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 Post subject: The Marxist understanding of feudalism - right or wrong?
PostPosted: Sun May 12, 2013 10:31 am 
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so, I thought it would be a good idea to discuss feudalism and the Marxist take on it, since I've been discussing it with others lately and want to see some more discussion of it.

From where I'm standing, most if not all Marxists barely understand feudalism. To them it's basically just a word to describe anything that happened in Europe and parts of Asia from 476 - 1789. A lot of medieval scholars would probably laugh at this understanding of the term (not hard to see why marxism isn't well received in academia), but I digress. Feudalism really has its roots in the time of Charlemagne up till the 15th/early 16th century. In the places it existed (and it by no means was a worldwide or even Europe-wide system), it was mostly based on a system of obligations and legal social functions. The problem is, this system was almost completely gone by the 17th century, when kings more or less ruled with absolute power and money and the market had much more significant roles, not to mention the growing dominance of the city. This doesn't even take into account the fact that some historians completely disregard the term's authenticity (example).

But yeah, long story short, I think "feudalism" should only be used to describe a specific form of society that only existed in certain places at certain times.

Agree, disagree, whatever.


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 Post subject: Re: The Marxist understanding of feudalism - right or wrong?
PostPosted: Sun May 12, 2013 12:36 pm 
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This is a very interesting topic, scene of the great "Brenner Debate" among other things. Agree most "professional Marxists" use "feudalism" as a formula to disregard the actual changes in the conditions of labor taking place prior the the dominance of capitalism-- and when it comes to Asia-- forget it. The insights that Marxist historical analysis can provide is practically smothered by trying to fit the critique into the category of feudalism.

Comes down to the concrete though, doesn't it? I mean there are those who want to describe the Spanish conquest of Mexico as "feudal"-- and even the Mexican Revolution as "anti-feudal." Why that guy from Kasama-- Mike Ely?-- even argues that as a result of the US Civil War, feudalism was created in the US South.

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 Post subject: Re: The Marxist understanding of feudalism - right or wrong?
PostPosted: Sun May 12, 2013 12:43 pm 
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I think that the problem that a lot of Marxists have with feudalism, and with pre-capitalist societies generally, is that they attempt to develop a description analogues to capitalist society, as a homogeneous social system underlined by a specific, generalised logic. Problem is, that's exactly what makes capitalism unique, exactly what distinguishes it from all previous (and, arguably, future) forms of society. Most of what Marxists have written about feudalism is still valid, or at least what they've written that's distinctly Marxist, but it needs serious reframing.
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 Post subject: Re: The Marxist understanding of feudalism - right or wrong?
PostPosted: Sun May 12, 2013 1:39 pm 
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S.Artesian wrote:
Comes down to the concrete though, doesn't it? I mean there are those who want to describe the Spanish conquest of Mexico as "feudal"-- and even the Mexican Revolution as "anti-feudal."


I'm not too well-versed on the subject, but some Spanish invaders did indeed force their brand of feudalism upon some of the native populations. Though it seems far-fetched to say that significant parts of this remained until the Mexican Revolution.

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Why that guy from Kasama-- Mike Ely?-- even argues that as a result of the US Civil War, feudalism was created in the US South.


I think that's a pretty standard Marxist line, it seems. After all Marx did say that the US Civil War crushed the remaining elements of feudalism in America. I think it's mostly wrong, though. The way slave owners operated in the US bore little to no resemblance to the way lords operated in feudal societies. American slave owners were basically entrepreneurs who just sold whatever the slaves produced, while feudal lords were subjugated to other classes and were required to fulfill obligations, had specific rights and privileges, etc.

Tim Finnegan wrote:
I think that the problem that a lot of Marxists have with feudalism, and with pre-capitalist societies generally, is that they attempt to develop a description analogues to capitalist society, as a homogeneous social system underlined by a specific, generalised logic. Problem is, that's exactly what makes capitalism unique, exactly what distinguishes it from all previous (and, arguably, future) forms of society. Most of what Marxists have written about feudalism is still valid, or at least what they've written that's distinctly Marxist, but it needs serious reframing.


Yeah, I agree. The problem is that, just because capitalism is global, Marxists want to think that there must have been other global systems preceding it. It just isn't the case at all


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 Post subject: Re: The Marxist understanding of feudalism - right or wrong?
PostPosted: Sun May 12, 2013 6:12 pm 
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Re the Civil War: Ely's argument is not that the North abolished feudalism, but through the Civil War, feudalism was created in the US South. Re Mexico, while feudal elements were introduced-- it certainly was not feudalism

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 Post subject: Re: The Marxist understanding of feudalism - right or wrong?
PostPosted: Sun May 12, 2013 8:12 pm 
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S.Artesian wrote:
Re the Civil War: Ely's argument is not that the North abolished feudalism, but through the Civil War, feudalism was created in the US South.


That sounds even dumber. What is his explanation?

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Re Mexico, while feudal elements were introduced-- it certainly was not feudalism


I'm not sure if it was in Mexico, I just read it briefly.


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 Post subject: Re: The Marxist understanding of feudalism - right or wrong?
PostPosted: Sun May 12, 2013 10:47 pm 
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His explanation is simply because according to his version of historical materialism, all social development proceeds from slavery to feudalism, so since slavery was destroyed, feudalism must have been the result. I am not making this up.

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 Post subject: Re: The Marxist understanding of feudalism - right or wrong?
PostPosted: Sun May 12, 2013 11:09 pm 
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lol


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 Post subject: Re: The Marxist understanding of feudalism - right or wrong?
PostPosted: Mon May 13, 2013 5:37 am 
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I think the main issue is that most marxists texts on the subject deal with the development of capital and most people don't bother looking at actual historical works on pre-capitalist systems.


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 Post subject: Re: The Marxist understanding of feudalism - right or wrong?
PostPosted: Mon May 13, 2013 2:39 pm 
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I wish TC posted here, he had lots to say about this.

All I can do in his place is recommend Banaji's work Theory as History

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