Aristocracy | Definition, Features, Merits & Demerits

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Aristocracy – Definition, Features, Pros &  Cons

Aristocracy Form of Government: Rich and Noble rule.


What is Aristocracy?

  • Aristocracy is a form of government in which the rich rule largely in their own interest. An aristocratic state is one in which the nobility rules.

As a form of oligarchy, The aristocratic ruling class is usually small and reported for the exploitation of the poor and the landless peasantry for the support of state works of various kinds.

Etymologically, the word aristocracy comes from the Greek and is composed on the one hand of aristos which means “the best” and on the other hand krátos whose meaning is “government“. In this way, aristocracy literally means the rule of the best.

History of Aristocracy

Origin of aristocracy in recent history could be traced to the emergence of feudalism and Western Europe in the 11th century. The king’s fiefdom was divided into several estates such as the clergy, nobility, the merchants and the aristocrats.

The aristocrats were usually land owners who gave part of their lands to the serfs for cultivation, and the serfs were required to give a part of their produce to their lords.

When the feudal system collapsed as a result of the internal contradictions within it, the capitalist system emerged and the serfs were transformed into workers who had to sell their labour to the capitalists (the aristocrats) in order to earn a wage.

Although the worker has more freedom today than the serf of Yore (long time ago), yet he is still at the mercy of the capitalist.

In developing countries like Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya, the aristocratic class is still in its embryonic stage of development. Most of the affluent few have no known history of property ownership and wealth in their families.

The source of wealth may be traced primarily to the exploitation of public office for private gain.

Features of Aristocracy

Aristocracy has the following characteristics:

  • In aristocracies, the government is dominated by the rich or noble.
  • Predictably, the rich rule mainly in their own interest and they make no pretense about this.
  • Those in positions of authority in aristocracies must persuade the people to accept their rure and this may take the form of an ideology of service. That is, you are made to believe that you took can prosper if you can work hard.
  • There are various types of aristocracy including the land-owning aristocracy, feudal aristocracy and military aristocracy.
  • The legislature or parliament is a typical aristocratic representative assembly.

Aristocratic Form of Government: Pros and Cons

Advantages of Aristocracy

The merits of aristocracy include:

  • Apart from defending the property interests of the rich, aristocratic representative assemblies also sometimes work in the greater interest of the majority. The introduction of the social security system in western democracies, for example, is to take care of the aged, the disabled, the unemployed, the sick, and the vulnerable in general.
  • Aristocrats provide leadership in all spheres of Life especially in the productive sector.
  • Unlike autocracies, which depend on the use of force to maintain political stability, aristocracies help to sustain political stability and continuity by using a conciliatory style of governance. In other words, persuasion and similar mechanisms are used to make government acceptable to the people.

Disadvantages of Aristocracy

The main disadvantages of aristocracy form of government are:

  • Its survival depends primarily on the exploitation of the masses.
  • Real political power in an aristocracy is concentrated in the hands of a few.
  • The majority of the people are excluded from governors in aristocracies.
  • The exploitation of the people is disguised and made less painful with the use of various tricks and intrigues [e.g. The introduction of majority rule though it is the view who actually rule].

Examples of Aristocracy

The example of the aristocracy as a form of government is found in the city-state of Sparta, in Ancient Greece. The government was carried out by the two Spartan kings plus a council made up of twenty-eight elders, called Gerusía, and they were elected by the people.

This body was in charge of carrying out legislative and judicial functions. Finally, it should be noted that from feudal times to the present day, the word aristocracy refers to the upper or noble classes of a country.

Nobles, counts and marquises, whose title was granted by the monarchy in past centuries and which have been inherited over the years. During feudalism, being an aristocrat meant having enormous fiscal, political and social privileges among many others.

But for a long time its meaning only denotes recognition and prestige. Since with the passing of the years and the creation of new forms of State the privileges have been disappearing.

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