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 Post subject: Modern Day Feudalism
PostPosted: Thu Apr 29, 2004 12:36 pm 
Forgive my lax histographical take here.

But something I've had in mind for a long, long time...

Often you hear of people fearing the fear of private corporations. The power they control, how the livelihood of many are in their hands and how people will surrender some amount of their freedom in exchange for a place in the corporate structure.

And I got to thinking about how much that reminded me of the feudal system of old.

I thought about it some more, and upon more reflection the idea that all power within a ruling structure is based on some specific criteria. Be it control of resources, intellect, or strength, or something else entirely, those who create the structure and are in charge have some trait that put them in that position.

And in most if not all social contract theories, there's an understanding that people trade away certain freedoms in exchange for protection by the government. What is given for what varies on who you talk to, but that's basically how it works.

Similar to working, no?

So, I guess my question is this: at the end of the day, what's the difference between the corporations running things and the government running things? Can individual bodies in the private sector be seen as modern day feudal lords? And why is the distinction of private ownership matter in comparing it to a government?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Apr 29, 2004 4:24 pm 
Corperations don't have a military and (our) government isn't allowed to bring in a profit.

Other than that, I've often viewed the two as sides of the same coin. Sometimes they're in opposition, sometimes they're in alliance... but their ultimate results seem pretty similar... and to paraphrase you, they both use the people/consumers as means, rather than ends. ;)

Some would get into a discussion here about corperations being significantly more efficient with their power, but that's a detail.


Last edited by Raif on Thu Apr 29, 2004 4:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Apr 29, 2004 4:27 pm 
Raif wrote:
Corperations don't have a military and (our) government isn't allowed to bring in a profit.


What happens if those technical points get fixed?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Apr 29, 2004 4:32 pm 
Sorry, added more after your post. I need to stop doing that.

Gerald wrote:
What happens if those technical points get fixed?

Corperations suddenly have a lot more power and our government corrupts faster.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Apr 29, 2004 9:08 pm 
The corporations-as-feudal-nations idea is pretty prevalent in cyberpunk fiction.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat May 01, 2004 12:51 pm 
In theory, the government works for the people. Now, this doesn't happen in practice, but the very fact that they have to pretend that it does acts as a significant check to their power. Corporations are under no such constraint. That's the difference.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat May 01, 2004 2:46 pm 
Locus Cosecant wrote:
In theory, the government works for the people. Now, this doesn't happen in practice, but the very fact that they have to pretend that it does acts as a significant check to their power. Corporations are under no such constraint. That's the difference.

On the contrary, they too have to pretend. They just do it slightly differently.

When's the last time Microsoft made a commercial to the effect of "Microsoft: Because You Have To"? They're geniuses with marketing. Take Palladium, which incited a huge public controversy even with the more layman crowd. They changed the name to Trusted Computing Software Protection Alliance (is that entirely correct?), TCSPA, and people largely stopped talking about it. It's all about PR.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Sep 18, 2004 2:27 pm 
Side note the corperations equalling feudality system already exists in Japan essentially.

Folks work for the same company, which takes care of them from paying for certain scholaships to their eventual retirements. Course currently it's slowly changing, but previously if you got employed by one of the big boys, you were set for life.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Apr 05, 2005 11:42 am 
One Difference Corporations are only responsible to their stockholders (theoretically
Government is responsible to all the voters (Riiight)


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Apr 05, 2005 12:12 pm 
Whoa! Thread necromancy... confused the hell outa me.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Apr 07, 2005 9:51 am 
Corporations have a far more limited scope.

Even if you are all a bunch of damn cynics :lol: the government is interested in holding its territory, protecting its infrastructure and resources, population, keeping order, etc.

Corporations are interested in making their stock go up. Not even long term growth, just the next quarter. They'd disband the entire company if sufficient stock gains would occur.

Governments don't get that option. Their existence in a physical rather than purely monetary world prevents it.

(yes, I know corps are composed of people and resources, but only as a means to a monetary end.)

To have a truly feudal corporate system, ie cyberpunk novels, you'd have to have corporations that were more interested in power, or at least _very_ long term profit, than in what the stock market was doing.

In other words, they'd have to want to govern. ;)

Japan is a case of its own, because government there did/does feed and control the corporations. You could call it corporations controlling government (you'd be wrong, but whatever) or government controlling corporations (pretty much true) but either way the corporations are interested in serving the interests of Japan as a nation even if it means undercutting their own profits.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Apr 07, 2005 11:37 am 
Kerlyssa wrote:
To have a truly feudal corporate system, ie cyberpunk novels, you'd have to have corporations that were more interested in power, or at least _very_ long term profit, than in what the stock market was doing.

In other words, they'd have to want to govern. ;)

You're omitting the case where corporations find it necessary to manipulate the government to increase their short-term profits. This practice is very, very common, and essentially results in corperations having great control with the added 'benefits' of near-sightedness and lack of any interest in serving the public.

Just a small example of a case you didn't consider...


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Apr 09, 2005 6:35 am 
That is true. While it makes them far more powerful than any ordinary citizen, it still doesn't make them anything more than a special interest group. Is NOW a feudal society? ;)

They COULD use their lobbying powers to try and become quasi-independent 'nations', but that would mean abandoning their narrow mission. Corps don't want tot ake on the responsibilities of government(ie costs)

So, they try to get rid of government restrictions on them, and try to make the government restrict others in ways that benefit them, so they don't have to do it. Corps see themselves as a nation's most valuable citizens, after all. *g*


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Apr 10, 2005 7:30 pm 
You're still thinking much too narrowly. It's not about becoming a nation, it's about becoming a power.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Apr 11, 2005 9:16 pm 
...and here I thought we were talking about feudalism, not the much broader and vaguer 'power'.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Apr 11, 2005 11:24 pm 
Kerlyssa wrote:
...and here I thought we were talking about feudalism, not the much broader and vaguer 'power'.


gerald wrote:
Often you hear of people fearing the fear of private corporations. The power they control, how the livelihood of many are in their hands and how people will surrender some amount of their freedom in exchange for a place in the corporate structure.

And I got to thinking about how much that reminded me of the feudal system of old.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Apr 17, 2005 11:04 am 
The way I see it you have three major differences between governments and megacorporations

1. You can leave a corporation, or even just never join one. This may not be a very good option. But the fact its an option at all is a major difference from a government.

2. Typically governments are more interested in power than in money. (that one was already mentioned)

3. Corporations are subserviant to government. And frewuently reley on the government for any actuall exercise of power. (Note that I don't actually aee a difference between putting a gun to someones head and telling them to give you all your money, and suing them, thereby getting the government to do it for you.) That comes down to corporations not having their own armies, also noted above.

Aside from those differences from a fuedal system specifically don't seem all that apparent. Corporations aren't quite as nepotistic though. And while corporations have the same layered autocracy. (Pyramid structure, whatever the proper term is). The top level isn't concentrated in the hands of one person with no-one to answer too. Except in very rare cases a CEO has to have some co-operation from the board. And in the end they all have to answer to the stockholders. Even democratic governemnts frequently don't bother to answer for the things they do. At least not until the people who actually did them are long gone.



This doesn't relate to the topic directly, but someone brought it up. As far as corporations having short term goals goes:

This is unfortanuatly , though not universally, true. Japanese corporations have always been willing to spend money on long term research, especially anything with a good risk-reward ratio. And one of the reasons they have been so brutally effective in international markets is a willingness to take a short term loss in exchange for long term profits. A handful of companies in the US (IBM, HP to name a couple) have been involved in long term research for some time. And other companies have begun getting involved. The amount of money oil companies are putting into alternate energy research these days is impressive. Which is a nice change from then trying to surpress that kind of research. That's actually a really forward looking research as well, since the oil companies have 20 years before they go under. If nothing comes up that can effectively replace oil.


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