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The Black Death Killed Feudalism. What Does COVID-19 Mean for Capitalism?

Originally published at http://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/05/01/black-death-killed-feudalism-what-does-covid-19-mean-capitalism

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Boy, you hit the nail on the head. Every word - so true.

A couple of things. First, a poor analogy about feudalism. Feudalism did not die after the Plague. Feudalism exists today in the warehouses of amazon or the sweatshops of Walmart, or the meat processing plants of the American Midwest. No, feudalism never died. It simply morphed into capitalism. And now capitalism is ready to become the beautiful butterfly of Fascism.
And second, please stop categorizing Capitlaism. There is no such thing as crony or disaster or liaise faire capitlaism. There is only capitalism. And it came as advertised.


Hi BigB"
Yes, it is that INVISIBLE HAND of the cheating marketplace. It truly is flipping us all off! : (

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What we must ask and work towards is the end of capitalism and the creation of the socialist cooperative commonwealth.



the comparison, sadly, isn’t all that hot.

one thing that power has these days is the massive advantage of a equally massive propaganda system that permeates global consciousness.

the propaganda machine still works, as we saw yet again this past primary, and it’s unlikely that popular connections between capitalism and the virus will be able to be made due to heavy mediation.


I think the point is that the propaganda may become irrelevant as the confluence of the “three pandemics” noted by Vandana Shiva in another article in the Views section (coronavirus, hunger, and destruction of livelihoods) and the climate crisis (Remember the climate crisis? It’s getting more critical every day.) causes critical systems to break down. We could reasonably add several more, such as infrastructure for transportation and communication.

That says nothing about tomorrow, much less a year from now. But it is the chaos that results from breakdown of systems that creates spaces for new paradigms that were not even imaginable yesterday, the “Copernican revolution” mentioned at the end of the article. See “complex systems,” and a recent article on CD by futurist and visionary economist Hazel Henderson.

It is at this point that concerted action by that mythic 3.5 percent may–or may not–wrench the entire system into a new trajectory.


The wealth and power of the Nobility during Feudal times was not measured with the amount of “gold” or “capital” that they held , but rather the number of peasants they had to work the land. When King Edward decided to try and absorb Wales and Scotland into the United Kingdom it was because he was concerned about the population of England versus France.

What the black death did was empower the workers to demand gold rather then a a percent of food they might have raised in return for their services. The Nobles did not have Gold so went to the banking houses to borrow it. This lead to the rise of Capitalism as the amount of Gold one had would determine future wealth and power. Nobles started to pool Capital and would use that to control the people.

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The author writes… “But it may well contribute to exposing the failures of “free markets” and the scandal of governments intervening in the economy on behalf of this era’s one percent.”
People already know that the government intervenes on behalf of the 1%. The 1% doesn’t even have to hide it. With the upcoming election pitting Biden against Trump, the only thing the American people can be sure of is that nothing will change regardless of who wins. Once the pandemic comes to a close, it will be back to business as usual. Americans don’t have a functioning democracy to change the system. Millions of Americans will go bankrupt and hungry because of this pandemic, but the 1% will further enrich themselves and consolidate even more power.


yes, that is what the point was. My point was different.

To rephrase it, the collapse of state services and strong disagreements between elites typically create the space for both revolution and paradigmatic change.

Modern propaganda changes that calculation by introducing the prospect that blame for those collapses can be pinned very effectively on non-state, non-elite actors in a way that prevents that change from occurring.

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The emergence of COVID-19 pandemic means that the capitalistic, modernistic and mechanical way of seeing the world (metaphysics) is ushering in a new performative metaphysical paradigm of of theory-as-practice which holds a ‘macroscopic ( yin ) -microscopic ( yang ) perspective of the living human being as the universe contained in the individual .

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I live in Scotland, I would say we still live in feudal times as two thirds of the land is owned by just over 1000 people of a population of 5 million.This ownership model needs to go.


R. Buckminster Fuller

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I agree except from my perspective, capitalism metamorphosed into Fascism a long time ago, and now the butterfly is ready to fly!

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What does COVID-19 mean for capitalism?

Well, for advocates of the 4th Industrial Revolution and Ecomodernism, it means STEM dominated capitalism dominated by purveyors of the notion that “Science can Solve All Our Problems [as long as the riff-raff (bottom 90%) STFU and fall into place].”



Former President Obama was fond of quoting Martin Luther King quoting Theodore Parker stating:

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
Bullshit. This is not automatic and is not guaranteed. The arc of the moral universe May bend towards justice if and only if folk committed to social justice give their blood, sweat, and tears to work for justice.

What happens after COVID-19 depends on the work folk are doing, now, to build alternative social/economic structures aimed at promoting human and environmental well-being.


Probably not much if the key player had been managed with informed command instead of ignorance and posturing: US per capita death toll currently almost three times that of Germany and climbing, over sixty times higher than 110 other countries including Australia and New Zealand.

But since that’s not how it’s being handled by America, hell on wheels for the whole world.