Neofeudalism III: Agricultural Sovereignty and Liberalism

You, my friend, are an agricultural product

Andrew D. Knapp
9 min readNov 10, 2021
Nicoli Fechin, “The Slaughterhouse” — 1919

In this series I’ve worked to set out an intellectual model for a post-liberal politics based in pre-enlightenment knowledge about human nature. Chiefly, this system describes a tripartite society with the three core social functions of productivity, order, and metaphysical sovereignty. This chapter provides a brief description of Agricultural Sovereignty — an extractive form of authority that has become more common with the advance of enlightenment liberalism, and is characterized by a hostility to classically sovereign communities who appeal to metaphysics and non-economic values. This belief set is characterized by assumptions on the fungibility of human beings, the atomization of people from systems of metaphysics and community, and the commodification of these individuals towards an economic end. It could alternatively be called extractive liberalism, though I refer to it here by the other name because it has an antagonistic relationship towards the millenia-old traditions of classical sovereignty, and it is not merely an ideological position.

Summarizing Classical Sovereignty

The ontological functions included in classical sovereignty were well-understood constants in indo-european society, and have been absorbed into Christendom and the West generally. The systems were embodied by pre-Christian gods (think Jupiter, Ares, and Aphrodite) as well as in classical philosophy (Plato outlined these classes of society according to their motivation by Logos, Thymos, and Epithymos). They are the root of classical understandings of sovereignty, which was absorbed into the post-pagan order. France’s “estates” in the late 18th century still bore these titles, which evidences just how mimetically powerful they are, and how evolved this system became. Gorges Dumezil (a structuralist mentor of Foucault) explores this in depth if you’re interested in further reading.

As discussed earlier, there is a natural hierarchy involved in classical sovereignty, with the absolute sovereign (embodied by God), the local, military sovereign embodied by local nobles, and the productive masses governed by sexual and commercial norms (note how many gods of fertility cover both fields). Each of these domains represents a functional network within society — priests of a religion speak for or interpret scripture and the will of God, the government makes and enforces laws, the productive elements of society conduct commerce and reproduce. Taxation and tithes advance the economic interest of governments and religions, and each of these columns has its own internal power structure, and large commercial entities contract with, acquire, and otherwise govern their own space. Hierarchy is built into each network. The pope sits over priests, presidents and dictators over governments, and corporations have boards and CEOs. Within each internal power structure there is a competition to maximize authority and primacy within the hierarchy, while minimizing personal costs and accountability.

There are natural checks and balances that emerge in classically sovereign communities. To quote Schmitt, “Sovereign is he who decides the exception” — The higher someone is within a hierarchy, the more they benefit and the less accountable they are, so there is incentive for members of a network to both arrogate power they do not have at high levels, and to defect when taken advantage of by higherups. A masculine and virtous man in the classical sense is a member all three — he has a god and faith, a ruler and laws, a family and vocation.

In the first two chapters, we discussed how the liberal break with classical sovereignty has been the triumph of the economic class over the metaphysical and military classes. Economic interests dictate matters of force and faith in the present order. This imbalance has been immensely corrosive, and the West is broadly involved in a “cold civil war” between those with metaphysical values and those with economic interests but no metaphysical values.

While this narrative around an anthropological root for our politics is compelling, and a society that has these features integrated is compelling and attractive, these categories do not fully describe the post-enlightenment liberal world. They struggle to describe just how power and social organization operate in the globalist (post-Westphalian) setting we find ourselves in. Essentially, globalism violates and suborns these local, communal structures of power with something else, a competing model of sovereignty that deserves to be discussed in its own right.

Introducing Agricultural Sovereignty

Agricultural sovereignty is a product of modernism and the enlightenment. It is anti-metaphysical. It does not feature a metaphysical sovereign as a real thing, though its devotees bandy about terms they don’t actually believe.

Agricultural sovereignty is, simply put, the power a farmer or rancher has over his livestock and lands. It is extractive, and focused on the engineering optimization of livestock and crops with the end of creating value that can be extracted. It also presumes the docile nature of its subjects, and where subjects are not already docile, its first objective is to domesticate them. Where there are gains, gains must be improved in scalee and ever more efficiently harvested.

Yes, we owe civilization to language and agriculture. It is because mankind settled and began telling stories, burying their dead and building dwellings that we live in the relative comfort of a pre-fab world. Where agriculture is constrained in a classically sovereign community, we enjoy freedom from the scarcity of nature. Agricultural sovereignty describes what happens when that dynamic is applied to human beings rather than cattle.

Modern philosophy at least since Hobbes & Rosseau has laid the seeds of agricultural sovereignty. In Hobbes’ model, men band together out of fear of violent death, and accept compromises to not be subject to violent death and starvation without much regard for transcendent virtue. Under Rousseau’s model, man is born essentially free but is constrained by society’s castes and rules. These aren’t opposing views — both disgard inherited systems of virtue and sovereignty under God for a model focused on the individual’s desires, needs, and security. Enlightenment values whose mature form we refer to as liberalism assume this free association around basic needs and are ignorant of any claim to authority that does not appeal to immediate human needs.

This chapter isn’t intended to give a full account of the intellectual history of extractive liberalism, but it is intended to summarize the original thinkers and key features. The most relevant features, which merit direct discussion here, are the assumptions of enlightenment liberalism and how that translates into extraction. This is both a progressive and Progressive project — it starts with the assumption of fungibility, which supports atomization, which enables commodification.

The central tenant of liberalism is that mankind is basically fungible. That your or my wants and desires are basically equal, and that we should be free to pursue them. Our deservingness of these needs isn’t seated in virtue, instead its seated in the value of the individual. An aside could be made that the claim of universal human rights is intellectually inconsistent without the presumption of a higher power to grant those rights, but that is a topic for another day.

In this basically fungible social setting, man is stripped of his authority as part of creation subject to creation, and becomes a thing in himself. This of course does not describe reality. Different people are different and have different skills and abilities. Not all people have the same potential or the same gifts. As an Anglo-Saxon of average stature, the NBA and Boston Marathon are simply beyond my natural means or gifts. Even those of steadfast liberal persuasion have to admit that different people are different, and that all men are not truly created equal.

Present-day liberalism takes this fungibility based on individuality to an extreme, as evidenced by the focus on increasingly esoteric classifications of sexuality in modern civic life. We even have dirty words for the classically homosexual — a lesbian who doesn’t beleive men can be women or should be in women’s sports is a TERF, or Trans-Exclusionary Reactionary Feminist. Infinite classifications sexuality without the natural law assumption of gender speaks to the degree of dilution of the fundamental categories involved in human life, assuming there is anything more fundamental to a human being than their participation in sex and family, which literally connects them to others in the present, past, and future.

This extreme devotion to identitarianism actually has the opposite effect. Contra classical sovereignty, the teleological goal of agricultral sovereignty is the atomization of humans into fully isolating subcompartments. Worship of gender fluidity, or extreme racial categorization, or anything else in the so-called oppression olympics has the effect of isolating people from one another, from shared identity, shared history, common beliefs, and common values.

In point of fact, insistence on these values is considered offensive and unacceptable by the high priests of agricultural sovereignty. Note the pique certain people are worked into at the suggestion that borders are a good thing. In a cosmopolitan world, the border is arbitrary, and it is a crime to exclude people with different values from your community, because those values have no value.

Things that become homogenized and fungible are by definition commodities. They have prices and can be traded. The economic incentives around a fungible good depress the price of that good. The more milk is made, the less the price of milk is. While there may be an argument for the qualitative difference between brands, the very existence of a brand assume there is a consistent, fungible product, even if that trades above the price floor in the market.

In a homogeneous, commodified setting, participants are predictable and easy to corral. They have no higher purpose, as they have been stripped of the personhood assigned to them by God and nature in a classically sovereign setting.

What is man under agricultural sovereignty?

While we are comfortable having goods and services, things that we consume treated as a commodity, Agricultural sovereignty represents this dynamic being ported to human beings.

Cows are fungible means to acquire beef and milk, you are a fungible product to consume products, perform a job role, service debt, and pay taxes. You have as much value to the agricultural state as a heifer has to a rancher. He doesn’t want to see you killed by wolves or stolen by bandits, because at the end of the day you exist to be consumed for the rancher’s benefit.

As a fungible product, you are eminently replacable, and immigration from countries that share none of the metaphysical values that you or your community hold speaks to that fungibility. Those who champion open borders want to pay the global minimum for labor. Those tho champion easy student loans want to saddle generations with extractive debt. You need to be at work constantly, so that all of your labor can be harvested — yet oddly there is little to show for it, as your paycheck is swallowed by rents, food costs, entertainment, and debt. Your food is the opposite of nourishing, your medicine makes sick, and your immune system must be forcibly outsourced to for-profit companies for your and other’s safety. School stultifies intellectual curiosity and preaches conformity and submission to experts. In exchange for accepting submission to this system, you receive endless satisfaction of base wants — something your ancestors could never conceive of, at the expense of the mimetic systems that made their lives meaningful and purposeful.

Living under Agricultural sovereignty is a meaningless life. To prevent your defection, agricultural sovereignty needs to keep you safe and entertained, or better yet distracted. Because there is no appeal to higher things, entertainment must tickle the basest urges — sex, violence, simple tropes and fictional heros who preserve the empty status quo from those with assertive metaphysical values. Those who do espouse such values are of course “Dangerous for Our Democracy” because they deny the basic fungibility of man central to the enlightenment project and to extractive liberalism. There is no tolerance for conscience in this world, as its assertions are too fragile to bear and refute criticism.

Qui Bono?

I’ve argued previously that runaway liberalism is the product of a decay in classical sovereignty and the triumph of the commercial interests in a society over those of faith and law. Agricultural sovereignty is popular among those with strictly commercial interests, because it represents an avenue to authoritarian power and mastery of man, which is naturally tempting to those who love power and thee security that comes with it. Unlike classical sovereignty, there is no one to hold to account. Priests and politicians can be deposed, but companies that cater to our material needs do not fail.

In a way, living under Agricultural Sovereignty is worse than living under fascism because fascism can be checked and eroded, where this form of tyranny is itself an erosion of all other forms of power. One cannot get out by further destruction, only by building and restoring what is old and true.

The simplest heuristic available is to invert agricultural sovereignty by doing the opposite: joining exclusive networks as a counter to being isolated and atomized, retaining value and spending as a means of limiting extraction, preserving history and upholding natural law norms of behavior rather than being domesticated. The goal is not to replace commerce or undermine commercial success, but to properly situate it within classical sovereignty.



Andrew D. Knapp

Professional, entrepreneur, author; not necessarily in that order. Write mostly philosophy, politics, & economics.