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Modern collectivism and the feudal system

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Are all the collectivist “isms”—socialism, communism, fascism—really just variants of feudalism applied to modern states?

I don’t exactly understand how the feudal system of medieval Europe worked, especially in terms of what the unit of political sovereignty was, but my understanding is that there were multiple political entities within a given region that each claimed sovereignty, and these entities fought amongst themselves territory, but each operated as a de-facto communist state, with the lower castes of society being enslaved to the higher ones, who controlled the use of physical force. 

In feudal society, there was no private property, and heavy expropriation of the product of the peasant’s labor by the lords and knights above them, equivalent to modern taxes, or people in modern communist countries working state farms. It’s well-known that there was control of trades by guilds, where the rulers dictated who could sell what by granting favors, like the modern state health departments that license doctors. I’m guessing you wouldn’t have had to look far to find wage and price controls, and debasement of currency feudal governments. 

The feudal King might have rationalized it differently than the President of a modern communist state, but it was essentially the same thing. 

The only fundamental difference I can see is that modern socialist, communist, and fascist states generally assert their sovereignty and maintain their national borders more successfully, whereas the feudal rulers just fought constantly among themselves.

Hence, are modern collectivists really just resurrecting the economics of the Medieval period, whether they realize it or not? 

Edited by happiness
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As I understand it, the guilds were run by the merchants and artisans themselves.  Perhaps this is more like what the Soviet Union claimed to be than like what it actually was.  This was still a form of statism or something similar, perhaps similar to modern members of a trade working under a strong union.  I remember once in childhood getting a haircut and the barber saying something along the lines of prices being set by the union.  When I asked why do what they say, he said "the union's the boss," in a manner suggesting that it was strange to question this.  I don't think I even knew what a union was at the time.  I also remember as an adult talking with a British man.  I forget whether we were talking about taxis or truckers or what, but he said that people who tried to be independent of the union had fires in their garages, and that it was hard for the government to do anything about this.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 1/3/2021 at 8:15 PM, happiness said:

Hence, are modern collectivists really just resurrecting the economics of the Medieval period, whether they realize it or not? 

I don't think I would say anyone is resurrecting medieval economic systems. I would say that new systems are being devised with the emphasis on commanding the heights of major industries, emphasis on industrialization. There were no major industries back then. Subsistence farming by serfs could never sustain the populations we have today. And our farmers have it pretty good. The top-down hierarchical use of force is definitely the same. Modern state dominated economic systems bare this similarity to Medieval Europe: Neither respects the natural rights of the individual.

Doug Morris is mostly right about his comparison of medieval guides to modern unions. He used good examples of professions that use a ranking of scale to prevent those non-members from driving down rates, as the guilds did. The guilds were general agreements among craftsmen, artisans, and merchants. They served a fairly constructive purpose, in that, commoners had few rights, if any. They fixed prices, and governed the ranking of apprenticeship, to journeyman, to master. They organized rudimentary pension systems, and other benefits for members. Unlike our present day unions, where poor performers are protected from loosing their jobs, the skilled medieval worker either maintained his reputation or he starved. Merchants were generally hated by people then, similar to our times, as they were the "capitalists" of their time. It was less likely then that the government (the local aristocracy) would interfere with a mason, cooper, or blacksmith, as they held value greater than your average commoner or serf. Incidentally, the most common bankers then were Jews, as the Catholic Church forbade the charging of usury. Jews had no such prohibition, and as everyone know, Jews were less popular then than our modern bankers.

Comparing all of this to communism, Marx designed specific formulations for the state operated economy with little margin for free market principles. With the exception of guilds, medieval economies were governed largely by free market principles, in spite of the fact that Adam Smith had not explained them to anyone. They had little choice. It was literally feast or famine without our modern industrial output. Bare in mind, pure communism was never achieved; socialism was the system intended to transition from capitalism to the ultimate goal of communism. Another irony about Marx: He claimed that history was driven by the class-struggle between the aristocracy and the lowly common classes, never giving much consideration that one day, the acolytes of is faith would create their own "aristocracy" in the form of the Communism Party. 

Comparing feudalism to fascism, without any Marxist formulation for setting wages and prices, the situation would be roughly the same as a socialist state, although private ownership of the means of production is permitted, until someone in the Party isn't happy. In any of these systems, the government had/has the power, if not the right, to take whatever their greedy little hearts desired, until their fiefdoms became so weak that the higher-ups intervened, and eventually someone else would have reign over the particular operation. In the medieval state, a more powerful ruler would invade the weaker neighboring property, as real estate was the best guarantee of taxes, food production, and prestige. And it happens in modern times, too, e.g. Russia invades Ukraine. In our industrial age, a poor performer may be rewarded, as they were in the Soviet Union. There, when a vital industry performed poorly, that meant more resources were needed to boost that industry's performance. Small wonder that system didn't work. But our governments, local, state, and national, often do the very same thing. If you don't use up the previously allocated budget for the year, your department will receive less from the budget in the following year. The medieval craftsman was much more motivated to perform than modern public union workers. In our private industries, contracts determine wages and prices. Back in Days of Old, the lesser local feudal lords would battle it out, and as long as the reigning king or queen received the required tribute, and that was what they might call, "collective bargaining."

So, I think it's a comparison worthy of consideration, but the major distinction between then and now is the motive beliefs that stand as the theological/ideological underpinnings of their respective authority. The European Middle Ages imposed rule by the mystics of the mind, that is, the Catholic Church stressed the belief that man is a spiritual being with a sinful body. The Pope granted his approval to kings and queens, and left the details to the locals. In our industrialized and secular age, temple-priest are anachronisms; we have public schools and popular culture to thank for influencing the masses.  Modern statists impose rule by the mystics of muscle, stressing the belief that man's body is a physical property of the state, of value only when in the service of his fellow man. In both cases, the individual had/has few rights, if any. Are we standing at the threshold of a new dark age, or have we already fallen into the abyss?

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  • 8 months later...


The crucial difference between feudalism and communism or fascism

is that feudalism is characterized by a pre-modern mentality, whereas communism and fascism are characterized by a modern mentality.

The difference is the role of science in production and defense.

Whereas before it was the plow and the sickle and the sword,

in communism and fascism it is the tractor and the gun and the nuke.

Completely different epistemology, completely different means and ends.

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