What are the reasons, if any, that the beginning of industrialization and the end of feudalism coinc

While there have been countries with little or no industrialization which were/are republics*, I can’t think of any country which has industrialized and retained a de facto feudal system. The end of feudalism and the beginning of industrialization came quite close together.

A few prominent historical examples: The UK parliament started gaining more power in the early part of the 18th century and industrialization started around the latter part of that same century. France became a republic a few decades before industrialization began in earnest. The Meiji restoration of the 1860s abolished the Japanese feudal system and was the start of Japan’s industrialization. Germany was unified into a republic in the latter half of the 19th century.
Overall, the period of industrialization and the political unification of local fiefs into centralized national republics were quite close in time.

Is it just a coincidence? If it’s more than that, why are they so related? What was the process of one helping the other?

Would it be possible/realistic to have a feudal industrialized country? If not, why not? If so, how would it function?

  • I loosely define a republic as a natioanl entity where de facto political power is not based on nobility/birthright or religion. It can include democracies and dictatorship. It can include constitutional monarchies like the UK because of the de facto qualifier.

I’m confused. I thought that feudalism was mostly a medieval institution, with Russia’s serfdom being a possible exception. Wikipedia: " In its classic definition, by François-Louis Ganshof (1944), feudalism describes a set of reciprocal legal and military obligations among the warrior nobility, revolving around the three key concepts of lords, vassals, and fiefs."

Methinks what existed in 18th century Western Europe was peasant agriculture, which preceded industrial revolutions. But it’s hard to see what else could have come before it.

The short answer to your question is that feudalism and industrialization are fundamentally incompatible because feudalism equates wealth with land, whereas industrialization requires free capital. The transition from feudalism to capitalism is a necessary condition for industrialization.

A rather obscure economist named Karl Marx considered the dissolution of feudal relationships as being one of the major prerequisites for the development of capitalism and thus modernity as we know it. In a feudal society, capital is all tied to the land and in some ways the feudal landholders were locked to the land just as much as their serfs, since it was impossible to leverage the feudal obligations owed by one’s vassals into capital that could be used for profit making ventures. What he called “primitive accumulation of capital” was the process by which the landlords essentially kicked their serfs off the land, who then either returned as (now free) wage laborers to the same land they’d been working for centuries or headed to cities, providing the labor source for capitalist (and then industrialist) ventures.

This happened at different times and in different configurations in different countries, but in England and much of Northern Europe it happened in the aftermath of the Plague. In the ensuing labor shortages, the traditional grain-growing model was no longer profitable for the landlords, who changed to more profitable and less labor-intensive ventures, particularly sheep grazing. For their parts, the serfs were largely happy to go because they could get good wages in the post-Plague labor market. In examples like Russia and Japan, primitive accumulation occurred by fiat from their central governments who recognized that industrialization was necessary to compete with other nations, and thus abolished the feudal institutions that held it back.

By the way, I think you’re making a bit of a mistake in your OP in equating feudalism with monarchy or despotism. The transition from feudalism to capitalism occurred more or less independently of the transition from authoritarian to representative government-- in much of Western Europe, the decline of feudalistic institutions coincided more closely with the rise of absolute monarchy in the start of the 17th century than the rise of representative governments at the end of the 18th. In Japan and Russia, the end of feudalism was ordered by authoritarian governments who remained just as authoritarian afterwards.

As mentioned above, feudalism ties the workers to the land. Industrialization requires large numbers of workers concentrated in cities to work in the factories. Before factories can begin turning out product, there needs to be a large workforce freed from the land to work in them.

The parliament in England gained power around 1641 or so, by the simple expedient of winning a civil war and chopping off the King’s head. In fact, the conflict between the one big boss and the council of lesser powers goes back to John v Barons and the Magna Carta. The main conflict tsarted with the Stuart kings versus parliament over tax revenue to keep the government solvent.

Really, feudalism works as a means of keeping the land worked to produce food, in the absence of any other system or law; the lord protected the people who owrked “his” land.

Industrial society pretty much always means mass production of good that need to be sold. First, it requires factory workers who congregate in bigger towns around the factory, do not have or work land, but still need to eat; plus, the goods need to be sold to pay for that food. As a result, industrialism shifts the nation from farming to more a cash economy. Since the food for factory workers is bought with cash, even the farms do not escape the cash economy.

Perhaps part of what you are asking is the slave versus wage slave debate. A group kept and forced to work, when it is their own meals at risk, will be moderately productive. But a factory needs people with better incentive - work and produce or starve. With wage slaves, you can fire them and they can go look for work elsewhere. (What’s the old workplace joke - “You can’t fire me. Slaves have to be sold…”) People just perform better when they are working for a more immediate reward, cash.

Plus, if you are mass producing, there needs to be a market - enough people with cash to buy the volume of factory output. Essentially, factories slowly replaced the hand-craft tradesmen, by ramping up much cheaper production. But again, the village weaver could barter cloth for food, hand made pottery, and other items without needing to resort to cash - the factory does not accept chickens and goats, it needs cash.

Russia is cited as a feudal society that suddenly and forcefully industrialized. Even there, though, the legal ties to land were abolished in the mid-1800’s. (Apparently with severe unrest from the peasants - they interpreted this to mean the lord could kick them off “his” land. )

the transition from autocracy to democracy is a whole topic itself. Basically, as we see in the Arab Spring today, as more people grow up educated and aware that the old order is not in any way special, it becomes harder and harder to tell them what to do. It used to be in places like Iraq or Libya or Syria, the promise a strong leader gave was that he would keep order against chaos and anarchy (look at Iraq when the police disappeared); when the “cost” of order seems more than the benefit, the order is ripe for upset.