Pub. date: 2010 | Online Pub. Date: May 06, 2010 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412958660 | Print ISBN: 9781412958653 | Online ISBN: 9781412958660| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Oligarchy ( oligarkhía ) denotes the rule of the rich few. In ancient Greece (where the name originated), oligarchy was a political regime in which the ruling power ( arkhé ) was held by a small group of wealthy citizens ( óligoy ) or a class chosen by census. The regime of the Four Hundred that overturned Athenian democracy in 411 was an oligarchy. Since its inception, the term has referred particularly to the determination of a social class to acquire political power in order to further its own interests and so implied not simply a government by the few, but rule by and for the few. Oligarchy tends therefore to be unfavorably contrasted with aristocracy , rule of the few (best and wisest) for the benefit of all, although from the point of view of modern egalitarian ideals, both will seem objectionable. Oligarchy is a form of class rule, ...