Who Says Networks, Says Oligarchy? Oligarchies as “Rich Club” Networks


Share / Export Citation / Email / Print / Text size:


International Network for Social Network Analysis

Subject: Multidisciplinary - Social Sciences


ISSN: 0226-1766





Volume / Issue / page

Volume 42 (2022)
Volume 41 (2021)
Volume 40 (2020)
Volume 39 (2019)
Volume 38 (2018)
Volume 37 (2017)
Volume 36 (2016)
Related articles

VOLUME 36 , ISSUE 1 (February 2016) > List of articles

Who Says Networks, Says Oligarchy? Oligarchies as “Rich Club” Networks

Christopher Ansell * / Renata Bichir / Shi Zhou

Keywords : oligarchy, rich clubs, policy networks, urban networks

Citation Information : Connections. Volume 36, Issue 1, Pages 20-32, DOI: https://doi.org/10.17266/35.2.2

License : (CC BY 4.0)

Published Online: 10-March-2018



Departing from Roberto Michels’s classic analysis of oligarchy, we provide a structural analysis of the concept based on social network analysis. We define oligarchy as a social network that exhibits three structural properties: tight interconnections among a small group of prominent actors who form an “inner circle”; the organization of other actors in the network through the intermediation of this inner circle; and weak direct connections among the actors outside the inner circle. We treat oligarchy as a global property of social networks and offer an approach for measuring the oligarchical tendencies of any social network. Our main contribution is to operationalize this idea using a “rich club” approach. We demonstrate the efficacy of this approach by analyzing and comparing several urban networks: Sao Paulo urban infrastructure networks and Los Angeles and Chicago transportation policy networks.

Content not available PDF Share



Arbesman, S. and Christakis, N. (2010). Leadership Insularity: a New Measure of Connectivity between Central Nodes Networks. Connections, 30 (1), 4-10.


Acemoglu, D. (2008). Oligarchic Versus Democratic Societies. Journal of the European Economic Association, 6, 1, 1-44.


Amaral, L. A. N., & Guimera, R. (2006). Complex networks: Lies, damned lies and statistics. Nature Physics, 2(2), 75-76.


Barbasi, A. L. and Reka A. (1999). The Emergence of Scaling in Random Networks. Science, 286, 509- 512.


Bichir, R. (2005). Investimentos viários de pequeno porte no município de São Paulo: 1975-2000. In: Marques, E. and H. Torres (eds.). São Paulo: segregação, pobreza e desigualdade sociais. São Paulo: Editora Senac.


Borgatti, S. and Everett, M. (1999). Models of Core- Periphery Structures. Social Networks, 21, 375- 395.


Borgatti, S.P., Everett, M.G. and Freeman, L.C. (2002). Ucinet for Windows: Software for Social Network Analysis. Harvard, MA: Analytic Technologies.


Breiger, R. L. (1979). Toward an Operational Theory of Community Elite Structures. Quality & Quantity 13(1), 21-57.


Burt, R. S. (2005). Brokerage and closure: An introduction to social capital. Oxford University Press.


Cole, R., & Weiss, M. (2009). Identifying organizational influentials: Methods and application using social network data. Connections, 29(2), 45-61.


Colizza, V., Flammini, A., Serrano, M.A. and Vespignani, A. (2006). Detecting Rich-Club Ordering in Complex Networks. Nature Physics, 2: 110-115.


Dahl, Robert. 1961. Who Governs: Democracy and Power in an American City. New Haven: Yale University


Domhoff, G. W. (1967). Who Rules America? Englewood Cliffs, N. J.: Prentice-Hall.


Everett, M. G. and Borgatti, S.P. (1999). Peripheries of Cohesive Subsets. Social Networks, 21, 397-407.


Everett, M. G. and Borgatti, S.P. (1998). Analyzing Clique Overlap, Connections, 21(1), 49-61.


Gould, R. V., & Fernandez, R. M. (1989). Structures of mediation: A formal approach to brokerage in transaction networks. Sociological methodology, 89-126.


Guriev, S. and Rachinsky, A. (2005). The Role of Oligarchs in Russian Capitalism. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 19(1), 131-150.


Hunter, Floyd. 1953. Community Power Structure: A Study of Decision Makers.


Leach, D. K. (2005). The Iron Law of What Again? Conceptualizing Oligarchy Across Organizational Forms. Sociological Theory, 23(3), 312-337.


Lipset, S. M., Trow, M. and Coleman, J.S. (1956). Union Democracy: The Internal Politics of the International Typographical Union. New York: The Free Press.


Luo, F., Li, B., Wan, X-F. and Schuermann, R.H. (2000). Core and Periphery Structures in Protein Interaction Networks. BMC Bioinformatics, 10(Suppl 4), S8, 1-11.


Marques, E. and Bichir, R. (2001).Investimentos públicos, infra-estrutura urbana e produção da periferia em São Paulo. In: Espaço & Debates, Ano XVII, 2001, nº 42.


Marques, E. (2000). Estado e redes sociais: permeabilidade e coesão nas políticas urbanas no Rio de Janeiro. Rio de Janeiro: Revan/Fapesp.


Marques, E. (2003). Redes Sociais, instituições e atores políticos no governo da cidade de São Paulo. São Paulo: Ed. Annablume.


Marques, E. (2008). “Social Networks and Power in the Brazilian State: Learning from Urban Policies.” Revista Brasileira de Ciências Sociais. Vol. 3, Special Edition, 14-41. Also available at: http://www.centrodametropole.org.br/t_bb_art. html#nome


Marques, E. (2012). Public policies, power and social networks in Brazilian urban policies. Latin American Research Review, Vol. 47 (2).


McAuley, J. J., da Fortoura Costa, L. and Caetano, T.S. (2007). The Rich-Club Phenomenon across Complex Network Hierarchies. Applied Physics Letters 91, 084103.


Mills, C. Wright. 1956. The Power Elite. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Mizruchi, M. S. (1996). What do Interlocks Do? An Analysis, Critique, and Assessment of Research on Interlocking Directorates. Annual Review of Sociology, 22, 271-298.


Newman, M. E. (2004). Detecting community structure in networks. The European Physical Journal B-Condensed Matter and Complex Systems, 38(2), 321-330.


Newman, M.E.J. (2002). Assortative Mixing in Networks. Physical Review Letters, 89(20), 1-4.


Mondragón, R. and S. Zhou. (2012). Random networks with given rich-club coefficient. European Physical Journal B: Condensed Matter and Complex Systems, 85(328), 1-6.


Obstfeld, D. (2005). Social networks, the tertius iungens orientation, and involvement in innovation. Administrative science quarterly, 50(1), 100- 130.


Opsahl, T., V. Colizza, P. Panzarassa and J. J. Ramasco. (2008). Prominence and Control: The Weighted Rich-Club Effect. Physical Review Letters, 101, 168702.


Polsby, N.W. (1960). How to Study Community Power: The Pluralist Alternative. The Journal of Politics, 22(3), 474-484.


Simmel, G. 1950. The Sociology of Georg Simmel. Simon and Schuster.


Stovel, K., & Shaw, L. (2012). Brokerage. Annual Review of Sociology, 38, 139-158.


Voss, K. and Sherman, R. (2000). Breaking the Iron Law of Oligarchy: Union Revitalization in the American Labor Movement. The American Journal of Sociology, 106(2), 303-349.


Wasserman, S. and Faust, K. (1994). Social Network Analysis: Methods and Application. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Watts, Duncan. 1999. Small Worlds: The Dynamics of Networks Between Order and Randomness. Princeton: Princeton University Press.


Weir, M., Rongerude, J. and Ansell, C. (2009). Collaboration is not enough: Virtuous Cycles of Reform in Transportation Policy. Urban Affairs Review, 44(4), 455-489.


Zhou, S. and Mondragón, R. (2004). The Rich-Club Phenomenon in the Internet Topology. IEEE Communications Letters, 8(3), 180-182.


Zhou, S. and Mondragón, R. (2004b). Redundancy and robustness of the AS-level Internet topology and its models. IEE Electronic Letters, 40(2), 151- 152.


Zhou, S. and Mondragón, R. (2007). Structural constraints in complex networks. New Journal of Physics, 9(173), 1-11.


Zhou, S. (2009). Why the Internet is so ‘small’? LNICST, 16, 4-12.