Aristotle used the term oligarchy to designate the government of a few when it was unjustly exercised by the best men, but who at the same time were the most unjust. In this sense, it is a degraded form of aristocracy, denoting government by a few in whom power rests with the best individuals. Most classical oligarchies have arisen when ruling elites were recruited exclusively from a ruling caste, a hereditary social group that is separated from the rest of society by religion, kinship, economic status, prestige, or even language.


Related topics

Autocracy, plutocracy

What is oligarchy?

The oligarchy is a form of government in which power is exercised by a small group of people belonging to the same social class, by a group of wealthy businessmen who act together to defend only their interests.

It is a concept that opposes democracy, since it seeks to concentrate power in a small group, instead of providing everyone with the possibility of expressing an opinion and deciding. In countries under repression, the term can be used as an insult of a specific force, full of frustration and resentment of a nation stripped of its liberties.


The main characteristics that can be observed within an oligarchy are the following:


Its history is quite ancient and is considered to date back to the origin of social structures. Some political writers from Ancient Greece cited the oligarchs within their societies. The term was first coined by Aristotle and arose with the aim of making reference to the degeneration of the aristocracy. When this aristocratic system began to be distributed by bloodline and the State ceased to be in the hands of intelligent people, the term oligarchy began to be used.

The term comes from the Greek word ὀλιγαρχία which means oligarchy, and which is composed of the Greek roots ὀλίγος which has as meaning oligarchs, which means few, and the word ἄρχω which means arko, word which can be translated as govern or command. Therefore, the term means “government of a few“.

Financial oligarchy

Financial oligarchy is a term that is used within political economy and is used to give a name to the power and domination exercised by financial capital. When monopolies of the countries grow and the financial capital increases, it produces that the bank owners and the most important industries create a small group of individuals who own the economy and politics of a country.

It uses a participation system with which they are able to exercise control over shares, to control a company or a corporation causing that the greater the number of shares of other companies acquired, the more power over those shares is gained. It is common to observe the financial oligarchy within the political sphere.

Conservative oligarchy

The word conservative oligarchy was first used by the Venezuelan historian José Gil Fortoul. At that time, the term was used to refer to the governments that had existed in Venezuela from 1830 to 1846.

The conservative oligarchy can be defined as a political, social and economic group or elite that has the power to govern a country according to its own interests as a group.

Agrarian oligarchy

The agrarian oligarchy refers to a small group of people or family groups that own as much land as a country has, and thus have the capacity to exercise economic power over political and social institutions.


Written by Gabriela Briceño V.

How to cite this article?

Briceño V., Gabriela. (2019). Oligarchy. Recovered on 23 February, 2024, de Euston96:

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