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A Review
by [?]

Two remarkable books are Ghent’s “Our Benevolent Feudalism” {1} and Brooks’s “The Social Unrest.” {2} In these two books the opposite sides of the labor problem are expounded, each writer devoting himself with apprehension to the side he fears and views with disfavor. It would appear that they have set themselves the task of collating, as a warning, the phenomena of two counter social forces. Mr. Ghent, who is sympathetic with the socialist movement, follows with cynic fear every aggressive act of the capitalist class. Mr. Brooks, who yearns for the perpetuation of the capitalist system as long as possible, follows with grave dismay each aggressive act of the labor and socialist organizations. Mr. Ghent traces the emasculation of labor by capital, and Mr. Brooks traces the emasculation of independent competing capital by labor. In short, each marshals the facts of a side in the two sides which go to make a struggle so great that even the French Revolution is insignificant beside it; for this later struggle, for the first time in the history of struggles, is not confined to any particular portion of the globe, but involves the whole of it.

Starting on the assumption that society is at present in a state of flux, Mr. Ghent sees it rapidly crystallizing into a status which can best be described as something in the nature of a benevolent feudalism. He laughs to scorn any immediate realization of the Marxian dream, while Tolstoyan utopias and Kropotkinian communistic unions of shop and farm are too wild to merit consideration. The coming status which Mr. Ghent depicts is a class domination by the capitalists. Labor will take its definite place as a dependent class, living in a condition of machine servitude fairly analogous to the land servitude of the Middle Ages. That is to say, labor will be bound to the machine, though less harshly, in fashion somewhat similar to that in which the earlier serf was bound to the soil. As he says, “Bondage to the land was the basis of villeinage in the old regime; bondage to the job will be the basis of villeinage in the new.”

At the top of the new society will tower the magnate, the new feudal baron; at the bottom will be found the wastrels and the inefficients. The new society he grades as follows:

“I. The barons, graded on the basis of possessions.

“II. The court agents and retainers. (This class will include the editors of ‘respectable’ and ‘safe’ newspapers, the pastors of ‘conservative’ and ‘wealthy’ churches, the professors and teachers in endowed colleges and schools, lawyers generally, and most judges and politicians).

“III. The workers in pure and applied science, artists, and physicians.

“IV. The entrepreneurs, the managers of the great industries, transformed into a salaried class.

“V. The foremen and superintendents. This class has heretofore been recruited largely from the skilled workers, but with the growth of technical education in schools and colleges, and the development of fixed caste, it is likely to become entirely differentiated.

“VI. The villeins of the cities and towns, more or less regularly employed, who do skilled work and are partially protected by organization.

“VII. The villeins of the cities and towns who do unskilled work and are unprotected by organization. They will comprise the laborers, domestics, and clerks.

“VIII. The villeins of the manorial estates, of the great farms, the mines, and the forests.

“IX. The small-unit farmers (land-owning), the petty tradesmen, and manufacturers.

“X. The subtenants of the manorial estates and great farms (corresponding to the class of ‘free tenants’ in the old Feudalism).

“XI. The cotters.

“XII. The tramps, the occasionally employed, the unemployed–the wastrels of the city and country.”

“The new Feudalism, like most autocracies, will foster not only the arts, but also certain kinds of learning–particularly the kinds which are unlikely to disturb the minds of the multitude. A future Marsh, or Cope, or Le Comte will be liberally patronized and left free to discover what he will; and so, too, an Edison or a Marconi. Only they must not meddle with anything relating to social science.”