Welcome to the New Middle Ages

By: Ed West
On: UnHerd

Today the richest 40 Americans have more wealth than the poorest 185 million Americans. The leading 100 landowners now own 40 million acres of American land, an area the size of New England. There has been a vast increase in American inequality since the mid-20th century, and Europe — though some way behind — is on a similar course.

These are among the alarming stats cited by Joel Kotkin’s The Coming of Neo-Feudalism, published just as lockdown sped up some of the trends he chronicled: increased tech dominance, rising inequality between rich and poor, not just in wealth but in health, and record levels of loneliness (4,000 Japanese people die alone each week, he cheerfully informs us).

Kotkin is among a handful of thinkers warning about a cluster of related trends, including not just inequality but declining social mobility, rising levels of celibacy and a shrinking arena of political debate controlled by a small number of like-minded people.

The one commonality is that all of these things, along with the polarisation of politics along quasi-religious lines, the decline of nationalism and the role of universities in enforcing orthodoxy, were the norm in pre-modern societies. In our economic structure, our politics, our identity and our sex lives we are moving away from the trends that were common between the first railway and first email. But what if the modern age was the anomaly, and we’re simply returning to life as it has always been?

Read the rest of this piece at UnHerd


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