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Rule by the few, often seen as having self-serving ends. Aristotle used the term pejoratively for unjust rule by bad men, contrasting oligarchy with rule by an aristocracy. Most classic oligarchies have resulted when governing elites were recruited exclusively from a ruling class, which tends to exercise power in its own interest. The term is considered outmoded today because few conveys no information about the nature of the ruling group.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on oligarchy, visit Britannica.com.