<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >
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

introduction of sociology
Nawaraj Reply
study of social groups,Scoiety and social interaction
Abdul Reply
Relationship between the human beings and the societal structure of the society.
Subedi
what is sociology
Ramesh Reply
short question realited with research
Yuvi Reply
theories of max weber
Baraka Reply
Andreas Anter, Max Weber’s Theory of the Modern State Reviewed by Christopher Adair-Toteff Abstract: This is a review of Max Weber’s Theory of the Modern State in which Andreas Anter lays out Weber’s conception of the modern state. Working from fragmentary sources Anter reconstructs it by placing We
Zafar
class struggle by marx
Neivah
what is change
max Reply
 change refers to any significant alteration over time in behavior patterns and cultural values and norms. By “significant” alteration, sociologists mean changes yielding profound social consequences. Examples of significant social changes having long‐term effects include the industrial revolution,
Zafar
what are the process of social change
Aqeel Reply
Do what do theories on gender say
Miriro Reply
nonviolent crime include what?
Ajayi Reply
White Collar Crime
Basit
How has sociolgy change the way you see the world?
JV Reply
what is sociology
Kelvin Reply
sociology is a science of social relationship.
is the studies of people living in a particular jurisdiction and with a particular behavioural pattern
Evance
that highlight principle of how to live in society
Akak
Welcome
Shabana
Explain Levi-Strauss conception of Binary opposition.
Silent
what is socialogy
Kelvin Reply
study of human behaviour
Kainat
scientific and systematic study of human behaviour and social life generally
basher
It's the study of human behaviour and the interactions he has with others depending which parental, scholar, social and environmental education within various geographical sites he grew up in.
Pit
How many types of sociology?
Zalkifl Reply
I don't know
Omiat
4 types is the matirial nun matirial idea rea and real.
Shabana
compte Auguste
susan
i dont knw
German
what are the founders of sociology and their theories
Asad Reply
what is stratification?
vinay Reply
Stratification is also called social stratification. Sosial stratification is a social differentiation whereby members od society are gouped into socioeconomic strata,based upon their occupation, incom,wealth and social status or derived power(social and political power).
Muhammad
what is founders of sociology and their theory.?
Asad
what do you know about gender roles and stratification
Kayla
Gender roles are socially and culturally created by people in a specific geographical area upon the values and attitudes which they value as normal to them
Miriro
Stratification is a form of hierarchy
Miriro

Get the best Introduction to sociol... course in your pocket!





Source:  OpenStax, Introduction to sociology 2e. OpenStax CNX. Jan 20, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11762/1.6
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

Would you like to follow the 'Introduction to sociology 2e' conversation and receive update notifications?

Ask