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Joel Kotkin and the New American Feudalism

At the National Review Online, Fred Bauer explores the rise of neofeudalism in American society, and in doing so he draws explicitly on the writings of Joel Kotkin, whose forthcoming book The New Class Crisis will be published by Telos Press on September 1. Pre-order your copy of The New Class Crisis today, and we will ship it as soon as it becomes available.

From Fred Bauer’s “The New Feudalism”:

In 2013, demographer Joel Kotkin warned that California was slipping into a condition of neofeudalism. According to Kotkin, the Golden State, once a citadel of the American middle class, has become splintered into four classes: the oligarchs (the super-wealthy, especially in tech and finance), the clerisy (government regulators, the media elite, and the academy), the yeomanry (the middle class and small-business owners), and the serfs (the working poor and government dependents). Kotkin claimed that the yeomanry has been eviscerated as California has moved into a neofeudal era, while the oligarchs and the clerisy have gained increasing power and the serfs have grown in number.

Kotkin’s analysis focuses on the demographic structures of California, but we can explore more broadly some of the underlying tendencies of neofeudalism. It might be helpful to contrast the neofeudal state with the traditional liberal republic. The latter is composed of individuals (and organizations of individuals) coming together to form a nation governed by laws, and it aims to be in accordance with certain foundational rights. The neofeudal state, on the other hand, is anti-national. Rather than the unified body politic of the liberal republic, the neofeudal state slices and dices its residents into discrete subsets, each with its own unique rights and responsibilities. Solid economic and social divisions were a key part of feudal society, and they also play a role in present-day neofeudalism. Moreover, the institutional dysfunction characteristic of neofeudalism undermines the efficient functioning of the republic and makes the nation more vulnerable to the whims of executive diktat.

Continue reading at the National Review Online.

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