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How to Bring Them Back

By: Howard Husack, Daniel Kennelly
On: City Journal

Photo Manhattan Institute

Howard Husock is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a contributing editor at City Journal, and author of Who Killed Civil Society? The Rise of Big Government and Decline of Bourgeois Norms (September 2019), Philanthropy Under Fire (2013), and The Trillion-Dollar Housing Mistake: The Failure of American Housing Policy (2003). He recently spoke with Daniel Kennelly, associate editor of City Journal, about what cities can do to bring back residents and businesses after the pandemic, what to look for as the New York mayoral race heats up, and how conservative politicians might appeal to big-city voters.

What are your thoughts on New York’s prospects for the coming year?

In the near term, it’s hard to be optimistic. Even if a Covid-19 vaccine becomes widely available, there will be a hangover from the pandemic crisis. Families with school-age children have suffered under a dysfunctional Department of Education, and homelessness and lawlessness have spread. Many suburbanites who patronize the theater and restaurants have not even come into the city since March. A return to reliable city services is key to recovery. Read more

Feudalism Without A Soul

Casey Chalk reviews The Coming of Neo-Feudalism

Perhaps one of the great cons of the twenty-first century has been corporate America’s success in deceiving middle-class and lower-class Americans that corporations are on their side, while profiting from international tax havens and cheap foreign or immigrant labor that reduces American jobs and keeps money from American taxpayers. Major American businesses declare their woke credentials vis-à-vis Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, and other activist causes, while they send their jobs (and even sometimes their headquarters) overseas. Companies denounce “toxic masculinity” while benefiting from foreign child labor. Read more

The Never-Ending Threat of Utopia

Robert Grant Price reviews The Coming of Neo-Feudalism

Feudal times are here again. This is a thesis Joel Kotkin hammers to a fine point in The Coming of Neo-Feudalism, a clarifying study-of-the-moment presented as sweeping history.

The idea behind the book is simple: Kotkin says the social hierarchy of the Middle Ages closely traces the lines of today. If our society continues down the current path of economic disparity and social disintegration, the feudalism we left behind will return. With force. And it will be the middle class, the benefactors of liberal capitalism, who will suffer most. Read more

The Coming Post-COVID Global Order

The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated economics in the West, but the harshest impacts may yet be felt in the developing world. After decades of improvement in poorer countries, a regression threatens that could usher in, both economically and politically, a neo-feudal future, leaving billions stranded permanently in poverty. If this threat is not addressed, these conditions could threaten not just the world economy, but prospects for democracy worldwide.

In its most recent analysis, the World Bank predicted that the global economy will shrink by 5.2 percent in 2020, with developing countries overall seeing their incomes fall for the first time in 60 years. The United Nations predicts that the pandemic recession could plunge as many as 420 million people into extreme poverty, defined as earning less than $2 a day. The disruption will be particularly notable in the poorest countries. The UN has forecast that Africa could have 30 million more people in poverty. A study by the International Growth Centre spoke of “staggering” implications with 9.1 percent of the population descending into extreme poverty as savings are drained, with two-thirds of this due to lockdown. The loss of remittances has cost developing economies billions more income.

Latin America had seen its poverty rate drop from 45 to 30 percent over the past two decades, but now nearly 45 million, according to the UN, are being plunged into destitution as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic. In Mexico alone, COVID-19 has caused at least 16 million more people to fall into extreme poverty, according to a study by the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).

These trends undermine the appeal of neoliberal globalization across the developing world. The pandemic has forced people to stay in their countries, and has closed off the ability to move to wealthier places. With Western countries themselves in disarray, there’s been a growing temptation to adopt authoritarian controls modeled by China, which appears to have emerged from the pandemic and economic collapse quicker than the rest of the world. The pandemic could boost China’s great ambition to replace the West, and notably America, as the heart of global civilization.

Poverty and pestilence

In the long history of pestilence and plague, French historian Fernand Braudel has noted, there was always a “separate demography for the rich.” As today, the affluent tended to eat better and were often able to escape the worst exposure to pestilence by retreating to country estates. This pattern was evident in Rome, as the city endured growing plagues in the second and third centuries. As Kyle Harper explains in The Fate of Rome, those left behind in the city often became “victims of the urban graveyard effect.”

These differing impacts were also evident in the late Middle Ages, when plague killed upwards of half Europe’s population. One 14th century observer noted that the plague “attacked especially the meaner sort and common people—far seldom the magnates.” Of course, some of the mighty also died, but far less often than hoi polloi. Whether in the towering insulae of Rome, Medieval hovels, or the tenements of the Lower East Side, the poor have suffered from economic dislocation, infection, and death far more than the affluent.

We may be entering an age that reprises Medieval patterns of mass infections. Three decades ago in The Coming Plague, Laurie Garrett identified the rise of an “urban Thirdworldization” that creates ideal conditions for new pandemics—SARS, MERS, Swine flu, and now COVID-19. These challenges will likely not end even with a vaccine or a weakening of the virus, but may resurge in a different form. Anthony Fauci, director of America’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, already sees potential new viruses incubating in China and warns that more pandemics may arise in the near future.

Read the rest of this essay on Quillete.


Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute. Learn more at joelkotkin.com and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.

Hügo Krüger is a Structural Engineer with working experience in the Nuclear, Concrete and Oil and Gas Industry. He was born in Pretoria South Africa and moved to France in 2015. He holds a Bachelors Degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Pretoria and a Masters degree in Nuclear Structures from the École spéciale des travaux publics, du bâtiment et de l’industrie (ESTP Paris). He frequently contributes to the South African English blog Rational Standard and the Afrikaans Newspaper Rapport. He fluently speaks French, Germany, English and Afrikaans. His interests include politics, economics, public policy, history, languages, Krav Maga and Structural Engineering.

Photo credit: Jade Scarlato via Unsplash under CC0 1.0 License.

Joel Kotkin talks with City Journal About California’s Neo-Feudal Future

By: Brian C. Anderson
On: City Journal’s 10 Blocks podcast

Joel Kotkin joins Brian Anderson to discuss California’s “increasingly feudal” political and economic order, the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown on the state’s lower- and middle-class residents, what Joe Biden’s selection of Senator Kamala Harris means for the Democratic ticket and U.S. politics, and Kotkin’s new book—The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. Read more

Book Interview: Joel Kotkin Speaks on Neo-Feudalism with Financial Sense

By: Chris Sheridan
On: FS Insider

Joel Kotkin, Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and executive director of the Urban Reform Institute, speaks with FS Insider about his latest book, The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class.

Read more

Beyond Feudalism: A Strategy to Restore California’s Middle Class

Beyond Feudalism: a Strategy to Restore California's Middle ClassIn this new report, Beyond Feudalism: A Strategy to Restore California’s Middle Class, Joel Kotkin and Marshall Toplansky examine how California has drifted toward feudalism, and how it can restore upward mobility for middle and working-class citizens. An excerpt from the report follows below:

“We are the modern equivalent of the ancient city-states of Athens and Sparta. California has the ideas of Athens and the power of Sparta. Not only can we lead California into the future, we can show the nation and the world how to get there.”
Arnold Schwarzenegger, January 2007

California Preening: A State Of Delusion

California has always been a state where excess flourished, conscious of its trend-setting role as a world-leading innovator in technology, economics and the arts. For much of the past century, it also helped create a new model for middle and working-class upward mobility while addressing racial, gender and environmental issues well in advance of the rest of the country. Read more

Is the California Dream Finished?

For all the persistent rhetoric from California’s leaders about this state being on the cutting edge of social and racial justice, the reality on the ground is far grimmer.

Our new report on the state of California’s middle class shows a lurch toward a society in which power and money are increasingly concentrated and where upward mobility is constrained, amid shocking levels of poverty. Most of this data doesn’t even account for the recent effect of the coronavirus outbreak, which has pushed the state’s unemployment rate to 15.5%, higher than the nationwide rate of 14.7%. Read more

From the Right: Summer reading for political junkies

By: George J. Marlin
On: The Island Now

For some years, I have been recommending new political books readers might choose to crack open during their summer vacations. This year, however, I am taking a slightly different approach because many interesting books slated for publication in the spring have been put off due to the coronavirus pandemic.

So, for political junkies, I recommend not only recent publications, but several books published decades ago that I took down from my library shelves and reread while confined to my home. (The out-of-print books can be purchased at abebooks.com.)

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Joel Kotkin talks with Danielle Smith about the Rebellion of America’s New Underclass

By: Danielle Smith
On: Omny

Joel Kotkin talks with Danielle Smith about how many Americans are being permanently marginalized, and how this economic disparity for younger generations threatens instability, politically and otherwise. Read more