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Queen Noor of Jordan.
Queen Noor of Jordan is the dowager queen of this constitutional monarchy and has limited political authority. Queen Noor is American by birth, but relinquished her citizenship when she married. She is a noted global advocate for Arab-Western relations. (Photo courtesy of Skoll World Forum/flickr)

Oligarchy

The power in an oligarchy    is held by a small, elite group. Unlike in a monarchy, members of an oligarchy do not necessarily achieve their statuses based on ties to noble ancestry. Rather, they may ascend to positions of power because of military might, economic power, or similar circumstances.

The concept of oligarchy is somewhat elusive; rarely does a society openly define itself as an oligarchy. Generally, the word carries negative connotations and conjures notions of a corrupt group whose members make unfair policy decisions in order to maintain their privileged positions. Many modern nations that claim to be democracies are really oligarchies. In fact, some prominent journalists, such as Paul Krugman, who won a Nobele laureate prize in economics, have labeled the United States an oligarchy, pointing to the influence of large corporations and Wall Street executives on U.S. policy (Krugman 2011). Other political analysts assert that all democracies are really just “elected oligarchies,” or systems in which citizens must vote for an individual who is part of a pool of candidates who come from the society’s elite ruling class (Winters 2011).

Oligarchies have existed throughout history, and today many consider Russia an example of oligarchic political structure. After the fall of communism, groups of business owners captured control of this nation’s natural resources and have used the opportunity to expand their wealth and political influence. Once an oligarchic power structure has been established, it can be very difficult for middle- and lower-class citizens to advance their socioeconomic status.

Is the united states an oligarchy?

A mansion built during the Gilded Age.
The Breakers, the famous Newport, Rhode Island, home of the Vanderbilts, is a powerful symbol of the extravagant wealth that characterized the Gilded Age. (Photo courtesy of ckramer/flickr)

The American Gilded Age saw the rise and dominance of ultra-rich families such as the Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, and Carnegies, and the wealthy often indulged in absurd luxuries. One example is a lavish dinner party hosted for a pampered pet dog who attended wearing a $15,000 diamond collar (PBS Online 1999). At the same time, most Americans barely scraped by, living below what was considered the poverty level.

Some scholars believe that the United States has now embarked on a second gilded age, pointing out that the “400 wealthiest American families now own more than the ‘lower’ 150 million Americans put together" (Schultz 2011), and “the top 10% of earners took in more than half of the country’s overall income in 2012, the highest proportion recorded in a century of government record keeping” (Lowery 2014).

Many of the super–rich use their economic clout to purchase more than luxury items; wealthy individuals and corporations are major political donors. Based on campaign finance reform legislation in 1971 and 2002, political campaign contributions were regulated and limited; however, the 2012 Supreme Court decision in the case of Citizen’s United versus the Federal Election Commission repealed many of those restrictions. The Court ruled that contributions of corporations and unions to Political Action Committees (PACs) are a form of free speech that cannot be abridged and so cannot be limited or disclosed. Opponents believe this is potentially a step in promoting oligarchy in the United States; the ultra-wealthy and those who control the purse strings of large corporations and unions will, in effect, be able to elect their candidate of choice through their unlimited spending power, as well as influence policy decisions, appointments to nonelected government jobs, and other forms of political power. Krugman (2011) says, “We have a society in which money is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few people, and in which that concentration of income and wealth threatens to make us a democracy in name only.”

Questions & Answers

How can I have access to rural sociology lecture notes?
KIEH Reply
what is Karl max.
ALIYU Reply
karl Marx is a economist and he worked in sociology he proposed theory of communism
Zakir
communism said that Every member of society acquired equal rights means equal basic needs of life ...he said capitalism gain all the profits and worker remain in same situation they can't effort even his three times meals in a day
Zakir
What are the main tasks of Sociologist
Adamson Reply
Does a full Moon really trigger strange beh
Abubakar Reply
please does anyone doing Anthropology here. I need help on the notes
Pascal Reply
my course is a combination of sociology and anthropology. please I need some notes
Pascal
Actually am doing sociology
Abubakar
mmm ok I have a friend of mine who is offering Anthropology perhaps I will talk to him about the notes
Abubakar
where from u
BILAL
use your own reaearch and try to get your needs
yuusuf
Any body define Global implications nd technology
BILAL
hi
Elias
what are the differences and similarities between August Comte and Herbert Spencer theories? pls I need some response on that.
Elias
Hyy
BILAL
what are the advantages and disadvantages of multi​ culture
fazil Reply
hello
Pascal
hello
roamers
good morning from here
Pascal
morning
ram
good Morning
shoaib
please is there any way someone can have a private message here
Pascal
hii
fazil
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Pascal
hii
fazil
good morning pascal
fazil
hii
fazil
gd morning ram
fazil
plz try to answer the question above. don't say hi, helo and so on
yuusuf
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yuusuf
trying to answer the advantage and disadvantage of multiculruralism. 1. The advantage is multethnic countries are home to majority of migrants a signifacant population of it being a highly educated skilled of workforces aroun the world.
yuusuf
2. Disadvantage may couse risk of social conflict occurs due to differences in relegios, beliefs, and practoces though ethnic retuals or certain weys of life that may couse rift between two or more groups.
yuusuf
more result plz References (Opinionfront.com)
yuusuf
How would you classify crimes like child abuse, human trafficking and domestic violence?
Omego Reply
I would say that these are very serious crimes especially because they hinge on the rights of human beings, therefore they would be classified as felonies. Felonies;are the most serious of crimes that one can commit.  
Douglas
what are the factors responsible for drug addiction using the theories of deviance
Cora Reply
parents are the first responsible for drugs addiction in our society today
Yakubu
what are the unique features of rural areas?
Gidion Reply
what is the positive influence of peer group on the adolescent
Nkolie Reply
i think the positive influence of peer group on the adolescent,overall is small but not big.
Ahsanul
yeah it more of the micro aspect towards positive behavior among peers on the adolescent
JOHNMIKE
Peer group makes a individual to know about the team work capabilities and also learns norms and values of society
roamers
explain problems of accommodation
Rank Reply
Explain the role of elites and type of elite theory
suleiman Reply
what statements are true according to sociologist Emile durkheim
Special Reply
hii
roamers
his perspective about suicide
Saidu
his perspective about division of Labour
roamers
founder of sociology and a significant figure in the feild of sociology. He was the functionalist.
shoaib
what is sociology
Ajisafe Reply
Sociology is a combined word. It is made up of one Latin word "socious" which means society and the other Greek word "logus" which means knowledge or science. The combination and merger of these two words gave rise to the word sociology.
Ame
absolutely cuz society can not come on it's own without much systematic observations according to The French philosopher and also the founder of sociology "Augusta comte" do he asserts to it the intellectual task of making discoveries of understandable nature of the socity and why behave the way
IBRAHIM
*they do
IBRAHIM
sociology is the systematic and scientific study of human groups, society,including patterns of relationships and social interaction and culture.
SOPHIA
personality of socialization
Abakim Reply
can someone explain personality of socialization
Abakim
personality of socialization...
roamers

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Source:  OpenStax, Introduction to sociology 2e. OpenStax CNX. Jan 20, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11762/1.6
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