Industrialization under Medieval Conditions

Neo-feudalism is an upward trend, a contemporary rebirth of policies of governance, economy, and public life reminiscent of those present in feudal societies, such as unequal rights and legal protections for common people and for nobility. And here is a paper by Win Naudé pointing to feudal signals in modern industry. The high and rising levels of market concentration, declining new firm entry, defensive innovation, zombie firms, return of big government, and democracy in retreat can perhaps remind one of the conditions that pertained under industrial guilds and feudal overlords during the Middle Ages.

The technologies of the 4IR has been of limited help against the pandemic so far – apart from allowing some to work remotely and to share information fast. Not only did they not help so much against COVID-19 or to drive labour productivity and potential GDP growth, but these technologies have also contributed to creating new problems such as surveillance states, disinformation, and misinformation about the pandemic, rising cybercrime, amongst others. With innovation and trade, the two engines of industrialization, in jeopardy, what are the options?

Industrialization is vital for inclusive and sustainable global development. The two engines of industrialization, innovation and trade, are in danger of being compromised by the COVID-19 pandemic, under conditions increasingly reminiscent of the medieval world. It comes at a time when innovation had already been stagnating under guild-like corporate concentration and dominance, and the multilateral trade system had been buckling under pressure from a return to mercantilist ideas. The COVID-19 pandemic may cause a permanent reduction in innovation and entrepreneurship and may even bring the 4th industrial revolution (4IR) to a premature end. Hence the post-COVID-19 world may be left with trade as the only engine for industrialization for the foreseeable future. If the global community fails to x the multilateral trade system, the world may start to resemble the Middle Ages in other, even worse, aspects.

Naudé, W. (2020). Industrialization under Medieval Conditions? Global Development after COVID-19 (GLO Discussion Paper).

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Featured Image: Old Robot by 8OJ4N

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