“Who says organization, says oligarchy," states Robert Michels, a German historian who produced one of the most scathing assessments of government ever written. He argues that bureaucracy and democracy don't mix. Michels is best known for the ingenious Political Parties: A Sociological Study of the Oligarchical Tendencies of Modern Democracy, published in 1915. The book positively begs us to examine the maxim that power corrupts, and to seriously consider if democracy is nothing more than a idealistic impossibility.
Oligarchy is defined as rule by an elite or privileged few. Today people often use the word oligarchy to refer to a leadership class of corporate plutocrats, but what is less understood is how oligarchies form. Oligarchy is rule by a few to be sure. However, the concept of oligarchy in Michels' lexicon - the “Iron Law of Oligarchy,” - is both an explanation for how oligarchies originate, as well as a compelling critique of the inherently flawed structure of all forms of democratic government itself.