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  • Feudalism in America?

    Posted by David Foster on January 13th, 2021 (All posts by )

    Veronika Kyrylenko believes that we may be headed for a new era of feudalism in this country. I don’t completely agree with her analysis, but it’s a thought-provoking piece.

    See also my 2018 post Coupling, which makes the point that the expansion of connectivity–geographically and otherwise–has downsides as well as upsides. The downsides may well lead individuals to seek security and protection, even at the cost of autonomy and freedom.

     

    35 Responses to “Feudalism in America?”

    1. PenGun Says:

      Numbers. Yesterday you lost 4500 dead and added almost 230,000 new cases.

    2. David Foster Says:

      PenGun: Totals deaths per million population, per Worldometers:

      US 1184
      UK 1215
      France 1056
      Italy 1330
      Spain 1131
      Germany 529
      Belgium 1738

      Please try to keep any comments relevant to the subject of the post, rather than just using it a a platform for your endless America-bashing.

    3. Gavin Longmuir Says:

      Pengun could have written a more convincing article than Ms. Kyrylenko. The point about Feudalism surely was that wealth & status were tied to land & place — the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Sussex, etc. For all the many faults of the Feudal Overlords, they had a vested interest in protecting their home turf and making it productive. The land was the asset they would pass on to their descendants, not pieces of paper giving them a claim to the profits from a factory in Vietnam. In contrast, our current Political Class (which includes all the usual suspects like media, lawyers, academics) has no sense of belonging to this country and no interest in making it productive. Look at Bill Gates — investing in far off countries while his home turf in Seattle burns.

      Our Political Class has degenerated into Fascism, not Feudalism. There is an unholy alliance between Big Business and Big Politics, and they are both on their knees begging the Chinese Communist Party for handouts. They think of themselves as global citizens, not as Americans.

      But don’t worry, the Political Class has destroyed the economy which made them rich and powerful; they will have to live with the consequences, just as soon as the CCP kicks them to the curb.

    4. David Foster Says:

      GL, why could there not be a form of Feudalism in which the tie is not to a physical piece of turf, but to an organization…say, a Silicon Valley company which provides you with transportation, subsidized housing, and a social sphere, as well as with a job?..or to an ethnic category as a primary identify and source of political/economic power?

      The original Feudalism evolved because the larger political structure collapsed, and so organization had to be done on lower levels for protection. The unaffiliated individual, or even the unaffiliated nuclear family, becomes vulnerable.

    5. PenGun Says:

      I spent far too much time and energy trying to convince you this was a real pandemic, way back when it first started. To see you continuing to do your best to minimize what has killed so many people, kinda makes me want you to look at the numbers, which are horrifying everywhere now.

      Feudalism is the society formed by lords and their vassals. Its hard to compare it to anything much these days, although there are voluntary groups that act kinda like they are vassals and lords. They make their own beds. The greater state is back and now, what we called the deep state, is just the government.

    6. Mike K Says:

      Our Political Class has degenerated into Fascism, not Feudalism.

      Yes, I see a parallel as in Dennis Prager’s column about the “Good Germans.”

      Trolls have gotten more frequent at Althouse blog, too.

    7. Gavin Longmuir Says:

      David F: “The original Feudalism evolved because the larger political structure collapsed, and so organization had to be done on lower levels for protection.”

      I could be wrong about this, and would welcome correction, but I think that is exactly backwards. The larger structure was built on the smaller.

      In an ancient era when communication was slow and movement of people & material was even slower, Feudalism was the only practical method of organizing a larger unit. William could conquer England (i.e., defeat Harold’s army), but how to control and tax what he had won? The obvious way was to divide the land up — give pieces of the prize to his lieutenants in exchange for their promise to provide future support. The lieutenants were effectively the unchallenged rulers of their assigned territory. For the Anglo-Saxon peons living on the land, it was probably a case of Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss.

      A “company which provides you with transportation, subsidized housing, and a social sphere, as well as with a job” sounds like a 1970s Japanese corporation. But that corporation also implicitly gave the worker a job for life. Because of that obligation of the company to the individual, the relationship could indeed be seen as a form of voluntary feudalism. However, it is rather unlikely that any of today’s major corporations sees their employees as anything other than fungible units to which the corporation has no long-term attachment and no long-term obligation.

    8. MCS Says:

      Pengun’s pals the Chinese seem to have stepped in it big time.

      First, they’re locking down the north again because it seems they didn’t really stop the wuflu.

      They decided to teach Australia a lesson and stop importing coal from them. Now they are having power cuts because of coal shortages during some unusually cold weather.

      Finally, the price of LNG is setting records while their northern ports are iced over which is delaying shipping.

      I don’t think they can stand much more winning.

    9. David Foster Says:

      GL…in the Roman Empire, power emanated from the center…the governors were appointed by the Emperor. Communications was indeed difficult, but the efforts devoted to the building of roads helped make it more practical. Whereas, after it all fell apart, local lords..who initially were probably simply the most successful rulers…established dominance in their local areas, and their successors were chosen by inheritance rather than by appointment from the center.

      I certainly don’t claim to be an expert on feudalism, this is just a general impression. Somewhere around here, I have Marc Bloc’s study ‘Feudalism’, which might be enlightening if I can remember where I put it.

    10. Occasional Commenter Says:

      I think y’all are missing a key point: old-time feudalism lacked a middle class. The Democrats and their allies seem bent on destroying our middle class, thus making everyone dependent on government handouts and subsidies.

    11. Gavin Longmuir Says:

      “… in the Roman Empire, power emanated from the center …”

      Before the Roman Empire, there was the Macedonian Empire. As it happens, I have been listening to Professor Harl’s fine lectures in the Great Courses about “Alexander the Great and the Macedonian Empire” — highly recommended! It seems that in Alexander’s day, power emanated “from the barrel of a gun”, to use Mao’s later formulation. The best general with the best-trained army was the center of power. Alexander built his empire by taking his army across much of the then-known world, defeating whoever was currently in charge in each area and then generally leaving the existing power structure in place, simply replacing the head guy with one of his trusted Macedonians. When the army fractured after Alexander’s death, so did his short-lived empire.

      It is an interesting question whether it made much difference to the peasant farmer working his field whether the man in the distant center was a Persian emperor or a Macedonian king?

      It does seem like societies in those feudal-style days were built on mutual obligations. The Macedonian appointed as Satrap in one of Alexander’s provinces had obligations to provide resources and manpower to Alexander, while Alexander had an obligation to bring the army back and stomp out any revolts which grew beyond the capacity of the Satrap to control. And so on down the chain to the actual productive farmer or tradesman. It is tough to see any similar sense of mutual obligation in today’s societies where politicians see citizens as a nuisance and business leaders have no concerns for broader society, happy to fire US workers and switch production to China if it will increase the near-term profit margin. Because of that lack of any sense of obligation from those in the center to their workers or citizens, I don’t see the Feudal system as much of a model for how today’s society will evolve.

    12. Brian Says:

      Feudalism exited for a reason, and required some sort of mutually beneficial relationship. Service/labor in exchange for protection, all at a local scale. I can think of one analogous organization in today’s world–the Democrat Party. They give government jobs to academics and other bureaucrats and racial minorities in exchange for votes, and of course the “lords” get to keep most of the financial benefits. You know what system doesn’t operate this way? The Republican Party, that’s what. The Romneys and Ryans et al want votes while providing absolutely nothing in exchange. They don’t even provide protection from the rival warlords, though they promise they will. Hence our recent troubles…

    13. Ginny Says:

      Can a middle class exist in any society other than a free market one? Didn’t the middle class come with capitalism and open markets? With energy and freedom? And a sense of the dignity of work itself. I always thought it was impossible for Americans to not value liberty/freedom above all; that assumption seems to me less grounded than I thought it was. What is more worrisome and would lead to an acceptance of a feudal view is an engrained belief in hierarchy and a desire not to take responsibility. Of course, under Covid, it has seemed to me that a hell of a lot of people have been exerting authority but not taking responsibility. And since it is all new and no one – brilliant physician or average citizen – really knows very many truths (and don’t seem to assimilate them, e.g., Pengun’s argument), the blame that we’d think was a natural part of responsibility hasn’t always been easy to assign. (Well, I don’t see how Cuomo comes out looking good.) But avoiding responsibility and assuming authority has always been a problem.
      thank you, David, for both links.

    14. Christopher B Says:

      Ginny Says:
      Can a middle class exist in any society other than a free market one? Didn’t the middle class come with capitalism and open markets? With energy and freedom?

      If I recall correctly, an argument has been advanced that what broke feudalism was the depopulation caused by the Black Death. It greatly empowered the laborers and farmers who survived because the lords had no choice but to bargain with them for their labor in order to get the funds needed to pay the taxes they owed up the chain of command.

    15. MCS Says:

      The most prominent macro feature of the feudal age or the Dark Ages was a more or less complete lack of transportation. What roads there were, the Roman roads lasted a long time, were besieged by outlaws and brigands. Routes over water were much the same. Reasonably secure travel was only possible in parties large enough to fight off attacks or by individuals too obviously poor to be worth robbing. This made transporting any commodity much more bulky than gold over any distance prohibitive.

      What this meant was that there was no market for things like grain or common cloth while anything that couldn’t be produced with extremely local resources was an extreme luxury since it could only be bought with gold or silver. This was a distinct contrast with Roman times when Rome was fed from the granaries of Egypt and North Africa.

      The local lord ruled exactly as far as his ability to hold competitors at bay allowed and over those that occupied that area. These subjects provided food, forage and fuel as well as the manpower to support the manor and the force needed to keep neighbors at a distance. If there was enough of a surplus to feed the peasants, things were good, if not, it sucked to be a peasant. Wars, on the other hand tended to pass over the peasant class since they were considered no less bound to a particular piece of ground than the soil or the trees, their loyalty was not an issue.

      I’ve read Althouse for a long time. She has poured an incredible amount of work into her blog over the years. Right now she is justifiably desperate that it is about to be taken away from her at the whim of Google for harboring wrong think. According to Google, they are completely unable/unwilling to provide an off-line archive that she could have hosted somewhere else. I suppose this is somewhat justified since she was only ever a guest, and guests are always libel to be asked to leave.

      Parler, on the other hand, entered into a commercial agreement. I still haven’t heard any possible justification for the action AWS took besides that they could. Godaddy, which has a mixed, at best, reputation has also decided to pull hosting from a site about guns. Again with no explanation or warning.

      Peasants had no right anyone was bound to observe beyond the pleasure of their master, they simply were. The old saying was that if you weren’t paying for something, you were the product. Now it would seem paying doesn’t matter either.

    16. David Foster Says:

      Kyrylenko’s piece links to an article by Jodi Dean, which identifies the key elements of the neo-feudal society as parcelated sovereignty, new lords and peasants, hinterlandization (polarization between the cities and rural areas), and catastrophism.

      Direct link here:

      https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/neofeudalism-the-end-of-capitalism/

    17. Anonymous Says:

      Worthy discussion, thanks,

      Death6

    18. PenGun Says:

      “Parler, on the other hand, entered into a commercial agreement. I still haven’t heard any possible justification for the action AWS took besides that they could. Godaddy, which has a mixed, at best, reputation has also decided to pull hosting from a site about guns. Again with no explanation or warning.”

      Parler has said that they may have to shut down because AWS is somehow essential to their platform. This reveals a serious lack of understanding as AWS is just a fancy ISP. if they are actually dependant on AWS then they have made deals and used propitiatory AWS assets. Real dumb, if that’s the case.

      I give you The Pirate Bay, which I still use to this day. Everybody and their dog spot have tried very hard to shut this down. They have failed utterly. Perhaps you should ask Peter Sunde Kolmisoppi how its done. He is laughing at Parler on Slashdot: https://yro.slashdot.org/story/21/01/13/1959257/pirate-bay-founder-thinks-parlers-inability-to-stay-online-is-embarrassing

    19. Brian Says:

      “AWS is just a fancy ISP. ”
      This of course has no connection to reality.

    20. PenGun Says:

      “This of course has no connection to reality.”

      LOL. So what do you think ISP means? Amazon Web Services I know a bit, about and I am fascinated to hear your description of what they do. You can do a free trial here:

      https://aws.amazon.com/free/?sc_icampaign=acq_aws_takeover-1st-visit-free-tier&sc_ichannel=ha&sc_icontent=awssm-evergreen-1st-visit&sc_iplace=hero&trk=ha_awssm-evergreen-1st-visit&all-free-tier.sort-by=item.additionalFields.SortRank&all-free-tier.sort-order=asc

    21. Brian Says:

      Um, I’ve used AWS quite extensively. They offer a ton of services. Most valuably they provide server space so you don’t have to have your own. You can use simple storage servers (S3), as well as just about any sort of operating system you want (EC2), and tons of additional servers–databases, etc. They in absolutely no sense at all are “just a fancy ISP.”

    22. PenGun Says:

      Brian. Your description of AWS is the definition of ‘Fancy ISP’. ;)

      It does seem the right has problems with simple things. We are still waiting for TM to do something with the stuff he rattles on about. Parler was scraped and all its posts stashed, they seem to know very little about security.

      You go on about being shut out of the internet, but if you are, its your own fault.

    23. Brian Says:

      “Your description of AWS is the definition of ‘Fancy ISP’.”
      LOL. Either things in Canada work very, very differently, or you are as usual delusionally ranting with no connection to reality…

      I’ve never used Parler, didn’t care for their login system, but their problem was that every single service provider they worked with shut them off nearly simultaneously, with basically no warning. So they were shut off from the app stores, the company that did security stuff for them shut them off, so that anyone could get access without verification, then their hosting service cut them off. No business could survive that being done in a few hours. If they’d been give 30 days, they would probably have been ok, although since every standard internet provider is run by silicon valley fascists, it would have been more difficult. If they were a small foreign site looking to trade illegal goods, they’d have known from the start they had to do everything themselves to be more robust to this, but they were building a completely innocuous capability that should not be being cut off like this. But again, silicon valley is overrun by fascists, we’ve known that for years, but only now are they done pretending otherwise.

    24. PenGun Says:

      Brian. My site, at my name, is grandfathered into my ISP at a very low rate. I pay about $60 a year for service. This is because it used to belong to a friend of mine who developed it. He was good at business and I am good at backends, so I helped him build his ISP. ISP means Internet Service Provider and the service part can mean many things. Even the fairly simple business the company now does includes servers, with your choice of OS. Access to databases to store your crap etc etc. I’m not sure what you mean by ISP anymore.

      As I said The Pirate Bay is useful to this day. Fill yer boots: https://thepiratebay.org/

    25. tomw Says:

      If you want to see “modern feudalism”, take a walk westward to the coast. The rich are rich in their extravagant estates behind their exclusionary walls.
      The poor are poor living in abandoned buildings, under highway overpasses, in campers parked on the street, or in tents and shelters on the sidewalk.
      The middle class are the serfs, paying the taxes and doing all the work to keep things going for the rich and the poor. They are the ones paying into the retirement system bankrupted by the Sacramento politicians looking for more votes, or paying the property taxes used to fund the current retirement costs of their overlords.
      The ‘Friday Massacre’ of twitter, facebook, youtube, AWS and the security and payment providers all seems to have happened within a very small window of time, as if there was some collusion, or performing the kill at the issuance of a pre-arranged signal. It reeks of collusion.
      The democrats call Fascism on any and all who seem to propose opinions differing from the approved list. They indeed are guilty of same.

    26. Brian Says:

      penny: Your site is a joke. Yes, most ISPs allow you to make something like that. Go ahead and call your ISP and see if they can set you up with a site that will host millions of user accounts, etc. Scale matters.

    27. PenGun Says:

      Brian. As I have pointed out my site is a simple hand written CSS photo site. Its where I keep my pictures. As you do love to insult me, I ask, what is it that offends you? I can do HTML but its not my forte.

      A fairly small local ISP is not where you would go to get service at the scale you describe. I would use AWS myself for that, as its easy, and well set up. ;) If that were not an option, there are lots of connections to fat pipes, which is what you need to do serious traffic.

    28. Brian Says:

      “A fairly small local ISP is not where you would go to get service at the scale you describe. I would use AWS myself for that”
      So you’re conceding you were talking out of your posterior, and I was right from the start. Sounds good, we’re done then.

    29. PenGun Says:

      ROTFLMFAO. Brian, is reading hard for you?

    30. Xennady Says:

      The problem is that the people running Parler thought they operated in a nation where laws and contracts mattered.

      Alas, we do not live in such a place.

      The ‘Friday Massacre’ of twitter, facebook, youtube, AWS and the security and payment providers all seems to have happened within a very small window of time, as if there was some collusion, or performing the kill at the issuance of a pre-arranged signal.

      Bingo- and of course there was collusion. Back during the Bush 43 era, the media was caught scheming before a press conference how to best arrange their questions to make Bush look bad. They also had a secret email list which they used to conspire against their enemies. It was exposed, but I’d say the evidence strongly suggests that they have something much better now. And as already noted at this site, the Jan. 6th event was plainly an op, and I’d say it had planning of a military nature.

      That is, it wasn’t just a few media hacks plotting to lie to their audience. It was yet another example of the Deep State conspiring against the Republic.

      If they were a small foreign site looking to trade illegal goods, they’d have known from the start they had to do everything themselves to be more robust to this, but they were building a completely innocuous capability that should not be being cut off like this.

      Again, they thought they had rights, like they were people or something.

      I’ve read Althouse for a long time. She has poured an incredible amount of work into her blog over the years. Right now she is justifiably desperate that it is about to be taken away from her at the whim of Google for harboring wrong think.

      I’ve read her site for a long time as well, and it’s disgusting to think that google could just shut her down because because some pin-headed SJW working there sees an opinion that they don’t like. This is The Fourth Turning in action- a desperate regime takes unpopular measures to stay in power, because if it didn’t, it would fall. In the process, it makes new enemies. I’d hazard a guess that Professor Althouse is less friendly towards the left now than before, and more likely to go against them in the future.

      But she’s late to the party. Millions of others have already had that otherizing experience, and that’s why we voted for Trump. He was an outsider, but was also quite to work within the system. I suspect the next guy won’t be so keen on that.

    31. Brian Says:

      This thread on a “debate” tonight on “What Now? A Conversation On Where Conservatives Go After the Trump Presidency” involving among others George Will is just mind-boggling. Will perfectly exemplifies that old quote about the Bourbons forgetting nothing and learning nothing…
      https://twitter.com/AmerCompass/status/1349869084838649856
      LIVE NOW: What Now? A Conversation On Where Conservatives Go After the Trump Presidency

      “Free trade has casualties. Freedom has casualties,” says GeorgeWill. The question is what you do with the people who are “casualties” here. We need to encourage not just social mobility but geographic mobility, he argues.

      GeorgeWill says that the things he’d keep from the Trump era are only the things that Trump took from GOP handbook: cutting the corporate tax rate, filling judicial appointments with Federalist Society suggestions, etc.

      GeorgeWill worries about “creating another entitlement”: the entitlement of preserving a certain way of life, a neighborhood, and suggests that this would cause an unacceptable growth in government’s role.

      Sigh. Nice talking points for someone who’s been in a coma since 1992, George. Does he realize that a party following his advice is completely and totally unelectable at this point? Oh well, at least he and David Brooks get invited to cocktail parties by Democrats, where they can have amazing conversations about creased pants and bowties and Bonhoffer and how beautiful the Shanghai skyline and how vile folks from West Virginia are.

    32. Xennady Says:

      We need to encourage not just social mobility but geographic mobility, he argues.

      What a dolt.

      I find this especially infuriating because almost every single person I’ve ever met has moved because of work.

      But I know where this idea comes from- idiots like him think that the reason why free trade isn’t beloved by the masses is because Americans are too lazy to move.

      Will perfectly exemplifies that old quote about the Bourbons forgetting nothing and learning nothing…

      Spot on.

    33. Gavin Longmuir Says:

      Xennady: “… idiots like him think that the reason why free trade isn’t beloved by the masses is because Americans are too lazy to move.”

      As we all know, “free” trade is not actually “free trade” — it is managed trade (which is why “free trade” agreements are hundreds of pages long). And from the perspective of the US worker, it has been badly managed trade. It is more like unilateral free trade by the US, where imports pour in from other countries while exports have to climb a steep hill of tariff & especially non-tariff barriers.

      However, some people gain from this badly managed trade, and those are the kinds of people that George Will paddles around with in the DC Swamp — stock option-holding CEOs, bureaucrats, lawyers, politicians. The Swamp creatures see the short-term benefits of this one-sided managed trade, while they have no idea (or even interest) in the costs paid by the peons in places like Cleveland — places they would never visit. Bottom line is that George Will and his ilk are simply uninformed. Remember that, if you are ever tempted to pay attention to what he says.

      The near-unilateral “free” trade imposed by the Best & Brightest really is one of the best current examples of the Tragedy of the Commons. Unemployed workers are currently paying the price, but even Will’s lofty Swamp creatures will pay the price sooner or later.

    34. Xennady Says:

      Bottom line is that George Will and his ilk are simply uninformed.

      I agree, except I think you’re being much too charitable towards George Will and the rest of his ilk. They’re uninformed in the manner that inspired that old quote about it being difficult to make someone understand something when their living depends on them not understanding it.

      I think these people know full well what the result of their beloved policies have been, but they’re paid to shill and that’s what they will do. I’d like to give special mention to the loathsome Kevin Williamson, who also thinks people won’t move and thus seems to be bitterly and personally resentful that places like upstate New York haven’t been completely depopulated yet.

      But I am reminded of Lady MacBeth, trying to wash her hands clean. If they admit that they’ve been terribly wrong, then what does that say about them and their judgement?

      Back to GeorgeWill- I’m old enough to remember when folks like him were telling us a rising tide lifted all boats. Now, he says free trade has “casualties.” Oh, you don’t say? What should we do, George? Adjust our policies based on experience?

      Nope. Nope. Nope. We should keep doing exactly what we have been doing for generations.

      Not only is George Will an organ grinder’s monkey for conservative inc, he also advocates something that is literally a definition of insanity- doing the same thing over and again, and expecting different results.

      Bottom line- I don’t like George Will, and I’m not interested in the shinola he’s shoveling.

    35. Mike K Says:

      Brian, I think you got a taste of why I don’t like feeding trolls. Fortunately, we only seem to have one, unlike Althouse who has a new one every day. I assume some are sock puppets, the term Cathy Seipp popularized for creeps like LA Times writer Hiltzik.

      Feudalism has some similarities to what we see now, as does Fascism. I think Feudalism was more in vogue in times where money was not widely used. We may be heading for another time like that.

      David Goldman, whose record is pretty good, predicts it.

      His nom de plume, “Spengler,” gives you the idea.

      Fascism better explains the cabal running Biden/Harris. Fritz Thyssen comes to mind.