ⓘ Neo-feudalism


ⓘ Neo-feudalism

Neo-feudalism or new feudalism is a theorized contemporary rebirth of policies of governance, economy, and public life reminiscent of those present in many feudal societies, such as unequal rights and legal protections for common people and for nobility.

The concept of "neofeudalism" may focus on economics. Among the issues claimed to be associated with the idea of neofeudalism in contemporary society are class stratification, globalization, neoconservative foreign policy, mass immigration/illegal immigration, open borders policies, multinational corporations, and "neo-corporatism".


1. Use and etymology

In early use, the term was deployed as both a criticism of the political Left and of the Right.

An early example critical of the Left is the essay "Neo-Feudalism" by John Kenneth Galbraith, published in 1961.

The term is still used by some on the right in that sense in the twenty-first century:

Although he would later become a naturalized American citizen, Soros remains in social outlook very much a European and believer in the paternalistic neo-feudalism euphemistically called "democratic socialism" or "social democracy".

On the other hand, Jurgen Habermas used the term Refeudalisierung refeudalisation in his 1962 The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere to criticise the privatisation of the forms of communication that he believed had produced an Enlightenment-era public sphere. While not talking about neo-feudalism as such, later commentators have noted that these ideas are similar to the idea of neo-feudalism. Correspondingly, in 1992 Immanuel Wallerstein expressed views on global development, listing neo-feudalism among three other variants. By neo-feudalism, Wallerstein referred to autarky regions with a localised hierarchy and hi-tech goods available only for the elite.


2. Privatized governance

According to Les Johnston, Clifford Shearings theoretical approach of neofeudalism has been influential. Shearing "use this term in a limited sense to draw attention to the emergence of domains of mass private property that are gated in a variety of ways".

Lucia Zedner responds that this use of neo-feudalism is too limited in scope; Shearings comparison does not draw parallels with earlier governance explicitly enough. Zedner prefers more definitive endorsements.

Neofeudalism entails an order defined by commercial interests and administered in large areas, according to Bruce Baker, who argues that this does not fully describe the extent of cooperation between state and non-state policing. The significance of the comparison to feudalism, for Randy Lippert and Daniel OConnor, is that corporations have power similar to states governance powers. Similarly, Sighard Neckel has argued that the rise of financial-market-based capitalism in the later twentieth century has represented a refeudalisation of the economy.

The widening of the wealth gap, as poor and marginalized people are excluded from the states provision of security, can result in neofeudalism, argues Marina Caparini, who says this has already happened in South Africa. Neofeudalism is made possible by the commodification of policing, and signifies the end of shared citizenship, says Ian Loader. A primary characteristic of neofeudalism is that individuals public lives are increasingly governed by business corporations, as Martha K. Huggins finds.

John Braithwaite notes that neofeudalism brings a different approach to governance, since business corporations in particular have this specialized need for loss reduction.


3. In popular culture

In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, Seattle-based technology billionaire Nick Hanauer prominently stated that "our country is rapidly becoming less a capitalist society and more a feudal society". His views were echoed by, amongst others, the Icelandic billionaire Bjorgolfur Thor Bjorgolfsson. The idea that the early twentieth-century boom and bust in Iceland saw the country returning to feudal structures of power was also expressed by a range of Icelandic novellists, among them Sigrun Davidsdottir in Samhengi hlutanna, Bjarni Bjarnason in Mannord, Bjarni Hardarson in Sigurdar saga fots, Bodvar Gudmundsson in Tofrahollin, and Steinar Bragi in Halendid: Skaldsaga. Similar ideas are found in some Anglophone fiction. For example, Frank Herberts Dune series of novels is set in the distant future with a neofeudalistic galactic empire known as the Imperium after the Butlerian Jihad which prohibits all kinds of thinking machine technology, even its simpler forms.