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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

why is sociology important as a student of Hospitality and Tourism?
Oluwabukola Reply
★ Define family and marriage and identify their different historical types.
Abir Reply
family is a group of people who share or have common kin connection. Marriage is when two people share kin connection and have a sexual approved union between them.
Stanford
Family group of people that are by all means related by blood from two sources and they also have many things in common life face resemblance and manny more.... Marriage is simply a connection between two people of different genthers with the soul aim of building a family in a life time
Dura
what is sociology
Sonia Reply
sociology is a social science and also a mirror through which human beings look into the societies. In addition it's a study of the society.
Ameh
Sociology is the study of social life, social change, and the social causes and consequences of human behavior.
young
explain the positive deviance promoting growth and development in (a)socialization (b)social group pressure and coercion
Precious Reply
What is condition in india retative to socialize.
Pintu Reply
any benefit reading of sociology
Waseem Reply
yes! there's a lot of benefits
Ameh
because it's the scientific study of society, patterns of social relationships, social interaction, and culture of everyday life. It is a social science that uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about social order, acceptance, and chang
Ameh
....e or social evolution
Ameh
what are the specific characteristics contributes to the inequality that is inherent in capitalism as an economic and social action? according to Karl Marx
Mokgohlwe Reply
the five basic social institution
GRACE Reply
French Revolution review of literature topic
Nadeem Reply
discuss it is singfinct by giving example from Pakistan socitey?
manan
ans baijo
manan
what is social satisfaction
Calistas Reply
discuss the contribution of religion to the development your community
akinlalure Reply
pastrol society discovered that plant are cultivated for domestic use
Shahid Reply
what is the most acceptable research of sociology ?
Joseph Reply
First thinker of sociology?
Laxmi Reply
August Comte
Ayushi
Since ancient times, people have been fascinated by the relationship between individuals and the societies to which they belong. Many topics studied in modern sociology were also studied by ancient philosophers in their desire to describe an ideal society, including theories of social conflict, econ
desmond
ancient sociologist also has given the theories of the modern sociology as well as in a modern society such as Marxist theory social conflict theory in which individual and society interact with each other only in conflict rather than consensus, but this totally depends upon the condition.
Ayushi
norms n values during socialisation
Concilia Reply
discuss the contribution of religion to the development your community
akinlalure
Today's revision questions: 1. How can sociological theories be beneficial when studying various groups or institutions within a society? Provide some examples which support your claims. 2. Explain how each of the three major theoretical paradigms discussed in this section (structural functionalism,
Life

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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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