David Rosen writes at CounterPunch:
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Oligarchy is defined as “government by the few” and came into English use around 1570. The term derives from two Greek words: oligos meaning “few” and arch for “rule”; similar English-language terms include monarch or hierarchy. Plutocracy is derived from the Greek ploutos meaning “wealth” and kratos for “govern.”
Today, both concepts — plutocrats and oligarchs — refer to the growing influence the rich – and especially the superrich – have on the national (and international) political economy. Oligarchs are plutocrats who use their enormous wealth to further a particularly conservative, if not rightwing, agenda.
Thomas Piketty’s study, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, reveals that the U.S. – along with much of the advanced capitalist world — is returning to what economist Paul Krugman calls the “new Gilded Age.” Piketty finds that that in 2010, the top 1 percent controlled 20 percent of U.S.