Feudalism is a system of government that some look back upon quite fondly. Instead of having one large nation-state, a country would be divided into different ruling regions. Each region had a noble ruler and these nobles would then pledge their allegiance to a king, queen or other ruling entity. This creates a national allegiance and a regional allegiance that was very powerful for each individual.
What are the pros and cons of feudalism? Is this a system that could still potentially work today, or has its time come and gone? Here are a few of the key points to consider.
What Are the Pros of Feudalism?
1. It is a very self-sufficient system of governing.
Each area had its own rulers assigned to it. Each ruler had their own classes of people in the region, from workers to soldiers, that helped to provide for each other. Trades only happened periodically, which kept the economy stable locally. In feudalism, there was always a job available for someone who wanted to work.
2. It provided a system of co-existence.
The working classes required protection from other regions who might want to take what they had. The noble classes could provide this in exchange for a portion of the goods and services that the working class created. The exchange gave the nobles riches and the working classes a chance to live their lives in the way they wished without much interference beyond their duties to the region.
3. It allowed for a simplistic chain of command.
There was no red tape in feudalism. Decrees were issued from the top and implemented on the way down. Because every region was different, people could pledge their loyalty to certain nobles that fit in with what they wanted to accomplish in life. This made it easier to avoid conflict because different nobles in the same region wouldn’t be issuing conflicting orders.
4. Land management was incredibly easy.
Because every region had to sustain itself locally, land management had to be maximized. This meant that regions were more productive overall because instead of worrying about ownership, the lands could just be managed by the working class and maintained by the noble class. Because everything depended on quality land production, an emphasis on resources was always placed on land use.
What Are the Cons of Feudalism?
1. It was easy to abuse the power given.
Because the chain of command started at the very top, the power of that position made it easy to abuse everyone else within that region. People could uproot to a new noble, but would often be threatened with death or tracked down if this happened. This could make life very difficult for the working classes.
2. One bad season could end everything.
If there was one bad growing system in a region, then the entire ruling system in that area could come tumbling down. That’s the problem when everything is locally emphasized without much trade. This issue still exists today when nations decide to isolate instead of create trading relationships.
3. It was a very isolated existence.
Most people in a feudalism system would rarely travel outside of their region. This was even true of the noble class unless there was a need to expand or defend the territory. It created a system of isolated regions, even within the same overall kingdom, that could develop some very distinct differences that had the potential to create a civil conflict. Even when travel did happen, people from neighboring regions were often treated with hostility instead of welcoming arms. Suspicion was everywhere.
4. Freedoms that were obtained were very rarely free.
In order for the working class to gain access to land to work or own, they had to pledge their support to their noble, their king, or both. In return for this privilege, they had to respond to requests for troops when needed, provide a portion of their crops or work as taxes, and bear additional expenses for war or defense when called upon. If there wasn’t enough money available to pay the needed taxation, then they could lose their land, be thrown into prison, or even executed.
The pros and cons of feudalism make it difficult to say whether it is a beneficial or detrimental system of ruling. Much depended on how it was implemented and what the ethics of the nobility happened to be. Eventually people want something more valuable than land for their services and that is what causes feudalism to break down.
Crystal Lombardo is a contributing editor for Vision Launch. Crystal is a seasoned writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience. She has been an editor of three popular blogs that each have had over 500,000 monthly readers.