Neo Medievalism And The Sovereign Individual Age

Changing Communities, Policies, & Motivations Signal The Digital Transformation

We are living through a breakdown of the standardized lifestyles that became popular in the late industrial and early information age. It’s a direct consequence of the expanding internet, digital incomes, and access to a global population of infinite styles and preferences. These diverging lifestyles and opportunities create lasting consequences to societies motivations, how we form communities, and how we create the policies that govern us. This breakdown of standardization is neo medievalism. And it creates a massive opportunity for the emerging Sovereign Individual Class.

Here’s what you need to know about neo medievalism and the sovereign individual age.

What is Neo Medievalism?

Neo Medievalism is a modern adaptation of medievalism where non-state organizations or sovereign authorities compete for authority over a group of people. These organizations can implement rules and establish processes on the group that follows them. Sometimes, these rules come into conflict with one another because they come from overlapping authorities.

Overlapping political hierarchy was common in medieval times when the regional feudal nobility, the church, and national level sovereigns were forced to coexist. Each organization had rules and authority over their constituencies. Sometimes the church was in conflict with the nobility or a sovereign over the control of the people. In some cases, this conflict of authority led to the fragmentation of power.

This concept of overlapping authority and struggle for power is common in the digital age.

Here’s why.

Neo Medievalism Rooted in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. 

The motivations of people and nations are changing. Breaking the world into many different communities with different goals and motivating forces.

This fragmentation is happening because the digital transformation provides more access to capital and technologies that provide digital productivity. Put another way, people have access to more ways of earning a living than ever before. This ensures that they will have their lower order needs cared for. They won’t need to worry about food, shelter, or safety. And this means that their daily motivations are very different from the people that still fight for their basic needs.

This transformation creates a growing income disparity between people that earn digital incomes vs physical incomes.

And as income disparities grow, divides will also form within traditional communities and geographies. Nations and political parties will fragment based on their peoples’ access to digital lifestyles. We’ve already started to see this trend appear as a difference in voting practices for rural and coastal/city communities.

But this trend is evolving as a result of the increasing abundance of digital income generating opportunities. Many people can now earn incomes that are location-independent while others within their local community remain subject to location dependent income sources.

So what exactly does this mean for the evolution of society? And why should you care?

Digital & Location Independent Income Vs Location Dependent Income

We are seeing the evolution of two broad “voting blocks”. Location-independent earners vs those that rely on location-dependent jobs. Their needs are increasingly different and at odds with one another in policy decisions.

An ability to easily earn and service lower order needs shifts a persons focus to higher order motivations. This has become especially true for new generations of workers that work in digital age-oriented jobs. 

Digital jobs typically earn more than enough to service basic, lower order needs. Ie: if you earn money online, the chances you’ll go hungry are minimal. Because of this,  a digital worker’s focus shifts to higher order motivations. 

And digital incomes are on the rise everywhere. Especially within traditional communities filled with location-dependent workers surviving paycheck-to-paycheck. When you rely on community dependent income streams, lower order needs aren’t always a guarantee.

They are subject to localized recessions, supply chain issues, and aging industries tied to times gone by. Examples include Detroit and the auto manufacturing industry. And West Virginia’s coal mining industry. 

As the world evolves, many people relying on location dependent income sources will struggle to adapt and make ends meet. Within these struggling communities, the higher order motivations of digital workers are considered a privileged luxury. And that puts these two categories of people at odds with local policy preferences.

This has considerable consequences to how we form community policy.

COVID Highlights How Divergent Needs Impacts Policy Preferences

The consequence of increasing digital incomes is that localized recessions will increasingly harm some people but not others. 

This alters the motivations and incentives that bind communities. And this was starkly on display during the Covid-19 pandemic. Lockdown policy disproportionately harmed location dependent incomes. While digital and location independent workers were able to maintain relative quality of life. And in some cases, digital workers achieved a higher level of living. A widening of this perceived quality of life divide.

What should a person do when faced with a decision to put food on their table or stay home from work in order to survive a plague? It was a true collective action dilemma which necessitated government intervention. Ie: enhanced unemployment benefits. And now, as we come out the other side, policy decisions have become out of sync. Many policy choices harm location dependent workers without providing them a lifeline. ie: many covid era unemployment benefits are expiring.

And these divergent motivations create policy conflicts. When some can thrive working at home while others struggle to survive. Which again, has been explicitly on display during Covid. Digital workers worried about the pandemic have different needs than location dependent workers. This created conflict and tension over lockdown policy and unemployment benefits.

And so, as we progress towards an abundant society, you’ll increasingly see communities fragment in the digital age. And this fragmentation will be based on access to digital income. In many cases, location-independent income is insulated from localized challenges. And in this way, we start to see how non-governmental and digital communities form.

The Formation of Communities Not Bound By Territory

Digital and globalized communities increasingly form around higher order motivations from Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Community bonds built to provide us with a sense of love and belonging. With self esteem and self actualization. The consequence is that these communities create shifting loyalties and allegiances. Creating policy challenges at local, state, national, and international levels where there were non before.

Global warming is a great example. If your lower order needs are not cared for, you’re much less likely to care about C02 emissions. Unless you live in a coastal community with rising tides. Or an agrarian community with uncharacteristic weather fluctuations.

This creates scenarios where the social media influencers become powerful. Champions of higher-order causes. (Greta Thunberg)

Causes that may have locally insignificant community but achieve size on a global scale. And as more people begin earning digital incomes, these higher order needs will grow in an infinite number of ways. Creating challenges for localized consensus building. 

Society will begin to mirror the challenges of feudal times.

Where the church and state battled for control with each other. And a nobility played zero sum games of power and influence. This time around, the individual is no longer trapped as a serf.

Instead, with access to the means of production of our age (the internet), and the asset of our time (information capital assets), individuals can build and become influential in this neo medieval order.

One side effect of neo medievalism is the erosion of patriotism. A direct result of fragmenting loyalties across different communities. Many people will use feigned patriotism to their advantage when it suits their higher order needs and then cast it aside when it doesn’t. 

The Net Result & End State Of Neo Medievalism

Governments will Compete

The net result of this change is the continuous fragmenting of traditional communities. This creates an environment of zero-sum nationalism and at a more localized level, it creates competitive governance.

Simply put, governments will start competing with each other to win over the loyalties of these new groups of people. They’ll target policies that cater to these new buckets of motivations. And through this fragmentation process, The Sovereign Individual will emerge as the primary beneficiary.

A location independent social class that is willing to exploit the location and policy based arbitrage opportunities that present themselves in a dislocated and competitive environment. This is jurisdictional arbitrage.

New Communities Will Form Digitally Then Physically

Neo medievalism will slowly develop and then gravitate towards its end state. First as a digital cloud-based communities with a growing set of rules, norms, and mores. Ie: The Network State

It then manifests in physical form as emergent entrepots and city states. Forming cloud communities that then reorganize themselves in the physical world.

These trends are happening in real time. 




And Then The Sovereign Individual Age Will Be Born

The final consequence of neo medievalism is that it lays the foundation for the Sovereign Individual Age. The breakdown of standardization, the increase in location-independent income streams, a shift in motivating forces around the world, and the increase in competitive governance.

These trends provide unprecedented optionality to the individual. An avenue for shopping around the world for the best places to live, work, and find community. As neo medievalism continues to play out, this new class of sovereign individual will emerge as the primary beneficiary of our changing society.

Pay attention to how digital incomes impact our motivations and policy choices over the next few years. If you aspire to be a Sovereign Individual, these trends will inform your actions.

I’m tracking a new narrative that makes sense of society’s shift to the Digital Age. The goal: documenting how to become a Sovereign Individual. Giving you the facts and tools to successfully navigate digital life. I cover topics you can’t fully appreciate because you’re in the thick of it. Everything you need to know is delivered in a weekly newsletter.

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Photo by Artiom Vallat on Unsplash

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