Feudalism

From Humanipedia
Jump to: navigation, search

(From LL. feudum, fief). Based on the territorial grant a vassal received from a lord in exchange for military service. The origin of this institution in the Roman Empire, in the form of a “colonato,” [system of Roman colonization using tenant farmers] was the embryonic form of the fief, and f. existed in Europe from the end of the Carolingian era to the close of the Middle Ages. Marxists overextended the content of this term, considering it as a universal socioeconomic formation that, according to them, predominated throughout the world from the collapse of slavery until the advent of capitalism (from the fifth to the eighteenth centuries). Contemporary historiography does not recognize the existence of the feudal regime in the Iberian-American world, with the exception of some parts of Catalonia, Navarra and Aragon, where it was imposed by Frankish kings in the Hispanic territory. The socioeconomic base of the feudal regime was the glebe, which disappeared in the Iberian peninsula towards the thirteenth century. Relationships of vassalage extended only to the nobility and high clergy. Outside of these relations were the peasant serfs and the third estate (the inhabitants of villages and cities, free persons organized in corporations or guilds of artisans and merchants). The feudal regime was characterized by endless warfare between fiefdoms that brought ruin to vast territories. The feudal states were very fragile and short-lived. Fiefdoms frequently passed from one lord to another, provoking the breakup of kingdoms, duchies and principalities. The Catholic Church played a centripetal role in this period, seeking to exert moral authority and at times supreme political authority. In this role, the Church assembled the nobility from different countries, organizing crusades against the infidels. F. generated a cultural movement that, just as in the social realm, was characterized by a very strict hierarch. Spiritual life was governed by Scholasticism and subordinated to the Catholic Church. There were uprisings against this rule by many currents of oppressed peasants and artisans, which were branded as heretical by the official Church and cruelly repressed through the crusades. The existence of f. in the Orient is unconfirmed by the historical documentation, and may be considered a modernist revision of the historical process, a manifestation of Eurocentrism. Marx and the western Marxists attempted to interpret the social phenomena of the Orient in terms of the so-called “Asiatic mode of production.” Heterodox Soviet Orientalists employed the term “primary formation,” which encompassed relations proper to barbarism, slavery and feudalism; in other words, the extra-economic coercion necessary for the violent appropriation of surplus product and its subsequent redistribution in favor of the privileged castes and “classes” (estates). But this interpretation of the historical process of the majority world population also errs in the direction of economic reductionism and underestimation of the cultural specificity and diversity of world history. Humanism from its emergence spoke out against the reduction of human life to the priority of one or another isolated factor, in favor of the recognition of the integrity of human beings in all their manifestations, and in support of the essential unity and cultural diversity of the human race. For this reason, N.H. does not accept a priors universal models that disregard the cultural specificity of diverse peoples, and at the same time rejects the positivist focus that impedes the analysis of the convergent aspects of different cultures. N.H. considers that there is no such thing as “laws written in stone” to whose effects people are obliged to blindly submit. We human beings, make our own history in correspondence with the circumstances of the times; we are free to choose between various models or variants, and we have personal responsibility for our actions. F. was one of these historical variants, stemming in large measure from the choice of the European peoples in favor of Western Christianity, which predetermined the particularities of feudal society in Western Europe.