Is the United States a society based upon a unique type of technological medievalism?

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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Medievalism was defined by a complex of social, cultural, governing and distributing characteristics so that a simple explanation of "What Medievalism was like" will tend to be one-sided since a complete explanation would be as complex as the socio-cultural structure and function. Still, some of the most readily identifiable characteristics can be enumerated and compared to the United State's current socio-cultural structure and function to get a broad idea of whether the United States can be described as a society based upon a unique type of technological medievalism.

Medieval Era

In the Medieval Era, feudal lords hoarded wealth and power and demanded service upon their own explicit, unflinching terms, even to the point of the destruction of human life, happiness and health. [The Arthur Conan Doyle novel, White Company, provides a telling literary representation of this facet of Medieval life by describing a peasant rebellion.] Technology did develop during these Middle Ages, for example, the technology for ore mining. Medieval feudalism was expressed in technological areas, such as mining, in the same way that it was expressed in other areas, such as feudal agriculture (Penn State University In-Depth Project): feudal lords hoarded wealth and power and demanded service on unflinching terms to the point of destruction.

The United States Today

If a unique technological medievalism were existent in the United States today, these same Medieval characteristics would be evident and augmented, expressed and implemented through technology: a select group of men/persons would hold all the wealth and power and would demand service of the rest in the fulfillment of the power elite's own interests, and technology would enforce the power as well as serve as the "roadway" and "field" for delivering service, even to the sacrifice of happiness, health, peace and uniqueness.

Conclusion

Based on this comparison of Medieval feudalism (defined broadly) to the United States today (defined broadly), it seems entirely possible to argue that the United States is based upon a unique type of technological medievalism in which wealth and power demand service and sacrifice, implemented by and delivered through technology, from the rest even to the point of destruction on the personal, the socio-cultural and the politico-governance levels.

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The answer to this question is going to depend a lot on how, exactly, your instructor defines “technological medievalism.”  It will also depend on your own opinion about the state of American society today.  I do not know if your instructor is using the same definition of “technological medievalism” that I will use in this answer, so I encourage you to use your textbook or class notes to be sure that you have the right definition.

 I understand “medievalism” to refer to the ways that people thought and behaved in medieval times.  I understand “technological medievalism” to be a way of thinking and behaving that is similar to that of medieval times but that also embraces technology that did not exist in those days.  In other words, I believe that your question is asking whether Americans are essentially just medieval people with more technology. 

What would it mean for us to be like medieval people?  One aspect of medieval thought and behavior was their emphasis on faith and not on rationalism.  Medieval people believed what their church leaders told them.  They did not require scientific proof in order to hold certain beliefs.  Do you think that Americans are like that today?

Another aspect of medieval thought and behavior was a strong parochialism.  People in those days generally did not ever go very far from the place of their birth.  They typically did not meet more than a very few people who were culturally different from them in any significant ways. People from 50 miles away might be seen as complete foreigners.  Do you think that Americans are insular and suspicious of people who are not just like them?

Finally, medieval thought and behavior included a very strong devotion to the idea of social hierarchy.  Medieval society was separated into different levels of people who had a strong sense of being better or worse than those below or above them.  There was not really any sense that all people were equal.  There was very little upward or downward mobility.  People were born with high or low status and they kept that status for their whole lives.  Do you think that US society is like this, with the rich and powerful staying that way and the poor remaining poor all their lives?

I would answer this question by giving my thoughts about the three questions I have posed to you.  However, I would also look at your textbook and/or notes to be sure that this is the way that your instructor understands “technological medievalism.”

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