Date of Thesis



My thesis seeks to determine to what extent the United States constitutes an oligarchy. To understand this I first examined the ancient Greek oligarchies of Athens and Sparta, the modern definition of oligarchies examined by Jeffrey Winters, and Aristotle's definitions of oligarchy, democracy, and polity to form my own working definition of oligarchy. I ultimately concluded that there are three elements that need to be satisfied in order for an oligarchy to exist. The first is inequality, the second is there must exist a group of elites acting together, and the third in unequal benefits. Then, I provided background on the growing economic inequality in the United States before giving a historical summarization of campaign finance regulation. Finally, I looked at the research of various scholars to examine the policy preferences of average citizens, economic elites, and interest groups. Through all of this information I was able to find that while the United States may not be an oligarchy, it is a polity overrun with oligarchical tendencies. This conclusion shows us that there exists a group of wealthy actors within the United States who continue to benefit to a far greater extent than the rest of the population. It is my hope that through this thesis scholars are able to understand the danger that an oligarchy presents to our core democratic values.


oligarchy, United States, Aristotle, inequality, campaign finance, polity, democracy

Access Type

Honors Thesis (Bucknell Access Only)

Degree Type

Bachelor of Arts


Political Science

First Advisor

Michael R. James