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The Decline and Rise of Feudalism in France

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Introduction

I am very much aware that it’s an act of extreme harshness to attempt to write about this particular topic because it involves politics and politics is a very subjective issue. It may be a universal subject for cities however I am only attempting to explain one perspective of the arguments among a wide range of reasons that led to the decline of feudalism into the birth of a new child named capitalism. Some points that I will make are based on personal knowledge and research, which will develop a certain perspective. My discussion throughout the essay will take focus on the two following economic systems: firstly, the feudalism system- what it is and how it came about, as well as the factors that contributed to its downfall. Secondly, I will discuss how capitalism came about as an economic system, I will discuss the factors that paved way to a capitalist economy. I will also partially state its disadvantages and advantages as an economic system. Lastly before I conclude, I will also attempt to discuss the significance of the two systems in an economy and how they operate(d). I’ll also make some

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The feudal system

Feudalism is a social system in which peasant worked the land which they were given to live in by nobility and they were provided with protection by knights from violence and war in exchange for their labor and other services. There were laws that kept peasants to stay on the land etc. It was a non-competitive economic system whereby the laws of supply and demand had no effect on the market. For obvious reasons we could also conclude that the most important or basic means of production in the feudal system would’ve been the land. Moving on, one of the factors that led to the collapse of the feudalism system was the social unrest that resulted from the uprising caused by peasant who were unsatisfied and fed up with the circumstances they were going through. The social unrest took place during the 1350s and the 1390s whereby there was unrest in different countries like: Italy, France, Germany, Spain and England etc. the uprisings led to the collapse of feudalism, also the economies of these countries started moving from land-based economy to money-based economy. A second major factor that contributed to the collapse of the feudalism system was the black plaque/death, which claimed the lives of a 3rd of the Europe’s population, this reduced the number of peasants and they became a demand as the number of peasants that worked the land became less. A third factor was the wars or the middle age wars faded the feudalism system because when war took place feudal laborers joined different military groups for instance, during the war between England and France in 1337. When the peasants joined military groups and no longer worked the land, the agricultural output started declining, this challenged the feudalism system. moreover, knights were dying at war and peasants started running away, especially after the break of the black death, to towns/cities and the feudal system started getting imbalanced. As more people migrated to urban areas, they became bigger and an important part of their lives because they hustled and became self-employed, so the towns became important to people because they saw better opportunities than they were in farms where they just worked the land. This brought an imbalance in the feudal system’s pyramid (which included Kings, Nobles, Knights and Peasants). In France peasants had the choice of buying themselves out of the bondage. Therefore, what peasant in France did was they bought their own freedom by paying a small amount in exchange for freedom. This was probably the reason why feudalism came to an end in France. The end of feudalism led to urbanization as more people fled the villages to make a living in towns. Therefore, we could conclude that the rise in urbanization was directly associated with the decline of the old feudal system.

The Capitalism system

The end of the middle ages also paved the way to what we call a capitalism economy, this was when feudalism died down, it was later replaced by the early capitalist structures. Before getting any further into how capitalism came about, I’ll start off by describing the system. It is an economic system whereby factors of production (FOP) are owned by private entities. These factors of production are: capital, labor, land and entrepreneurship. Theses entities exercise control through corporations, in doing so the FOP earn them some profit. That’s how they accumulate income from ownership of means of production. Some characteristics of capitalism include an economy with a free market, to operate and succeed. This means a free market operates under the laws of supply and demand, capitalism system is competitive, requires less government intervention in the market but more when it comes to maintaining infrastructure.

Between the 16th and the 18th century, there was what Marx labelled as the primitive accumulation of capital. In short this was a procedure whereby the precapitalistic modes of production, like how things were done in the feudal system started to change into the modes of production of capitalist. Whereby peasants no longer had the means of production and they got separated from those means of production (e.g. land). This led them to the hands of the capitalists who wanted to exploit them and make use of their labor power to increase profits. The development of the primitive accumulation of capital process forced peasants to enter into work agreements, they practically sold their labor power on the market in exchange for wages and employment and the capitalist bought it. This was a very different mode of production compared to those of the mediaeval age, this was when capitalist structures started kicking in.

The increase in foreign trade in the beginning of the 16th century resulted to the downfall of the medevial age and paved way to the capitalist economy. The growth in foreign trade encouraged the use of currency which in turn produced what we now know as inflation (a consistent rise in the general prices of goods and services…). This was probably a stage whereby capitalism started gaining momentum, when owners of the means of production learned that they could derive capital/wealth from controlling as well as being the owners of those factors of production. This was also a stage whereby a certain new class, primitive capitalists, exercised power over another class, the waged worker. Although capitalism came with a lot of change, change that was to a certain extent better than the medieval era because at least now those who were once or would’ve been peasants if we were still under the feudal system are now equipped with knowledge on how to operate in the capitalist economy and can now be owners of means of production e.g. farm owners etc. at least the capitalist economy values the labor of people and believes that people should be paid for their hard work, also people work hard to earn a living and raise their standards of living. Capitalism also brought competitiveness which is one of the reasons for improved and quality products, it also brings growth in the economy as a whole.

Capitalism also brought more disadvantages for the economy when compared to the feudal system. The capitalist doesn’t quite care about green issues but care more about accumulation of wealth and increasing profits more than the wellness of the society and the environment. Whereas with the feudal system the activities done in that era didn’t necessarily harm the environment as much because the most common activity was the cultivation of the land.

Conclusion

The decline of feudalism didn’t lead directly to the rise of capitalism, feudalism isn’t necessarily the reason why capitalism came to existence but it’s one of the significant factors for why capitalism grew into an economic system. capitalism has its pros and cons just as much as the feudalism system had it pros and cons. There are so many other influencing factors that led to the downfall of feudalism such as Social unrests and political change etc. as well as many influences that brought about capitalism such as foreign trade and ownership of means of production etc.

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