Saturday, September 10, 2011

Feudal capitalism

I've often speculated on the relation of capitalism to feudalism, that the former is in many ways an outgrowth of the latter, more of a lateral development than a vertical one. This article offers some interesting history on their relationship. An excerpt:

"It was the increase in the standard of living of the lower strata moving in the direction of relative equalization of incomes... that for the upper strata represented the real crisis.... There was no way out of it without drastic social change. This way... was the creation of a capitalist world-system, a new form of surplus appropriation. The replacement of the feudal mode by the capitalist mode was what constituted the seigniorial reaction; it was a great sociopolitical effort by the ruling strata to retain their collective privileges, even if they had to accept a fundamental reorganization of the economy....most importantly, the principle of stratification was not merely preserved; it was to be reinforced as well."

We see this continuing to play out in today's economic battles, with conservatives conserving the stratification of privilege, power and wealth at the expense of the rest of us. Capitalism is a regression into feudalism, albeit a more 'complex' one, not an advance into freedom and shared opportunity concomitant with the Enlightenment. Now a democratic economy led by (noncorrupt) unions, maybe...

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