• The Coming of Neo-Feudalism

  • A Warning to the Global Middle Class
  • By: Joel Kotkin
  • Narrated by: Traber Burns
  • Length: 6 hrs and 33 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (399 ratings)

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The Coming of Neo-Feudalism

By: Joel Kotkin
Narrated by: Traber Burns
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Publisher's Summary

Following a remarkable epoch of greater dispersion of wealth and opportunity, we are inexorably returning towards a more feudal era marked by greater concentration of wealth and property, reduced upward mobility, demographic stagnation, and increased dogmatism. If the last 70 years saw a massive expansion of the middle class, not only in America but in much of the developed world, today that class is declining and a new, more hierarchical society is emerging. 

The new class structure resembles that of Medieval times. At the apex of the new order are two classes - a reborn clerical elite, the clerisy, which dominates the upper part of the professional ranks, universities, media, and culture, and a new aristocracy led by tech oligarchs with unprecedented wealth and growing control of information. These two classes correspond to the old French First and Second Estates. 

Below these two classes lies what was once called the Third Estate. This includes the yeomanry, which is made up largely of small businesspeople, minor property owners, skilled workers, and private-sector oriented professionals. Ascendant for much of modern history, this class is in decline while those below them, the new Serfs, grow in numbers - a vast, expanding property-less population. 

The trends are mounting, but we can still reverse them - if people understand what is actually occurring and have the capability to oppose them.

©2020 by Joel Kotkin (P)2020 by Blackstone Publishing

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Pretty good but not a lot new

I am inspired by the neo-feudalism but saddened by the book's description of the collapsing traditional USA family. It's cliché in 2020 but it really seems to be the case that "our elites want us broke, dead, our kids brainwashed, and they think it's funny."

9 people found this helpful

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Politically unbiased and timely

This book is a rare find. It is a very good analysis of our contemporary society and economics without being either left or right. One of the most important books I have read the past years

7 people found this helpful

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Sobering but engaging read

This book taps into many of the dynamics I've noticed in our society and expand on them. Kotkin weaves history, sociology, economics and more into this well - done work. It feels bleak at first but it is a call to arms to observe what's going on, draw conclusions on whet these paths lead, and take action as a people to reverse it. Very worth the read.

7 people found this helpful

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sneaks up on you.

about halfway through, I realized he was shaming liberals for not playing fair with conservatives.
nothing about the inverse.
curious.

5 people found this helpful

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Makes sense of the current era

This book put everything into perspective for me, instead of fluctuating wildly between wild conspiracy theories to the new "normal" as defined by society I now at least can understand why societal issues such as the Qanon phenomenon, Soros' open society, and SJW movement.

4 people found this helpful

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Educational

The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It Happens. Good information in how the world works.

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Perfect

This is quite literally the best book I’ve ever read, I called my dad as soon as I finished it to tell him to read it

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Based in Poor Assumptions

The book was interesting and makes some very pointed arguments early on. However, once the author began trying to equate modern day academia to the clerisy of medieval Europe the arguments quickly broke down.

Much of the clerisy argument is based on the idea that there is no longer a civility in academia rooted in tolerance. It looks at the ratio of liberal to conservative professors and notes that a ratio of 70 (liberal) to 1 (conservative) is not uncommon. It then draws parallels between arguments used by feudal clerisy, meant to uphold the status quo and the power of the church, with modern academic arguments for "leftist" or "liberal" beliefs about sexuality and gender. This idea was laughable even back in 2015 when the book was written.

The clerisy of feudal Europe was meant to uphold the power the church had in ruling over much of Europe. The "liberal" ideas that are being put forth by universities are in direct opposition to much of the ruling class. While I agree that much of academia is helping to uphold the status quo, this is not the way it does so.

The book also claims that tolerance was missing from the feudal clerisy, creating a monolith of thought that it was verboten to go against, and that current academia is akin to the feudal clerisy because much of current academia is arguing against conservative "beliefs" and talking points. The author believes that the current state of academia is also a monolith of "liberal" thought and cites the ratio of 70 to 1 liberal professors as evidence of this. Underlying all of this is a belief that tolerance is in and of itself good; that tolerance should be upheld for the sake of tolerance.

Much of what current academia tries to uphold is nothing more than the bare minimum needed to push back against hate speech. The idea that we should tolerate people spewing hate speech against LGBT+ people because "tolerance" is toxic, harmful, and only gives room for bigots to keep taking up space.

These criticisms are by no means exhaustive.

I gave up a little more than halfway through this book. If this book had made some misguided arguments I might have continued, but the fact that a significant portion of this book was written with such flawed premises meant I had to call it quits. 🤷🏼‍♀️

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A must read before it is too late for America

This is a profound warning to what remains of the American middle class. Either we rise up and boldly reclaim what our parents and grandparents built or we will lose all to a small minority of technocrats. Disengage from the conditioning of social media and re-engage with your neighbors. Our future depends upon it.

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Grim Truth

Well explains how we are all being reduced to being serfs. Even physicians often find themselves employees by venture capital firms that have bought up once physician owned practices. The once pro und and independent middle class now all work a masters field. The masters all have an HR department and DEI officer that regulates their public speech and even private opinions

1 person found this helpful

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  • Oisín
  • 08-09-21

Catchy title but intellectually lazy thesis

The problem of an increasingly rentier & financialised economy is a real one as demonstrated by Thomas Philipon. I was hoping this would be of similar quality to something like The Great Reversal, detailing the strangling of US competition. I had separately coined the reversion to feudalism to describe spiralling housing & living costs in the west.

However this is mainly an excuse by the author to rant & make broad statements where examples to back up is thesis are sparse or non existent. It is barely above the level of a Twitter rant saying down with SJWs. The authors claim of environmentalism as faith is particularly bizarre, & one that he makes little attempt to justify. Half way through & id be surprised if there isnt a rant about trans towards the end.

While the author hits on one or two decent headline indicators of inequality it is only to fit a pre existing narrative, he does little to embellish or further justify his arguments. Even the parts I was sympathetic too are just far too poorly contextualised or supported via studies & examples. The result being a glorified opinion blog.

I fear this may ruin the neo feudalism term for me as by association if this becomes a popular book.

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  • Thirsty hippo
  • 09-16-21

A diatribe against the modern world

Read this and you'd think there was nothing good in the world or no such thing as human progress. The author goes on and on railing against everything in the modern world in a way that is extremely unbalanced and doesn't reflect the world we live in. There is almost a narcissism to this type of Chomsky left wing self bashing that seems founded on a sense of the person's superiority to the rest of the world. It's not really helpful for those who want to live in a better world, as while trashing everything is easy, proposing solutions to a complex world is very hard. For that I'd recommend the books of Thomas Pickerty.

To the books merit the basic observation that the middle and working class are being hollowed out and a new overlord elite is forming may be valid, but the book was messy in its structure and poorly argued.

As to it's very negative portrayal of the modern world, I think a month in mediaeval Europe or parts of sub Saharan Africa would probably help the authors perspective as the last time I checked I had food in my fridge, an internet connection, access to healthcare and a police force and army to protect me, all of which are the fruits of the modern world succeeding and which are not to be taken for granted. This book is the opposite of Stephen Pincker's overely positive view of the world, maybe they should be read together as I'm suggesting reality lies somewhere in between these two extreme positions.

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  • Hamster
  • 03-31-21

Absolutely riveting / superb

A real page turner, i couldn't stop listening. The author puts his finger on everything of concern in regard to recent unsettling developments and illuminates it.

5 people found this helpful

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  • MR
  • 10-22-21

interesting and insightful but has some flaws

Kotkin's overview of current society, raises several points suggest a decline of the middle class in importance, prosperity and morality. It also makes a point of a moral collapse. This seems deeply flawed leading to a "young people suck these days" argument which damages the overall thesis. it adds fuel to the misnomer that the media keeps peddling serving as a distraction to what unabashed captial disparity is doing to our soceity. There also seems a lack of engagement with where we should go from here, other than to try a revert back fifty years. Something that seems complete pipe dream since Reagan and Thatcher. It however still has some very accurate points of a economic trend which is certainly happening. His historical summaries are also fairly insightful. Worth a read if this stuff is of interest to you- it probably should be but take it with a pinch of salt. He values the middle class above all which gets laughably bizarre at some points, as if he is correct its already far too late and ultimately inevitable.

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  • m micewicz
  • 06-15-21

very educational and eyes opening

Very educational and eyes opening, what our children are facing in their near future, problems which have been brought upon us by the greed and will to multiply the profits on the cost of the rest of the society

2 people found this helpful

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  • Lisa White
  • 06-01-21

The most important book in years

Everyone should hear the information and ideas put forth in this book. Well structured, easy to digest, good performance.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 05-24-22

Intellectually Lazy

The idea that corporate power is creating a new feudal structure based around a technocratic oligarchy is a compelling, if not particularly original proposition.

If you actually have to live in the world outside of a pressurized academic bubble and without a full suite of life's advantages - and providing that you are already paying attention - little of what Kotkin has to say will be news to you. It may be somewhat entertaining to hear aspects of your lived reality expressed with the anxious immediacy of the newly awakened; it may also be of some use to find them supported by the broad citation of statistics. Be careful here, however; despite Kotkin's claims of nonpartisanship he is approaching this topic with a distinct center-right agenda and, as no aspects of the problem are treated in serious depth, his sources are almost certainly selected to support that perspective.

Despite correctly identifying many of the most worrying trends of 21st century technocracy, Kotkin seems incapable of clearly perceiving their cause. The yawning wealth gap between tech billionaires and their corporate serfs is elucidated, but the obvious conclusion that capitalism always leads to a concentration of wealth and power is studiously ignored. The various social ills afflicting deprived areas are bemoaned, but to Kotkin the blame seems to reside more with immigrants and their descendents than with an economic structure which generates deprivation. Any hint of a redistributive solution to social inequality is treated with a kind of middle-class pearl clutching. The resulting work seems to vacillate between stating and missing the obvious.

The title of this book is on point though; Kotkin is writing exclusively for the middle-class, and distorts the historical and contemporary evidence to suit. Hard-won workplace protections are attributed not to the workers who organized for them, but to bourgeois reformers. Principles of social justice and equity are conceived as emanating from an emergent leftwing 'clericy' inexplicably aligned with oligarchs whose interests stand opposed to egalitarianism, rather than the marginalized communities from which such ideas have actually grown. It's as if Kotkin cannot conceive of any serious perspective emerging from anywhere but his own economic band. This generates a kind of revisionism that awards all of the agency to his favoured demographic; an intellectually lazy approach which produces as many wrong answers as right ones.

Kotkin has an troubling habit of superficially acknowledging an historic social issue before enthusiastically apologizing for its cause. The 'shameful' treatment of African slaves and Native Americans is mentioned in a perfunctory way before Andrew Jackson is lauded for his economic policies, and the opportunities afforded to 'everyone' by liberal capitalism are unreservedly praised. It is as if the violent extraction of land and labor can be treated independently of the fortunes they created, the economic order that they built, or the resulting disparities which persist in some form to this day. This highly selective understanding of history leads to a blinkered and uncritical appraisal of the social and economic forces that have shaped our present cultural landscape, and a misguided belief that our current predicaments are the result of a malfunctioning system rather than one which functions exactly as intended.

Kotkin exhibits a similar offhandedness to the issue of our time, namely ecological collapse - and any resulting predictions of the future are likely to be way off-target as a result. He acknowledges climate change as a reality, but instead of engaging in any clear-sighted analysis of how this issue will affect the future society he is painting, he resorts to vagueries about how the scientific consensus has not been conclusively settled and writes off the environmental movement as if it was an exclusive society of leftist media figures arriving at Davos by private jet. This is because the liberal capitalist order he has spent the rest of the book expounding in uncritical terms is demonstrably wrecking the basis for life on earth, and to engage with this fact would be to acknowledge that he has painted himself into an intellectual corner. Already this superficial approach looks suspect when writing about the future, but in a few years it will render the work irrelevant as a major factor in the socio-economic development of the next century has been practically omitted.

The Coming of Neo-Feudalism is a product of Joel Kotkin's comfort zone; its immediacy generated in direct proportion to how threatened he perceives that comfort to be. He evidently believes not only that capitalism could have worked forever without concentrating wealth in the way that it has or reaching a planetary limit, but that it actually created some kind of golden age of opportunity for all which might also have been sustained. This convenient, comfortable worldview is clearly an artifact of Kotkin's own socio-economic advantages, and in cleaving to it he fundamentally misinterprets the issues he has undertaken to investigate.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 12-28-21

Thought-provoking yet tendential

Kotkin gives a stark warning - in the near future, we might find ourselves in the new middle ages with its three separate classes, the nobility, the clerical estate, and the peasants. Chances are, most of us will end up being in the most unenviable class of mere commoners. While this is a fascinating idea, Kotkin seems rather too fond of it to recognise when facts don't always support his argument. The writing can be overly emotional and relying on its rhetoric to carry the argument rather than on thoroughly researched evidence. All in all, read and think, but take with a grain of salt.

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  • A_Del
  • 09-13-21

Must Read

The points highlight very important characteristics and conundrums of the modern civilization. The take is surprisingly global and isn’t blinding focused on the USA as if no other place on the planet mattered, as it usually happens in similar works. It’s simply brilliant.

Yes, each 3 minute segment could have an entire hour to be more detailed and layered and 360-degree viewed , but the summaries are focused, clear and backed by numbers. One can’t achieve both depth and width in terms of the spectrum of the topic, or else we’d be here for 50 hours.

Disclaimer: I am overall in 95% agreement with the author which certainly skews my judgement of the book. But in my defense I’m in 95% agreement with only one in every hundred books I read/listen.

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  • volker
  • 09-02-21

A must read for anyone who cares about their future.

A very concise and accurate portrayal of the meta trends at work. I think to get a more accurate picture one also has to take into account the other historical cycles at play. Read Wheeler, Armstrong, Harari, Davison and Rees-Mogg + Howe and Strauss to get a really accurate understanding of how the coming neo-Feudalism fits into the changing epoc of human interaction; the Information Age.

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  • merlin
  • 01-31-21

Cultural extinction through ignorance/apathy.

The author issues a data backed, hard nosed and insightful summary of the forces lined up against the fragile flame of a liberty culture.
Our liberty culture is driven by the kind of benign, agreeable and trusting relations that typify western attitudes, on a good day.
On a bad day we all too easily slip down the one way slope of tyranny, totalitarianism and despotism.
We see these forces of dark lining up to grab the proceeds of a thousand years of enlightened thoughts and attitudes.
Will we collectively co-operate is such a preventable mist of stupidity and false righteousness.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 11-09-21

Shameless presenting of misinformation.

At first when listening to this book I thought his views were just those of a well-read, clueless baby boomer who, in his quest to make sense of the world, lost the forest through the trees. However after finishing this book I have a deep suspicion that this book was not written in good faith. The Heartland institute if it hadn’t directly contributed to this book would be thrilled to see its frames being used behind the veil of progressive concerns. It’s almost as if he is clumsily trying to mimic Jordan Peterson to achieve financial success.

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  • W. Lang
  • 06-04-21

insightful call to action

Must read for any concerned citizen .. learn what can be done to save the middle class

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  • Brad
  • 11-29-22

Brilliant

Spot on, should be required reading.
I am likely biased towards the thesis in this book, so I found it excellent.
Those still aspiring to make it big in the gig economy should read this book, if for no other reason than to leave it and go get a real job which may get them ahead in life.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 08-31-22

Awesome

A great read

Thoroughly enjoyed the analysis which unlike so many these days was not political but fact based

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  • Ken
  • 07-23-22

Depressing, scary and really, really good

wow... i think the best thing about this book is that it comes across as very well researched, and completely unbiased. really good.

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  • Jason G Cody
  • 05-28-22

interesting

a great perspective on the workings of the world and a glimpse into the psychology behind it

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  • Anonymous User
  • 01-12-22

great

loved it was very good, very good wow it was good very good so good

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  • Rosemary Lee
  • 12-10-21

A summary of everything !

Explaining how we got where we are now and wh6 we'll return to the debt slavery of neo-feudalism via the digital UBI.