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Feudalism to Capitalism

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Text, Textuality and Digital Media
Professor. Arjun Ghosh
Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology Delhi.
Lecture 8
Feudalism to Capitalism
Welcome to this lecture, today we are going to look at a very important phase of European history which affected the rest of the globe simply because of the history of colonialism- a revolutionary change, which is a movement from feudalism to capitalism- and we would also try to understand what are the implications of this movement on textual practices.
We have so far been looking at textual production through manual processes or embodied processes or processes which are created through the human hand or the human body, either the oral where the principal mechanism through which communication takes place is the voice, maybe even gestures, or the manuscript culture, where the principal ways in which writing takes place is through the hand and of course the other manual labor in preparing the various writing implements that are there. But it is at around a time at the end of the Middle Ages what we called the early modern period, with the first tenets of modern societies are getting to be seen within the European world,
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associate capitalism with machines, so you move from manual production to mechanized production and this is also a movement in which many other kinds of changes that take place in society and they have an impact also on the kind of texts that are created.
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So, and important to note is that this shift from, kind of of a feudal society to a capitalist society is an all-encompassing one, it changes lives of the way human beings organize themselves, the way human beings are related to each other undergo a severe transformation, a revolutionary transformation, in this process, it’s a very slow process which takes place over hundreds of years probably one can say the entire range would be from about to 12 to 13 centuries to about the 19th-century, so that is a period of about 7 to 800 years.
So, you know this is a very slow process but we want have to understand some of the significant changes that takes place through this shift. For this let us understand that there are, human beings have to, we have to live our lives, we have to undertake two kinds of production, production is things that we produce.
Goods, clothes that we wear or you know food that we eat, things that we use, houses that we build, infrastructure that we build, everything is part of production, sometimes we can produce it for ourselves, sometimes whe can produce the things within the community or we can just walk into a shop and buy it, but someone has to put this in place.
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There are two kinds of production one is, the first is that of quantitative production, what happens in a quantitative production? So you have one seed which is planted, one example is agriculture, of course, one seed which is planted which produces a plant grows into a tree which will produce many more fruits and lot many more seeds, so there is a quantitative transformation or quantitative production.
Agriculture is part of, when human beings learn agriculture, when human beings learn farming that is a part of a civilizational process where before that human beings would nearly be, would have been hunters and gatherers they would eat whatever food that is produced by nature, there was no settlement, they had to move from place to place to be able to in search for food, and that is also, anybody who is interested can look at the history of human civilization, how human beings travel from one place to another in search of food, in search of a space to where they could survive for shelter.
But human beings with coming of agriculture, human settlements start happening what we called civilizations start developing. Human beings, to settle at one place they also need to build shelters, they need various kinds of infrastructure, those are also put together. So, quantitative production is one kind of production, the other kind of production is what is called qualitative production.
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You take the wood from a tree and you produce a chair out of it, so the wood undergoes a qualitative change, the nature of the wood, usage of the wood is changed through this kind of production it does not grow in amount but it changes from one form to another form. So, that is a change of a qualitative kind.
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Now, if you have to understand this it’s not that I mean one can argue that feudalism in primarily quantitative production, primarily agricultural where capitalism primarily qualitative transformation, it’s not that feudalism did not have qualitative transformation but capitalism had more qualitative transformation.

It’s a shifting degrees you must understand in history we cannot have filled watertight compartments and yet we need to categorized, yet we need to categorized to be able to understand things does not necessarily mean that there was not coexistence of two things for a very long period of time, certainly there is, even today we have quantitative transformation, we use a lot of processed food today. So, thereat is a lot of qualitative transformation even in a basic need like food and that is something that comes about with capitalism, we rarely grow our own food at all, right?
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Now, in this production process human beings have organized themselves into different kinds of relationships. There are different kinds of relationships that people enter into in order to make this production process possible or in order for this production process to continue to survive. So, in feudalism we look at a certain important inputs a certain important notes there,
These are the various important inputs I will just explain it in a moment. Land is a very important resource within feudalism, because agriculture actually takes place on land. You need land that becomes thethe principal resource.
There are various other resources you would need water, you need seeds, you need some tools to be able to function. But land is a very principal element and that which may not be abundant, and you also have someone to work on the land. Now, what happens is usually it is the serf who works on the land
But the land is owned by the landlord. Someone owns the land and someone works on the land, now you must understand that this is a process which takes place in human history, where human beings start from being hunterer , gatherers then they settle down they sort of produce their own food, but soon people realize as farming techniques becomes better, better irrigation techniques, better implements sometimes use of livestock for farming,.
People realize that with more efficient modes of farming, human beings can actually produce a lot more than they actually need. So, with more and inefficient processes of farming I could probably not cultivate enough for myself or my family to eat. But I realize now that our farming techniques have advanced so much that I am able to produce twice over of the amount of food that I need for my own survival. So that additional amount is what we called is surplus, that is surplus.
Now, the moment surplus is generated I figure out that I need not work all the time, and in fact I figure out that if I can make my neighbor or somebody else work for me I need not work at all, I need not engage in manual labor at all, and that is where you have the birth of property, that people realize that if I am able to control land thean the other guy needs to work on this land for his own survival and therefore would be willing to work and give the surplus to me and that is in the form of rent.
So, the serf works on the land and produces a crop, let us say produces six bananas. Aat the end of it, because the landlord owns the land, he extracts a certain rent from the serf. The serf keeps a little portion and the landlord takes a portion as rent. So, that is the mechanism through which feudalism actually functions, the land is owned by the landlord, the serf who is landless by and large works on the land, has to work on the land because that is the only way to produce food and because he uses that land, he pays a certain rent to the landlord and t
That is how a distribution of resources takes place.
What happens in capitalism? In capitalism it is not land but the capital which becomes the principal resource. The capital is not nearly money but also the factory, capital goods, also the raw materials, these are the inputs, large capital inputs that go ing.
Now, there is a difference, the landlord could also be wealthy and the capitalist could be wealthy as well, but if there is a difference between the wealth of the landlord and the wealth of the capitalist, the wealth of the landlord is not measured in terms of the money that the landlord, the wealth that the landlord owns, but is measured in terms of the land that the landlord actually controls or in some societies there would be also measured in terms of the amount of livestock a person holds.
But a capitalist may not have any land but I have a lot of money, but that money itself does not matter, it is only when you have invested the money and put it in the form of certain. It becomes a capital investment in the form of a factory or a raw material or something, that it becomes, takes the shape of capital. Capital is that which can be, money that which can be invested.
So, in capitalism, capital replaces land as the principal resource and labor works on capital, labor goes to the factory, works out in the factory and produces goods and capital is owned by the capitalists because the labor does not have enough money to create a factory, earlier of course before mechanized production the carpenter could work in their own workshop and produce the chair but within a factory structure where there areis very large machines and all that is something a carpenter cannot put together, it does not have that kind of surplus that is generated.,
Now, the goods that are produced are not immediately distributed like the bananas, they are then sold in a market and then a certain revenue is generated, this revenue then is distributed as wage, part of it goes as wage to the labor and the rest of it goes as profit to the capitalist, This is how wealth gets distributed.
The power equations remains as skewed as that in feudalism, only the process undergoes a change. But this is a major change, a very serious change. So youwe understand, it’s again important to understand this particular process. So goods are sold in the market and the revenue is generated and the revenue is then distributed between the capitalist and the labor, the labor gets a wage a fixed wage or a piece rate wage and the capitalist gets the profit.
Now question could be arising in your mind as to why is the share, why does it look so unequal. Well it is historically unequal, it is really unequal, you just have to look around the world and see how much do companies today actually pay out as wages and how much, what kind of salaries the top executives within certain corporations take home.
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Even when the economic crisis was happening at around and it still really on, the world has never really spentspun completely out of the crisis , which happened about 10 years ago, . oOne of the talking points was the huge salaries that CEOs chief executives of certain companies were towould take home, and really that salary, that pay packet is really in the form of profit. 
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And really incoming qualities are getting skewed more and more across the world and certainly in our country and the question could also be asked as to why is it that labor is, if labor is being given just this much, then why is it that the labor is being or the serf is being even given that amount? Wwhy are not they forced?
Because it is not a slave, it is different from a slave society, a slave society is actually the slave owner owns the slave, the landlord does not owns the serf but landlord controls the serf, the capitalist does not own the labor but capitalist controls the labor through control over capital and labor gets a certain wage or the serf get a certain share of the production because they need to survive, they need to move on generation onand generation otherwise the next generation of the capitalist will have two do the work themselves, if they get into the production process themselves, engaged in manual labor themselves.
It is not to say that capitalists do not work hard, some capitalists really work very hard but their working hard, like if we look at various people within society, I would not describe myself as a capitalist but within the capitalist the overall societal framework my position is a whole lot better as a teacher than many people who are working in hard labor out in the hot sun.
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And so my time if I teach for one hour I earn a whole lot more than someone who can be working for an one entire week and earning a lot lesser than me. So, the world is skewed I mean it is not to say that the capitalist does not work hard, of course they do some of themy are very honest as well, most of them would be very honest.
But it is beyond individuals, it’s not to blame the capitalist or the landlord, but the point is this is beyond individuals, this is a system within which you cannot do away with the wealth that you have and certainly charity is, it’s a point of another debate but this particular since this particular diagram and this particular discussion might actually spark certain questions in the minds of students, it’s important to say that we need to differentiate between charity and restructuring and sort of altering social relationships.
Charity does not actually lead to wealth redistribution, it keeps, it tries to sort of keep the system less anomalous. So, you know, so therefore it’s important to critically look at this kind of relationship which is put in place in various kinds of systems. But getting back to understanding these systems, there are certain terminologies which we need to enter into.
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That both feudalism and capitalism are what we will call the mode of production and the land and the capital are the principal means of production, there could be other means of production, .
iIt’s not that all forms of production in agriculture is the only form of production which is under feudalism there could be other forms.
of you know Lland is not the only means of production, there could be other means of production:, teachers, priests, there could be medicine menant, various other kinds of professions do exist, everybody is not a the serf, everybody is not a landlord, but this is the principal sort of means of production and therefore the principal relationship and even within the capitalism thereat could be other professions which are there everybody’s not a laborer or a capitalist, there are other people In the for example soldiers, clerks and other kinds of people who are professions which could be there within the larger system. But capital and land are the principal means of production.


21:056)

But capital and land other principal means of productionA and around thate principal means of production is a relation, the dominant relation of production, this is the defineding when you identify a feudal system by the defined dominant relationship which is that between landlord and serf and capitalism is thea relationship between capitalist and labor and landlords and the capitalists are the dominant classes by virtue of being the owners of the means of production.
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Rent and wage become the mechanism for the distribution of wealth within these two modes of production, the wealth distribution takes place through a rent mechanism within feudalism and athe wage mechanism within capitalism.
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So these are some of the important terms that we need to keep in mind as we move along through this course, because we had beenwould be using these terms as we discuss theat advancement of print and we ill try to understand theat advancement of print.
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Now thisese change of the two systems which takes place across several hundred years in Europe brings about a certain important societal change, the implication of it.
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So typically within feudalism there would be one landlord and many serfs and they are all working inon the land and therefore they stay near the land, so you typically in rural settings you have a village and there is a farm, sometimes people would be living close to the farm so the population is much more distributed. Because This farms are large and therefore population lives around the farms and the population really certain dense pockets of organization and that could be villages, some villages could be larger than the others.
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Towns and urban settlements would be much fewer and they would primarily be administrative or military or trade related, they were not production related. They are production related only in as much as trade is a part of production or distribution. But youto did not have factories, factories do come about within the capitalist framework where because of mechanized production you need a lot many more workers to work.
Now, where is the population of workers, because at one point of time there were no factories and then most production is happening on land, predominantly, the carpentert is producing the chair in his own workshop, he is producing one chair at the end of the day or maybe two chairs and therefore it’s not a huge production but the machine can produce much faster and therefore can require much many more workers, initially fewer workers, later on much greater number of workers.
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So as capitalism goes, we have people the poor really changing their definition from that of being serfs to that of being workers and this leads to migration. Because within capitalism production takes place around factories and people settle around the factories, the factories are small points that , they had to do not occupy huge tracts of land, in comparison to agricultural land, so the settlement would be a lot denser and this is the birth of the modern cities.
So you have moved from rural to the urban. In fact, one point to be noted here is that this shift that is happening within, from the period of the feudal to the capital is a change of the definition of work, ora process of work and I would not go into all that in this particular course, but there is a great deal of discussion now within various kinds of academic discussions in a policy think tanks on the future of work.
The nature of work also is undergoing a sea change with the coming of digital technologiesthrough artificial intelligence, machine learning, machines can do much of the work that human beings do far more efficiently and therefore a lot of work is getting displaced from human beings to machines and which can lead to serious kind of escalation in unemployment, so if you are interested dto check out this particular topic called the future of work.
But jJust to point out that this kind of far-reaching changes take place when there are major technological shifts, major technological shifts lead to far-reaching changes within society and changes in relationships, political upheavals and various kinds of things that happen., Wwe are living through that era and therefore our previous arera which is that of the movement from feudalism to capitalism becomes very interesting first. 
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So, this process of organizationurbanization- moving from rural to urban- in and about do now by and large human beings still 50 years ago were predominantly human world, predominantly since history, predominantly beingen a rural race, human beings across the globe. Very shortly whe would have more people living in the cities then therey would be living in villages. So the urban population would outstrip the rural population worldwide.
In certain countries, more advanced countries, it’s already the case, a place like India also very shortly I meanain I think right now it’s an equal proportion, the number of people who live in within a rural setup and urban setup one needs to check the exact numbers, but the point is that a great degree of urbanization has happened, but this hais happened over centuries, but a point of time when this urbanization process began almostor was taking place it lead to various kinds of conflicts.
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The conflicts between the landlord and the capitalist class, because landlord needs the serfs to be able to continue to earn his rent, continue his social position and the capitalist needs the workers in order to continue the capitalist production.
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And this leads to political tension, because understand that each of these two systems are identified to different kinds of political structures. Within feudalism it is the monarchy which is predominant and within capitalism it is primarily a parliamentary a more democratic system, it’s a republican form of government.

What we need to understand is that there is this that the landlord there is a linkage between the landlord and the monarchy the monarch through various stratasatus you know therey could be a hierarchy within the feudal rural process, the monarchy sort of, ensures guarantees a certain kind of social stability to the landowning classes and the landowning classes could have various strataatus.
So there could be the Dukes, the Knights, the courtiers, the aristocrats in the various, within more, if you are using more sub continental terms, they will be the Subedar and the there would be the people within the courtiers, there cwould be others the Taluqdars and others, so they would be organized, smaller to the larger, and the rent that is paid by the serf to the landlord would then there will be certain tributaries which would be collected throughas mechanisms of taxation.
Now, the taxation mechanisms within , feudal process were very different from taxation mechanisms within capitalist processes, this is something that we also need to understand. Within feudal processes taxation rarely would be something that wasith part of law, in fact law is something that is modern and part of more identified with more democratic and capitalist setup.
Taxation would happen through raids, through the threat of war, it is said that, so tributes would be collected. So remember these narratives of certain kind of rituals like the Ashwamedh yagya, t The sacrifice of the horse, where the horse would go through various territories and they would accept the over lordship of the person who, of the King who, is performing, that who has undertakening that sacrifice.
So, you know that is something that and when they accept that overed over lordship, that means that they would, that over lordship is reallyarely realized through the payment of a tributary, a certain amount of money, a certain amount of wealth that is payed. The local raja accepts the over lordship of the Emperor. So it is through raids that theseis taxes are really realized, this taxes were not necessarily, theise kind of collection of taxes, of course there would be formal taxes as well which citizens would have to pay primarily within townships and other places. But they were not formalized to the extent that modern taxation mechanisms are put in place.
And whereas in, even within democratic systems, within Parliamentary processes we are aware that there are, there is a certain hierarchy. I mean within the political setup there would be, the administrative setup, and the political setup, there is the member of Parliament for the local MLA, the corporation representative warder, the Mmayorle, the Chief Minister and then you have memnumbers of the Ccabinet, then you have the Prime Minister and the Ppresident, that’s the Indian setup.
Various countries and various organizations, certainly there is a hierarchy of representation and hierarchy of the political order. And also the administrative order therey would be the district magistrate, the block level officer, the district magistrate, then you have the administrative service at the state-level and then the Central level, there is a secretary, joint secretaries, principal secretaries, Cabinet secretaries.
So there is a certain administrative hierarchy and therefore there are various kinds of offices, bouth the systems have different kinds of hierarchies, there isy as a long list of hierarchical positions between the top and the bottom which are shown here in on both the sides withinbetween the monarch and the landlord and the Parliament and the individual capitalist. It is something that we need to note.
And certainly early capitalism did not have an universal adult franchise, certainly India is a country which from the birth of the Indian democracy, that is in 1947, the first really general elections which happened in 1952 there was universal adult franchise, this was not true though elections did take place in India before 1947 we did not have, everybody could not vote for everybody else, there was no universal, certain people could vote for certain constituencies buwhat under the Constitution that we have now every citizen of the country has a single transferable vote, a single vote really and that is the universal adult franchise.
But this is not true in the birth of democracy. In the United States still very recently blacks could not vote, womean did not have a vote in most European countries and certainly in places like England till a long period I mean only a certain section of thea population, the working class did not have a vote till many years of the functioning of the Parliament really. So what we do understand that though these processes do evolve, they do undergo processes of change, there are certain fundamental significant differences between the two systems which we are trying to study today.
35:06)

So, what I did point out in my previous slide is that this process of urbanization and the process of urbanization which is sort of pushed, which is sort of catalyzed through thisese difference in the modes of production gives rise to a conflict between the landlord and the capitalist.
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And this conflict actually emanates in the conflict between the two system.m…

35:29)

Between monarchy and the parliamentary system. Important to understand that within the monarchical system you know there is no rule of law, the rule of law nearly comes about in a democratic setup, because of themthen the monarchical setup, I do what I want to do, I am the monarch and the laws starts froorm me, the court is held by the Emperor for any King within his own domain there could be of course, this is something that we are going to study later, the understanding of modern nation.
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But before the birth of modern nationhood you had monarchies which could have kingdoms within it because it is the question of accepting over lordship, so even if let us say Akbar would have been the ruler, the Emperor of Hind so to say, it is not that therey would not have been kings and rulers, the local raja as would be there. Certainly even within the British Empire there were local rajas, whereas in India today, the nation state that India today is, there is no possibility of having any titular rajas in existence.
So the monarchy is really a overlord, so within their domain when a certain thing, if a local rajas could also be holding courts and they would decide what they would judge a certain cases. So whenever there would be conflict it is ultimate, the ultimate judgement would be that of the monarch. Certainly there were monarch who could not be responsible for all conflicts, all disputes, there would be the local dispute resolution system, there would be the panchayat or the priests or the moulvies would undertake certain kind of justice mechanism.
But the point is that each of these cases there was no clear instance of what the rule irs, the rule was more conventional first of all, it was certainly not a written document. The coming of the Constitution is a written document, they moved from oral customary sort of form of law, source of the law to a more you know a kind of a unwritten fixedtext form of law. So, this is a difference that we now enter into from oral societies to more literate and written societies. The law gets much more fixed in the form of when it enters into a written sort of form in the form of a constitution.
38:31)

Some constitutions some nations were born with a Constitution, for example the United States is a very important example, it did not have a long (duration?) sort of without a constitution, the moment America declares independence, the moment India declares independence it is born with a constitution, a written document, a book.
Whereas you know monarchies are not known to have Constitutions of their own, there are not written laws, it were laws were granted of course the rulers had to be seen to be doing justice and therefore would refer to certain conventions and while giving their judgement, while making their decisions on certain cases but they would certainly have a great degree of say over the particular.
And in order to have that legitimacy, if the monarchy is someone who was not obviously looked upon as doing justice there would be rebellions against the monarch. Certainly you did not have elections to vote out the monarch but there will be a rebellion and if the monarch was completely unpopular the chances of people going andin joining the rebel would be a whole lot more.