Modern Day Feudalism
Yesterday in lecture, we talked about the concept of feudalism as it relates to our current study of concepts such as Marxism and capitalism. The slide below from lecture highlights the concept of feudalism in context:
After I saw this slide, I immediately began thinking about what exactly I remembered about feudalism from my history classes. I couldn’t remember many details, but if we were to play a game of word association with the word feudalism, I’m pretty sure people would respond by saying things like: mediaeval times, rich people, serfs etc…or at least, that’s what I would say! Well, our best friend Wikipedia defines feudalism as: “a system for ordering society around relationships derived from the holding of land in exchange for service or labour.” Feudalism also has 3 main components: the lord (owner of the land), the vassal or noble (person who fights for the lord/does labor for the lord in exchange for land) and the fief (the land itself).
As lecture taught us yesterday, capitalism is certainly a type of modern-day feudalism, where a few powerful and rich individuals reap most of the benefits of society. We see celebrities, executives and sports stars making millions and millions of dollars and essentially control what our society thinks about. Consider this: when you read the paper or magazines, they are always chock full of stories surrounding “who scored the highest in last night’s basketball game” or “who was the best dressed at the Oscar’s”. So, in this sense, these rich and famous people are modern day’s lords. They have control. The rest of us in society allow them to have this control, by continually talking about these current events and happenings which only perpetuates the cycle. Thus, it can be observed that the working class can then be considered the modern day vassals. They do not receive as much publicity, we do not know everyone’s name, stories of their lives are not constantly being plastered all over the news. Yet, the working class provides extremely important labor needed for a functioning society.
Let’s consider this modern day feudal structure. There are a few common arguments that come out of viewing society in such a way:
1. The working class (vassals) work much harder than the rich (lords), with little benefit or recognition.
2. If the workers feel that they deserve more money or desire to move up the societal ladder, than they should stop being lazy and do something to change their position.
3. Society does not allow for anyone to change their place, even if they want to and work hard to do so, because of long-standing corruption and structure.
Can we break this modern day feudal structure? Or are we forever bound to our role? Only time will tell…