Jub wrote: ↑
We've seen successful empires built on serfdom and enforced servitude to a local lord. I've found sociologists that argue that the caste system is responsible for the rise of the nation-state as we know it. Unless you can refute their works, quoted in a post addressed to Gandalf, you're just speculating.
I'm wary of sociologist trying to explain historical change and development. In my personal experience, sociologists don't necessarily make good historians. For example, they cited Marc Bloch as their source.
Yes. Marc Bloch's Feudal society is one of the most important historical work done on the medieval period, but his work is not without any major challenge by other historians. Many historians have questioned Bloc for ignoring the regional variation that exist and imposing an almost universal system of understanding the medieval society. A number of more recent historians have questioned whether we can even use the term "feudalism" as a useful historical terminology.
"The distinguishing aspect of the Lord of the Manor was that he was both political leader and economic employer, and the two roles were not considered separate. As the French historian, Marc Bloch, explained in his book, The Feudal Society (1939),
--The lord did not merely draw from his peasants valuable revenues and an equally valuable labor force. Not only was he rentier of the soil and beneficiary of the services; he was also a judge, often – if he did his duty – protector, and always a chief, whom apart from any more binding and more personal tie, to whom those who “held” their land from him or lived on his land were bound, by a very general but very real obligation, to help and obey.
Thus, the seigneurie was not simply an economic enterprise by which profits accumulated in a strong man’s hands. It was also a unit of authority, in the widest sense of the word; for the powers of the chief were not confined, as in principle they are in capitalist enterprises, to work done on his “business premises,” but affected a man’s whole life and acted concurrently with, or even in place of, the power of the state and the family.
Like all higher organized social cells, the seigneurie had its own law, as a rule customary, which determined the relations of the subjects with the lord and defined precisely the limits of the little group on which these traditional rules were binding.--"
Marc Block wrote his book in 1939. That itself should make you wary about how much actual work these sociologists have studied about the medieval world. It's like non psychologists citing Freud as a valid modern source, without taking into account all the discussions and arguments made against it.
The idea that the lord of a manor was both the landlord and their judge has been questioned by later historian, such as François Louis Ganshof.
Did the grant of a fief necessarily carry with it the grant of the right of 'justice'?...With a remarkable understanding of the real essence of feudal
institutions, the majority of jurists who in the course of the last centuries of the Ancien Regime in France put themselves this question, answered it in the negative. At the beginning of the seventeenth century, Antoine Loisel declared that ' fief, jurisdiction and " justice " have nothing in common and this phrase, repeated after him by other lawyers, became in time an accepted legal maxim. This was true not only for France. There was nothing in the relationships of feudalism, whether considered from the personal or from the property standpoint, which required that a vassal receiving investiture of a fief should necessarily have the profits of jurisdiction within it, nor even that he should exercise such jurisdiction on behalf of the lord or of a higher authority.
François Louis Ganshof, Feudalism
, (1952), pp. 141
Sociologists are at the mercy of historians and our historical debates when they want to discuss history. I disagree with the idea that modern western state was founded from the feudal society as a primarily basis. Successful empires by and large want to avoid being feudalistic because it weakens the central authority of the state. Successful empires tend to be non-feudalistic. Feudalism is generally a sign of an polity that has weak central authority. The rise of the modern nation-state has far more to do with the military revolution than medieval "feudal" polities and modes of production.
As for extracting tax, that's less important in ancient times than extracting food and labour. When 80-90% of your population must farm to feed everybody it is vital to extract that food from them as cheaply as possible to fuel the creation of classes who can focus on matters beyond just keeping everybody fed. You simply can't advance when food costs are too high and expansion of farmland is too expensive.
You do know that taxes can be paid in agriculture produce? Extracting food is a form of taxation. From what I've seen so far you're having a very modernist understanding of history, which is rather full of assumptions and misunderstanding.
GrosseAdmiralFox wrote: ↑
Which goes against human history. Hell, Rome was an anomaly in that regard in that a freeman could climb the ranks to become an economic and/or social elite by blood, sweat, tears, luck, and good business sense. Most civilizations utilized some sort of caste system (how tight and loose depended on the culture and civilization in question) until industrialization started getting traction and the question of productivity trumped over the question of stability.
A number of Chinese dynasties was founded by lowly ranked peasants. Even the idea of a caste system as we understood it in India was largely a by-product of British colonialism.
You are true, to a certain extent and more specifically the early days of Rome. By the time of the Gracchi Brothers, the majority of the irritable and productive farmland was owned by the rich slave owners (who basically subverted then outright ignored a law designed specifically to stop this sort of thing) and an increasingly large amount of the farming activity was not done by freemen but by slaves. Since freemen farmers could not compete with the vast estates of a growing slave plutocracy, freemen flocked to the cities of Rome. This also coincides with Rome abandoning it's 'take conquest slow' ideology (to give an example, Rome took a good century just to get to the Bay of Naples back in it's early years before it became all of Italy) and practically eternal conflict.
And this system did not last all the way till the end of the Roman empire.
By the beginning of the second century AD, however, this type of estate organization in Italy was giving away to another type, one that was probably more representative of the empire in general...During this period, most of the sites identified by archaeologists as villas were abandoned or transformed. Many richly adorned villas were replaced by far more modest residences...But the decline of the villa system in Italy is is not likely to have been the product of a "crisis" in the slave mode of production, with the numbers of slaves gradually exceeding the capacity of Roman landowners to supervise them effectively. Rather, the increased competition from the provinces and changes in the rural population in Italy eroded the comparative advantage that the Roman landowners gained from employing large number of slaves in a concentrated fashion.
Dennis P. Kehoe, "The Early Roman Empire: Production" in The Cambridge Economic History of the Greco-Roman World, pp. 555
This was also not helped with Caesar and his successors getting cheap grain from Egypt (who utilized a rather strict caste system) and used the Nile as one of the bread baskets of the Roman Empire.
Source for this claim?
Humans are such funny creatures. We are selfish about selflessness, yet we can love something so much that we can hate something.