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iron law of oligarchy

A theory of trade unions and socialist political parties formulated by the sociologist, Robert Michels, in the early years of the twentieth century. It expresses a deeply pessimistic ...

iron law of oligarchy

iron law of oligarchy   Reference library

Dictionary of the Social Sciences

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2002
Subject:
Social sciences
Length:
116 words

... law of oligarchy Proposed by French sociologist Robert Michels in Political Parties ( 1911 ) to describe the tendency of all organizations or polities to fall under the control of elites. In Michels's words, “he who says organization, says oligarchy.” Oligarchical rule, he claimed, follows from a number of related factors: the impossibility of general political participation by a large number of people; the need for efficient, expert decision making; and the natural human desire for power. The larger the organization, he argued, the narrower the dominant...

iron law of oligarchy

iron law of oligarchy   Quick reference

A Concise Oxford Dictionary of Politics and International Relations (4 ed.)

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2018
Subject:
Social sciences, Politics
Length:
89 words

... law of oligarchy Name given by Robert Michel ( 1875–1936 ) to his claim that even socialist parties which professed internal democracy would in practice be controlled by a small elite: ‘who says organization, says oligarchy’. The aims of the organization would be undermined by the elite’s self‐interested pursuit of its own aims. In that no large organization is controlled from day to day by its membership at large, Michels’ claim is true but trivial. But it remains painful for organizations which are formally committed to internal...

iron law of oligarchy

iron law of oligarchy   Quick reference

A Dictionary of Human Resource Management (3 ed.)

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2017
Subject:
Social sciences, Business and Management
Length:
102 words

...iron law of oligarchy A theory of trade unions and socialist political parties formulated by the sociologist Robert Michels in the early years of the twentieth century. It expresses a deeply pessimistic viewpoint that progressive social movements inevitably become undemocratic and dominated by a conservative élite. The theory has had most influence on the analysis of trade unions and is associated with the view that unions are controlled by an unaccountable bureaucracy. Critics of the theory believe that it exaggerates the extent of leader control of unions...

iron law of oligarchy

iron law of oligarchy  

A theory of trade unions and socialist political parties formulated by the sociologist, Robert Michels, in the early years of the twentieth century. It expresses a deeply pessimistic viewpoint that ...
Towns

Towns   Quick reference

David M. Palliser

The Oxford Companion to Local and Family History (2 ed.)

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2009
Subject:
History, Local and Family History
Length:
5,140 words
Publisher:
Oxford University Press

...structures of town government. Urban representatives became a regular part of the English and Scottish parliaments; the larger English towns acquired corporate status, and the very largest became counties corporate, which put them completely outside the control of county officials, with their mayors answerable directly to the king. And in both England and Scotland the popular element in municipal elections was being curbed in the 15th century with the approval of the Crown, to the point where some historians speak of a rise of urban oligarchies. Nevertheless,...

union bureaucracy

union bureaucracy  

Is a pejorative term for the full-time officers of trade unions that expresses the belief that official trade unionism is often ineffective or neglectful in advancing the interests of ordinary union ...
oligarchy

oligarchy  

Reference type:
Overview Page
Any form of government in which there is ‘rule by a few’; for example, by members of a self-regulating elite having domination over a larger society. See also Michels; political sociology.
Robert Michels

Robert Michels  

Reference type:
Overview Page
(1876 –1936)A German sociologist known best for his work on what he called the “iron law of oligarchy,” which holds that oligarchical structures eventually dominate any political organization, no ...
union democracy

union democracy  

Refers to the participation of trade union members in the government of their trade unions. Trade unions are membership organizations that are formally democratic and allow for member participation ...
oligarchy

oligarchy   Quick reference

Andrew Reeve

A Concise Oxford Dictionary of Politics and International Relations (4 ed.)

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2018
Subject:
Social sciences, Politics
Length:
82 words

... Government by the few. The logically exclusive categories of government by one, the few, or the many have been widely deployed, but the terminology has varied. For example, aristocracy is a form of government by the few. Aristotle distinguished between rulers who govern in the general interest (aristocracy) and rulers who govern in their own interest (oligarchy). Sociologists have made claims about a necessary connection between organization and oligarchy. See also elitism ; iron law of oligarchy . Andrew...

oligarchy

oligarchy   Reference library

Dictionary of the Social Sciences

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2002
Subject:
Social sciences
Length:
145 words

..., Gaetano Mosca , and Vilfredo Pareto ( see elite and elitism ). These theorists argued that elite rule was a natural outcome of large-scale organization and that oligarchy in some form was an inevitability (see in particular Michels' iron law of oligarchy ). Others have observed that in societies without strong distinctions of rank, oligarchy gravitates toward plutocracy: rule based on...

union bureaucracy

union bureaucracy   Quick reference

A Dictionary of Human Resource Management (3 ed.)

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2017
Subject:
Social sciences, Business and Management
Length:
81 words

... is a pejorative term for the full-time officers of trade unions that expresses the belief that official trade unionism is often ineffective or neglectful in advancing the interests of ordinary union members. The term is also used to refer to a particular kind of relationship between union members and their representatives, in which the latter take decisions and devise policy on behalf of members and therefore encourage passivity and dependence. See also goal displacement , iron law of oligarchy , rank-and-filism...

Michels, Roberto

Michels, Roberto (1876–1936)   Quick reference

A Dictionary of Sociology (4 ed.)

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2015
Subject:
Social sciences, Sociology
Length:
448 words

...of Michels's iron law have found it difficult to demonstrate that the institutionalization of radical parties is in fact the product of the embourgeoisement of their leaders. It has also been argued that Michels's theory may have been valid for the early period of the development of socialist parties in Europe, and as a description of the élitist tendencies of the Bolshevik Party which sponsored a form of bureaucratic domination in Russia, but that the theory has since been undermined by widespread awareness of the dangers of oligarchy itself. A host of...

union democracy

union democracy   Quick reference

A Dictionary of Human Resource Management (3 ed.)

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2017
Subject:
Social sciences, Business and Management
Length:
236 words

... postal ballot of all members. Ballots must also be used to endorse particular decisions, such as the setting up of a political fund and taking strike action, and, although not obligatory, they are used increasingly to decide the acceptance of wage offers from employers. Identifying the conditions under which union democracy flourishes, and the iron law of oligarchy is kept in check, have been major concerns of industrial relations researchers. According to one view, genuine union democracy is dependent upon the existence of competing factions or...

law

law   Reference library

Dictionary of the Social Sciences

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2002
Subject:
Social sciences
Length:
564 words

...It provides a theoretical basis for predicting certain kinds of carefully specified outcomes (e.g., the law of gravity or the laws of thermodynamics). While social scientists have often claimed to discover laws (e.g., the law of supply and demand or the iron law of oligarchy ), the status of these generalizations is a subject of much debate. Few social phenomena are subject to unambiguous description or explanation, and few are as reliably isolable or replicable as natural phenomena. The difference between the two has been a formative problem in the social...

elite and elitism

elite and elitism   Reference library

Dictionary of the Social Sciences

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2002
Subject:
Social sciences
Length:
200 words

... Pareto around the turn of the twentieth century. Mosca's The Ruling Class ( 1896 ) argued that all societies come to be dominated by a relatively small, more or less cohesive group that possesses some crucial skill or attribute. Against Marxism , elitists hold that domination is not fundamentally economic; against pluralism , they contend that although elites may be replaced, their existence is inevitable. Robert Michels 's iron law of oligarchy draws the same conclusion about political parties. Elite theories of democracy, deriving especially...

Michels, Robert

Michels, Robert (1876–1936)   Reference library

Dictionary of the Social Sciences

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2002
Subject:
Social sciences
Length:
300 words

...his work on what he called the “iron law of oligarchy,” which holds that oligarchical structures eventually dominate any political organization, no matter what its political orientation. Michels developed this set of ideas in his influential Political Parties ( 1911 ), a study of the left-wing Social Democratic Party in Germany. His argument combined an analysis of specific empirical circumstances with a more general argument based on the implications of numbers alone—the larger an organization, the smaller the proportion of top leaders and the greater their...

Long, Huey

Long, Huey   Reference library

Raymond O Arsenault

The Oxford Encyclopedia of American Political and Legal History

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2013
Subject:
Social sciences, Politics, Law, History of Law
Length:
457 words

.... But his insurgent candidacy ended abruptly on 9 September, when he was fatally shot by Dr. Carl Weiss (the son-in-law of Judge Benjamin Pavy , an anti-Long leader) in the Louisiana statehouse in Baton Rouge . During his brief but remarkable career, Huey Long ruled Louisiana with an iron hand, dispensing economic panaceas and political retribution with a ferocity seldom seen in American politics. The most powerful southern politician of his day, the “Kingfish,” as he liked to be called, spawned a political dynasty that influenced state and national...

Long, Huey

Long, Huey   Reference library

Raymond O. Arsenault

The Oxford Companion to United States History

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2004
Subject:
History, Regional and National History
Length:
439 words

...that he claimed would alleviate unemployment and the maldistribution of wealth. In 1935 he planned a run for the presidency and even wrote a book entitled My First Days in the White House. But his insurgent candidacy ended abruptly on 9 September , when he was fatally shot by Dr. Carl Weiss (the son-in-law of Judge Benjamin Pavy , an anti-Long leader), in the Louisiana statehouse in Baton Rouge. During his brief but remarkable career, Huey Long ruled Louisiana with an iron hand, dispensing economic panaceas and political retribution with a...

political sociology

political sociology   Quick reference

A Dictionary of Sociology (4 ed.)

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2015
Subject:
Social sciences, Sociology
Length:
686 words

...apathy of the majority of members that can leave greater power to the leadership, and in the iron law of oligarchy ( see Michels ), which argues that leaders of an organization tend to substitute their own self-interests for those of the organization and seek to retain their positions of power to serve these interests. It addresses the phenomena of despotic and totalitarian regimes as well as parliamentary democracies , seeking to explain the origins and stability of specific political regimes and institutional structures. Studies of political...

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