The following is our translation of an article from RIS Novosti.
"We built feudalism," or mourning the American dream
An exorbitant concentration of wealth, the erosion of the "intellectual estate" and a crushed, hate-filled middle class: this is the same situation that led France, and beyond it, Europe to the revolutionary era at the end of the 18th century. Now this is happening in America. So says Joel Kotkin, one of the most prominent thinkers of the "Trump" sector of US policy.
Next year, his book "The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class," will be released. And now Kotkin has published an article, which is standard in such cases, and in essence, gives a concise review of this book. The following is a discussion of this article.
I first need to warn the reader about two things. First: the author writes most of all about America, but the situation he describes applies both to Great Britain and to the Western group of states as a whole.
And secondly: his obsession with America is somewhat romantic: he mourns the era when the United States did not have “very poor,” unlike still-feudal Europe (this is the beginning of the 19th century), and other beautiful times and eras, until the 70s of the last century. When the American dream, today called “social mobility” - that is, the opportunity to emerge from the grassroots and become part of the elite - still somehow looked realistic. This romanticism of the author can lead us to think, for example, of the descendants of the Indians, exterminated for the sake of that very dream, but we will not be distracted by particulars.
The concentration of wealth - this is not a discovery by Kotkin, although if you want fresh and powerful statistics on this topic, then his book contains a considerable amount. For example: less than 100 billionaires now own 50 percent of the world's assets, although just five years ago, 400 people owned the same half of the world, and so on.
But there are unexpected and interesting thoughts about the modern "first estate,” billionaires. They are the feudal lords, but in pre-revolutionary France they were called only the second estate, while the church was deemed the first. Century after century, the church in Catholic Europe played the role of master of knowledge, meanings, and just literacy. The revolution happened not only when the hereditary feudal lords became too rich, but when a riots, a collapse and other turbulent processes in what was then the "humanitarian sphere."
And here Kotkin declares: today's "first estate" is, first of all, several monopolistic companies in the field of high information technologies. “High-tech feudalism” and an “oligarchy” were created; the dictates of several giants who monopolized markets and - interestingly – they created their own “corporate culture”, that is, an ideology: employees should be without children, paid very modestly, and have no social mobility for them. Moreover, seven of the ten largest companies in the world are from this sector, and here the only competitors of the “new feudal lords” are the Chinese with their achievements.
In general, the “new priestly class” includes teachers, people from the entertainment industry, consultants, lawyers, doctors, scientists, the media, and non-governmental foundations and charitable organizations in the hands of billionaires. According to some estimates, these constitute 15 percent of the American workforce. And for one thing, this estate has become hereditary and withdrawn; secondly, we are talking about graduates of a maximum of 20 elite universities (and at the very top we are talking about only four). Thirdly, this group is no longer independent owners, often consisting of someone on a salary.
The largest American companies have promised that they will work to create an "economy that serves all Americans." That is, they have actually recognized that so far this economy has not served - and probably still does not serve - everyone. Amazing, right?
Further, a very definite ideology has developed for society. It is estimated, for example, that in 2018, only seven percent of journalists claimed to vote Republican. The same thing has happened with university professors: gradually, these positions were seized by people of only left, or “liberal,” beliefs.
The product of their collective activity, we might add, is endless campaigns of terror and hatred aimed at destroying the old culture, values and lifestyles, old society, the very stuff of the "American dream" - a society of independent people. Further, the “third estate” is not only crushed by these “new priests,” it is getting poorer every year and is also decreasing physically: this can be seen, for example, by the reduced number of home owners.
Here I must say that Joel Kotkin has a very singular vision of a feudal society. It lasted for several centuries because, in fact, it was quite vigorous and viable, and included a lot of social mobility. True, this required constant warfare, turning armor-bearers into knights and landowners. Not to mention that the privileges of the “second” military class were in permanent military times explainable. And what this American philosopher is talking about is in fact the crisis of the feudal era, the decomposition of a society in which warriors for the most part ceased to be warriors, but only accumulated and squandered wealth.
It was a long crisis in which, among other things, the once united Catholic Church degraded and split the Western Christian world, and as a result, the best ideas and values began to be developed outside its framework ... But one way or another, what is happening today with Western civilization does not seem like classical feudalism, but rather the collapse of the latter.
From his analysis, Joel Kotkin draws these conclusions: the “third estate” must gather strength and rebel against the petrified oligarchic system and the enraged “first estate.” Such a rebellion will help a lot if American values and traditions that were deliberately destroyed by the "knowledge class" is returned to the young generation. We have already said that the author is a great idealist. But, on the other hand, the rebellion is already underway, and Kotkin himself is part of it.