01 November 2005

The Iron Law of Oligarchy, Revisited


Interesting discussion by Lee Harris on how all political systems end up as oligarchies.

I disagree with his proposition, that religion is the only solution (I think there is no solution), but it is not a completely ridiculous conclusion, and the discussion is worth reading.


The sociologist's name was Robert Michels and the book that is no longer read was published in 1911 under the title On the Sociology of Political Parties in Modern Democracies -- the English translation of which was shortened to Political Parties. The central thesis of Michels' book was summed up by the author in the following words:

"The fundamental sociological law of political parties (the term 'political' being here used in its most comprehensive sense) may be formulated in the following terms: It is organization which gives birth to the domination of the elected over the electors, of the mandataries over the mandators, of the delegates over the delegators. Who says organization, says oligarchy.'"


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