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Virtual Brown Bag Lunch Series

These monthly talks will provide opportunities for faculty to share their research, obtain useful feedback, and exchange ideas with members of the Swarthmore community. Students and faculty are welcome to attend.

Monday, September 27, 1:00-2:15pm, Trotter 303

“Oligarchy in the 21st Century: The Reemergence of an Ancient Problem"

Gordon Arlen, Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science

Monday, September 27th @ 1:00-2:15PM EST

Trotter 303

Oligarchy is a Greek word that means “rule of the rich,” and historically oligarchy has functioned as a constitutional rival to democracy. But oligarchs need not exert formal constitutional power. Rather, oligarchs can operate within democratic public spheres, in accordance with democratic norms and procedures, even as they stretch the boundaries of those norms. In this talk I discuss why oligarchic power has become increasingly salient in contemporary democracies. I provide a survey of who counts as an "oligarch" in the United States: from elected office-holders like Donald Trump and Michael Bloomberg, to political appointees like Betsy DeVos, to political activists like George Soros and Charles Koch, to media moguls like Rupert Murdoch, to mega-philanthropists like Bill Gates. I then briefly discuss, from a political theory perspective, some of the normative and institutional dilemmas associated with oligarchic power today.