Oligarchy (Political Science)

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  • A type of government where rule is by a small elite power group. The degree of oligarchy can be determined by the percentage of the population holding leadership positions, the most extreme form being a monarchy. Members of an oligarchy commonly achieve their position through election, heredity, or property ownership.

    According to Aristotle in The Politics (350 BCE), an oligarchy depends on the “customs and training” of a nation rather than its constitution. The German sociologist Robert Michels in Political Parties (1911) coined the term the iron law of oligarchy. Michels's theory posited that any organization or government, no matter how democratic at its inception, will eventually turn into an oligarchy. This is due to the increasing complexity of the organization and its transformation into ...

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