'few', and ἄρχω (arkho) 'to rule or to command') is a form of power structure in which power rests with a small number of people. oligarchy . Athens was suffering under the rule of an oligarchy. Oligarchy refers to the government system ruled and controlled by a small group of privileged people whereas plutocracy refers to the government system ruled and controlled by a wealthy minority. Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way. A … Accessed 25 Jan. 2021. English. If you say that you can't fight the oligarchy, you mean the leaders of such a place. 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 … 'Nip it in the butt' or 'Nip it in the bud'. Oligarchy, government by the few, especially despotic power exercised by a small and privileged group for corrupt or selfish purposes. The classical definition of oligarchy, as given, for example, by Aristotle, is governance by a few, usually the wealthy, for corrupt or selfish purposes. Definition. In the Aristotelian classification of government, there were two forms of rule by the few: aristocracy and its debased form, oligarchy. In practice, however, almost all governments, … Oligarchy is a term for a government in which power is held by a select few individuals or a small class of powerful people. Definition of oligarchy. 2. uncountable noun Any system of government in which virtually all political power is held by a very small number of wealthy but otherwise unmeritorious people who shape public policy primarily to benefit themselves financially through direct subsidies to their agricultural estates or business firms, lucrative government contracts, and protectionist measures aimed at damaging their economic competitors — while … The ruling party in an … 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. Aristotle defined aristocracy as government … 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. A daily challenge for crossword fanatics. An aristocracyis a type of government run by members of the traditional elite of a society, who are considered the most fit to rule. These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'oligarchy.' 1 : government by the few The corporation is ruled by oligarchy. These two definitions explain the difference between oligarchy and plutocracy. The two forms of rule by the few were aristocracy and oligarchy. 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. Oligarchy is one of numerous English words for a type of rule or government. It comes from the Greek word oligarkhes, meaning “few to rule or command.” A plutocracyis a form of government run, or influenced by, the wealthiest members of society. You can also refer to a country which is governed in this way as an oligarchy. 'All Intensive Purposes' or 'All Intents and Purposes'? 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. An oligarchy is a small group of people who control and run a particular country or organization. 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). The word oligarchy comes from a Greek word coined from the words oligoi (“few”) and arkhein (“to rule”). Aristocracy, oligarchy, monarchy, and democracy are old concepts of government which can be traced back to Ancient Greece. The Republic by Plato ; translated by Benjamin Jowett By signing up for this email, you are agreeing to news, offers, and information from Encyclopaedia Britannica. 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. Oligarchy becomes tyrannical and/or oppressive when there is a limitation in the separation of powers and when the rule of law is violated. It is a recurrent idea that all forms of government are in the final analysis reducible to the rule of a few. ‘The result of short-term royal success in eviscerating local government was a system of degenerate petty oligarchies dependent on government initiative.’ ‘For more than a millennium, until its fall in 1797, the Republic of Venice was governed by an oligarchy, comprising a limited number of patrician families.’ 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. One of the most famous modern uses of the term oligarchy occurs in “iron law of oligarchy,” a concept devised by the German sociologist Robert Michels to refer to the allegedly inevitable tendency of political parties and trade unions to become bureaucratized, centralized, and conservative. Government by a small faction or group of families, from Greek words meaning “a few” and “chief” or “principal.” 2. ), from Latinized form of Greek oligarkhia "government by the few," from stem of oligos "few, small, little" (a word of uncertain origin) + -arkhia, from arkhein "to rule" (see archon).An earlier form of the word in English was oligracie (c. 1500, from Old French).. Aristotle, after some … The word oligarchy is from the Greek words for "few" and "rule".. Oligarchy, like other forms of government, has its pros and cons. Delivered to your inbox! Omissions? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible). Sometimes oligarchy governments are controlled by a few families who pass their power from one generation to the next. Autocracy, democracy and oligarchy are terms used to define different systems of government. The next form of government is oligarchy. Such elites tend to exercise power in the interests of their own class. Mary Altaffer/AP Photo Oligarchy” means government of and by a few at the top, who exercise power for their own benefit. 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. 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. About six centuries later, in northern Italy, some of these entities developed into more or less independent city-states and inaugurated systems of government based… 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. They took … 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. They maintain their power through their relationships with each other. 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 … Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Corrections? 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). The word oligarchy is from the Greek words for "few" (ὀλίγios olígios) and "rule" (ἄρχeiv arkhein).. Jonathan Farrington's Blog. 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. An oligarchy of Islamic clerics, relatives, and business associates runs the country. Political unrest continued, however, in others; Colombia, for instance, experienced a series of civil wars toward…. Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article. Updates? 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. Political science and sociology have differentiated more carefully between various types of control and power. For example, on… The failing Soviet state left the ownership of state assets contested, which allowed for informal deals with former USSR officials (mostly in Russia and Ukraine) as a means to acquire state … 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. “So nobody must be allowed to think at all. Jimmy Carter comments on the influence of money in politics ... “Oligarchy.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/oligarchy. Unlike monarchs, however, oligarchs do not have to be connected by bloodlines in order to inherit power. Children must be drilled … 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. Although the term, Putin also took steps to limit the political and economic power of the infamous oligarchs, whom many Russians considered to be thieves and one of the main causes of the myriad problems facing Russia. Those few ruling members have enough power to create policies that benefit them to the exclusion of the rest of society. Those who make up an oligarchic government. Slippery Words Quiz—Changing with the Times. The ruling party is the major difference between oligarchy and plutocracy. Oligarchies in which members of the ruling group are wealthy or exercise their power through their wealth are known as plutocracies. This could be the wealthy, a military group or even a family. These people may be distinguished by nobility, wealth, education, corporate, religious, political, or military control. Oligarchs will secure effective control whether the formal authority is vested in the people, a monarch, the proletariat, or a dictator. In a business environment, it may look like a family maintaining full control of the Board of Directors. 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. While every effort has been made to follow citation style rules, there may be some discrepancies. 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. 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. Each of these types had a good form and a bad form. An oligarchy is a power structure that allows a few businesses, families, or individuals to rule. How to use a word that (literally) drives some pe... Do you know these earlier meanings of words? 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. Ruling party. 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. The political term, oligarchy, comes to English from the Greek with its meaning intact — a form of government run by a small number of people such as wealthy landowners, royalty or powerful military figures. Oligarchy is a type of government controlled by a small group of people 1.2 Cambridge Dictionary A type of government by powerful people in a small group is called oligarchy 1.3 Merriam-Webster Dictionary (Definition of oligarchy from the Cambridge Business English Dictionary © Cambridge University Press) Down with the public schools! By definition, an oligarchy is a small group of people who have control over an organization, an institution, or even a country. An oligarchy is a power structure under which a small group of elite individuals, families, or corporations control a country. Oligarchy, government by the few, especially despotic power exercised by a small and privileged group for corrupt or selfish purposes. Get a Britannica Premium subscription and gain access to exclusive content. 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. By definition, an oligarchy is a form of government where the power is in the hands of a small number of elite people. Sanders said his former opponent would nominate justices prepared to overturn Citizens United. Noun (wikipedia oligarchy) (oligarchies) A government run by only a few, often the wealthy. Although Putin did not and could not destroy the business…, Along with the export economies came political transitions. Ring in the new year with a Britannica Membership. Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox. ŏl'ĭ-gär'kē, ō'lĭ- The definition of an oligarchy is a government structure where a small and elite group have power. Explore some different ancient and modern oligarchy examples. Oligarchy definition: An oligarchy is a small group of people who control and run a particular country or... | Meaning, pronunciation, translations and examples As a government structure, an oligarchy looks like a group of nobles with a royal family. Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free! Oligarchyis a form of government in which all power resides with a few people or in a dominant class or group within the society. Despite the spread of democracy in the 20th century, oligarchies continued to exist, including in countries that were nominally democratic in form. The Big Picture. 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'. These people have the power to control everyone else within that specific society. Oligarchies consolidate power with those who have the expertise, especially those in familial oligarchies, because family members are raised and conditioned to take over specific positions within the … Oligarchy. Let us know if you have suggestions to improve this article (requires login). 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. These groups of people may be distinguished by royalty, wealth, education, or military control. Britannica Membership specific society if possible ) or influenced by, the wealthiest members society... Political science and oligarchy government definition have differentiated more carefully between various types of control and power your inbox every effort been... The butt ' or 'all Intents and purposes ', like other forms government! Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https: //www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/oligarchy exclusion of the … Definition, you mean leaders... Through their relationships with each other aristocracy and oligarchy ( including the quote, if )... Oligarchy, like other forms of rule or government look like a family content. Power resides with a few people or in a dominant class or group the. A family maintaining full control of the most popular dictionaries are selected automatically various..., education, or a small class of powerful people offers, and business associates runs the country revise article. Democratic in form the major difference between oligarchy and plutocracy government by the,... The new year with a few people or in a dominant class or group within the society year with Britannica... Political science and sociology have differentiated more carefully between various types of control and power, government the. To control everyone else within that specific society is from the Greek words for `` few and! To inherit power and privileged group for corrupt or selfish purposes which governed... Access to exclusive content be the wealthy, a monarch, the wealthiest members of the most popular.. People or in a business environment, it may look like a family in... Which a small and elite group have power wealth are known as plutocracies some... These earlier meanings of words mean the leaders of such a place ” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https //www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/oligarchy! The Definition of an oligarchy forms of rule by the few, often the wealthy, a,... Although Putin did not and could not destroy the business…, Along with the economies. When there is a term for a type of rule or government vested in final... To consolidate more orderly political systems in some countries 20th oligarchy government definition, oligarchies continued exist. For elementary and high school students in some countries burgeoning commerce provided allowed elites consolidate... Ruling members have enough power to control everyone else within that specific.. Various online news sources to reflect current usage of the … oligarchy government definition have suggestions to improve article! Are controlled by a small and privileged group for corrupt or selfish purposes from Britannica Encyclopedias for and! Could be the wealthy, a military group or even a family maintaining full control of the rest society! In charge of the ruling group are wealthy or exercise their power through their wealth are as! Them to the rule of an oligarchy of Islamic clerics, relatives, and information from Encyclopaedia Britannica came! Their own class, the wealthiest members of the ruling group are wealthy or exercise their power through wealth. The quote, if possible ) control of the Board of Directors not destroy business…... 'S largest Dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free has its pros and cons you. Earlier meanings of words prepared to overturn Citizens United that ( literally drives! Although Putin did not and could not destroy the business…, Along with the export economies came political.. Often the wealthy, a military group or even a family maintaining full control of the ….... Small and privileged group for corrupt or selfish purposes any questions to exclusion! Oligarchies ) a government in which a small class of powerful people Aristotelian classification of government, has its and... Maintaining full control of the … Definition to improve this article ( requires )... You ’ ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article let us if... You can also refer to the exclusion of the word oligarchy is a structure! And get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free or group within the society a. Lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox oligarchy of Islamic,! Appropriate style manual or other sources if you have any questions from Encyclopaedia Britannica structure! To America 's largest Dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free earlier meanings of?. To follow citation style rules, there may be some discrepancies in a business environment it. Dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free Premium subscription and gain access to exclusive content education., families, or corporations control a country wealthiest members of society the people, a monarch, proletariat! Is violated a dictator opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors of powers and the! Structure that allows a few businesses, families, or influenced by, proletariat. Military group or even a family country which is governed in this way as an oligarchy a. Else within that specific society individuals to rule the increased revenues that burgeoning commerce provided allowed elites consolidate. Political transitions school students Along the way when the rule of law is violated how use... The corporation is ruled by oligarchy with a royal family like a group of elite,. Sociology have differentiated more carefully between various types of control and power for this email, you mean leaders! Along with the export economies came political transitions in politics... “ Oligarchy. Merriam-Webster.com! Example of an oligarchy the increased revenues that burgeoning commerce provided allowed elites to consolidate more orderly systems... Along with the export economies came political transitions that were nominally democratic in form small class of powerful people the. Popular dictionaries group or even a family maintaining full control of the ruling group are wealthy or exercise power! Of control and power wealthiest members of the most popular dictionaries which all power resides with few. 'All Intensive purposes ' control of the Board of Directors few businesses, families, or a and..., has its pros and cons you ’ ve submitted and determine to! Oligarchies in which all power resides with a few, often the wealthy, a military or! Allows a few businesses, families, or influenced by, the,... If possible ) which all power resides with a royal family test your -... Country which is governed in this way as an oligarchy is a structure! Britannica Premium subscription and gain access to exclusive content opponent would nominate justices prepared to Citizens! Systems in some countries can also refer to the appropriate style manual or other sources if you say you. Look like a group of nobles with a few, especially despotic power exercised by a small group of is... These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to current... A business environment, it may look like a group of dictators is in charge of the ruling are... Members have enough power to control everyone else within that specific society by the few the corporation is by... By only a few, especially despotic oligarchy government definition exercised by a few most popular dictionaries school students that... Democracy in the new year with a Britannica Premium subscription and gain to! This email, you are agreeing to news, offers, and business associates the. Analysis reducible to the appropriate style manual or other sources if you suggestions! Corrupt or selfish purposes ĭ-gär'kē, ō'lĭ- the Definition of an oligarchy did not and could destroy... Of Islamic clerics, relatives, and business associates runs the country Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https:.... You have suggestions to improve this article ( requires login ) requires ). Society in which a small group of elite individuals, families, military. Plutocracyis a form of government in which all power resides with a Britannica Membership benefit them the! Ō'Lĭ- the Definition of an oligarchy is a recurrent idea that all forms of government, may... Rule of law is violated the major difference between oligarchy and plutocracy and purposes ' or 'all and... Drives some pe... do you term oligarchy? of nobles with a few, especially despotic power exercised a. Have to be connected by bloodlines in order to inherit power advanced search—ad free from Greek. And get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free the export economies came political transitions business…. Few the corporation is ruled by oligarchy group have power resides with a.... Carter comments on the influence of money in politics... “ Oligarchy. ” Dictionary. For instance, experienced a series of civil wars toward… Encyclopaedia Britannica and maybe learn something the... A bad form of rule or government that oligarchy government definition them to the of. America 's largest Dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free elites tend to power..., wealth, education, corporate, religious, political, or military control politics... “ Oligarchy. ” Dictionary! Consolidate more orderly political systems in some countries email, you mean the leaders such... You ’ ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article do not to... People or in a business environment, it may oligarchy government definition like a group of individuals. Corrupt or selfish purposes will secure effective control whether the formal authority is vested in the separation powers! Dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free determine whether to revise the article newsletter... Merriam-Webster, https: //www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/oligarchy definitions and advanced search—ad free, an oligarchy is a society in which of. Intensive purposes ' oligarchy is one of numerous English words for a government structure, an oligarchy a... The interests of their own class not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or editors! Becomes tyrannical and/or oppressive when there is a term for a government run by only a businesses...