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Neo-feudalism or new feudalism is a theorized contemporary rebirth of policies of governance, economy, and public life, reminiscent of those which were present in many feudal societies. Such aspects include, but are not limited to: Unequal rights and legal protections for common people and for nobility,[1] dominance of societies by a small and powerful elite, a lack of social mobility, and relations of lordship and serfdom between the elite and the people, where the former are rich and the latter poor.[2]

Use and etymology[edit]

Generally, the term refers to a 21st century form of feudalism—akin in some respects to what was seen in Medieval Europe, but unfolding as an emerging phenomenon in modern times. In its early use, the term was deployed as both a criticism of the political Left and of the Right.

On the other hand, Jürgen Habermas used the term Refeudalisierung ("refeudalisation") in his 1962 The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere to criticise the privatisation of the forms of communication that he believed had produced an Enlightenment-era public sphere. While not talking about "neo-feudalism" as such, later commentators have noted that these ideas are similar to the idea of neo-feudalism.[3] Correspondingly, in 1992 Immanuel Wallerstein expressed views on global development, listing neo-feudalism among three other variants. By neo-feudalism, Wallerstein referred to autarky regions with a localised hierarchy and hi-tech goods available only for the elite.[4]


The concept of neo-feudalism may focus on economics, though it is not limited to it. Among the issues claimed to be associated with the idea of neo-feudalism in contemporary society, are: class stratification, globalization, neoconservative foreign policy, multinational corporations, and "neo-corporatism".[5]

According to Les Johnston, Clifford Shearing's theoretical approach of neo-feudalism has been influential.[6] Shearing "use[s] this term in a limited sense to draw attention to the emergence of domains of mass private property that are 'gated' in a variety of ways".[7][8]

Lucia Zedner responds that this use of neo-feudalism is too limited in scope; Shearing's comparison does not draw parallels with earlier governance explicitly enough. Zedner prefers more definitive endorsements.[9]

Neo-feudalism entails an order defined by commercial interests and administered in large areas, according to Bruce Baker, who argues that this does not fully describe the extent of cooperation between state and non-state policing.[10] The significance of the comparison to feudalism, for Randy Lippert and Daniel O'Connor, is that corporations have power similar to states' governance powers.[11] Similarly, Sighard Neckel has argued that the rise of financial-market-based capitalism in the later twentieth century has represented a 'refeudalisation' of the economy.[12]

The widening of the wealth gap, as poor and marginalized people are excluded from the state's provision of security, can result in neo-feudalism, argues Marina Caparini, who says this has already happened in South Africa.[13] Neo-feudalism is made possible by the commodification of policing, and signifies the end of shared citizenship, says Ian Loader.[14] A primary characteristic of neo-feudalism is that individuals' public lives are increasingly governed by business corporations, as Martha K. Huggins finds.[1]

John Braithwaite notes that neo-feudalism brings a different approach to governance since business corporations, in particular, have this specialized need for loss reduction.[15]

Author Jonathan Bluestein has written about neo-feudalism as a feature of social power: economic, political and martial alike. He defines the neo-feudal sovereigns as those who, while not directly referred to as lords, aristocrats, kings or emperors, still hold an equivalent power in a modern sense. That is, people who are not subject to everyday laws, can create their own laws to an extent, dominate large markets, employ immense swathes of individuals, have the means to hold a private military force, wield the economic might equivalent of entire nations, and own assets, especially real-estate, on a massive scale. In his books, Bluestein both criticizes this phenomenon, and proposes social and economic solutions for it.[16][17]

Being the first to coin the term: techno-capitalist-feudalism, or TCF for short, political economist, Michel Luc Bellemare, released a seminal tome on the subject, titled 'Techno-Capitalist-Feudalism', in early September 2020. Described as the political economy of Scientific Anarchist-Communism, or structural-anarchism, TCF is a compilation of 15 years of economic research by the author, which began in the mid 2000s. According to Bellemare, in the book, "the epoch of techno-capitalist-feudalism is the epoch of totalitarian-capitalism, whereby the logic of capitalism attains totalitarian dimensions and authoritarian supremacy". One of the primary characteristics of the age of techno-capitalist-feudalism, according to Bellemare, is "the degeneration of the old modern class-system into a post-modern micro-caste-system, wherein an insurmountable divide and stratum now exists in-between the "1 percent" and the "99 percent", or more specifically, the state-finance-corporate-aristocracy and the workforce/population. Moreover, according to Bellemare, in the dark age of techno-capitalist-feudalism, "the determination of values, prices, and wages are no longer based upon the old Marxist notion of socially necessary labor-time, but rather upon the arbitrary use of force and influence, namely, through an underlying set of ruling capitalist power-relations and/or ideologies, which impose by force and influence, numeric values, prices, and wage-sums upon goods, services, and people, devoid of any considerations pertaining to labor-time". Ultimately, in the dark age of techno-capitalist-feudalism, "whatever a capitalist entity or a set of entities can get away with in the sphere of production and/or in the marketplace is deemed valid, legitimate, and normal, regardless of labour-time expenditures". As well, contra Marx, Bellemare's book argues that, in the dark age of TCF, "workers can be paid below subsistence levels", wherefore, they must now work a multiplicity of jobs and more hours in order to make ends meet, which, in many instances, they cannot do without social assistance. In turn, according to Bellemare, "in the dark age of TCF, most machine-technologies are capitalist in origin, meaning, these technologies are congealed power-relations and/or ideologies that are impregnated and programmed with capitalist biases". That is, a set of specific biases that maintain, reproduce, and expand, the power of the ruling capitalist relations and ideologies, undergirding the overall system. Thereby, according to Bellemare's book, in the dystopian age of TCF, "most capitalist machine-technologies are used to maintain, reproduce, and expand, the divisions in-between the '1 percent' and the '99 percent', by keeping the '99 percent' predominantly bolted-down upon the lower-stratums of the system, all the while, keeping the '1 percent' perched atop the upper-stratums of the system, indefinitely. In sum, in the dark age of TCF, the new aristocracy, that is, the capitalist oligarchy or the 1 percent, concerns itself first and foremost with the accumulation of power, control, and capital, as well as, reproducing hierarchical-stasis by any means necessary". As a result, for Bellemare, in the dark age of TCF, "the capitalist aristocracy does not seek to steal units of unpaid labor-time from workers, but rather, it seeks to influence and control all aspects of the workers' everyday lives". Thus, the accumulation of power, control, and capital, orchestrated by the 1 percent, their corporations, and the State, "is always at the expense of the workforce/population, which itself, is gradually impoverished, disempowered, and continually relegated to the margins of the system, namely, the margins of the techno-capitalist-feudal-edifice, as lowly wage-serfs and/or debt-serfs".[18]

During the course of the years 2020-2021, Yanis Varoufakis has written and lectured much about his theory concerning neo-feudalism. He posits that traditional capitalism has evolved into a new feudal-like structure of economies and societies, which he refers to as 'techno-feudalism'. Varoufakis explains that unlike in capitalism, feudal economies have the quality of being dominated by very small groups of people, and predetermine the behaviour of markets as they see fit. Taking the example of massive online enterprises such as Facebook, Amazon and others, Varoufakis noted that such venues are primarily governed by the whims of single individuals and small teams, and thus are not truly capitalist markets of free trade, but rather feudal markets of stringent control.[19][20][21][22][23] Others, such as Jeremy Pitt, have raised similar opinions and concerns, also noting that techno-feudalism threatens freedom of information over the Internet.[24]

In early September, 2022, Bellemare, has offered a short and direct critique of 'techno-feudalism', on the grounds that 'techno-feudalism' skews the facts and daily realities of workers, toiling under the jackboot of totalitarian-capitalism, or more accurately, the jackboot of "techno-capitalist-feudalism". According to Bellemare's article, using the term 'techno-feudalism', instead of “techno-capitalist-feudalism” is a disservice to workers. To drop the term 'capitalist' from techno-capitalist-feudalism, "only muddies the clear blue waters of the terminal stage of capitalist development", namely, the new dawning epoch of totalitarian-capitalism, that is, the new dystopian dark age of techno-capitalist-feudalism, run-amok. As Bellemare states, in the article, "just because the old capitalist bourgeoisie has embraced digital algorithms and invasive surveillance technologies as its own, and abstracted itself at a higher-level of socio-economic existence, away from the workforce/population, whereby, it now appears invisible and increasingly distant from the everyday lives of workers, does not mean the old capitalist bourgeoisie has vanished into thin air, or has been usurped by a strictly technological aristocracy". According to Bellemare's article, "what has happened is that the old capitalist bourgeoisie has become a techno-capitalist-feudal-aristocracy, since, the logic of capitalism, capitalist profit, and capitalist technological innovations continue to inform and motivate this authoritarian capitalist aristocracy and all its overlapping networks of large-scale ruling power-blocs". Thereby, the specter of capitalism haunts 'techno-feudalism', in the sense that 'techno-feudalism', or more accurately, 'techno-capitalist-feudalism', is the result of "the capital/labor relationship at its most lopsided, oppressive, and technologically dominating. The capital/labor relationship continues to hold, since, the logic of capitalism continues to be the foundation and the fundamental under-girder of this new economic system". Therefore, within the evolutionary whimper of 'techno-feudalism', "the logic of capitalism is thriving, laughing all the way to the bank, as the term 'techno-feudalism' only empowers capitalist supremacy at the expense of workers’ liberation and self-management".[25][26]

In popular culture and literature[edit]

After the financial crisis of 2007–2008, American technology billionaire Nick Hanauer stated that "our country [i.e. the United States] is rapidly becoming less a capitalist society and more a feudal society".[27] His views were echoed by, amongst others, the Icelandic billionaire Björgólfur Thor Björgólfsson.[28] The idea that the early 21st century boom and bust in Iceland saw the country returning to feudal structures of power was also expressed by a range of Icelandic novelists, among them Sigrún Davíðsdóttir in Samhengi hlutanna, Bjarni Bjarnason in Mannorð, Bjarni Harðarson in Sigurðar saga fóts, Böðvar Guðmundsson in Töfrahöllin, and Steinar Bragi in Hálendið: Skáldsaga.[29][30]

Similar ideas are found in some Anglophone fiction.[31] For example, Frank Herbert's Dune series of novels is set in the distant future with a neo-feudalistic galactic empire known as the Imperium. In these novels, after a series of wars known as the Butlerian Jihad humanity has come to prohibit all kinds of "thinking machine technology", even its simpler forms.[32] Subsequently, the political balance of power in the Dune Universe gradually became dominant by a myriad of royal houses, each dominating one or several planets. Albeit operating in the distant future, the social and political dynamics of said royal houses are similar in many respects to those previously seen in medieval times.

In David Brin's near-future science fiction novel Existence, American politicians campaign on legally transitioning the United States into a neo-feudalist society.

In the year 2020, head of the World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab published a book titled COVID-19: The Great Reset.[33] The book argues that the COVID-19 pandemic is an opportunity for politicians and governments to change the world's economies, societies and structures of government, by introducing a system of "Stakeholder Capitalism", doing so via the guidelines of a plan known as 'The Great Reset'.[34] Schwab also refers to his goals as "The Fourth Industrial Revolution".[35] Other authors have criticized The Great Reset as being a form of Neo-Feudalism.[36][37][38]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Huggins, Martha K. (2000). "Urban Violence and Police Privatization in Brazil: Blended Invisibility". Social Justice. 27 (2). ISSN 1043-1578.[permanent dead link]
  2. ^ Kuttner, Robert; V. Stone, Katherine (April 8, 2020). "The Rise of Neo-Feudalism". The American Prospect.
  3. ^ Sighard Neckel, ‘Refeudalisierung der Ökonomie: Zum Strukturwandel kapitalistischer Wirtschaft Archived 2020-08-09 at the Wayback Machine’, MPIfG Working Paper 10/6 (Cologne: Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, July 2010), pp. 11-12.
  4. ^ Wallerstein I. Capitalist civilization. -Binghamton (N.Y.), 1992.
    Malinovsky P. V. (2001). "Globalisation as a Civilization Shaping Process". Russia and the Modern World (Россия и современный мир) (2): 7 (5–30). ISSN 1726-5223.
  5. ^ Hartmann, Thom (6 November 2002), "Time to Remove the Bananas... and Return Our Republic to Democracy", CommonDreams.org
  6. ^ Johnston, Les (1999). "Private Policing in Context". European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research. 7 (2): 175–196. doi:10.1023/A:1008753326991. S2CID 141224688.
  7. ^ Shearing, Clifford (2001). "Punishment and the Changing Face of the Governance". Punishment & Society. 3 (2): 203–220. doi:10.1177/1462474501003002001. S2CID 145217478.
  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. S2CID 154073899. 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. S2CID 143659553.
  12. ^ Sighard Neckel, "Refeudalisierung der Ökonomie: Zum Strukturwandel kapitalistischer Wirtschaft Archived 2020-08-09 at the Wayback Machine", 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 Privatisation of Security" (PDF). In Bryden, Alan; Caparini, Marina (eds.). Private Actors and Security Governance. LIT Verlag. 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. S2CID 144943479.
  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. ^ Bluestein, Jonathan (2020), Prosperism, Amazon KDP. ISBN 979-8614831134
  17. ^ Bluestein, Jonathan (2021), Exceptional Ideas About Humanity, Amazon KDP. ISBN 979-8537588122
  18. ^ Bellemare, Michel Luc (7 September 2020). Techno-Capitalist-Feudalism; by Michel Luc Bellemare. Blacksatin Publishing Limited. ISBN 978-0978115173.
  19. ^ "Techno-Feudalism is Taking over | by Yanis Varoufakis". 28 June 2021.
  20. ^ "Techno-Feudalism is taking over - Yanis Varoufakis". 9 July 2021.
  21. ^ "Yanis Varoufakis: Capitalism has become 'techno-feudalism'".
  22. ^ "Yanis Varoufakis on Alternatives to Techno-Feudal Capitalism". 8 September 2021.
  23. ^ "Techno Feudalism: What is it and how it increases inequality in the society?". 2 July 2021.
  24. ^ "The BigTech-Academia-Parliamentary Complex and Techno-Feudalism". 24 September 2020.
  25. ^ Ph. d, Michel Luc Bellemare (4 September 2022). "Techno-Feudalism: (A Short And Direct Critique In The Name Of Techno-Capitalist-Feudalism)".
  26. ^ Ph. d, Michel Luc Bellemare (9 August 2023). "Techno-Capitalist-Feudalism Is Malthusian To The Core!".
  27. ^ Nick Hanauer (July 2014). "The Pitchforks Are Coming… For Us Plutocrats". Politico Magazine. Archived from the original on 2015-08-28. Retrieved 2014-07-19.
  28. ^ 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: Profile, 2014. p. 194.
  29. ^ Hall, Alaric (2018). "Fornaldarsögur and Financial Crisis: Bjarni Bjarnason's Mannorð". The Legendary Legacy: Transmission and Reception of the Fornaldarsögur Norðurlanda. Humanities Commons: 351–375. doi:10.17613/M6V97ZR22.
  30. ^ Cf. Boyes, Roger. Meltdown Iceland: Lessons on the World Financial Crisis from a Small Bankrupt Island. New York: Bloomsbury, 2009. p. 61.
  31. ^ 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.
  32. ^ 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, vol. 56, Open Court, p. 66, ISBN 978-0812697278
  33. ^ Schwab, Klaus (2020), COVID-19: The Great Reset, ISBN Agentur Schweiz. ISBN 978-2940631124
  34. ^ "Now is the time for a great reset". 3 June 2020.
  35. ^ Schwab, Klaus (2017) The Fourth Industrial Revolution ISBN 978-0241300756
  36. ^ Mercola, Joseph (2021), The Truth About COVID-19: Exposing The Great Reset, Lockdowns, Vaccine Passports, and the New Normal, Chelsea Green Publishing. ISBN 978-1645020882
  37. ^ Breggin, Peter R. (2021), COVID-19 and the Global Predators: We Are the Prey, Lake Edge Press. ISBN 978-0982456064
  38. ^ Kotkin, Joel (2021), The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class, Encounter Books. ISBN 978-1641770941

External links[edit]