Capitalism is Dead; Long Live Neo-Feudalism

The question of whether capitalism is dead or has evolved into something different is a matter of ongoing debate among economists, scholars, and policymakers. Proponents of the argument that capitalism is dead often point to the various crises and inequalities that have emerged within capitalist systems worldwide.

These critics argue that the traditional model of capitalism, characterized by free markets, private ownership of the means of production, and minimal government intervention, has failed to address critical issues such as income inequality, environmental degradation, and financial instability. They contend that the rise of monopolies, the commodification of essential goods and services, and the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few have rendered traditional capitalism unsustainable and morally bankrupt.

However, others argue that capitalism has not died but rather evolved into a new form, often referred to as “late capitalism” or “crony capitalism.” This view acknowledges the shortcomings of traditional capitalism but suggests that capitalism has adapted to new challenges and contexts. In this model, governments play a more active role in regulating markets, redistributing wealth, and addressing social and environmental concerns.

Additionally, technological advancements and globalization have transformed the nature of production, consumption, and exchange, leading to the emergence of new economic structures and business models. While acknowledging the need for reform and addressing systemic issues, proponents of this perspective argue that capitalism remains the most effective system for promoting innovation, economic growth, and prosperity.

Winston Churchill said: “Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…”. Perhaps we can say the same about capitalism.

Ayn Rand had interesting things to say about the subject in her book Atlas Shrugged. Have a look.

Whatever the perspective, it does certainly seem that capitalism, as it used to be, has changed in the last two decades. So, what are we left with now or what is replacing the old version of capitalism. We’ll explore this very subject in this article.

Feudalism and Neo-Feudalism

Feudalism, an economic, social, and political system prominent in medieval Europe, was characterized by a hierarchical structure where land was owned by lords and worked by peasants in exchange for protection and a portion of the produce.

This system emphasized loyalty, obligation, and the distribution of power through land ownership. In contrast, neo-feudalism, a term used to describe certain aspects of contemporary society, reflects a resurgence of similar power dynamics but within the context of modern capitalism. While not identical to medieval feudalism, neo-feudalism shares certain features such as vast wealth inequalities, the concentration of power in the hands of a few, and the erosion of social mobility.

One key difference between feudalism and neo-feudalism is found in their economic structures. Feudalism relied heavily on agriculture and the exploitation of land resources, whereas neo-feudalism is characterized by a globalized economy driven by technology, finance, and information. However, both systems exhibit a concentration of wealth and power among an elite class, leading to disparities in opportunity and access to resources.

In feudalism, land ownership was the primary source of power, whereas in neo-feudalism, control over corporations, financial institutions, and digital platforms serves as the means of domination.

Furthermore, the role of technology and globalization distinguishes neo-feudalism from its medieval counterpart. While feudalism was limited by geographic boundaries and technological constraints, neo-feudalism operates in a borderless digital landscape where information flows freely and capital can be amassed and deployed across the globe.

This interconnectedness has facilitated the rise of multinational corporations and the creation of a global elite class that easily moves beyond traditional national boundaries. However, despite these differences, both feudalism and neo-feudalism are marked by a rigid social hierarchy, where those at the top wield disproportionate influence and control over the lives of those below them, perpetuating cycles of exploitation and inequality.

What Can We Do About It

As modern workers move through the complexities of the working landscape, avoiding the potential for a neo-feudal system to relegate them to the status of serfs is a very real concern. But what should the average working person know about and do? Here are a few ideas.

The working class must prioritize education, advocacy, and collective action.

Firstly, education plays a big role in empowering individuals to understand their rights, the structures of power within society, and the mechanisms that perpetuate inequality. Access to quality education, both formal and informal, equips individuals with the knowledge and critical thinking skills necessary to challenge oppressive systems and advocate for their rights.

Secondly, advocacy is important for the modern working class to assert its interests and demand fair treatment. This involves active engagement in political processes, lobbying for policies that promote economic justice and social equality, and supporting organizations that champion workers’ rights. By amplifying their voices collectively, the working class can push back against exploitative practices and hold institutions and corporations accountable for their actions.

Thirdly, collective action is essential for building solidarity and strength within the working class. Through unions, worker cooperatives, and grassroots movements, individuals can join forces to negotiate better wages, working conditions, and benefits. By organizing and standing united, the modern working class can find a voice and resist the powers of neo-feudalism, while striving for a more equitable and just society where all individuals have the opportunity to thrive.

Fourthly, people can start looking outside of the traditional economic system. Things like Mutual Credit, Time Banking and Mutual Aid Networks offer interesting alternatives to relying solely on the modern economic system – having options makes people and societies stronger and more flexible.

The modern world is changing rapidly and whether these changes result in something better or something worse, to a large extent, may depend upon us, the workers of the world. It may seem that we don’t have much economic or political power but, in fact, maybe we do. Whether elections can actually change the system or not is a subject for debate but we do have choices about how and where we spend our money. We have choices about our level of participation in the current system. We have choices about how and to whom we trade our goods and services. We have choices about with whom we socialize and do business. We are, at least for now, free to build communities and community structures and organizations. Ultimately, the ruling elites have the power of money and politics but the rest of us have the power of choice. It may not be much but drips of water can, over time, erodes stones.

Perhaps each and every one of us should be thinking about how we want to spend our money, who we want to do business with, who we want to socialize with, how we want to build our communities. This article isn’t advocating for any kind of revolution, but rather, an evolution. Perhaps it’s time that our communities evolve into something more reasonable, equitable, accountable and sustainable. It can be done, one person at a time and one step at a time.