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Colony in a nation

Neoliberalism as feudalism or even slavery for the poor

"feudalism is a hierarchical system of distributed administration. A king is nominally in charge or “owns” a kingdom, but he has lords who administer its first primary division, the fiefdom. Lords in turn have vassals, who administer further subdivisions or, in the cases of smaller fiefs, different aspects of governance. Vassals may have their own captains and middle managers, typically knights but also clerks and priests, who in turn employ apprentices/novices/pages who train under them so as to one day move up to middle management. If this is starting to resemble modern corporate structure, then bonus points to you."

Anyone in a position of vassalage was dependent upon the largess of his immediate patron/lord/whatever for both his status and nominal wealth. The lowest rungs of the administrative ladder were responsible for keeping the peasants, the pool of labor, in line either through force or through the very same system of dependence upon largess that frames the lord/vassal relationship.

Feudalism: it’s about the social hierachical structure, not so much about ehich classes are at the top and which are at the bottom.

It’s not that peasants can be vassals in the overall order so much as they are in the subject position, but without the attendant capacity to then lord it over someone beneath them. Lord/vassal in feudalism are also generic terms to describe members of a fixed relationship of patronage. It’s confusing, because those terms are also used for levels of the overall hierarchy.

The Church realized early on that imposing its ideal of a theocratic State (“city of God”) led by the Pope upon the strong-headed barbarian chiefs (Lombards, Franks, Wisigoths and others) that set up various kingdoms in Europe was impossible.

Hence the second best approach, feudalism: a double hierarchy (worldly and spiritual). The populations of Europe were subject to two parallel hierarchical authorities with taxation, judicial and other economic powers (such as the right to determine when and for whom to work).

I suspect that the similarity of medeavil fuedalism with the relationship between a large modern corporation and its employees is not properly appreciated because the latter, unlike the former, does not necessarily include direct control over living conditions (housing, land, rent), even though in the end there may be a similar degree of effective servitude (lack of mobility and alternatives, and so effective entrapment at low wages) .


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[Nov 28, 2017] Sauth Africa is cursed with neo-liberal trickle-down baloney stifling radical economic change by Kevin Humphrey

Notable quotes:
"... There is consensus between commentators who have studied the effects of neo-liberalism that it has become all pervasive and is the key to ensuring that the rich remain rich, while the poor and the merely well to do continue on a perpetual hamster's wheel, going nowhere and never improving their lot in life while they serve their masters. ..."
"... Monbiot says of this largely anonymous scourge: "Attempts to limit competition are treated as inimical to liberty. Tax and regulations should be minimised, public services should be privatised. The organisation of labour and collective bargaining by trade unions are portrayed as market distortions that impede the formation of a natural hierarchy of winners and losers. Inequality is recast as virtuous, a reward for utility and a genera-tor of wealth, which trickles down to enrich everyone. Efforts to create a more equal society are both counterproductive and morally corrosive. The market ensures that everyone gets what they deserve." ..."
"... Senior cadres co-opted Unfortunately, history shows that some key senior cadres of the ANC were all too keen to be coopted into the neo-liberal fold and any attempts to put forward radical measures that would bring something fresh to the table to address the massive inequalities of the past were and continue to be kept off the table and we are still endlessly fed the neo-liberal trickle-down baloney. ..."
medium.com

SA is cursed with neo-liberal trickle-down baloney stifling radical economic change Kevin Humphrey, The New Age, Johannesburg, 1 December 2016

South Africa's massive inequalities are abundantly obvious to even the most casual observer. When the ANC won the elections in 1994, it came armed with a left-wing pedigree second to none, having fought a protracted liberation war in alliance with progressive forces which drew in organised labour and civic groupings.

At the dawn of democracy the tight knit tripartite alliance also carried in its wake a patchwork of disparate groupings who, while clearly supportive of efforts to rid the country of apartheid, could best be described as liberal. It was these groupings that first began the clamour of opposition to all left-wing, radical or revolutionary ideas that has by now become the constant backdrop to all conversations about the state of our country, the economy, the education system, the health services, everything. Thus was the new South Africa introduced to its own version of a curse that had befallen all countries that gained independence from oppressors, neo-colonialism.

By the time South Africa was liberated, neo-colonialism, which as always sought to buy off the libera-tors with the political kingdom while keep-ing control of the economic kingdom, had perfected itself into what has become an era where neo-liberalism reigns supreme. But what exactly is neo-liberalism? George Monbiot says: "Neo-liberalism sees competi-tion as the defining characteristic of human relations. It redefines citizens as consumers, whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling, a process that rewards merit and punishes inefficiency. It maintains that 'the market' delivers benefits that could never be achieved by planning."

Never improving

There is consensus between commentators who have studied the effects of neo-liberalism that it has become all pervasive and is the key to ensuring that the rich remain rich, while the poor and the merely well to do continue on a perpetual hamster's wheel, going nowhere and never improving their lot in life while they serve their masters.

Monbiot says of this largely anonymous scourge: "Attempts to limit competition are treated as inimical to liberty. Tax and regulations should be minimised, public services should be privatised. The organisation of labour and collective bargaining by trade unions are portrayed as market distortions that impede the formation of a natural hierarchy of winners and losers. Inequality is recast as virtuous, a reward for utility and a genera-tor of wealth, which trickles down to enrich everyone. Efforts to create a more equal society are both counterproductive and morally corrosive. The market ensures that everyone gets what they deserve."

Nelson Mandela

South Africa's sad slide into neo-liberalism was given impetus at Davos in 1992 where Nelson Mandela had this to say to the assembled super rich: "We visualise a mixed economy, in which the private sector would play a central and critical role to ensure the creation of wealth and jobs. Future economic policy will also have to address such questions as security of investments and the right to repatriate earnings, realistic exchange rates, the rate of inflation and the fiscus."

Further insight into this pivotal moment was provided by Anthony Sampson, Mandela's official biographer who wrote: "It was not until February 1992, when Mandela went to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that he finally turned against nationalisation. He was lionised by the world's bankers and industrialists at lunches and dinners."

This is not to cast any aspersions on Mandela, he had to make these decisions at the time to protect our democratic transition. But these utterances should have been accom-panied by a behind the scenes interrogation of all the ANC's thoughts on how to proceed in terms of the economy delivering socialist orientated solutions without falling into the minefield of neo-liberal traps that lay in wait for our emerging country.

Senior cadres co-opted Unfortunately, history shows that some key senior cadres of the ANC were all too keen to be coopted into the neo-liberal fold and any attempts to put forward radical measures that would bring something fresh to the table to address the massive inequalities of the past were and continue to be kept off the table and we are still endlessly fed the neo-liberal trickle-down baloney.

Now no one dares to express any type of radical approach to our economic woes unless it is some loony populist. Debate around these important issues is largely missing and the level of commentary on all important national questions is shockingly shallow.

Anti-labour, anti-socialist, anti-poor, anti-black The status quo as set by the largely white-owned media revolves around key neo-liberal slogans mas-querading as commentary that is anti-labour, anti-socialist and anti-poor, which sadly translates within our own context as anti-black and therefore repugnantly racist.

We live in a country where the black, over-whelmingly poor majority of our citizens have voted for a much revered liberation movement that is constantly under attack from within and without by people who do not have their best interests at heart and are brilliant at manipulating outcomes to suit themselves on a global scale.

Kevin Humphrey is associate executive editor of The New Age

[Sep 25, 2017] A Colony in a Nation by Chris Hayes

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... Here is an except from "A Colony in a Nation" by Chris Hayes that she recently discussed (Chris Hayes is also the author of Twilight of the Elites ) ..."
"... ...we have built a colony in a nation, not in the classic Marxist sense but in the deep sense we can appreciate as a former colony ourselves: A territory that isn't actually free. A place controlled from outside rather than within. A place where the mechanisms of representation don't work enough to give citizens a sense of ownership over their own government. A place where the law is a tool of control rather than a foundation for prosperity. ..."
"... A Colony in a Nation is not primarily a history lesson, though it does provide a serious, empathetic look at the problems facing the Colony, as well as at the police officers tasked with making rapid decisions in a gun-rich environment. ..."
"... Elsewhere, Hayes examines his own experiences with the law, such as an incident when he was almost caught accidentally smuggling "about thirty dollars' worth of marijuana stuffed into my eyeglass case" into the 2000 Republican National Convention. Hayes got away without so much as a slap on the wrist, protected by luck, circumstances and privilege. ..."
Mar 23, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
"Listening to this show by MSNB is so disguising that I lost any respect for it. "

I actually jumped the gun. That's does not mean that it should not be viewed. There are some positive aspects of MSNBC http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show

Here is an except from "A Colony in a Nation" by Chris Hayes that she recently discussed (Chris Hayes is also the author of Twilight of the Elites )

...we have built a colony in a nation, not in the classic Marxist sense but in the deep sense we can appreciate as a former colony ourselves: A territory that isn't actually free. A place controlled from outside rather than within. A place where the mechanisms of representation don't work enough to give citizens a sense of ownership over their own government. A place where the law is a tool of control rather than a foundation for prosperity.

... ... ...

A Colony in a Nation is not primarily a history lesson, though it does provide a serious, empathetic look at the problems facing the Colony, as well as at the police officers tasked with making rapid decisions in a gun-rich environment.

Hayes takes us through his less-than-successful experience putting himself in the latter's shoes by trying out an unusual training tool, a virtually reality simulator: "We're only one scene in, and already the self-righteous liberal pundit has drawn his weapon on an unarmed man holding a cinder block."

Elsewhere, Hayes examines his own experiences with the law, such as an incident when he was almost caught accidentally smuggling "about thirty dollars' worth of marijuana stuffed into my eyeglass case" into the 2000 Republican National Convention. Hayes got away without so much as a slap on the wrist, protected by luck, circumstances and privilege.

For black men living in the Colony, encounters with the police are much more fraught. Racial profiling and minor infractions can lead to "being swept into the vortex of a penal system that captures more than half the black men his age in his neighborhood... an adulthood marked by prison, probation, and dismal job prospects...."

[Nov 04, 2015] Neoliberalism neofashism and feudalism

Mussolini-Style Corporatism, aka Fascism, on the Rise in the US naked capitalism

Uahsenaa, November 3, 2015 at 11:26 am

I want to expand on the point about feudalism, since it's even more apt than the article lets on. It was not "rule by the rich," which implies an oligarchic class whose members are more or less free agents in cahoots with one another. Rather, feudalism is a hierarchical system of distributed administration. A king is nominally in charge or "owns" a kingdom, but he has lords who administer its first primary division, the fiefdom. Lords in turn have vassals, who administer further subdivisions or, in the cases of smaller fiefs, different aspects of governance. Vassals may have their own captains and middle managers, typically knights but also clerks and priests, who in turn employ apprentices/novices/pages who train under them so as to one day move up to middle management. If this is starting to resemble modern corporate structure, then bonus points to you.

This means feudalism found a way to render complicit in a larger system of administration people who had no direct and often no real stake in the produce of its mass mobilization of labor. Anyone in a position of vassalage was dependent upon the largess of his immediate patron/lord/whatever for both his status and nominal wealth. The lowest rungs of the administrative ladder were responsible for keeping the peasants, the pool of labor, in line either through force or through the very same system of dependence upon largess that frames the lord/vassal relationship. Occasionally, the peasants recognize that no one is below them in this pyramid scheme, and so they revolt, but for the most part they were resigned to the status quo, because there seemed to be no locus of power to topple. Sure, you could overthrow the king, but that would do nothing to deter the power of the lords. You could overthrow your local lord, but the king could just install a new one.

Transpose to the modern day. A CEO may resign in disgrace over some scandal, but that does little to challenge the underlings who carried out his orders. You might get your terrible boss fired for his tendency to sexually harass anyone who walks in the door, but what's to stop the regional manager from hiring someone who works you to the bone. Sometimes the peas–err, employees revolt and form a union, but we all know what means have been employed over the years to do away with that.

tl;dr – Feudalism: it's about the structure, not the classes


Lambert Strether, November 3, 2015 at 2:19 pm

Hmm. I don't think a serf can be a vassal. The vassals sound a lot like the 20%. The serfs would be the 80%. I'm guessing class is alive and well.

James Levy, November 3, 2015 at 2:38 pm

You wouldn't be a vassal (that was a very small percentage of the population) but you could have ties of patronage with the people above you, and in fact that was critical to all societies until the Victorians made nepotism a bad word and the ethic of meritocracy (however bastardized today) took shape. If you wanted your physical labor obligation converted into a money payment so you could spend more time and effort on your own holding, or you needed help in tough times, or the 99 year lease on your leasehold was coming due, or you wanted to get your son into the local priory, etc. you needed a friend or friends in higher places. The granting or refusal of favors counted for everything, and kept many on the straight and narrow, actively or passively supporting the system as it was.

Uahsenaa, November 3, 2015 at 2:39 pm

It's not that peasants can be vassals in the overall order so much as they are in the subject position, but without the attendant capacity to then lord it over someone beneath them. Lord/vassal in feudalism are also generic terms to describe members of a fixed relationship of patronage. It's confusing, because those terms are also used for levels of the overall hierarchy.

The true outliers here are the contemporaneous merchants, craftsmen, and freeholders (yeomen) who are necessary for things to run properly but are not satisfactorily accounted for by the overall system of governance, in part because it was land based. Merchants and craftsmen in particular tended not to be tied to any one place, since their services were often needed all over and only for limited periods of time. The primary administrative apparatus for craftsmen were the guilds. Merchants fell into any number of systems of organization and often into none at all, thus, according to the old Marxist genealogy, capitalism overthrows feudalism.

Peasants may have had something like a class consciousness on occasion, but I'm not entirely convinced it's useful to think of them in that way. In Japan, for instance, peasants were of a much higher social status than merchants and craftsmen, technically, yet their lives were substantially more miserable by any modern economic measure.

visitor, November 3, 2015 at 4:01 pm

I think that the article gets it seriously wrong about feudalism - an example of what Yves calls "stripping words of their meaning".

First of all, feudalism was actually an invention of an older, powerful, even more hierarchical organization: the Catholic Church.

The Church realized early on that imposing its ideal of a theocratic State ("city of God") led by the Pope upon the strong-headed barbarian chiefs (Lombards, Franks, Wisigoths and others) that set up various kingdoms in Europe was impossible.

Hence the second best approach, feudalism: a double hierarchy (worldly and spiritual). The populations of Europe were subject to two parallel hierarchical authorities with taxation, judicial and other economic powers (such as the right to determine when and for whom to work).

Second, there was a class of wealthy people which did not quite fit in the feudal hierarchy - in particular, they had no vassals, nor, despite their wealth, any fiefdom: merchants, financiers, the emerging burger class in cities. They were the ones actually lending money to feudal lords.

Third, the problem for underlings was never to overthrow the king (this was a hobby for princely families), and extremely rarely the local lord (which inevitably brought the full brunt of the feudal hierarchy to bear on the seditious populace).

Historically, what cities and rural communities struggled for was to be placed directly under the authority of the king or (Holy Roman Germanic) emperor. This entailed the rights to self-administration, freedom from most egregious taxes and corvées from feudal seigneurs, recognition of local laws and customs, and the possibility to render justice without deferring to local lords.

The king/emperor was happy to receive taxes directly from the city/community without them seeping away in the pockets of members of the inextricable feudal hierarchy; he would from time to time require troops for his host, hence reducing the dependency on troops from his vassal lords; and he would rarely be called to intervene in major legal disputes. Overall, he was way too busy to have time micromanaging those who swore direct allegiance to him - which was exactly what Basque communities, German towns and Swiss peasants wanted.

Therefore, an equivalence between feudalism and the current organizational make-up of society dominated by for-profit entities does not make sense.

Lambert Strether, November 3, 2015 at 4:11 pm

"the problem for underlings was never to overthrow the King"

Not even in the peasant revolts?

visitor, November 3, 2015 at 5:15 pm

If you look at this list, it appears that they were revolts directed against the local nobility (or church) because of its exorbitant taxation, oppressive judiciary, rampaging mercenaries and incompetent leadership in war against foreign invasions.

The French Jacquerie took place when there was no king - he had been taken prisoner by the English and the populace blamed the nobility for the military defeats and the massive tax increases that ensued.

During the Spanish Guerra de los Remensas, the revolted peasants actually appealed to the king and he in turn allied with them to fight the nobles.

During the Budai Nagy Antal revolt, the peasants actually asked the Hungarian king to arbitrate.

In other cases, even when the king/emperor/sultan ultimately intervened to squash the revolt, the insurrection was directed against some local elite.

Peasants revolts in 16th century Scandinavia were against the king's rule, but they were linked to reformation and took place when feudalism was on the wane and the evolution towards a centralized monarchical state well advanced.

Apparently, only the John and William Merfold's revolt explicitly called for the overthrow of the English king.

Jim Haygood, November 3, 2015 at 4:51 pm

'The populations of Europe were subject to two parallel hierarchical authorities with taxation, judicial and other economic powers (such as the right to determine when and for whom to work).'

Just as Americans are subject to two parallel hierarchical authorities with taxation and judicial powers, the states and the fedgov.

Before 1914, federal criminal laws were few, and direct federal income taxation of individuals was nonexistent. Today one needs federal authorization (E-verify) to get a job.

Now that the Fifth Amendment prohibition on double jeopardy has been interpreted away, notorious defendants face both federal and state prosecution. Thus the reason why America has the world's largest Gulag, with its slam-dunk conviction machine.


Uahsenaa, November 3, 2015 at 4:58 pm

Except, first off, there were non-Christian societies that made use of the system of warrior vassalage, and the manorial system that undergirded feudal distribution of land and resources, as least as far as Bloch is concerned, is a fairly clear outgrowth of the Roman villa system of the late empire.

Insofar as the Late Roman empire was nominally–very nominally–Christian, I suppose your point stands, but according to Bloch, the earliest manorial structures were the result of the dissolution of the larger, older empire into smaller pieces, many of which were beyond meaningful administrative control by Rome itself. Second, bishoprics and monasteries, the primary land holdings of the clergy, were of the same order as manors, so they fit within the overall feudal system, not parallel to it.

If Bloch is not right about this, I'm open to reading other sources, but that's what my understanding was based on. Moreover, the basic system of patronage and fealty that made the manor economy function certainly seems to have survived the historical phenomenon we call feudalism, and that parallel was what I was trying to draw attention to. Lord/vassal relationships are fundamentally contractual, not just quid pro quo but organized around favors and reputation, and maybe the analogy is a bit strained, but it does point to the ways in which modern white collar work especially is about more than fixed pay for a fixed sum of labor output.

Thure Meyer, November 4, 2015 at 7:30 am

Isn't this rather off-topic?

This is not a discussion about the true and correct history of European feudalism or whether or not it applies to the situation at hand, but a dialogue about Global fascism and how it expresses itself in this Nation.

HarrySnapperOrgans, November 4, 2015 at 4:46 am

I suspect that the similarity of medeavil fuedalism with the relationship between a large modern corporation and its employees is not properly appreciated because the latter, unlike the former, does not necessarily include direct control over living conditions (housing, land, rent), even though in the end there may be a similar degree of effective servitude (lack of mobility and alternatives, and so effective entrapment at low wages) .