The New Feudalism

Yesterday, my son observed that the continued confusion of corporations with actual people in order to grant them human rights was part of a broader move back to a feudal social structure.

I thought about his analogy, and after I wrote the post about Hobby Lobby-– the latest manifestation of this phenomenon, after Citizens United and its progeny–I googled feudalism and found the following definition:“Classical feudalism” (before the rise of strong feudal monarchies in which kings claimed the role of liege lords) is characterized by the fragmentation of political authority and the passage of public power into many different private hands.

The Supreme Court’s corporatism is anything but market friendly capitalism; it’s all about privatizing power and eviscerating government’s authority to create a level playing field. It’s about making government (the monarch) more responsive to the oligarchs and less attentive to the polity. It’s about undercutting democratic decision-making and further empowering the wealthy and well-connected.

And then I found a visual….


  1. At the risk of being an overly literal killjoy, I guess I’d argue that, because corporations are a legal fiction – dependent on the government for their existence, they rely on the presence of a high level of government power; just power that is used in specific ways and not used in other specific ways.

    Feudal lords, to a large degree, made their own power through force of arms.

  2. Under TOP PROFESSIONALS, are you including pro athletes under Entertainers? I love this graph:)

  3. I’m very interested in what legal scholars/ experts not on a bench are thinking/writing about the Hobby Lobby decision. I imagine some of the best and most qualified minds may not be on any judicial benches and have some thoughts/ opinions.

  4. Jan; I can only refer to my earlier comment that the problem is the appointment of SCOTUS being for life. They seem to be stuck in the time-period from their younger days, when their minds were more open on some issues. Never on women’s issues to better their lives and the lives of their families. They are gradually moving this country back in time, decade by decade. The caste system is now becoming the American way of life. We have only hope and the opportunity to BEGIN changing it back to the true American way by going to the polls in November and making what few changes are available at this time. To quote Stephen King, “The situation is what the situation is.”

  5. This is an interesting idea, but I wonder if it’s all deliberate or incidental. My guess is the former, but there’s a chance it could be the latter.

  6. Doug: While your statement is true, it’s also worth noting that the government is, in many respects, “owned” by those corporate interests, in the form of campaign contributions, lobbying, and similar control methods. And the government is thus working to limit voting rights and access to those furthest from the corporate power structure.

  7. I’m not sure of the distinctions between feudalism, oligarchy, autarchy, etc so I’ll pretend they’re nearly the same. At the time of America’s founding it was quite unheard of that the great unwashed masses could run anything, especially the lives of the landed gentry. So America was designed to be run by wealthy white males and the only real progress was that their “title” to reign did not follow, exactly anyway, their bloodline. In 1920 we completed the adjustments that created from that anything but humble beginning, democracy. Yea for us. Now conservatism, ever looking backwards, feels robbed of their entitlement, so is struggling to effectively return to those thrilling days of yesteryear, by eviscerating our democratic government and replacing it with what they do run, Wall St and board rooms.

    That transition requires the magic of massive media as we who vote must be persuaded to give up our relatively new found power. So the Koch’s et al are digging deep into their fossil fueled funds to buy votes that will restore economically royalty so, in their case anyway, their ability to live large isn’t hampered by our end of the world as we know it worries.

    So, the real question now is, does post modern America, so easily besotted by media like the Bachelor and Bachelorette, modern sports and Rush Limbaugh, Fox News and Rupert Murdoch’s Home Shopping Channel for news, really deserve democracy?

    We shall see. We shall see.

  8. I have a religious objection to government financing of parochial schools, as do the majority of voters in every state where the issue has been on the ballot. But the Supremes have said parochial school vouchers are fine since the vouchers are laundered through the parents to the school. No religious exemptions for objecting families, but then we didn’t form a closely held, family business. Who knew?

  9. I expect others have made this observation, it just seems so obvious to me now. I have observed the behaviors of “tea partiers”, “open carriers”, (didn’t behavior used to have a u in it?) pundits, Governors and legislators. The conclusion that emerges is that we have passed the tipping point of white male dominance in the USA, but the realization is just now dawning. Currently the last of the white male majority rulers in the “1%”, congress, the Supreme Court, etc. are lashing out in a kind of death throe of leviathan. The question remaining is how much damage will be done and can it be limited?

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