1. a form of government in which all power is vested in a few persons or in a dominant class or clique; government by the few.
2. a state or organization so ruled.
3. the persons or class so ruling.
An interesting political theory I was reading about recently called "The Iron Law of Oligarchy", a term coined by German Sociologist Robert Michels in 1911 published in his book Political Parties
. It asserts that all large organizations and governments, regardless of their autocratic or democratic beginnings, will inevitably end up as oligarchies and that real democracy is impossible. If real democracy does exist, it exists only temporarily.
1. a system of administration wherein there is a specialization of functions, objective qualifications for office, action according to the adherence to fixed rules, and a hierarchy of authority and delegated power.
In simple terms Michels asserts that because the creation of a bureaucracy is necessary to maintain a democracy and since bureaucracy creates power and power inevitably corrupts, democracy eventually becomes corrupted and transitions to oligarchy. This is essentially the basis of the "Iron Law". Contributing factors also include the passivity of the "masses" who do very little to stop the power grabbing of the elite, the tendency of leaders to act in their own self interest and the unwillingness of the group or population to question authority.
The transition period has some of the characteristics below:
1. Increasingly, officials use their expertise and power over information to influence decision making.
2. Increasingly, a career structure develops within bureaucracies and amid "the mania for promotion", deference to one's superiors soon counts for more than simple ability. Individuality and criticism are thus soon excluded and the power of those at the top increased.
3. Increasingly, those at the top of such organizations become more interested in maintaining their own powers and privileges than in promoting the causes of the organization. The organization becomes an end in itself rather than a means to an end. The policies of the organization become increasingly conservative for fear that radical actions will lead to it's destruction. The leadership dominates all decision making and appointments, dismantles any checks on it's power and, where possible, votes itself into office for life.
4. Increasingly, the ordinary members find themselves excluded from the organization, from decision making. They find rules, procedures and jargon of meetings and documents incomprehensible and react by not attending, not participating and so increasing the power of the leadership. Those at the top of the organizational structure begin to adopt an elite lifestyle and so find it difficult to even consider returning to the "shop floor". They come to believe in their own omnipotence, come to see themselves as invincible and to believe in their own propaganda that they alone know what is best for the organization or "the people".
Does any of this sound familiar?
People think that the US is a free and democratic country and it will stay that way indefinitely? Think again.