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That "Iron Law" Of Oligarchy Is Back To Haunt Us

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That "Iron Law" Of Oligarchy Is Back To Haunt Us

By Danny Schechter

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The word Oligarchy has finally come home.

For years, it was a term only used in connection with those big bad and sleazy Mafioso-type businessmen in Russia.

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Russia had Oligarchs; we didn't. That became a big difference between the official narrative of what separated our land of the free and the home of the brave from THEM, the snakes in the shades and private planes, in the post-Soviet period.

Actually, I first heard the term oligarchy when I was studying labor history at Cornell a half a lifetime ago. We were taught about something called the "Iron Law of Oligarchy."

It was a concept coined by Robert Michels, a friend of sociology guru, Max Weber, way back in 1911. Here's how it was defined in that relic of another age: The Encyclopedia Brittannica:

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"Michels came to the conclusion that the formal organization of bureaucracies inevitably leads to oligarchy, under which organizations originally idealistic and democratic eventually come to be dominated by a small, self-serving group of people who achieved positions of power and responsibility.  This can occur in large organizations because it becomes physically impossible for everyone to get together every time a decision has to be made."

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News Dissector Danny Schechter is blogger in chief at Mediachannel.Org He is the author of PLUNDER: Investigating Our Economic Calamity (Cosimo Books) available at Amazon.com. See Newsdisssector.org/store.htm.

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