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The coming of neo-feudalism


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In this piece, Adam Wakeling reviews a book on what Joel Kotkin suggests is where we're headed - back into a kind of feudalism, where a small group of oligarchs take the place of the aristocracy of the past, and a group he calls the 'clerisy' takes the place of the clergy of the past. These would be the educed elites, opinion makers, deciders of orthodoxy, among media, academia and government, with similar views that are distanced from that of the common peasantry. And the rest, the peasantry, living in their small government supplied studio apartments watching Netflix and getting by on universal basic income payments.

Kotkin writes of the medieval and early modern “Estates of the Realm”—the First Estate (Clergy), Second Estate (Aristocracy), and Third Estate (commoners). In the place of the clergy, we are seeing a new first estate which Kotkin calls the Clerisy—an increasingly detached intellectual elite found across government, the media, universities, and the professions. And in the place of the aristocracy, a new second estate, the Oligarchy. Just as the Clergy buttressed the wealth and power of the Aristocracy, so too does the Clerisy support the Oligarchy. People outside the new first and second estates are losing the opportunity to advance in life. In short, Kotkin’s neo-Feudalism rests on two pillars. One is growing and increasingly entrenched wealth inequality. The other is the cultural disconnect between the elite and the general population.

Behind the Oligarchy is the “benign authoritarianism” of the Clerisy, those in government, the media, and academia who determine society’s orthodoxies. They view themselves as “more enlightened” than the majority, and tend to hold similar progressive views on the major political issues of the day. Kotkin cites studies suggesting that the ratio of liberals to conservatives in academia is 50–1, and at top schools anywhere between 8–1 and 120–1. These views are often at odds with those of poorer and less-educated people. As with the Oligarchy, the Clerisy has become more hereditary over time. Economic inequality and the cultural divide are obviously related.
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Finally, we have the third estate, which Kotkin divides in two. Some, whom he compares to the medieval yeomanry, are still doing okay in small businesses or trades. Amazon can’t compete with your barber or hairdresser. But many are stranded in unstable employment in the precarious gig economy—they’ve gone from Proletariat to Precariat. For them, upward mobility is stalling. 90 percent of people born in the 1940s went on to earn higher incomes than their parents, as opposed to 50 percent born in the 1980s. They may be supported by UBI and public welfare, but that would mean trading solid unionised blue-collar jobs for a life in a government-provided studio apartment watching Netflix. Understandably, faith in liberal democracy is declining in the Third Estate. Kotkin quotes the radical social theorist Barrington Moore: “No bourgeois, no democracy.” Economic inequality and cultural alienation leads to the rise of left- and right-wing populism. And, as in the Middle Ages, “peasant rebellions” like the gilets jaunes protests in France.

https://quillette.com/2020/06/11/the-coming-of-neo-feudalism-a-review/

Edited by Argus
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So this neo-feudalism will be run by the right for the benefit of the left? That seems to be the only thing that would explain why the oligarchs won't simply process peasants into lubricant for the assembly lines.

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From the article

Quote

Conservatives and libertarians have historically argued that inequality of outcome is acceptable provided there is reasonable equality of opportunity.

Its the inequality of opportunity provided by lobbying and influence at the front end of the economic process that causes so much inequality of outcomes.  You've said yourself you resent your betters queue jumping like this but of course you've also said you resent it when people below your station get to vote so... are you a real conservative or just a wanna-be who refuses to stay in the station your better's have provided you?

Edited by eyeball
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1 hour ago, eyeball said:

So this neo-feudalism will be run by the right for the benefit of the left? That seems to be the only thing that would explain why the oligarchs won't simply process peasants into lubricant for the assembly lines.

Who says it will be run by the right? The article makes the point that the social views of both the oligarchs and technocrat workers are virtually identical.

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1 hour ago, eyeball said:

From the article

Its the inequality of opportunity provided by lobbying and influence at the front end of the economic process that causes so much inequality of outcomes.  You've said yourself you resent your betters queue jumping like this

Don't make crap up and attribute it to me. I've always been in favour of merit in hiring, promotion, etc.

The issue with inequality, imo could be reasonably dealt with by rewriting the tax code so that the super rich paid a hell of a lot more in taxes. Warren Buffet should not be paying a lower tax rate on his income than his secretary. We should also do away with the nonsense of foreign domiciled domestic companies paying little or no taxes.

 

 

 

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3 hours ago, Argus said:

Don't make crap up and attribute it to me. I've always been in favour of merit in hiring, promotion, etc.

You don't recall complaining about the opportunity afforded wealthier people to influence politicians more than you're able to? I do. In any case why shouldn't they feel the same way about you when you're complaining about people who don't have the amount of skin in the game as you?

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I definitely think the debate has shifted away somewhat from right versus left because both liberals and conservatives have come to a consensus on what the floor should be roughly on poverty.  Perhaps the ceiling is still up for debate as far as taxation levels go.  Interestingly, I even think wide consensus could be found on raising taxes on the super-rich.

I think the new emerging opposition is between populists (right and left) who want to bend the natural world to meet human wishes versus the technocrats who are all about the science.  We are currently watching the usurping of the populists by the technocrats under the pandemic.  We are being ruled by health authorities and computer simulations of projected viral spread and environmental outcomes.  However, the populists are pushing back, demanding social justice in a pandemic that has hurt poor and minorities (and highlighted racial divides), as well as demanding the right to work and participate in public life, even if it kills them. It’s logic versus emotion, computer versus human, and virtual versus physical.

The programmers and operators of the tech infrastructure are the new oligarchs.  The peasants work for them on their tech platforms, not unlike the factory workers at the Victorian textile mill.  The “clerisy” will no doubt provide the ideological cover for this inequality through progressive measures like UBI for those who can’t make it in the gig economy using the tech platforms.  Yeah it’s just a different wheel with the same cogs.

We risk lapsing into forms of totalitarianism from either capitalists or green socialists if the situation gets more desperate.  Our consumer-driven liberal democracy, a combination of growth capitalism and light socialism may be on the ropes. Cancel culture, protest, and censorship from the left are countered by greater consolidations of power and wealth from the elites who pretend to understand and relate to the marginalized in order to sell into the new Cultural Marxist markets.  It’s a new form of an old class struggle, but if humanity becomes more desperate through economic hardships resulting from the pandemic and other crises, the  political reactions could become much more extreme.  

Edited by Zeitgeist
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16 minutes ago, Zeitgeist said:

 We are being ruled by health authorities and computer simulations of projected viral spread and environmental outcomes.  

Boy I sure miss the Before Times. Having Sharia forced down our throats seems oddly quaint in comparison. 

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 6/16/2020 at 12:53 AM, eyeball said:

You don't recall complaining about the opportunity afforded wealthier people to influence politicians more than you're able to? I do. In any case why shouldn't they feel the same way about you when you're complaining about people who don't have the amount of skin in the game as you?

"Betters" is a subjective term.I've never suggested stupid ideas should prosper because rich people owned them. I don't see how that even starts to relate to merit in hiring and promotion. Saying they have more 'skin in the game' is also subjective as it depends on how you assess skin. A wealthy person could toss a million bucks onto the pile and forget he even did so. Is that really skin in the game? It's not commitment nor even care. We've seen wealthy individuals and corporations tossing money at various left wing groups lately merely to buy good PR. It's pennies to them, and essentially meaningless.

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On 6/16/2020 at 1:34 AM, Zeitgeist said:

I think the new emerging opposition is between populists (right and left) who want to bend the natural world to meet human wishes versus the technocrats who are all about the science.  We are currently watching the usurping of the populists by the technocrats under the pandemic.

Populist is a derogatory term, but what does it really mean but someone who is basically agreeing to what huge masses of people want.  For years and years the great mass of people in Europe wanted immigration from outside the EU hugely decreased. The technocrats ignored them, and still do. This is basically why the 'populists' are rising in force, because unlike the technocrats, they're taking the side of what the people want done. I might add there are numerous situations like this where the 'technocrats' aren't exactly operating on science or logic.

On 6/16/2020 at 1:34 AM, Zeitgeist said:

The programmers and operators of the tech infrastructure are the new oligarchs.  The peasants work for them on their tech platforms, not unlike the factory workers at the Victorian textile mill.  The “clerisy” will no doubt provide the ideological cover for this inequality through progressive measures like UBI for those who can’t make it in the gig economy using the tech platforms.  Yeah it’s just a different wheel with the same cogs.

We risk lapsing into forms of totalitarianism from either capitalists or green socialists if the situation gets more desperate.  Our consumer-driven liberal democracy, a combination of growth capitalism and light socialism may be on the ropes. Cancel culture, protest, and censorship from the left are countered by greater consolidations of power and wealth from the elites who pretend to understand and relate to the marginalized in order to sell into the new Cultural Marxist markets.  It’s a new form of an old class struggle, but if humanity becomes more desperate through economic hardships resulting from the pandemic and other crises, the  political reactions could become much more extreme.  

Much of the argument is proceeding in the absence of both logic and fact because people are not allowed to speak their minds, not allowed to bring up uncomfortable truths, regardless of how well-documented they are. Not, at least, unless they're from the proper identity group.

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