Throughout history, we’ve seen many different types of ideologies being used by societies everywhere. From Feudalism to mercantilism, to the now ever-growing Capitalism, we’ve changed our socioeconomic structure multiple times to better suit our living needs. Although most of us would believe that we choose to live the way we do now because we now see the old ways as backwards and inhumane is some cases, some would argue that the very principle that capitalism is supposed to eradicate are still present today, just not as obvious. Although I wouldn’t agree one hundred percent with these arguments, I do see the correlation between feudalism and some aspects of our society today. Once we’ve truly understood what a feudal society entails, we can begin to look at today and see how some things never change. Feudalism structured society creating a pyramid of power and defined social classes. The feudal system was based on rights and obligation, so a lord granted land to a vassal in exchange for military protection. It all depended on the control of land. The structure of feudal society was much like a pyramid. The pyramid determined a person’s power. At the tip top was the king, then came church officials and nobles. Beneath them were the knights. Knights pledged to defend their lords’ land in exchange for fiefs. At the very bottom were the peasants. This feudal system enabled a cash-poor but land-rich lord to support a military force. But, in the end, the people were classified into only three different groups: those who fought (nobles and knights), those who prayed (people of the church), and those who worked (peasants). The social class you received was usually inherited. During the middle Ages, the majority of people were peasants, and most peasants were serfs. Serfs could not lawfully leave the land they were born on, but weren’t slaves because their lord could not buy or sell them, but whatever their labor produced belonged to the lord. We can see that this social structure didn’t allow much upward mobility, be it in medieval Europe or Japan.
For many everyday Americans living under a capitalist power, especially those who would consider themselves Socialists or Neo-liberals, Feudalism still exists. I myself see it that way as well. You can easily compare international banks to feudal kings, multinational corporations to barons, military contractors to the kings knights, and let’s not forget the victim in all of this; the working middle class to the peasants. With all of these comes natural resources exploitation, upward wealth redistribution, trickledown economics, human rights abuse, and the raking in the cash with endless perpetual war. The only difference would be that the source of power. With medieval Feudalism, land was the main sources of wealth, and in turn the main source of power. Now there are far more tools used for the attainment of wealth. The media is now used as the ultimate source of power. With television, radio, and the internet, those who own the media companies are able to control what their peasants think. Convincing them that their way of life is best suited for them. They also tell them what to buy and wear. In the same way the pyramid begins with the top going to the bottom of the food chain. I wouldn’t argue that we call for a movement to help once again refine and rethink the social structure. I personally believe that we’ll only encounter the same problems again with a different mask behind them. However, being able to see that there are contemporary forms of feudalism goes to show that we don’t change much and that there will always be an imperfect balance keeping society moving.