On Techno-Feudalism

In sum, when one explores the current economic, political, and social conditions of the West – and thus the entire world, given that the entire world is very much impacted by what goes on in the West – one must also trace the evolution of the economic, political, and social system of the West through the course of a number of centuries. From its agrarian and feudal roots, the West evolved into a “Smithian” civilization characterized by grassroots capitalism and individualism as a result of technology and the printing press. But as I mentioned in the previous blog post, the evolution from feudalism to Smithian capitalism has now moved into a third stage in the 21st century, namely, the stage of “techno-feudalism” to borrow from the Greek economist Yanis Varoufakis.

Varoufakis argues that the de-coupling of finance from the entire world economy is the main impetus for the departure from a Smithian system towards a “techno-feudal” system. Banks were once a place where people grew wealth, but not wealthy. However, the unbridled autonomy of the global financial system means that banks can determine the fate of entire economies in the blink of an eye. Daily currency exchange fluctuations and irregular capital flows means shopkeepers in Lebanon no longer put a price tag on their goods due to the volatility and instability fostered by a “techno-feudal” world system.

Along with the de-coupling of finance from the world economy, the rise of “digital platforms” also shapes the current economic, political, and social climate on a global scale. One Facebook post or a single Tweet can destroy an entire community, destabilize an entire government, and foster social strife on an unimaginable scale, as evinced by the events of January 6th, 2021 in Washington, DC. “Tahrir Square” – along with the events of the “Arab Spring” – are also deeply intertwined with the “digital platforms” which Varoufakis has highlighted.

In addition to the “digital platform” dimension of techno-feudalism, the “central bank money” aspect of techno-feudalism has done its own share of damage to the world. For one, “central bank money” gave trillions of dollars to finance a policy of “American global hegemony” which in turn fostered lethal weapons that were tested on millions of innocent and poor people in Afghanistan and the Middle East. The Federal Reserve also prints money without taking the necessary measures to combat inflation. In addition to the irregular capital flows which I mentioned previously, arbitrary and subjective sanctions which have no legal or rational basis also contribute to both volatility and downturns in the global economy.

Thus, there is an incredible degree of “irrationality” which characterizes a global system that is now defined by techno-feudalism. This irrationality has manifested in a number of ways, as many analysts and observers must have noticed over the course of the last two decades. Moreover, political and social institutions in virtually all parts of the world have failed to adjust to this novel world system, because it is difficult to adjust from rationality and truth towards irrationality and subjectivity. Either this novel world system of “techno-feudalism” has to be managed properly by political and social institutions, or the machine will end up riding people as opposed to people riding the machine, as Henry David Thoreau had suggested.

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