Difference Between Feudalism and Capitalism

Feudalism vs Capitalism

Knowing the difference between feudalism and capitalism is of interest to many as feudalism is the prequel to capitalism. Feudalism was the order of the society in medieval times across Europe and was characterized by nobles who held land rights and provided the monarchs with military service. This system had the peasants and the landless working as tenants for these nobles who protected them. With the passage of time, another political and economic system emerged that has become the lifeline of most of the western world in present times. This system also gives power to control the assets and resources to a handful in the society like feudalism. Despite similarities, there are many differences that will be highlighted in this article.

What is Feudalism?

Those who are not aware of the concept of feudalism may think of monarchy as a present day government with the land rights being given to the nobility. Common people worked as vassals in the lands of these nobles and received a portion of their produce as their means of sustenance while the rest belonged to the nobles. The nobles gave protection to the serfs but used them to provide military service to the crown in exchange for land rights. Feudalism was characterized by the principle of exchange where land rights were held by the nobles in exchange for the military service they provided to kings whereas serfs held small pieces of land in lieu of the service they provided to nobles. They could retain a part of the agricultural produce, and they got protection from the landlords in lieu for the obedience they showed towards them.


The society was divided vertically with the kings at the top and nobility in between with peasants forming the lower classes. Feudalism is all about the relationship and the obligations between the king, the lords and the vassals. With the passage of time, there was advancement in means of communication that broke the stronghold of the monarchs as people disapproved the power being concentrated in the hands of kings. The system of controlling and managing the resources got changed with other changes in the society and the world saw emergence of the social system of capitalism.

What is Capitalism?

The birth of capitalism can be seen in a political and social system where the means of production does not remain in the hands of a noble or a monarch. A few people who invest in machinery and set up factories to hire the services of a working class are called capitalists and the system is referred to as capitalism. Capitalism is defined by individual rights and in political terms, it is referred to as laissez-faire that means freedom. There is a rule of law and it is a market driven economy. Means of production and distribution remain in the hands of private individuals rather than remaining in the hands of the state. Industrial revolution led to conditions that were ripe for the rise and popularity of capitalism as wealthy people set up industries that attracted people from faraway rural places. Large scale migration of people from rural areas to cities started with capitalism.

Difference Between Feudalism and Capitalism

What is the difference between Feudalism and Capitalism?

• In feudalism, peasants remain in contact with the means of production whereas in capitalism, workers get alienated with means of production that go into the hands of capitalists.

• Feudalism is characterized by the principle of exchange where kings granted land rights to nobles in exchange for military service and nobles granted protection to peasants in exchange for a portion of the agricultural produce.

• Capitalism is characterized by free market economy and private ownership.

• According to Karl Marx, transition from feudalism to capitalism is a natural process.

• In feudalism, agriculture is the basis of the economy.


Photos By: Rodney (CC BY 2.0), Warren Noronha (CC BY 2.0)

Further Reading:

  1. Difference Between Feudalism and Monarialism
  2. Difference Between Capitalism and Socialism
  3. Difference Between Neoliberalism and Capitalism
  4. Difference Between Capitalism and Communism
  5. Difference Between Secularism and Capitalism
  • Blackbelly

    What a crock of Lies….There is no such thing as a Free Market Economy any more as there is a thing called Capitalism. Feudalism IS Capitalism……You have a dishonest article that can not or will not mention the 100 Millions of Aboriginals in America SLAUGHTERED for their LAND nor the 10s of Millions of Africans KIDNAPPED for their LABOR….

    Then you should just be quiet