The Three Models of Oligarchy: Monarchy, Feudalism, and Republicanism

The Few have ruled us throughout history, for long periods at a time, by using three different forms of government: monarchy, feudalism, and republicanism. Each of these classic models of oligarchy justifies and packages the absolute power of the Few in different ways so that we will submit to their rule with the minimum use of force. Democracy does not come in different models. Thus it is that in various times and places the basic political conflict of oligarchy vs. democracy appears as monarchy vs. democracy, feudalism vs. democracy, or republicanism vs. democracy.

It is most revealing to understand that monarchy, feudalism, and republicanism are three forms of the same thing: the Rule of the Few. Too revealing — which is why they are never presented as the three classic models of oligarchy, even though that is what they are. The children’s story told by the Guardians of the Few is that the three traditional forms of ancient and modern governments are

monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy. This is deceitful in several ways. It diverts attention from the basic conflict of oligarchy vs. democracy. It pretends that aristocracy is a distinct form of government when, in fact, it has no enduring historical existence separate from monarchy and feudalism. And this three-way division leaves out two versions of oligarchy whose existence for hundreds of years makes each a classic form of government: feudalism (used by medieval lords in Europe to consolidate their ruling power) and republicanism (created by the elite of ancient Rome to consolidate theirs).

However, even when we do acknowledge that “monarchy,” “feudalism,” and “republicanism” are classic forms of government, further confusion is built into the very words themselves. None of these words points directly to the Rule of the Few even though each one identifies a different model of oligarchy. “Monarchy” is defined as the rule of “a single person,” but the hereditary Royal Majesty is, in fact, not alone but surrounded by — and raised by, guided by, and limited by — a privileged Few: the royal family, the royal court, and the aristoc-