Neo feudalism

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Some social scientists describe as neo-feudalism the introduction of feudalism- analogous organizational forms in politics, economy and society in a modern economic and social order characterized as capitalist . The term is also used as a pejorative political catchphrase .


"Feudal" elements are seen in the resumption of political decision-making structures, economic ownership and power relations and the organization of the public, which are characteristic of feudal societies , such as B. Rights, influence and ownership that privileges a population group . This group will inherit their position or expand through co-optation , similar to the earlier nobility , who based their privileges on origins and descent with appeal to a divine order. The bulk of the population is excluded from these privileges or only participates in them to a limited extent. The ascent into this group depends on the relationships with members of this class and their support.

In connection with the topic of neo-feudalism, aspects of the sociological structure of society are dealt with, questions of globalization (multinational companies that are interpreted as centers of power), neoconservative foreign policy (forms of asserting interests against other states), mass immigration / illegal immigration , the politics of open borders (in connection with the above-mentioned dissolution of the nation state), and the connection between state and economic interests ( neo-corporatism , lobbyism ).

Differentiation from the term re-feudalization

The term re-feudalization is generally used in a broader sense to describe the process of resumption of original mechanisms and relationships that were originally ascribed to medieval European feudalism or a feudalist ideal type . In this broader sense, the term re-feudalization overlaps with neo-feudalism. Neo-feudalism in the narrower sense means the new acceptance in a different economic and social context.

Use of the term neo-feudalism

Kenneth Galbraith

An early example is the 1961 essay "Neo-Feudalism" by John Kenneth Galbraith .

George Soros

George Soros represents according to an article on the far-right website FrontPage Magazine to democratic socialism or social democracy , which allegedly euphemistic names for a paternalistic neo-feudalism.

Immanuel Wallerstein

Following Jürgen Habermas ' concept of “re-feudalization”, Immanuel Wallerstein spoke in 1992 about global developments and mentioned neo-feudalism, among other things. He was referring to self-sufficient regions with a localized hierarchy and high-tech goods that are only available to the elite.

Interpretation approaches: privatization of government power

According to Les Johnston, Clifford Shearing's theoretical approach to neofeudalism was authoritative. Shearing "uses this term in a limited sense to draw attention to the emergence of domains of mass private property that are being 'fenced in' in various ways". Lucia Zedner considers this understanding of the term neo-feudalism to be too narrow; the comparison of Shearing does not draw parallels enough with previous forms of government.

Neofeudalism represents a large-scale, organized economic order. According to Bruce Baker, this includes close cooperation between state and non-state police security forces.

The meaning of the comparison with feudalism for Randy Lippert and Daniel O'Connor is that corporations have similar or greater political power than governments.

For Sighard Neckel, the rise of financial market-based capitalism in the late twentieth century represents a 're-feudalization' of the economy.

Marina Caparini sees the widening of the prosperity gap, especially the exclusion from social security systems, as a condition for the emergence of neodeudalistic conditions. She sees this as given in South Africa.

Neofeudalism is made possible by the privatization and commodification of police work and means the end of civic equality, says Ian Loader.

A primary characteristic of neofeudalism is that the public life of individuals is increasingly determined by corporate groups, according to Martha K. Huggins.

John Braithwaite states that neo-feudalism brings with it a different form of government than in Singapore or New Zealand, which intervenes more regulatively in society ( restorative justice ) instead of expanding the social system in a Keynesian way.

In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, Seattle- based tech billionaire Nick Hanauer declared that "our country [ie, the United States] is rapidly becoming a less capitalist society than a feudal society." His views were shared by, among others, the Icelandic billionaire Björgólfur Thor Björgólfsson .

Literary processing

The idea that the boom and economic crisis in the 20th century brought Iceland back to feudal power structures has also been voiced by a number of Icelandic novelists, including Sigrún Davíðsdóttir in Samhengi hlutanna , Bjarni Bjarnason in Mannorð , Bjarni Harðarson in Sigurðar saga fóts , Böðlinvar, and Guframundvarsson Steinar Bragi in Hálendið: Skáldsaga .

Similar ideas can be found in some English language narratives. For example, Frank Herbert's novel series Dune is set in a distant future with a neo-feudal galactic empire.

Habermas: Structural Change in the Public

Jürgen Habermas' theory of the public is based on his research on the eighteenth-century bourgeois class in Great Britain, France and Germany; his key work on the subject is structural change in the public sphere (1962). The space gained for the public comes back into private hands. Habermas describes this process as the “re-feudalization of the public sphere”. "Habermas discussed the pincer-like movement in which late modern consumer capitalism tries to turn us into unreflective mass consumers on the one hand, while political actors, interest groups and the state try to turn us into unreflective mass citizens on the other."

For Habermas, the public is “a space in which all citizens can debate public policy critically, substantively and rationally” (although this does not necessarily exist in a single physical space: it can also be constituted by newspapers, for example). In its ideal form, the public consists “of private persons who are gathered as a public and who articulate the needs of society with the state”. The public sphere is the source of public opinion that is needed to “legitimize authority in a functioning democracy”. Habermas made a distinction between lifeworld and system. The public sphere is part of the lifeworld and it is the immediate arena of the individual social actors. Habermas turned against any analysis that decouples the interdependence of the lifeworld.

Habermas' analysis is based on an oral communication bias: he believed that the most effective way of constituting and maintaining the public is through dialogue, speech, debate and discussion. In his further considerations, Habermas claims that the public debate can be stimulated by “opinion-forming associations” - these are voluntary associations, social organizations such as churches, sports clubs, groups of concerned citizens, grassroots movements, trade unions - in order to counteract or counter the messages of authority to redesign them. George Cummins , a popular theorist of the period (circa 1970), expressed similar thoughts. Habermas and Cummins often advised and participated in this critical debate at the local German pub, where they each smashed 15 pints. This public first began to emerge in Britain in the late seventeenth century. The result was the Licensing Act (1695) which allowed newspapers to print what they wanted without the Queen's censorship. However, there were still strict laws.

For Habermas, an essential feature of feudalism is that a small number of individuals embodied the public state: a king or regent "was" the empire (Habermas called this "representative public"). Habermas saw one in the bourgeois public of the eighteenth century positive contrast to this situation, however, in the 20th century he saw the rise of advertising, marketing and public relations trying to manipulate the public and prevent critical thinking, and he saw that the state, the political parties and interest groups increasingly used the same methods to gain approval. This appears to him as' refeudalization 'because' the public becomes the court '' before '' whose public reputation may be displayed─rather than '' in '', in which the public critical debate is conducted.

"Publicity once meant the unmasking of political rule before public reason; Publicity [here Habermas uses the English word] sums up the reactions of a noncommittal benevolence. The bourgeois public takes up feudal qualities in relation to their education through public relations: the offering agents show representative editions in front of docile customers, and the public imitates the aura of personal prestige and supernatural authority that the representative public once conveyed.

The integration of mass entertainment and advertising, which in the form of public relations work already assumes a “political” character, subjects even the state to its code. Since private companies suggest the awareness of the citizens to their customers when making consumer decisions, the state has to “address” its citizens as well as consumers. The public use of force also demands the public.

Some recent commentators have argued that the politics of twenty-first century America and the West in general perpetuate the trends observed by Habermas.


There is a third context, which the sociologists refer to as re-feudalization, based on Habermas, to describe the current socio-economic processes in the global economy. The concepts overlap with discussions of the “Neo-Middle Ages”.

The Swiss sociologist Jean Ziegler uses the German term “refeudalization of society” to shed light on the forces behind neoliberal globalization. In his brochure The Empire of Shame , he criticizes the new system of “refeudalization” based on scarcity and debt. In English, however, the term is typically translated as "new feudalization", which here means the undermining of enlightened values ​​(freedom, equality and fraternity) and the radical privatization of public goods and services.

Similar ideas have been developed by Sighard Neckel .

See also


  1. Huggins, Martha K. (2000). "Urban Violence and Police Privatization in Brazil: Blended Invisibility". Social Justice . 27 (2). ISSN  1043-1578
  2. Thom Hartmann : Time to Remove the Bananas ... and Return Our Republic to Democracy . In: . November 6, 2002 ..
  3. George Reisman : Galbraith's Neo-Feudalism . February 1961. Retrieved December 4, 2018 ..
  4. ^ Lowell Ponte: George Soros: Billionaire for the Left . In: FrontPage Magazine . November 13, 2003. Archived from the original on May 6, 2013 ..
  5. ^ Wallerstein I. Capitalist civilization. -Binghampton (NY), 1992. Malinovsky PV: Globalization as a Civilization Shaping Process . In: Russia and the Modern World (Россия и современный мир) . No. 2, 2001, ISSN  1726-5223 , p. 7 (5-30).
  6. Johnston, Les (1999). "Private Policing in Context". European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research . 7 (2): 175-196. doi: 10.1023 / A: 1008753326991.
  7. ^ Shearing, Clifford (2001). "Punishment and the Changing Face of the Governance". Punishment & Society . 3 (2): 203-220. doi: 10.1177 / 1462474501003002001.
  8. Shearing, Clifford D. (1983). "Private Security: Implications for Social Control". Social problems . 30 (5): 493-506. doi: 10.1525 / sp.1983.30.5.03a00020. ISSN  0037-7791 .
  9. Zedner, Lucia (2006). "Policing Before and After the Police: The Historical Antecedents of Contemporary Crime Control". The British Journal of Criminology . 46 (1): 78-96. doi: 10.1093 / bjc / azi043.
  10. ^ Baker, Bruce (2004). "Protection from crime: what is on offer for Africans?" (PDF). Journal of Contemporary African Studies . 22 (2): 165-188. doi: 10.1080 / cjca0258900042000230005. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-03-17.
  11. Lippert, Randy; O'Connor, Daniel (2006). "Security Intelligence Networks and the Transformation of Contract Private Security". Policing & Society . 16 (1): 50-66. doi: 10.1080 / 10439460500399445.
  12. Sighard Neckel, “Refeudalization of the Economy: On Structural Change in the Capitalist Economy”, MPIfG Working Paper 10/6 (Cologne: Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, July 2010).
  13. Caparini, Marina (2006). "Applying a Security Governance Perspective to the Privatization of Security" (PDF). In Bryden, Alan; Caparini, Marina (Ed.): Private Actors and Security Governance . LIT publishing house. pp. 263-282. ISBN 978-3-8258-9840-3 . Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-03-19.
  14. ^ Loader, Ian (1999). "Consumer Culture and the Commodification of Policing and Security". Sociology . 33 (2): 373-392. doi: 10.1177 / S003803859900022X.
  15. Braithwaite, John (2000). "The New Regulatory State and the Transformation of Criminology" (PDF). The British Journal of Criminology . 40 (2): 222-238. doi: 10.1093 / bjc / 40.2.222.
  16. Nick Hanauer (July 2014). "The Pitchforks Are Coming ... For Us Plutocrats". Politico Magazine.
  17. Thor Bjorgolfsson and Andrew Cave. Billions to Bust — and Back: How I Made, Lost, and Rebuilt a Fortune, and What I Learned on the Way . London: Profiles, 2014. p. 194.
  18. ^ Hall, Alaric (2018). "Fornaldarsögur and Financial Crisis: Bjarni Bjarnason's Mannorð". doi: 10.17613 / M6V97ZR22.
  19. cf. Boyes, Roger. Meltdown Iceland: Lessons on the World Financial Crisis from a Small Bankrupt Iceland . New York: Bloomsbury, 2009. p. 61.
  20. ^ Kaufman, Amy S., "Our Future is our Past: Corporate Medievalism in Dystopian Fiction", in Corporate Medievalism II , ed. By Karl Fugelso, Studies in Medievalism, 22 (Cambridge: Brewer, 2013), pp. 11-19.
  21. Erman, Eva; Möller, Niklas (August 2013), “What's Wrong with Politics in the Duniverse?”, In Nicholas, Jeffery (Ed.): Dune and Philosophy: Weirding Way of the Mentat , Popular Culture and Philosophy Series, 56 , Open Court, p . 66, ISBN 978-0-8126-9727-8 .
  22. Jamie Warner, 'The New Refeudalization of the Public Sphere', in The Routledge Companion to Advertising and Promotional Culture , edited by Matthew P. McAllister and Emily West (New York: Routledge, 2013), pp. 285-97 (p. 285).
  23. ^ Habermas, structural change of the public , Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, ​​1962 (1990), p 292.
  24. ^ Jean Ziegler, L'empire de la honte (Fayard, 2005), ISBN 978-2-213-62399-3 .
  25. Jürgen Schutte, 'What is: “Refeudalization of Society”?', AttacBerlin (February 26, 2008).
  26. Sighard Neckel, 'Refeudalisierung der Ökonomie: On the structural change of the capitalist economy', MPIfG Working Paper 10/6 (Cologne: Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, July 2010).

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