The interplay between the state and the super rich has been a subject of intense debate since the time of Aristotle, who introduced the notion of oligarchs and the oligarchic regime as the ruling of a few rich people. The ideologically loaded debates about the role of wealthy people in society can be found in each country in the contemporary world. In recent times, the fact that Silvio Berlusconi is both Italy’s prime minister and the richest person in the country (who has almost complete control over Italian TV) has aroused intense debates about the impact of big business on politics (Stille, 2003). It is not surprising that the case of the Italian prime minister draws attention in Russia, where he is often compared to both the Russian president as well as to the oligarchs (Remnik, 2003). A dramatic struggle between Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, whose wealth was estimated before his arrest at eight-billion dollars,1 unfolded in the summer and fall of 2003. This conflict will likely be recounted in any future textbook that discusses the relationship between political power and big money.

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