The Iron Law of Oligarchy Despotism

The Iron Law of Oligarchy

The Iron Law of Oligarchy works as follows:

First, there is always a rather small number of persons in the organization who actually make decisions, even if authority is vested in the body of the membership. This is a purely functional, if decisions are left to the “vulgar masses” then nothing get done. The decisions go on at great length without getting to the necessary issues, until either people leave or keep quiet.

Second, the bosses who have this delegated authority tend to take on more power than the members who selected them do. Once in power they tend to remain there for a long time and are not influenced by the opinions from below. Reasons for this is partly functional, but more so because of the way resources of power are distributed in an organization The leaders are a much smaller group than the body of the organization; therefore they have the advantage of being better organized. The members, as a whole, come together infrequently if at all; but the leadership is in constant contact with each other. The leadership tends to form a united, behind-the-scenes, informal group, this way making it much easier for them to make plans, carry out programs, etc.

Third, the leaders gradually develop values that are at odds with those of the members.That is to say that peoples outlooks are determined by their social positions. For the ordinary member, the organization is something he or she belongs to and participates in from time to time, but it is not usually the center of his or her life The leader's position is different; the organization is usually a full-time job, or at least a major part of their life. The leader becomes less interested in the concerns of the rank and file or the ideology of the group, and more concerned with staying in power.

Unlikely Action By Followers

Does this conflict, dare I say corruption, of the leaders bring them into conflict with their followers? Sometimes it does, but the leadership has the upper hand in such struggles. Unless the bulk of the membership is extremely upset about something, they are very unlikely to dispose of their despot.

Despotic Power of the Oligarchy

The power of the organization goes to those in control of the administrative resources. They control the communications within the organization: distribution of news, setting the meetings, it agendas, etc. Most importantly they have “legitimate power”, therefore, they can claim dissenters as "factions" and "splitters" who represent only themselves and their own interests, thereby making the factions the organization's enemies by creating internal dissension.

Who says organization, usually means oligarchy.

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