Autocracy, democracy and oligarchy are terms used to define different systems of government. 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. Get a Britannica Premium subscription and gain access to exclusive content. An oligarchy is a power structure under which a small group of elite individuals, families, or corporations control a country. Oligarchyis a form of government in which all power resides with a few people or in a dominant class or group within the society. Unlike monarchs, however, oligarchs do not have to be connected by bloodlines in order to inherit power. Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way. In a business environment, it may look like a family maintaining full control of the Board of Directors. 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. 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. An aristocracyis a type of government run by members of the traditional elite of a society, who are considered the most fit to rule. This could be the wealthy, a military group or even a family. If you say that you can't fight the oligarchy, you mean the leaders of such a place. Oligarchy is a term for a government in which power is held by a select few individuals or a small class of powerful people. Children must be drilled … 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. 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. 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. A daily challenge for crossword fanatics. Oligarchy, like other forms of government, has its pros and cons. (Definition of oligarchy from the Cambridge Business English Dictionary © Cambridge University Press) 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 You can also refer to a country which is governed in this way as an oligarchy. Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. 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 … Government by a small faction or group of families, from Greek words meaning “a few” and “chief” or “principal.” 2. 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. 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. 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 (n.) "form of government in which supreme power is vested in a small exclusive class," 1570s, from French oligarchie (14c. These groups of people may be distinguished by royalty, wealth, education, or military control. oligarchy 1. By definition, an oligarchy is a form of government where the power is in the hands of a small number of elite 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. Let us know if you have suggestions to improve this article (requires login). As per its definition, an oligarchy is a system of government where the few - be it families, businesses, scholars, or individuals - rule. For example, on… An oligarchy of Islamic clerics, relatives, and business associates runs the country. While every effort has been made to follow citation style rules, there may be some discrepancies. Delivered to your inbox! As a government structure, an oligarchy looks like a group of nobles with a royal family. 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