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Feudalism vs. Capitalism: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Published on December 14, 2023
Feudalism is a hierarchical system based on land and service, while capitalism is an economic system based on private ownership and profit.

Key Differences

Feudalism, a medieval societal structure, revolved around a rigid hierarchy where land and protection were exchanged for service. Capitalism, in contrast, is a modern economic system where trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, not by the state.
Economically, feudalism was centered on localized agricultural production and a barter-based economy. Capitalism, however, focuses on market-driven production and monetary transactions, emphasizing profit and capital accumulation.
In feudalism, society was divided into distinct classes - nobility, clergy, and peasantry, with limited mobility. Capitalism promotes a more fluid class system, often based on economic status, allowing greater social mobility.
Under feudalism, power resided with the landowning nobility and the Church, with peasants having little to no power. In capitalism, power often correlates with wealth and economic influence, regardless of birth status.
Feudalism remained largely static, with change occurring slowly over centuries. Capitalism is dynamic, constantly evolving with technological advancements and global market changes.

Comparison Chart

Economic System

Based on land ownership and agriculture
Based on industry and market economies

Class Structure

Rigid, hereditary classes
Fluid, based on wealth and business success

Wealth Generation

Land-based, through agriculture
Investment and entrepreneurship

Power Source

Nobility and the Church
Economic influence and wealth

Social Mobility

Limited, based on birth
Higher, based on economic success

Feudalism and Capitalism Definitions


A socio-political system with a strict class hierarchy and land-based economy.
Feudalism thrived in a time when the king's word was law, and the nobles were the ruling class.


A system characterized by private property, capital accumulation, and free markets.
The essence of capitalism is the pursuit of profit through competitive business practices.


Feudalism is a medieval societal system based on land ownership and hierarchical obligations.
Under feudalism, peasants worked the land for the local lord in exchange for protection.


Capitalism is an economic system where trade and industries are privately owned for profit.
In capitalism, companies compete to sell goods and services in a free market.


A structure where lords grant land to vassals in exchange for loyalty and service.
In feudalism, knights swore fealty to their lords for land and protection.


An economic model prioritizing individual entrepreneurial efforts and wealth creation.
Capitalism encourages innovation, as entrepreneurs seek to develop new products and services.


A system where power is based on landholding and vassalage.
The feudalism era was characterized by kings granting land to nobles in return for military service.


A market-driven economy with minimal state intervention.
Capitalism thrives in environments where the government allows markets to operate freely.


An agrarian-based economic system with serfdom and manorialism.
Feudalism's backbone was the serfs, who toiled on the land to sustain the manor's economy.


An economic structure focusing on consumer choice and market demand.
In capitalism, consumer preferences drive the production and pricing of goods.


A political and economic system of Europe from the 9th to about the 15th century, based on the holding of all land in fief or fee and the resulting relation of lord to vassal and characterized by homage, legal and military service of tenants, and forfeiture.


An economic system in which the means of production and distribution are privately or corporately owned and development occurs through the accumulation and reinvestment of profits gained in a free market.


A political, economic, or social order resembling this medieval system.


(politics) A socio-economic system based on private ownership of resources or capital.


A social system based on personal ownership of resources and personal fealty between a suzerain (lord) and a vassal (subject). Defining characteristics are direct ownership of resources, personal loyalty, and a hierarchical social structure reinforced by religion.


(economics) An economic system based on private ownership of the means of production and their operation for profit.


The feudal system; a system by which the holding of estates in land is made dependent upon an obligation to render military service to the king or feudal superior; feudal principles and usages.


A socio-economic system based on private property rights, including the private ownership of resources or capital, with economic decisions made largely through the operation of a market unregulated by the state.


The social system that developed in Europe in the 8th C; vassals were protected by lords who they had to serve in war


An economic system based on the abstraction of resources into the form of privately owned capital, with economic decisions made largely through the operation of a market unregulated by the state.


An economic system based on predominantly private (individual or corporate) investment in and ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange of goods and wealth; contrasted with socialism or especially communism, in which the state has the predominant role in the economy.


An economic system based on private ownership of capital


How did capitalism emerge?

Capitalism emerged as a response to feudalism's limitations, focusing on market-driven economies and private ownership.

Were there social classes in feudalism?

Yes, feudalism had clearly defined social classes: nobility, clergy, and peasantry.

What is a key feature of capitalism?

A key feature of capitalism is the pursuit of profit through private ownership and market competition.

How does capitalism affect social mobility?

Capitalism can increase social mobility through economic success and entrepreneurship.

What defines a feudal society?

A feudal society is defined by a rigid class structure, land-based economy, and vassalage.

What is feudalism?

Feudalism is a medieval hierarchical system based on land ownership and service obligations.

How does capitalism influence global trade?

Capitalism greatly expands global trade through market economies and multinational corporations.

Is capitalism the dominant global economic system?

Yes, capitalism is currently the dominant economic system in most of the world.

Did feudalism have a central government?

Feudalism typically lacked a strong central government, with power distributed among lords.

What is a fief in feudalism?

A fief in feudalism is land granted by a lord to a vassal in exchange for service.

Can feudalism exist today?

Feudalism, in its traditional form, doesn't exist today but influences some societal structures.

How does innovation work in capitalism?

Innovation in capitalism is driven by competition and the pursuit of profit.

How does capitalism affect employment?

Capitalism affects employment through job creation, market demands, and economic cycles.

How was land inherited in feudalism?

Land in feudalism was often inherited through family lines, maintaining the social hierarchy.

What ended feudalism?

Feudalism gradually declined due to various factors, including economic changes and social revolutions.

Were women empowered in feudal societies?

Women generally had limited rights and power in feudal societies.

What role do corporations play in capitalism?

Corporations are key players in capitalism, driving economic activity and innovation.

What was the role of serfs in feudalism?

Serfs in feudalism worked the land in return for protection and basic rights.

What impact does capitalism have on the environment?

Capitalism can have significant environmental impacts due to industrialization and resource exploitation.

Is capitalism sustainable in the long term?

The sustainability of capitalism is debated, considering environmental and social challenges.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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