Differences between Elite Rule, Oligarchy and Aristocracy

Analysing the difference between Elite rule, Oligarchy and Aristocracy, Doughlas V. Verney observes, “An elite appears to combine some of the characteristics of both an Oligarchy and an Aristocracy but it is not to be confused with either. It is a minority, like an oligarchy, and consists of superior people, like an aristocracy, but there is neither the sense of self-perpetuation and selfishness which surrounds the former nor the pomp and grandeur which often is associated with the latter.”

In other words, elite rule is a rule of minority but it is neither self-perpetuating nor selfish. Nevertheless, like Oligarchy and Aristocracy, it does involve the promotion of vested interests.

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Further, modern elites of democratic systems emerge out of the masses and rule with the tacit and general approval of the masses. The masses elect their ruling elites and recognise their power and ability to rule them.

In Oligarchy and Aristocracy, the elite rule is based on kinship or family superiority or the thesis of’ celebrities and royal family.’ Oligarchs rule by establishing their right to govern either because of their inherent right or family status or even physical ability to rule.

In an aristocracy, the few rule because they are considered as ‘the persons fit to rule.’ In Oligarchy and Aristocracy, the rule of the few over the masses is imposed and it always tries to perpetuate itself. In the elite rule, the chosen minority rules with the consent of the masses and is accountable for its rule. In the words of Dr. J.C. Johri.”

“The line of demarcation is traceable in the fact that elite rule lacks both traditional grandeur and tendency of self-perpetuation which are the hallmarks of the rule of the few known by the names of aristocracy or oligarchy.”

Concept of Elite rule is as such different from the traditional concepts of Oligarchy and Aristocracy. Elite rule is a minority rule, backed by tacit and general consent of the masses.

Oligarchy and Aristocracy involve the rule of a minority which thrives either on the interest of the masses in their doings, or on the apathy, ignorance, weakness and meekness of the masses.