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This is a book by the sociologist Robert Michels, published in 1911 and first introducing the concept of iron law of oligarchy. It is considered one of the classics of social sciences, in particular sociology and political science. This work analyses the power structures of organizations such as political parties and trade unions. Michels's main argument is that all organiz This is a book by the sociologist Robert Michels, published in 1911 and first introducing the concept of iron law of oligarchy. It is considered one of the classics of social sciences, in particular sociology and political science. This work analyses the power structures of organizations such as political parties and trade unions. Michels's main argument is that all organizations, even those in theory most egalitarian and most committed to democracy – like socialist political parties – are in fact oligarchical, and dominated by a small group of leadership. The book also provides a first systematic analysis of how a radical political party loses its radical goals under the dynamics of electoral participation. The origins of moderation theory can be found in this analysis. (This is a translation. Book was first published in German under the title Zur Soziologie des Parteiwesens in der modernen Demokratie; Untersuchungen über die oligarchischen Tendenzen des Gruppenlebens.)


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This is a book by the sociologist Robert Michels, published in 1911 and first introducing the concept of iron law of oligarchy. It is considered one of the classics of social sciences, in particular sociology and political science. This work analyses the power structures of organizations such as political parties and trade unions. Michels's main argument is that all organiz This is a book by the sociologist Robert Michels, published in 1911 and first introducing the concept of iron law of oligarchy. It is considered one of the classics of social sciences, in particular sociology and political science. This work analyses the power structures of organizations such as political parties and trade unions. Michels's main argument is that all organizations, even those in theory most egalitarian and most committed to democracy – like socialist political parties – are in fact oligarchical, and dominated by a small group of leadership. The book also provides a first systematic analysis of how a radical political party loses its radical goals under the dynamics of electoral participation. The origins of moderation theory can be found in this analysis. (This is a translation. Book was first published in German under the title Zur Soziologie des Parteiwesens in der modernen Demokratie; Untersuchungen über die oligarchischen Tendenzen des Gruppenlebens.)

30 review for Political Parties : A Sociological Study of the Oligarchical Tendencies of Modern Democracy

  1. 5 out of 5

    Griffin Wilson

    This is now probably one of my favorite books of political theory. It contains some excellent insights into the oligarchical nature of democracies (and of human organization in general) from a psychological and sociological point of view. The author, Robert Michels, was a member of the Social Democratic Party in Germany and later the Italian Syndicalists until he left both in 1907. This book was published in 1911. Later in life (in 1924) Michels joined the fascist party in Italy. The book sets ou This is now probably one of my favorite books of political theory. It contains some excellent insights into the oligarchical nature of democracies (and of human organization in general) from a psychological and sociological point of view. The author, Robert Michels, was a member of the Social Democratic Party in Germany and later the Italian Syndicalists until he left both in 1907. This book was published in 1911. Later in life (in 1924) Michels joined the fascist party in Italy. The book sets out to discover why it seems that even the most professedly egalitarian and democratic of organizations -- socialist and revolutionary groups in 19th/ early 20th century Europe, who considered themselves the heirs of the French Revolution's "liberté, egalité, fraternité" -- all seemed to devolve into oligarchical organizations where the party leaders put their own interests ahead of the general will; this was without exception across Europe. He says: "At the outset, [revolutionary] leaders arise spontaneously; their functions are accessory and gratuitous. Soon, however, they become professional leaders, and in the second stage of development they are stable and irremovable." The book is famous for its proposition of the 'iron law of oligarchy,' which, in the author's words, states: "Reduced to its most concise expression, the fundamental sociological law of political parties may be formulated in the following terms:... Who says organization says oligarchy." He concludes that oligarchies arise out of organic necessity in human organization, and that democracy eventually necessitates aristocracy. Ideally, he says, the ideal government would be an aristocracy that is morally good and technically efficient; however, based upon the study of history one realizes that this is never possible in the long run, and rarely possible in the short run. Therefore, Michels believes that democracy is the lesser of two evils (between itself and outright aristocracy) because, in democracy, at least the public can occasionally exert its will and convince the aristocracy to act in the interest of the masses. It would be interesting to see how Michels' thought developed over the next 13 years of his life, at which point he joined the fascist party. Unfortunately his other books are difficult to acquire even in Italian and French -- the languages which he originally wrote in.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Allie

    Great commentary on the crustiness of political parties, the emergence and maintenance of political power. Makes a great foundation for current literature by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson ("Why Nations Fail"). Great quotes: "It is not the principal aim of science to create systems, but rather to promote understanding." "Democracy leads to oligarchy, and necessarily contains an oligarchical nucleus." "With democratic mien he must descend into the electoral arena, must hail the farmers and the agr Great commentary on the crustiness of political parties, the emergence and maintenance of political power. Makes a great foundation for current literature by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson ("Why Nations Fail"). Great quotes: "It is not the principal aim of science to create systems, but rather to promote understanding." "Democracy leads to oligarchy, and necessarily contains an oligarchical nucleus." "With democratic mien he must descend into the electoral arena, must hail the farmers and the agricultural labourers as professional colleagues, and must seek to convince them that their economic and social interests are identical with his own. Thus the aristocrat is constrained to secure his election in virtue of a principle which he does not himself accept, and which his soul abhors. His whole being demands authority...Nevertheless, since he recognizes that in the democratic epoch by which he has been overwhelmed he stands alone with this political principle, and that by its open advocacy he could never hope to maintain a political party, he dissembles his true thoughts, and howls with the democratic wolves in order to secure the coveted majority." "The democratic external form which characterizes the life of the political parties may readily veil from superficial observers the tendency towards aristocracy..." "...the pathology of the crowd. The individual disappears in the multitude, and therewith disappears also personality and sense of responsibility." "For technical and administrative reasons, no less than for tactical reasons, a strong organization needs an equally strong leadership...For democracy, however, the first appearance of professional leadership marks the beginning of the end." "All power thus proceeds in a natural cycle: issuing from the people, it ends by raising itself above the people." "...establishing his strength with the weapon of his indispensability." "...among the citizens who enjoy political rights the number of those who have a lively interest in public affairs is insignificant." "Though it grumbles occasionally, the majority is really delighted to find persons who will take the trouble to look after its affairs." "The crowd always submits willingly to the control of distinguished individuals."

  3. 4 out of 5

    Yotpseudba

    “The democratic current of history resembles successive waves. They ever break on the same shoal. They are ever renewed”. So is the sobering message Michels leaves us with at the end of this book. Political Parties is about the so-called ‘Democratic Problem’—That every attempt at democratic political organisation is doomed to decay into the very oligarchy it was meant to combat. In a word, that democracy is impossible. Drawing on his own long history in the Socialist Party of Germany, Michels ai “The democratic current of history resembles successive waves. They ever break on the same shoal. They are ever renewed”. So is the sobering message Michels leaves us with at the end of this book. Political Parties is about the so-called ‘Democratic Problem’—That every attempt at democratic political organisation is doomed to decay into the very oligarchy it was meant to combat. In a word, that democracy is impossible. Drawing on his own long history in the Socialist Party of Germany, Michels aims to demonstrate this ‘Iron Law of Oligarchy’ through the institution of the political party. In doing so, he hits on many enduring questions of political power and participation. Michels initially outlines three causes for the development of oligarchy in political parties: Organisational, Psychological, and Intellectual. Of these, the most spurious and least interesting are the psychological causes, which follow the typical late nineteenth-century crowd psychology of le Bon. The two other causes are less dated, more compelling, and fitting of the idea of an ‘iron law’. Organisational causes are the chains and strictures introduced in any kind of collective social organisation. If a political party is to have any coherent direction and force, it requires a nucleus that can mobilise and impel all its members in a single direction. While the party is still small, it is likely that this could be accomplished by all members meeting to discuss important matters frequently to reach a resolution. But the more the party grows in numbers, the more difficult spontaneous agreement becomes, the more difficult frequent meetings become, and the more important this directing nucleus becomes. This nucleus is more properly known as the bureaucracy, and has been a feature of any political organisation of appreciable size throughout history. With the swelling size, the perfunctory tasks of this nucleus become full-time affairs, get dissected and divided between several people, and a hierarchy begins to develop. Quickly this bureaucracy sprawls so extensively and specialised that it becomes impossible for the rank and file of the party to easily replace or even supervise properly; every problem with the division of labour is realised in-micro within the party structure itself. The party leaders—having at their disposal the entire bureaucratic apparatus— now stand at such a disproportionate advantage to the common member that their position at the top becomes defacto beyond reproach. And just like that, the transformation from a democratic to oligarchical structure is fait accompli. Intellectual causes spring from these organisational changes. The distinction between the majority of the political party and its bureaucratic apparatus grows ever wider with time as the complexity of their tasks grow. As complexity grows and party work more intensive, the once voluntary positions are converted to payed positions. Freed from ordinary labour, the leaders and bureaucrats can dedicate themselves to politicking full-time and quickly become adept in the management of opinion and men. The ordinary party member has no such advantage: exhausted from their ordinary labour, they have no time or energy to attend properly to these subjects. Consequently, they must defer in decision making to the technocratic elite forming in the upper echelons on the party. Soon deserters of the old ruling classes are drawn into the apparatus as the native leaders are in their turn slowly converted by the ruling class through their interactions in politics. With every incentive to hold onto their position, the bureaucracy becomes conservative and self-serving, tending more to its own preservation than the good of the members they ostensibly serve. These disparities in political and social education simply repeat the prevailing wind of oligarchies past. Michels calls this tendency or democracy towards oligarchy “simultaneously depressing and encouraging”. I’m not sure what is so encouraging about it, but it certainly is a depressing account. The book hits on a perennial problem of politics, and one that has been discussed since politics has been written about: The practice of politics is a demanding task that requires a great deal of attention and education, how do we guarantee that the political class is adept enough to attend to them. In much of history this has been achieved through exclusion: the political class is simply a single royal family or a collection of wealthy plutocrats comprising an aristocracy who can attend to politics at their own expense. Aristotle solved it by having the citizens supported by a vast underclass of slaves à la the helots of Sparta, Plato by having a sole Philosopher King. But as the franchise expanded and ideas of moral equality started taking root, the problem of political participation and education compounded—how do you transform a nation dominated by uneducated subsistence farmers into a liberal utopia of knowing and educated voters? Rousseau seemed pessimistic on this front, as shown by his problem of the lawgiver; Mill was more optimistic, thinking that participation in the political process will serve itself as an education over time; Kant and all the other champions of enlightenment optimism put their trust in the melioristic impulse of rationality. All this reminded me of a quote from Baudrillard: “after several revolutions and a century or two of political apprenticeship, in spite of the newspapers, the trade unions, the parties, the intellectuals and all the energy put into educating and mobilising the people, there are still only a thousand persons who stand up and twenty-million who remain passive.” Though great gains have been made since the early enlightenment, the average citizen of any democratic nation still falls far short of the dreams of democratic theorists. And Michels has perhaps hit on several of the reasons. It may be that until resources are so plentiful, and moral advancement so divine, true democracy and representation isn’t possible. And in lieu of these a pseudo-oligarchic structure will have to do. And that is the problem with democracy, though I’m not sure if it constitutes an ‘iron law’. Unfortunately, much of the book itself is bogged down in problems peculiar to the socialist parties of Europe at the time, making it a slog to get through. It also tended to be quite repetitious and polemical. But an interesting and sobering perspective nonetheless. Elitist sociology a strange mirror to the writings of anarchists; both make the same prognosis about the state, but suggest vastly different cures.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Thomas

    Really interesting and lots of great information that shows, things have not changed a lot. Everything you think is new or cool in the modern socio-political sphere, isn't. It has all been done and thought of before, and more than once. You should have a dictionary,and a translation program, Michels quotes a number of people in their original language. That is something that has changed, I am sure he thought people would still learn other languages. This has some dry sections, and you may want a Really interesting and lots of great information that shows, things have not changed a lot. Everything you think is new or cool in the modern socio-political sphere, isn't. It has all been done and thought of before, and more than once. You should have a dictionary,and a translation program, Michels quotes a number of people in their original language. That is something that has changed, I am sure he thought people would still learn other languages. This has some dry sections, and you may want a notepad for all the names, but there are sections that made me laugh. This is 113 years old, and still a very useful read. Check it out.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Yalin

    Michels' work is undoubtedly one of the cornerstones of elite theories in political sociology - his greatest contribution being the "iron law of oligarchy" which ha has set out in this work. Although his work largely centers around the socialist party structures, himself being one and thus having the experience to write on these parties specifically, the lessons learnt and conclusions drawn are definitely of a more universal nature. Although his focus leaves out solutions to the oligarchical ten Michels' work is undoubtedly one of the cornerstones of elite theories in political sociology - his greatest contribution being the "iron law of oligarchy" which ha has set out in this work. Although his work largely centers around the socialist party structures, himself being one and thus having the experience to write on these parties specifically, the lessons learnt and conclusions drawn are definitely of a more universal nature. Although his focus leaves out solutions to the oligarchical tendencies - which would have made him wildly utopian - he masterfully manages to dissect the political leadership and understand the dynamics which necessitate and help create the political elites which come to dominate over the masses. Some reviewers have found this work "polemical", "not deep [enough]", "cyclical", "hard to read", and (my personal favourite) "rambling on about people long dead". Criticisms of the first four type - in my opinion - show an impatience towards reading and the expectation that Michels hold the key to life and everything. While he most certainly does not have such omnipotence, what he has is a clear grasp on facts and a keen sense of authorship, which makes this book a delightful and insightful read. For the last type of criticism, you can laugh until you drop dead because someone expects a book on politics - especially one that uses such in depth knowledge of firsthand knowledge of politics, and published in 1911 - to not make reference to people of the era - which are long dead. (Perhaps they would have like it if the names of Lasalle, Proudhon, and Bebel were exchanged for Trump, Clinton, and Obama!) One cannot ask for what is such a masterful qualitative work to act as if it was simply theoretical or quantitative, and then whine because it includes the names and acts of so many long dead people!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Andy Oram

    It's provocative to assign two stars to one of the classics of political theory, but I am just reacting to the arguments as I found them. I was hoping for something that went deeper than standard left-wing criticisms of staid, bureaucratic Social Democratic parties of pre-war Europe, but found uninspiring polemics. One would probably say to me that the arguments seem familiar today but were novel when the book was written in 1915. But how novel is it to suggest that working people are too busy a It's provocative to assign two stars to one of the classics of political theory, but I am just reacting to the arguments as I found them. I was hoping for something that went deeper than standard left-wing criticisms of staid, bureaucratic Social Democratic parties of pre-war Europe, but found uninspiring polemics. One would probably say to me that the arguments seem familiar today but were novel when the book was written in 1915. But how novel is it to suggest that working people are too busy and ignorant to study the political and social questions of the day? Or to say that once someone gains a cushy salaried position in an established organization, he'd like to keep it? Or that modern life is so complicated that you need training to manage a political career? Those are the sorts of observations Michels makes, and his references to current events, while intelligent, do not constitute a thorough-going sociological analysis.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Steven Peterson

    The iron law of oligarchy. Who says organization says oligarchy. Roberto Michels enunciated such thoughts. This work, Political Parties, is a real classic in the study of politics. He examined democratic (socialist) political parties, assuming that here democratic practices would be at their zenith. However, he found a small cadre of party leaders most influential. He used these observations to develop his theory of hierarchical leadership. The end result? The iron law of oligarchy, stating that The iron law of oligarchy. Who says organization says oligarchy. Roberto Michels enunciated such thoughts. This work, Political Parties, is a real classic in the study of politics. He examined democratic (socialist) political parties, assuming that here democratic practices would be at their zenith. However, he found a small cadre of party leaders most influential. He used these observations to develop his theory of hierarchical leadership. The end result? The iron law of oligarchy, stating that all organizations--even if nominally democratic--become oligarchies with a few having power and the multitudes not having power. Still worth rereading after the many decades since its publication.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Christopher

    Groundbreaking in its time and still worth delving into, if you can stomach the near constant bombardment of repetition about various minutia of long dead political parties that is.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Fernando del Alamo

    Este es un libro antiguo que habla de las interioridades de los partidos políticos y, en general, las grandes empresas o asociaciones donde hay una serie de líderes que mandan y una masa que está sometida a su voluntad. Pero aunque el libro tenga más de 100 años, lo que dice es totalmente actual, aunque cambiando los nombres. Y es que, en toda asociación de muchas personas se crea una oligarquía que son quienes realmente mandan. Y aunque haya democracia, realmente no la hay en el interior de un p Este es un libro antiguo que habla de las interioridades de los partidos políticos y, en general, las grandes empresas o asociaciones donde hay una serie de líderes que mandan y una masa que está sometida a su voluntad. Pero aunque el libro tenga más de 100 años, lo que dice es totalmente actual, aunque cambiando los nombres. Y es que, en toda asociación de muchas personas se crea una oligarquía que son quienes realmente mandan. Y aunque haya democracia, realmente no la hay en el interior de un partido, pues hay gente que tiene que dedicarse a él y llega un momento en que hay que luchar para que el partido se perpetúe. Y aquí está el quiz de la cuestión, porque, para que se perpetúe, hacen cosas que no están en sus ideales iniciales. Por momentos, se ve realmente que no es reciente, pero en su mayor parte es totalmente actual.

  10. 5 out of 5

    J

    More of a long essay than an actually researched and sourced study, though that may be owing to the time it was written. Feels at times like the minutes of every single socialist meeting of the early 20th century, less scientific study and more name-dropping every pertinent name of that time. Still, and although the book says nothing that common sense doesn't already tell you except for its central thesis (the more organised you get, the more indispensable and therefore oligarchic leaders become More of a long essay than an actually researched and sourced study, though that may be owing to the time it was written. Feels at times like the minutes of every single socialist meeting of the early 20th century, less scientific study and more name-dropping every pertinent name of that time. Still, and although the book says nothing that common sense doesn't already tell you except for its central thesis (the more organised you get, the more indispensable and therefore oligarchic leaders become), it's a decent exercise to actually read about it, as well as how the common solutions to such problems (like decentralisation) don't actually negate the oligarchical direction every organised group takes.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Etienne OMNES

    Etude sociologique du début XIXe siècle sur la nécessaire dérive oligarchique de tout parti politique: par une analyse froide et très lucide du fonctionnement des associations politiques, il montre que non seulement la démocratie directe est impossible, mais qu'elle dérive nécessairement vers une oligarchie. L'analyse est très complète, et très accessible. La connaissance intime de l'auteur avec les partis socialistes de la fin XIXe est un gros bonus de ce livre. Au final, le livre pose davantag Etude sociologique du début XIXe siècle sur la nécessaire dérive oligarchique de tout parti politique: par une analyse froide et très lucide du fonctionnement des associations politiques, il montre que non seulement la démocratie directe est impossible, mais qu'elle dérive nécessairement vers une oligarchie. L'analyse est très complète, et très accessible. La connaissance intime de l'auteur avec les partis socialistes de la fin XIXe est un gros bonus de ce livre. Au final, le livre pose davantage le problème que la solution: comment -surtout avec ces exigences de démocraties qui nous travaillent- éviter de virer à l'oligarchie? Le livre de Robert Michels est un classique de théorie politique, et c'est à juste titre. Très content de l'avoir lu, même si la deuxième moitié à moins de pertinence que la première.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jared Tobin

    This book has some important stuff in it, but it is not an easy nor particularly pleasant read. Probably most useful for researchers doing serious work on late 19th-early 20th century socialist political parties in Europe. There is some useful and easily-gleaned content, e.g. Michels' "Law of Oligarchy", but I think the summary of his work in Burnham's The Machiavellians is sufficient, to be honest. This book has some important stuff in it, but it is not an easy nor particularly pleasant read. Probably most useful for researchers doing serious work on late 19th-early 20th century socialist political parties in Europe. There is some useful and easily-gleaned content, e.g. Michels' "Law of Oligarchy", but I think the summary of his work in Burnham's The Machiavellians is sufficient, to be honest.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Christoph

    Why this is considered some sort of landmark text in any sort of genre is beyond me. At best its an early text in political science (not sociology), and a fairly demagogic version at that. Think the first Ann Coulter not the first Hannah Arendt. Political Parties is less an analysis of how political organizations form and evolve based on specific metrics or a scientific analysis of populations, and more a tirade against Socialists (capital S). The pertinence of these arguments today is on the on Why this is considered some sort of landmark text in any sort of genre is beyond me. At best its an early text in political science (not sociology), and a fairly demagogic version at that. Think the first Ann Coulter not the first Hannah Arendt. Political Parties is less an analysis of how political organizations form and evolve based on specific metrics or a scientific analysis of populations, and more a tirade against Socialists (capital S). The pertinence of these arguments today is on the one hand on the specifics so devoid of correlation to contemporary culture as to be essentially useless, but on the other hand in general so eerily reminiscent of current accusations of socialism as to certainly evoke the facepalm. The sad fact that our political discourse has not evolved much beyond a century ago really gives one pause; although for conservatives, I guess by definition this is the strategic aim of their actions. As I read Michels analysis of politics in a foreign land across numerous decades and cultural developments, the commutation of their signifiers for political groups to today is remarkable. By just translating Michels arguments on anarchists into the Libertarians of today, or Socialists into the Democrats of today you basically have the trappings of just about any off-the-shelf, right-wing best-seller of today. So while their tactics have remained about the same, fill some dead air with hand-waving arguments supposedly based on deep psychological or sociological truths; make an incessant, unending barrage of baseless accusations; intersperse some meaningless and sourceless data on all kinds of arcane facts, and you too will have a political scree worth doping up the masses with. Although the context and structure of the book is complete garbage, the actual substance of the thesis, that organization leads to oligarchy is an important issue. There are some points where you can glean something of value from this work on why this is the case such as a group organized for a certain end becoming a mean in-itself, or the glorification of leaders and the structures developed to wean such leaders to the forefront of such an organization. But they are so buried in a pile of nonsense about the true nature of humans or some conspiratorial purpose to socialist organization as to be not worth the time to investigate. I am imagining a future 100 years from today in the year 2112 where a young boy manages to find a corrupt, but eventually recoverable ebook by a nameless ideologue of old named Glenn Beck and reads the rantings of a deranged mind so contextualized in the dogma of its day, yet inspired by teachings nearly a half-century older than it as to be almost uninterpretable to the boys ultra-post-modern life yet so oddly familiar to the nonsense spouted by a neo-puritanist of his time named something like Abe Zolan and feeling like maybe nothing has changed despite their technological advances such as jet packs for personal travel and bases on the moon. Lets just hope there is a Corey Robin of his time to console that poor boys mind to say that history does not have to repeat itself, merely to endure. As long as the labor that has built those moon colonies are organized against the trans-planetary corporatists of the day such as Megaburton and Solarsanto, or a rabble-rouser named Buck Rader is circulating a exonet site called Unsafe At Any Elevation against those jet pack manufacturers, then so be it.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Tiago Saraiva

    Este estudo é um excelente trabalho sobre a dinâmica dos partidos políticos. Apesar de parcialmente escrito antes da primeira Guerra Mundial, e depois publicado numa versão mais completa no momento em que o fascismo alastrava na Europa, o diagnóstico e as conclusões continuam atuais. Começa por mostrar a incoerência dos partidos que representam a burguesia, pois estes em campanha eleitoral posicionam-se como se fossem socialistas/social-democratas quando se encontram na oposição apelando aos elei Este estudo é um excelente trabalho sobre a dinâmica dos partidos políticos. Apesar de parcialmente escrito antes da primeira Guerra Mundial, e depois publicado numa versão mais completa no momento em que o fascismo alastrava na Europa, o diagnóstico e as conclusões continuam atuais. Começa por mostrar a incoerência dos partidos que representam a burguesia, pois estes em campanha eleitoral posicionam-se como se fossem socialistas/social-democratas quando se encontram na oposição apelando aos eleitores de centro-esquerda, contudo, quando no poder as suas opções políticas são o oposto e governam para a minoria que representam. A abordagem das ligações e combates entre os partidos socialistas/sociais-democratas com os sindicatos, pois a massa sindical não quer colagens partidárias ao contrário do que acontece com os dirigentes sindicais. Os proletários olham para os dirigentes sindicais e para os dirigentes dos partidos como superiores, pois estes, muitas vezes pelo próprio cargo que ocupam no partido ou no sindicato, colocam-se numa posição social superior à massa dos proletários, tal como a burguesia. Esta incoerência é muitas vezes olhada com desconfiança e torna difícil dirigir as massas, criando atritos entre os desejos reivindicativos da massa proletária e os objetivos reivindicativos dos dirigentes, os primeiros querem mais bem-estar, os segundos querem reforçar o seu poder. Esta diferença diagnosticada por Michels levou em muitos países a atrasos no desenvolvimento dos movimentos sindicais e ao consequente atraso na criação do exercito de proletariado que culminaria com a revolução e socialismo. Mitchels conclui que o objetivo final dos partidos é chegar a um sistema oligárquico, ele desenvolve uma tese baseada em três eixos: a psicologia dos indivíduos, a necessidade de organização e a psicologia das massas. Estes três eixos encaminham os partidos em democracia para um sistema oligárquico pois com o crescimento dos aparelhos partidários e da burocracia do estado, por via da necessidade de organização, há um afastamento dos partidos das massas, depois ao nível individual, a tomada de conhecimento da capacidade de liderar leva os indivíduos a desenvolverem apetites pelo poder, mas num nível afastado das massas e da vontade desta. A este respeito, refere que o poder da oratória é indispensável. Assim a democracia contemporânea é considerada pelo autor como “a vontade de uma minoria expressa por a maioria”, isto só acontece graças ao poder da comunicação social e aos interesses que esta serve. O autor nota que em democracia, tal como nós a conhecemos e “tal como uma vontade de uma minoria expressa por uma maioria”, há sempre tentativas de regeneração, esse papel é ao longo do tempo encarnado em jovens idealista que uma vez tenham protagonismo, e pelas suas capacidades, são captados e acabam por se dissolver na classe dominante, e logo voltarão a aparecer novos idealistas, desta forma estas tentativas vão-se frustrando ao longo do tempo tornando expressa uma luta entre jovens idealistas e seniores sequiosos de poder. Ficando frustradas todas e qualquer tentativa de regeneração. Por fim fica a ideia que a democracia é um sistema organizacional péssimo, o ideal seria uma aristocracia de homens bons, contudo não se sabe onde param esses homens.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Madison

    A classic for a reason. The book's argument has stood the test of time even if the estimation of democracy is somewhat pessimistic. A classic for a reason. The book's argument has stood the test of time even if the estimation of democracy is somewhat pessimistic.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Fred R

    I am desperate for a serious and comprehensive (and non-partisan) modern exploration of elite theory, which to me at this point looks obvious and grossly under-explored. The issue is: due to division-of-labor efficiencies (Smith), the logic of collective action (Olson), and uneven quality distributions across a population (Plato, Aristotle, Pareto, Murray, etc etc.), human society of any scale will require an elite to coordinate behavior (even a free market economy seems to require substantial no I am desperate for a serious and comprehensive (and non-partisan) modern exploration of elite theory, which to me at this point looks obvious and grossly under-explored. The issue is: due to division-of-labor efficiencies (Smith), the logic of collective action (Olson), and uneven quality distributions across a population (Plato, Aristotle, Pareto, Murray, etc etc.), human society of any scale will require an elite to coordinate behavior (even a free market economy seems to require substantial non-market agglomerations (Coase) within the purely economic sphere). Then, within these constraints, come the social/cultural methods of selecting, retaining, and reproducing elite, which include the frictions that get in the way of an efficient allocation of human resources (ranging from idiosyncratic individual favoritisms to nepotism to [racial, ethnic, sexual, confessional] caste structures, which, even in fairly open societies, can make or break marginal elite aspirants). Ostensibly egalitarian political movements will find, as Michels points out, that to be effective they must incorporate some hierarchical structures within their organizations (aside from, of course, the natural factors that are automatically leading them down that path). Although the "spice" of elite theory, as Pareto knew well, was in describing out how socialist and radical democrat movements were a. led by an elite, and b. in the service of replacing one elite with another, I feel like this tu quoque special case is in the end a waste of what should be a comprehensive model of human social structures.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Glenn

    It is amazing how current a book first published in 1915 can be! If you haven't heard of the Iron Law of Oligarchy, or if you've heard of it, but don't know how it works, this is the source. Basically, Michels describes how organizations all end up being run by a small number of people at the top. This is true even of organizations which are ostensibly dedicated to democratic principles. There are passages in this book which could be set to have predicted the outcome of the recent dustup at the N It is amazing how current a book first published in 1915 can be! If you haven't heard of the Iron Law of Oligarchy, or if you've heard of it, but don't know how it works, this is the source. Basically, Michels describes how organizations all end up being run by a small number of people at the top. This is true even of organizations which are ostensibly dedicated to democratic principles. There are passages in this book which could be set to have predicted the outcome of the recent dustup at the National Rifle Association. (The permanent staff always win out over famous outsiders who use their celebrity to gain a position in the organization, and then try to change it.) Part of the process Michels describes includes what we would call today a positive feedback loop. Once people are selected to be leading staff of an organization, they devote more time to it, they have more resources to study important issues, and the learn how to manipulate the group's processes. I think the example of Josef Stalin is very instructive here. This is not easy reading, but it is a very important book.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    Michels makes a persuasive argument here for democracy as veiled oligarchy through a logical yet seemingly nihilistic analysis of democracy's history. This book is a challenge for all intellectual proponents of democracy. Michels makes a persuasive argument here for democracy as veiled oligarchy through a logical yet seemingly nihilistic analysis of democracy's history. This book is a challenge for all intellectual proponents of democracy.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Vaughn

    i have my doubts about the iron law of oligarchy. there are always corner cases where the law deteriorates and leadership does not become corrupted. admittedly hard to think of, but that's the virtue of charismatic irruption and leadership (cf weber) i have my doubts about the iron law of oligarchy. there are always corner cases where the law deteriorates and leadership does not become corrupted. admittedly hard to think of, but that's the virtue of charismatic irruption and leadership (cf weber)

  20. 5 out of 5

    Brian Mcleish

    Critically important work - the iron law of oligarchy is a concept that is vital to understanding the nature of our democracy.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Carmen C.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Marco Faganello

  23. 5 out of 5

    Raymond

  24. 5 out of 5

    Роман Батяев

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mark Feltskog

  26. 4 out of 5

    Hryhorii Pavlenko

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sora

  28. 5 out of 5

    Huan

  29. 4 out of 5

    Josh

  30. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

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