Feudal Economy Was Based On Tradition: Are there any other plausible interpretations?
It is true that feudal economy was based on tradition and there are credible interpretation for this claim. Heilbroner describe the precarious and paradoxical nature of human behaviour of human beings. He argues that self-centeredness is what characterize human life in conjunction with cooperation. The outcome of human behaviour is what he calls ‘‘struggle.’’ Feudal economy is tradition based because of the following reasons. First, feudal economy
was based on kinship and reciprocity and tended to appear static to maintain the status quo. This is because, the economy employs repeated solutions that were used in the past and that, production, distribution and consumption problems are solved by employing problem solving techniques that were embedded in cultural patterns, customs and mores of social life. Problem solving skills were established through trial and error and economic activities that result in maximum production were accepted, distributed and retained and are used without any compromise. In feudal economic system, agents engage sometimes in exchange transactions but which are peripheral to allocation problems and provisioning.
Secondly, feudal economy were often subsistence, a common characteristic of non- industrialized societies that engaged in gathering, pastoral, hunting and basic agriculture as their main activities. In such economies, there were no growth or little growth and progress. An example of this economy that flourished on feudal economy is the aboriginal culture in Australia.
Thirdly, feudal economies depended on institutions that worked in the past. Feudal economies depended on deontological ethics and that; duties of family members, clan or tribe and reciprocity were the primary allocative mechanisms that were used. Individuals engaged economic productions that were based on means of production that had worked in the past. Other social institution such as religion evolved in such a way to reinforce traditional ways of economic production.
Fourthly, feudal economies used myth and storytelling as important ways to communicate their expectations with regard to behaviour. Feudal societies communicated their behavioural expectation to each generation and the important knowledge were inform of myth and stories. Storytelling and myth were important aspects of communicating cultural values and creation. Mythology was one of the processes used to transmit cultural expectations and values with regard to behaviour from one generation to another. Stories are also important in modern societies to create and perpetuate cultural value in societies.
In addition, principal of reciprocity was an important element of feudal economies. Reciprocity was based on duty and that societal members were obligated to give gifts where both the receiver of the gift, the giver of the gift and other societal members expected that the receiver of the gift would return undetermined favour in undetermined
time in the future. Principle of reciprocity worked by enforcing a sense of community, duty and social values. Social institutions gave structural expectations, values and duties with regard to economic behaviour. Reciprocity was an important social process element in many societies and communities members who were not willing to participate in mutual aid were sanctioned as they failed to fulfil an obligatory duty.
Furthermore, traditions and customs became less important as allocative means when the societies became complex. When communities became larger, social relationships were changed and therefore, tradition becomes less important allocative mechanism. In addition, it becomes very difficult for community members to determine the extent to which members are fulfilling their duties. Furthermore, the social pressure of enforcing reciprocity obligations becomes less effective as each community member had many relationships that were more valued.
Feudal economies are less capable of adapting to technical and environmental changes. Feudal economies do not adapt quickly to ever-changing environment and technology. Therefore, as long as there are few or no external forces with no or limited environmental and technological changes, feudal economy remain static or stable. But in cases where there are sudden environmental and technological changes, traditional solutions that are applied do not
suffice. For example, problems of drought, overhunting certain animals and desertification are some of the issues that cannot be solved by applying traditional solutions. A good example is the Native Americans who lived in the plains and their societies developed and depended upon bison. Therefore, their social structure, religions, economies and politics were all based on bison. Nevertheless, with the coming of Europeans who had firearms and introduced roads and railway couple with high demand for hides the bison were hunted to extinction levels. Thereafter, many Native American were unable to adapt to an environmental system that had no bison. Therefore, a small change can lead to social disarray that can disorganise and breakdown a society.
Other difficulties that feudal based economies have in adapting to changing environment include agricultural practices based on one or limited crop, whaling, hunting and fishing. In this primitive (feudal) communities like the Eskimos, there are no problem caused by their struggle to survive as each community member is under pressure to behave and act in the interest of his survival. This contrast with modern societies where tangible environmental pressure is lacking and the tedious social obligation web is lacking. In feudal economies, fewer survival incentives for each individual exists.