Front Page Titles (by Subject) (e) the developed feudal state - The State
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(e) the developed feudal state - Franz Oppenheimer, The State 
The State: Its History and Development viewed Sociologically, authorized translation by John M. Gitterman (New York: B.W. Huebsch, 1922).
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(e) the developed feudal state
With this the feudal state has reached its pinnacle. It forms, politically and socially, a hierarchy of numerous strata; of which, in all cases, the lower is bound to render service to the next above it, and the superior is bound to render protection to the one below. The pyramid rests on the laboring population, of whom the major part are as yet peasants; the surplus of their labor, the ground rental, the entire “surplus value” of the economic means is used to support the upper strata of society. This ground rent from the majority of estates is turned over to the small holders of fiefs, except where these estates are still in the immediate possession of the prince or of the crown and have not as yet been granted as fiefs. The holders of them are bound in return to provide the stipulated military service, and also, in certain cases, to render labor of an economic value. The larger vassal is in turn bound to serve the great tenants of the crown; who in their turn are, at least at strict law, under similar obligation toward the bearer of the central power; while emperor, king, sultan, shah, or Pharaoh in their turn, are regarded as the vassals of the tribal god. Thus there starts from the fields, whose peasantry support and nourish all, and mounts up to the “king of heaven” an artificially graded order of ranks, which constricts so absolutely all the life of the state, that according to custom and law neither a bit of land nor a man can be understood unless within its fold. Since all rights originally created for the common freemen have either been resumed by the state, or else have been distorted by the victorious princes of territories, it comes about that a person not in some feudal relation to some superior must in fact be “without the law,” be without claim for protection or justice, i. e., be outside the scope of that power which alone affords justice. Therefore the rule, nulle terre sans seigneur, appearing to us at first blush as an ebullition of feudal arrogance, is as a matter of fact the codification of an existing new state of law, or at the very least the clearing away of some archaic remnants, no longer to be tolerated, of the completely discarded primitive feudal state.
Those philosophers of history who pretend to explain every historic development from the quality of “races,” give as the center of their strategic position the alleged fact, that only the Germans, thanks to their superior “political capacity,” have managed to raise the artistic edifice of the developed feudal state. Some of the vigor of this argument has departed, since the conviction began to dawn on them that in Japan, the Mongol race had accomplished this identical result. No one can tell what the negro races might have done, had not the irruption of stronger civilizations barred their way, and yet Uganda does not differ very greatly from the empires of the Carolingians or of Boleslaw the Red, except that men did not have in Uganda any “values of tradition” of mediæval culture: and these values were not any merit of the Germanic races, but a gift wherewith fortune endowed them.
Shifting the discussion from the negro to the “Semites,” we find the charge made that this race has absolutely no capacity for the formation of states. And yet we find, thousands of years ago, this same feudal system developed, by Semites, if the founders of the Egyptian kingdom were Semites. One would think the following description of Thurnwald were taken from the period of the Hohenstaufen emperors: “Whoever entered the following of some powerful one, was thereafter protected by him as though he had been the head of the family. This relation...betokens a fiduciary relation similar to vassalage. This relation of protection in return for allegiance tends to become the basis of the organization of all Egyptian society. It is the basis of the relations of the feudal lord to his sergeants and peasants, as it is that of the Pharaoh to his officials. The cohesion of the individuals in groups subject to common protecting lords, is founded on this view, even up to the apex of the pyramid, to the king himself regarded as ‘the vicar of his ancestors,’ as the vassal of the gods on earth... Whosoever stands without this social grasp, a ‘man without a master,’ is without the pale of protection and therefore without the law.”133
The hypothesis of the endowment of any particular race has not been used by us, and we have no need of it. As Herbert Spencer says, it is the stupidest of all imaginable attempts to construct a philosophy of history.
The first characteristic of the developed feudal state is the manifold gradation of ranks built up into the one pyramid of mutual dependence. Its second distinctive mark is the amalgamation of the ethnic groups, originally separated.
The consciousness formerly existent of difference of races has disappeared completely. There remains only the difference of classes.
Henceforth we shall deal only with social classes, and no longer with ethnic groups. The social contrast is the only ruling factor in the life of the state. Consistently with this the ethnic group consciousness changes to a class consciousness, the theories of the group, to the theories of the class. Yet they do not thereby change in the least their essence. The new dominating classes are just as full of their divine right as was the former master group, and it soon is seen that the new nobility of the sword manages to forget, quickly and thoroughly, its descent from the vanquished group; while the former freemen now declassed, or the former petty nobles sunk in the social scale, henceforth swear just as firmly by “natural law” as did formerly only the subjected tribes.
The developed feudal state is, in its essentials, exactly the same thing as it was when yet in the second stage of state formation. Its form is that of dominion, its reason for being, the political exploitation of the economic means, limited by public law, which compels the master class to give the correlative protection, and which guarantees to the lower class the right of being protected, to the extent that they are kept working and paying taxes, that they may fulfill their duty to their masters. In its essentials government has not changed, it has only been disposed in more grades; and the same applies to the exploitation, or as the economic theory puts it, “the distribution” of wealth.
Just as formerly, so now, the internal policy of these states swings in that orbit prescribed by the parallelogram of the centrifugal thrust of the former group contests, now class wars, counteracted by the centripetal pull of the common interests. Just as formerly, so now, its foreign policy is determined by the striving of its master class for new lands and serfs, a thrust for extension caused at the same time by the still existing need of self-preservation. Although differentiated much more minutely, and integrated much more powerfully, the developed feudal state is in the end nothing more than the primitive state arrived at its maturity.
concerning some old foes under new faces.
if we understand the outcome of the feudal state, in the sense given above, as further organic development either forward or backward conditioned by the power of inner forces, but not as a physical termination, brought about or conditioned by outside forces, then we may say that the outcome of the feudal state is determined essentially by the independent development of social institutions called into being by the economic means.
Such influences may come also from without, from foreign states which, thanks to a more advanced economic development, possess a more tensely centralized power, a better military organization, and a greater forward thrust. We have touched on some of these phases. The independent development of the Mediterranean feudal states was abruptly stopped by their collision with those maritime states, which were on a much higher plane of economic growth and wealth, and more centralized, such as Carthage, and more especially Rome. The destruction of the Persian Empire by Alexander the Great may be instanced in this connection, since Macedonia had at that time appropriated the economic advances of the Hellenic maritime states. The best example within modern times is the foreign influence in the case of Japan, whose development was shortened in an almost incredible manner by the military and peaceful impulses of Western European civilization. In the space of barely one generation it covered the road from a fully matured feudal state to the completely developed modern constitutional state.
It seems to me that we have only to deal with an abbreviation of the process of development. As far as we can see—though henceforth historical evidence becomes meager, and there are scarcely any examples from ethnography—the rule may be statedrule may be statedrule may be statedrule may be stated that forces from within, even without strong foreign influences, lead the matured feudal state, with strict logical consistency, on the same path to the identical conclusion.
The creators of the economic means controlling this advance are the cities and their system of money economy, which gradually supersedes the system of natural economy, and thereby dislocates the axis about which the whole life of the state swings; in place of landed property, mobile capital gradually becomes preponderant.
[129.]Ratzel, l. c. II, p. 518.