What is Plutocracy?

The plutocracy Is a type of government that takes place when the wealthy classes are in charge of the direction of the State. This is because wealth translates into power. Power can be consolidated for political control purposes. Economic power can be used to create more wealth.

The concept derives from Pluto , God of wealth in Greek mythology. In the plutocracy, people who possess material resources in a country have easy access to political power. Even in a representative democracy, whose state authorities are elected by popular vote, the most important decisions can be made by those who hold economic power.


Following this concept, a democracy may function as a plutocracy, if the rulers elected by the people respond to the interests of the great fortunes of that country. It happens that the political influence of the powerful exerts pressure so that the decisions and measures favor their interests. In this case, it would be in the presence of a plutocracy that exceeds and is located above the political parties, the people's decision at the polls and legislative proposals.

The paths taken by economically powerful classes to hold power are diverse. The most common has to do with the financing of electoral campaigns and the economic support of political parties.

In this context, the parties that come to power by the popular vote, equally must be accountable to their economic contributors.

Another strategy is to take control of the media, opinion makers par excellence, and great social influence. The plutocracy thus exerts political power indirectly.


Plutocracy (from Greek πλοῦτος, ploutos, wealth, and κράτος, kratos, power, dominion, rule). Plutarchy is a form of oligarchy and defines a society governed or controlled by a small minority of the wealthiest citizens.

The first known use of the term was in 1652. Unlike democratic systems, capitalism, socialism or anarchism, the plutocracy is not rooted in an established political philosophy. The concept of plutocracy can be defended by the wealthy classes indirectly or surreptitiously, although the term itself is almost always used in a pejorative sense.

Use of the term

The term plutocracy is used, generally in pejorative form, to describe or warn against an undesirable condition.

Throughout history, political thinkers such as Winston Churchill , The French sociologist and historian of the nineteenth century Alexis de Tocqueville , The nineteenth-century Spanish monarchist Juan Donoso Cortés and actually, Noam Chomsky Have condemned the plutocrats for ignoring their social responsibilities, using their power to serve their own interests, thus increasing poverty and fomenting class conflict, as well as corrupting societies by fostering greed and hedonism.

Another definition

  1. Government by the rich

2. A controlling class of the rich

Ploutos Was the Greek term to name abundance, and Plouton, or Pluto, the names used for the Greek god of the underworld. Place where all the mineral wealth of the earth was stored.

In a plutocracy, power is governed or managed through wealth and money. As an example, reference is made to economic growth in the United States of America, which at the end of the nineteenth century produced a group of enormously rich plutocrats.

Large companies like John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil gained strong political power. Rockefeller was able to influence legislators from the states where they operated their businesses.

Historical background

The territories or countries were constituted in states when the state governments were formed, from certain formalities.

However, one can identify throughout history the forerunners of plutocratic states in native societies led by tribal leaders and so-called great men who managed to obtain and maintain a leading position through flagrant, ostentatious and competitive manifestations of wealth That they owned.

With the advent of national states after the agricultural revolution, someone had to control the source of irrigation water and the distribution of food between the seasons and the process of crops until harvest.

Political control always depended on personal wealth, so it was in the hands of the rich who had a keen interest in the profits of production.

Carthage is a good example of an ancient plutocracy. It was the focus of the Phoenician civilization after Tire, the old center, fell into the hands of the Babylonians. The first kings of Carthage were military leaders, and the crown was generally at the disposal of the highest bidder.

The kings came, for the most part, from wealthy families. Later, after Hannibal occupied for 15 years great part of Italy, the third Punic war was won by the Romans and Carthage was completely destroyed.

The city-states in Italy of the Middle Ages were plutocracies and set the precedent in medieval Europe. The fall of the Byzantine Empire at the hands of the Ottomans transformed to Venice, Genoa and Florence of flourishing commercial empires. This generated a dependence on foreign resources so costly that even the richest elites were finding it difficult to maintain.

Plutocracy in the world

Examples of plutocracies include the Roman Empire, some city-states of Ancient Greece, the civilization of Carthage, the Italian city-states - the mercantile republics of Venice, Florence and Genoa - and the Empire of Japan before the Second World War. According to Noam Chomsky and Jimmy Carter, the modern United States resembles a plutocracy, albeit with democratic forms.

As already mentioned in point 2, the term plutocracy is often used pejoratively to refer to societies rooted in state enterprise capitalism or that prioritize the accumulation of wealth over other interests.

According to Kevin Phillips, author and political strategist of Richard Nixon, the United States is a plutocracy in which there is a"fusion of money and government". Chrystia Freeland, says that"the current trend towards plutocracy comes about because the rich feel their interests are shared by society."


In the United States, in order to vote, it was necessary to be the owner of the land. Thus, it was demonstrated that it belonged to the proprietary class. Besides, it was a requirement to be white and if they owned African slaves, so much the better.

Over time, once freedom was achieved, black men were able to vote. Later, when they needed to recruit adolescents and youth for war, they were granted the right to vote. Much later, women were granted the right to vote. There are those who believe that, even today and since its founding, the United States remains a plutocracy.

When Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz published in the magazine Vanity Fair (2011), the article From 1%, for 1%, to 1%, both title and content supported Stiglitz's claim about That the United States would be governing, increasingly, by the richest 1%.

Some researchers have said that the United States may be drifting towards a form of oligarchy, since individual citizens have less impact than the economic elites that organize interest groups on public policies.


A modern and formal example of a plutocracy, according to some critics, is the city of London [xvii]. The area of ​​the former city of London, approximately 2.5 km2, where the financial district is currently located, has a unique electoral system for its local administration. More than two thirds of the voters are not residents, but representatives of financial businesses and other agencies located in the City, with votes distributed according to their number of employees.

The main justification for this agreement is that most of the services provided by the City of London Corporation are used by businesses taking place in that part of the city. In fact, about 450,000 non-residents constitute the city's population during the day, far exceeding the 7,000 residents.


A report from the Swiss Banking (2013) indicated that"Russia has the highest level of wealth inequality in the world, in addition to small Caribbean nations with resident billionaires.

Around the world, there is a billionaire for every USD 170 billion of wealth. Russia owns one of every billion dollars. Around the world, billionaires collectively account for 1% to 2% of total household wealth. In Russia today, 110 billionaires own 35% of all wealth."


  1. Jurassic Game Warden. A Brief World History of Plutocracy. Recovered on 01/09/2017.
  2. Plutocracy, Recovered on 9/1/2017 at wikipedia.org.
  3. Fiske, Edward B.; Mallison, Jane; Hatcher, David (2009). Fiske 250 words every high school freshman needs to know. Naperville, Ill.: Sourcebooks. P. 250. Recovered on 9/2017.
  4. Viereck, Peter (2006). Conservative thinkers: from John Adams to Winston Churchill. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers. Pp. 19-68.Recovered on 9/1/2017.
  5. Definition of plutocracy. Retrieved 9/1/2017.

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