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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. 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 status 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 have labeled the United States an oligarchy, pointing to the influence of large corporations and Wall Street executives on American 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 is established, it can be very difficult for middle- and lower-class citizens to advance their socioeconomic status.

Is the united states an oligarchy?

During the famed Gilded Age of American history, prominent socialite Mrs. Stuyvesant Fish organized and hosted a lavish dinner party in honor of her pampered dog, who arrived at the function sporting a $15,000 diamond collar (PBS Online 1999). Such absurd luxuries were fairly commonplace among the ultra-rich during this era of American history, which saw the rise and dominance of such families as the Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, and Carnegies. As the super-rich reveled in their wealth, however, most Americans scraped by, living below what was considered the poverty level.

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)

Interestingly, some scholars now believe that the United States has embarked on a second Gilded Age and have offered hard data to back up their assertions. Such camps point to the fact that the “400 wealthiest American families now own more than the ‘lower’ 150 million Americans put together” (Schulz 2011). Much of this current generation’s wealth is concentrated among corporate executives and Wall Street tycoons.

Many of the super-rich use their economic clout to purchase more than luxury items. Specifically, wealthy individuals and corporations are major political donors. Because their campaign contributions have the potential to influence policy decisions and the election of candidates, the economic power of this segment of society is used for acquiring political power. As this dynamic continues, it supports the view that the concentration of wealth in the United States has contributed to making it like an oligarchy (Krugman 2011).

These patterns of wealth distribution and political contributions have spurred lively debate in recent years. Some see great wealth as a fair reward for hard work and talent, believing that political contributions are part of free expression in a democratic society. Others maintain that the concentration of wealth is a signal that too many people’s economic opportunities are limited. Another concern is that lack of equal power in making monetary donations will translate into an uneven distribution of political power—a situation that raises questions of the fairness of a “representational” system. These viewpoints underlay many of the recent political debates about tax policy, campaign finance reform, and government budgets in the United States.

Vladimir Putin.
Support from prominent Russian oligarchs propelled leader Vladimir Putin to power. (Photo courtesy of Kremlin.ru/Wikimedia Commons)

Questions & Answers

what is variations in raman spectra for nanomaterials
Jyoti Reply
I only see partial conversation and what's the question here!
Crow Reply
what about nanotechnology for water purification
RAW Reply
please someone correct me if I'm wrong but I think one can use nanoparticles, specially silver nanoparticles for water treatment.
Damian
yes that's correct
Professor
I think
Professor
what is the stm
Brian Reply
is there industrial application of fullrenes. What is the method to prepare fullrene on large scale.?
Rafiq
industrial application...? mmm I think on the medical side as drug carrier, but you should go deeper on your research, I may be wrong
Damian
How we are making nano material?
LITNING Reply
what is a peer
LITNING Reply
What is meant by 'nano scale'?
LITNING Reply
What is STMs full form?
LITNING
scanning tunneling microscope
Sahil
how nano science is used for hydrophobicity
Santosh
Do u think that Graphene and Fullrene fiber can be used to make Air Plane body structure the lightest and strongest. Rafiq
Rafiq
what is differents between GO and RGO?
Mahi
what is simplest way to understand the applications of nano robots used to detect the cancer affected cell of human body.? How this robot is carried to required site of body cell.? what will be the carrier material and how can be detected that correct delivery of drug is done Rafiq
Rafiq
what is Nano technology ?
Bob Reply
write examples of Nano molecule?
Bob
The nanotechnology is as new science, to scale nanometric
brayan
nanotechnology is the study, desing, synthesis, manipulation and application of materials and functional systems through control of matter at nanoscale
Damian
Is there any normative that regulates the use of silver nanoparticles?
Damian Reply
what king of growth are you checking .?
Renato
What fields keep nano created devices from performing or assimulating ? Magnetic fields ? Are do they assimilate ?
Stoney Reply
why we need to study biomolecules, molecular biology in nanotechnology?
Adin Reply
?
Kyle
yes I'm doing my masters in nanotechnology, we are being studying all these domains as well..
Adin
why?
Adin
what school?
Kyle
biomolecules are e building blocks of every organics and inorganic materials.
Joe
anyone know any internet site where one can find nanotechnology papers?
Damian Reply
research.net
kanaga
sciencedirect big data base
Ernesto
Introduction about quantum dots in nanotechnology
Praveena Reply
what does nano mean?
Anassong Reply
nano basically means 10^(-9). nanometer is a unit to measure length.
Bharti
do you think it's worthwhile in the long term to study the effects and possibilities of nanotechnology on viral treatment?
Damian Reply
absolutely yes
Daniel
how did you get the value of 2000N.What calculations are needed to arrive at it
Smarajit Reply
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What is called research problem and how we narrow down a research question and why it is needed
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Source:  OpenStax, Introduction to sociology. OpenStax CNX. Jun 12, 2012 Download for free at https://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11407/1.7
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