Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

May 29, 2020

Does neo-feudalism define our current epoch?

Filed under: Counterpunch — louisproyect @ 2:42 pm

COUNTERPUNCH, MAY 29, 2020

Is there anything feudal about Mark Zuckerberg?

When I learned that we were entering a new period called neo-feudalism, my first reaction was to wonder if that was any worse than what we have now. After all, the serf might have suffered from a lack of freedom but at least had lots of time off as Michael Perelman pointed out in “The Invention of Capitalism“:

Although their standard of living may not have been particularly lavish, the people of precapitalistic northern Europe, like most traditional people, enjoyed a great deal of free time. The common people maintained innumerable religious holidays that punctuated the tempo of work. Joan Thirsk estimated that in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, about one-third of the working days, including Sundays, were spent in leisure. Karl Kautsky offered a much more extravagant estimate that 204 annual holidays were celebrated in medieval Lower Bavaria.

Then again, I wondered if they were using the term feudalism in the same way I do. When I first began to hear about Trump as a “neo-fascist,” I stubbornly insisted on using the term fascism in a strict sense. I didn’t find him that different from past American presidents, including F.D.R. who threw Japanese-Americans into concentration camps in defiance of constitutional guarantees to citizens.

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4 Comments »

  1. Michael Hudson makes the argument for feudalism based on the creation of a majority-rentier economic system. Read Killing the Host.

    Comment by stew312856 — May 29, 2020 @ 3:04 pm

  2. excellent, answers questions from a new-to-socialism DSA friend

    Comment by Dayne Goodwin — May 29, 2020 @ 10:52 pm

  3. The only way Marxist can defend industrial capitalism as not being an extension of feudalism is if they do not recognize land as a means of production (as some economists do these days)… since the feudal class primarily controlled land rights and by extension was able to usurp the labor of the peasants through monetary and labor taxation on the threat of taking away access to land.

    This control of land resources by a feudal elite is then what escalates and mutates into control of other worldly resources including finance, industry and technology by roughly the class of interest in the industrial age; and hence industrial capitalism is not a distinct are of the history of the world political economy but rather it is a continuation of feudalism by other means…

    Most notably the European aristocracy still controls a huge chunk of world economic activity…

    Comment by Mkuki — May 30, 2020 @ 9:59 am

  4. Comrade, When I first stumbled into Jodi Dean’s LARB essay I felt as though her essay on Neofeudalism had solved a very deep conundrum. At last a seemingly viable way to make sense of the contradictions surrounding late stage Capitalism. If it is “late stage” why does it seem to be growing ever more powerful? Why are we moving more toward neo-fascism, oligarchy and plutocracy and away from a moderated socialism?

    Your article for Counter Punch makes valid criticisms of Dean and other “Neofeudalists.” You are right that whether boxing goods for Amazon, or working in a digital sweatshop call center it is still one’s labor surplus being exploited to increase the wealth of the Capitalist.

    On August 2nd I’ll be doing a Zoom slide presentation on “Serfing USA – Neofeudalism in Amerika” for members of my UU church.

    At this point I’m still trying to find a way to resolve the sexy appeal of neofeudalism with good old Capitalism marching on.

    Comment by mojoman49 — July 6, 2020 @ 4:13 pm


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