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Autocracy vs. Oligarchy: What's the Difference?

Edited by Sumera Saeed || By Sawaira Riaz || Updated on November 14, 2023
Autocracy is a system where power is held by a single individual, while oligarchy is a form of government where power rests with a small, elite group of people.

Key Differences

Autocracy is a system of government where absolute power is concentrated in the hands of a single individual, often a dictator or monarch. Oligarchy, in contrast, is a form of power structure where power effectively rests with a small number of people, often distinguished by royalty, wealth, family ties, education, or corporate, religious, or military control.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 14, 2023
In an autocracy, decisions are made unilaterally by the sole leader, with little or no input from a broader group. An oligarchy, however, involves decision-making among a small group, where the power dynamics can be more complex and involve negotiation or conflict among the ruling elite.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 14, 2023
Autocracies are often characterized by authoritarian rule, where dissent is suppressed and political power is maintained by force or the threat of force. Oligarchies may allow for some level of pluralism, but the power remains firmly in the hands of the few, often unelected, elite.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 14, 2023
The succession in an autocracy is typically hereditary or dictated by the incumbent leader, while in an oligarchy, power can be transferred within the elite group based on wealth, family, or other influential connections.
Janet White
Nov 14, 2023
An autocratic regime often revolves around the cult of personality of the leader, whereas an oligarchy, while it may have prominent figures, relies more on the collective power and influence of its small ruling class.
Aimie Carlson
Nov 14, 2023
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Comparison Chart

Number of Rulers

One individual.
Small group of individuals.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 14, 2023

Basis of Power

Personal authority of the ruler.
Wealth, family, or elite status.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 14, 2023

Decision-Making

Unilateral by the autocrat.
Collective among the elite.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 14, 2023

Characteristic Features

Often involves suppression of dissent.
May allow some pluralism but remains exclusive.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 14, 2023

Succession

Typically hereditary or chosen by the leader.
Based on internal elite dynamics.
Aimie Carlson
Nov 14, 2023
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Autocracy and Oligarchy Definitions

Autocracy

A system where one person makes all decisions.
The CEO ran the company as an autocracy.
Aimie Carlson
Nov 14, 2023

Oligarchy

A government ruled by a few powerful individuals.
The city-state was governed as an oligarchy.
Harlon Moss
Nov 14, 2023

Autocracy

A government with centralized and unlimited power.
Under autocracy, citizens had little freedom.
Janet White
Nov 14, 2023

Oligarchy

Power structure where a small group holds control.
The company was an oligarchy of senior executives.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 14, 2023

Autocracy

Rule by an autocrat.
The nation's autocracy lasted for decades.
Aimie Carlson
Nov 14, 2023

Oligarchy

Rule by an elite or privileged group.
The oligarchy maintained its grip on power through wealth.
Aimie Carlson
Nov 14, 2023

Autocracy

Government by a single person with absolute power.
The king's rule was an example of autocracy.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 14, 2023

Oligarchy

A form of power where a few families or groups lead.
The oligarchy consisted of a few influential families.
Janet White
Nov 14, 2023

Autocracy

Absolute sovereignty held by an individual.
The autocracy was marked by the leader's strict control.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 14, 2023

Oligarchy

Minority rule over a majority.
The country's politics turned into an oligarchy.
Harlon Moss
Nov 14, 2023

Autocracy

Government by a single person having unlimited power; despotism.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 25, 2023

Oligarchy

Government by a few, especially by a small faction of persons or families.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 25, 2023

Autocracy

A country or state that is governed by a single person with unlimited power.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 25, 2023

Oligarchy

Those making up such a government.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 25, 2023

Autocracy

(uncountable) A form of government in which unlimited power is held by a single individual.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 25, 2023

Oligarchy

A state governed by a few persons.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 25, 2023

Autocracy

(countable) An instance of this government.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 25, 2023

Oligarchy

A government run by only a few, often the wealthy.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 25, 2023

Autocracy

Independent or self-derived power; absolute or controlling authority; supremacy.
The divine will moves, not by the external impulse or inclination of objects, but determines itself by an absolute autocracy.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 25, 2023

Oligarchy

Those who make up an oligarchic government.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 25, 2023

Autocracy

Supreme, uncontrolled, unlimited authority, or right of governing in a single person, as of an autocrat.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 25, 2023

Oligarchy

A state ruled by such a government.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 25, 2023

Autocracy

Political independence or absolute sovereignty (of a state); autonomy.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 25, 2023

Oligarchy

A form of government in which the supreme power is placed in the hands of a few persons; also, those who form the ruling few.
All oligarchies, wherein a few men domineer, do what they list.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 25, 2023

Autocracy

The action of the vital principle, or of the instinctive powers, toward the preservation of the individual; also, the vital principle.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 25, 2023

Oligarchy

A political system governed by a few people
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 25, 2023

Autocracy

A political system governed by a single individual
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 25, 2023

Autocracy

A political theory favoring unlimited authority by a single individual
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 25, 2023

FAQs

Are all monarchies autocracies?

Not all; constitutional monarchies share power with elected bodies.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 14, 2023

Can autocracies be democratic?

No, autocracies are inherently undemocratic as power is centralized.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 14, 2023

How do autocrats maintain power?

Through control of military, media, and suppression of opposition.
Aimie Carlson
Nov 14, 2023

What is an example of an oligarchy?

Russia is often described as an oligarchy due to its power structure.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 14, 2023

How does one become part of an oligarchy?

Through wealth, family connections, or institutional influence.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 14, 2023

What is autocracy?

Autocracy is a government system where one person holds absolute power.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 14, 2023

What is an example of autocracy?

North Korea's government is often cited as a modern autocracy.
Aimie Carlson
Nov 14, 2023

Do oligarchies allow public participation?

Public participation is typically limited and controlled.
Harlon Moss
Nov 14, 2023

Can autocracy lead to abuses of power?

Yes, the lack of accountability in autocracies can lead to abuses.
Harlon Moss
Nov 14, 2023

What defines an oligarchy?

Oligarchy is a power structure where a small group holds control.
Harlon Moss
Nov 14, 2023

Are oligarchies stable forms of government?

Stability varies, but internal power struggles can occur.
Aimie Carlson
Nov 14, 2023

Do autocracies suppress freedom of speech?

Typically, yes, to maintain control and suppress dissent.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 14, 2023

Can oligarchies be democratic?

Oligarchies can coexist with democratic elements but often limit broad participation.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 14, 2023

Do oligarchies have a legal framework?

They may have legal frameworks, but these often serve the elite's interests.
Aimie Carlson
Nov 14, 2023

Can oligarchies be meritocratic?

Rarely, as power is usually based on wealth or status, not merit.
Aimie Carlson
Nov 14, 2023

Do autocracies have a succession plan?

Succession can be unclear and often leads to power struggles.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 14, 2023

Can autocracies have economic success?

Economic success is possible but often hinges on the ruler's policies.
Janet White
Nov 14, 2023

What is the main criticism of oligarchies?

The concentration of power and lack of broad representation.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 14, 2023

How do oligarchies impact social equality?

They often perpetuate inequality by favoring the elite.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 14, 2023

Is autocracy efficient in decision-making?

It can be efficient but lacks checks and balances.
Aimie Carlson
Nov 14, 2023
About Author
Written by
Sawaira Riaz
Sawaira is a dedicated content editor at difference.wiki, where she meticulously refines articles to ensure clarity and accuracy. With a keen eye for detail, she upholds the site's commitment to delivering insightful and precise content.
Edited by
Sumera Saeed
Sumera is an experienced content writer and editor with a niche in comparative analysis. At Diffeence Wiki, she crafts clear and unbiased comparisons to guide readers in making informed decisions. With a dedication to thorough research and quality, Sumera's work stands out in the digital realm. Off the clock, she enjoys reading and exploring diverse cultures.

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