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September 16, 2004

A Man's Home is His Castle

On my way to Wal-Mart last evening I was cursing traffic, wondering who's blogging Ivan, and rehashing an old argument about the Civil Rights Movement being over and done with in conjunction with thoughts about McWhorter's rejection of 'African American'. The other thing, which is a bit closer to my core, that has gotten under my skin is some reference P6 made about the Ownership Society and Feudalism.

Feudalism is good.

Here's what I believe. I believe that in 15 years the blogosphere will be to big media news what cable TV is to broadcast TV today. That means there will be '500 wire services and no real news'. As the proliferation of information technology transforms the literate world, a great number of societal norms will break down. Are you with me so far?

The paradigm is every man's home is his castle. It's becoming more real. We are less a grey flannel suit hierarchical society than we were 30 years ago. Secretaries don't do our typing for us, we don't hold jobs for 25 years, and the idea of the pension is about to go the way of the tie clasp. The upside is that we are more independently able to do for ourselves than ever before. Through technology and our changing culture, we are composers, publishers. We depend less on traditional structures of organization, we do more of our own networking. Community is more important - we do play dates. We get our own circle of close friends and families, cell phones, email distribution lists, frequent flyer clubs, online gaming clans, investment clubs, Tivo profiles. This is feudalism people.

Quick. Who is the richest person you know? If it's not somebody you work for, chances are you're on your way to figuring out why your fortunes lie somewhere outside of traditional paths.

I bring this up tangentially to the extraordinary point Nykola brought up this Spring. An all abiding trust in our secular society and the promise of education is being eroded. The creation of our own private networks is more important than what's out there for the public. Now perhaps this is something I just see because I am climbing through certain social classes I hadn't previously experienced. But the power available to the average American with regard to financial instruments, and other dangerous accoutrements of the Ownership Society do indeed move us towards feudal networks.

I see feudalism going from the bottom up, it is the ultimate expression of self-determination, of family bonds and trust in self as opposed to dependence upon institutions. Feudalism is the exact opposite of corporatism and to a certain extent of modernism itself. Feudal relationships and peer networks should be unbreakable.

Here in the blogosphere we're all great examples. We all know who our blogfathers are - those who send us the most traffic. They are our lords. Our recognition owes not only to our own skills but with our association. The organization may be flat and shallow, but the direction of power and notariety goes from the top down. When I'm blogrolled by Glenn Reynolds, I don't pretend that he needs me more than I need him (though I haven't gotten much traffic from Glenn lately... hmm). These links are far more important than the generic ones people get to broadcast news.

One more tidbit to add to this is that over in La Puente, there are old Chinese women who drive S Class 420s at 25 mph in the 40 mph zone. You'll never see them on the Westside. Where do they come from, where do they go? It doesn't matter - they're just hooked up in their little networks. That's where we're headed. There will be no mainstream.

Posted by mbowen at September 16, 2004 09:13 AM

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I have no blogfather.

Explains a lot, I guess...

Posted by: P6 at September 16, 2004 10:22 AM

"I see feudalism going from the bottom up, it is the ultimate expression of self-determination"

Feudalism, whereas status is dependent on position and tenure determines rights and duties is quite the opposite of self-determination.

I agree that the social paradigm is shifting in significant ways but I don't see it as feudal. maybe I'm missing the point.

Posted by: Ray at September 16, 2004 09:57 PM

Very interesting idea. I'm going to have to give this some thought.

Thanks for the brain food.

Posted by: Rong at September 17, 2004 11:07 AM

You tangential thought sucked out more insight from my rambling than anyone else could of. Kudos

Posted by: Ambra Nykol at September 17, 2004 01:00 PM

I have no blog parent (mother or father). I occasionally get mentioned in a blog with more readership, and that results in a spike....but the biggest chunk o' lookeelous is from a photo of Ashton Kucher. Which I just took down, cause somebody'd hot linked to it.

Now, on to feudalism:


A few days ago (seems like yesterday), Kieran Healy used the dreaded 'F' word. He used it twice -- at Crooked Timber and at his own site. I generally like Kieran's stuff, but dammit, how many times do medievalists have to go through this? Feudalism. The 'F' word. Not actually a term used during the Middle Ages, but a description made up in, IIRC, the 18th c. Since then, defined and redefined as we know more and more about medieval society.

But that's not actually what you were talking about, I think.

"An all abiding trust in our secular society and the promise of education is being eroded. The creation of our own private networks is more important than what's out there for the public."

I agree with you there. What others--French, German, the Russians--say in private is why are the Americans so public-spirited? Note than in Russia, there's been no 9/11 Foundation as there was immediately in the US. As much as American "do-gooding" is ridiculed, it is also a great source of our strength.

A more positive way of describing what you are seeing is a return to the frontier ethic of barn-raising, of the community deciding that school was essential so clubbing together to raise the cash for a school and a teacher.

Sunday night rambling.

Posted by: liz at September 19, 2004 09:58 PM

My two cents:

As the Internet and broadcasting -- media and equipment -- converge, we will indeed (eventually) see a more democratic and dynamic distribution of information. However, people in general will continue to solicit brand names for their content. Will the blogosphere reach the influence of over-the-air television? I think not, for 1) we're a society of narcisstic consumers (see, 'brand name sensitive') and 2) the blogosphere's already polluted with toxic dis- and misinformation to gain credibility. Maybe when streaming becomes viable for bloggers the medium might rise to the level of talk radio (which ain't saying much).

Our collective sense of civic obligation continues to erode, driven by an industrial complex that has successfully established the fetish of Materialism as a religion.

I applaud the ongoing democratization of authority and resources facilitated in part by the Internet and IS technology. We're all on the way to becoming our own institutions. (I read a book recently which discussed this phenomenon as we're all becoming 'super-empowered'). However, this isn't feudalism as each person would be a lord without serfs! A form of post-Capitalism, perhaps, that potentially offers extreme efficiencies and dynamism. Humans are ultimately social creatures that desire order and structure, so there will always be a role for The Man.

Posted by: MIB at September 21, 2004 01:16 PM