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Neo-feudalism (literally new feudalism – the terms are used interchangeably in the literature[1]) refers to a theorized contemporary rebirth of policies of governance, economy, and public life[2] reminiscent of those present in many feudal societies, such as unequal rights and legal protections for common people and for nobility.

The concept of "neofeudalism" may focus on economics. Among the issues claimed to be associated with the idea of neofeudalism in contemporary society are class stratification, globalization, mass immigration/illegal immigration, open borders policies, multinational corporations, and "neo-corporatism".[3]

Use and etymology[edit]

The term seems to have been originated as a criticism of the paternalistic left; an early example being the essay Galbraith's Neo-Feudalism[4] published in 1961. The term is still used by some on the right in that sense in the twenty-first century:

Although he would later become a naturalized American citizen, Soros remains in social outlook very much a European and believer in the paternalistic neo-feudalism euphemistically called "democratic socialism" or "social democracy." [5]

In 1992 Immanuel Wallerstein has made his view on global development of the world, which has neofeudalism among three other variants, which meant autarky regions with local hierarchy and hi-tech goods available only for elite.[6]

Russian Federation under Vladimir Putin[edit]

The Russian Federation under Vladimir Putin may be proposed as an example of a modern feudal society. Essential to this society is a form of subordination ("vertical of power") where informal personal dependences exist in the hierarchy. Posts at lower level are assigned in exchange for material obligations that are based on payoffs extracted from the fief, and for loyalty, whereas higher ranks provide protection from weak civil institutions (legal system). Subsystems may span several echelons, e.g. from street policemen through the highest police and political ranks.

(Parliament chambers) are composed of deputies handpicked by the Kremlin, one need not strain oneself to imagine how these super-rich people acquired their offices. They pay “up” with both lucre and loyalty, and they are protected “down”—a hallmark of feudal social exchange.

V.L. Inosemtzev[7]

Observers draw very close parallel between the Russian neo-feudalism and historical examples[8]

The castes, in principle, are completely traditional:

1. LORDS. Mainly these are Putin's inner circle from the notorious "Ozero" group, the elite of the special services and the church.
2. BARONS. The middle branch of power-holders.
3. THE BOURGEOISIE. A weak and dependent class, privileged in relation to the ordinary people, and an object of exploitation with limited rights in relation to the "favoured". ...
4. ORDINARY PEOPLE. Without any rights....

Pavel Shekhtman [8]
(Author presents examples of legal impunity of "barons" with respect to crimes against ordinary people.)

Whereas the ranks of "lords" and "barons" are mostly (up to 70%) filled by ex-KGB officers,[9] the image of a "police state" does not fit best. The society is structured around voluntary corruption links. Classical police state methods, such as massive political imprisonment, are marginal, yet essential for creation of fear, for control of any systematic revolt (such as the Bolotnaya square protests. In the timeframe of the 2010s, Putin is wary of any possibility of mass revolt. Some strategic moves are rationalized by fear of parallels to the Ukrainian Orange revolution and more so to the Euromaidan of 2013-2014. The rule of corruption has in the Ukrainian case shown considerable resilience, so that the final result of the struggle against the (oligarch) neo-feudal regime is uncertain (as of early 2016).

Privatized governance[edit]

According to Les Johnston, Clifford Shearing's theoretical approach of neofeudalism has been influential.[10] 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".[1][11] [12]

Neofeudalism 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.[13] The significance of the comparison to feudalism, for Randy Lippert and Daniel O'Connor, is that corporations have power similar to states' governance powers.[14]

The widening of the wealth gap, as poor and marginalized people are excluded from the state's provision of security, can result in neofeudalism, argues Marina Caparini, who says this has already happened in South Africa.[15] Neofeudalism is made possible by the commodification of policing, and signifies the end of shared citizenship, says Ian Loader.[16] A primary characteristic of neofeudalism is that individuals' public lives are increasingly governed by business corporations, as Martha K. Huggins finds.[2] Seattle-based technology billionaire Nick Hanauer has stated that "our country is rapidly becoming less a capitalist society and more a feudal society".[17]

John Braithwaite notes that neofeudalism brings a different approach to governance, since business corporations in particular have this specialized need for loss reduction.[18]

Neofeudalism in popular culture[edit]

  • Frank Herbert's Dune series of novels is set in the distant future with a neofeudalistic[19] galactic empire known as the Imperium after the Butlerian Jihad which prohibits all kinds of thinking machine technology, even its simpler forms.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Shearing, Clifford (2001). "Punishment and the Changing Face of the Governance". Punishment & Society. 3 (2): 203–220. doi:10.1177/1462474501003002001. 
  2. ^ a b Huggins, Martha K. (2000). "Urban Violence and Police Privatization in Brazil: Blended Invisibility". Social Justice. 27 (2). ISSN 1043-1578.  External link in |journal= (help)
  3. ^ Thom Hartmann, "Time to Remove the Bananas...and Return Our Republic to Democracy",, 6 November 2002
  4. ^ George Reisman Human Events, February 1961 [1]
  5. ^ Lowell Ponte "George Soros: Billionaire for the Left" Front Page Magazine, November 13, 2003
  6. ^ Wallerstein I. Capitalist civilization. -Binghampton (N.Y.), 1992.
    Malinovsky P. V. (2001). "Globalisation as a Civilization Shaping Process". Russia and the modern world (Россия и современный мир). ИНИОН РАН (2): 7 (5–30). ISSN 1726-5223. 
  7. ^ V. L. Inosemtzev: Neo-Feudalism Explained, The American Interest, Volume 6, Number 4, March 1, 2011 retrieved 2016-01-09]
  8. ^ a b Pavel Shekhtman: Neo-feudalism in Russia, 26. January 2015
  9. ^ Russia under Putin, The making of a neo-KGB state, The Economist, Aug 23rd 2007, retrieved 2016-01-09
  10. ^ Johnston, Les (1999). "Private Policing in Context". European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research. 7 (2): 175–196. doi:10.1023/A:1008753326991. 
  11. ^ 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. 
  12. ^ 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. 
  13. ^ 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. 
  14. ^ 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. 
  15. ^ Caparini, Marina (2006). "Applying a Security Governance Perspective to the Privatisation of Security" (PDF). In Bryden, Alan; Caparini, Marina. Private Actors and Security Governance. LIT Verlag. pp. 263–282. ISBN 3-8258-9840-7. 
  16. ^ Loader, Ian (1999). "Consumer Culture and the Commodification of Policing and Security". Sociology. 33 (2): 373–392. doi:10.1177/S003803859900022X. 
  17. ^ Nick Hanauer (July 2014). "The Pitchforks Are Coming… For Us Plutocrats". Politico Magazine. 
  18. ^ 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. 
  19. ^ Erman, Eva; Möller, Niklas (August 2013), "What's Wrong with Politics in the Duniverse?", in Nicholas, Jeffery, Dune and Philosophy: Weirding Way of the Mentat, Popular Culture and Philosophy Series, 56, Open Court, p. 66, ISBN 0812697278 

External links[edit]