Iron Law of Oligarchy

Discipline: Political Science

Theory of social organization set out by German social scientist Robert Michels (1876-1936) in his study of the internal politics of the German Social Democratic Party.

'He who says organization, says oligarchy.' As soon as people form organizations, power in those organizations gravitates upwards towards the permanent officials or officers. A second, subordinate law suggests that whatever purpose an organization was originally established to serve, the preservation of the organization itself, and of its oligarchy, will come to take precedence.

Also see: elitism

Geraint Parry, Political Elites (London, 1969)


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