As an aristocracy, the system is called in which political power is exercised by a privileged class, composed of the nobles and the highest and wealthiest social classes. Hence the word aristocracy can also refer to the nobility of a nation or region.
In European countries, for example, the aristocracy is made up of families with royal lineage (kings, princes, dukes, counts, barons), or who have accessed it due to their military services (advanced, admirals, marquises).
In Latin America, meanwhile, the Creole aristocracy prevailed , a social group descended from the first settlers and landowner families that managed the political power of the nascent nations after independence.
In Ancient Greece, the aristocracy designated the form of government where political power was exercised by the best, that is, those with greater capacity and virtue.
Hence its etymological origin, which comes from the Greek ἀριστοκρατία (aristocracy), a word that is composed of the roots ἄριστος (aristos), which means ‘the best’, and κράτος (craters), which translates ‘power’, ‘government’.
For philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle, the aristocracy, understood in its original sense, was the ideal form of government, since it would be the most notable citizens because of their moral and intellectual conditions who would be in charge of the political administration of the State to attend interests of its governed.
The aristocracy was thus a way to combat the excesses of tyranny and the injustices of the oligarchy.
Aristocracy, on the other hand, can also be used to designate the group of people whose merits or excellence make them stand out in their respective areas: the commercial aristocracy, the academic aristocracy.
Aristocracy and oligarchy
The aristocracy and oligarchy are similar concepts in the sense that refer to selected groups of individuals who hold political power.
They differ in that the aristocracy, in its original sense, designates the government of the best to serve the interests of the people, while the oligarchy refers to the form of government where a privileged class serves only the interests of a few. Hence, when he wants to attribute negative connotations to the aristocratic system he is branded oligarchic.
Advantages and disadvantages of the aristocracy
Understood in its classical sense, the aristocracy is an ideal political system, where it is the most prepared citizens and most valued moral virtues who exercise political power in an ethical manner, in accordance with the laws and in attention to the needs and interests of people, without distinctions of classes, race, sex or religion.
The problem with the aristocratic model is that, by reserving access to power for a select group of citizens, and these in turn for their descendants, it tends to monopolize power based on the interests of the ruling classes, segregating the majority of the population, all of which becomes a political system that has been called the oligarchy, where the group that holds political power governs only for groups that have economic power.