Worldbuilding Wednesdays: Economy — Feudalism in the Zombie Apocalypse


Worldbuilding Wednesday, a weekly blog hop by Rebekah Loper, is today, and our topic is the Economy. Economy is an all-important topic in worldbuilding which is often neglected— who wonders how Frodo managed to pay Samwise? But I’ve only just written a post about the economic collapse caused by the zombie apocalypse which happens in the third book of my as-yet-unwritten Revenant Nation series.

So I’m narrowing the focus to one aspect of the new economy— feudalism. Because if you don’t own land or any form of wealth when the Zombie Apocalypse hits, all you have is your labor power to sell.

The new wealthy of the Zombie Apocalypse world are the people who control food resources— farmers. Imagine a typical dairy farmer in Menominee county, Michigan— there are a few such farms within walking distance of my house. They will still have their herds once the Z.A. hits— but lack of fuel and electricity means that they will be needing greater supplies of labor.

Human beings who survive the zombie carnage in the cities and larger towns will need work to provide food and a place to stay. It is almost inevitable that arrangements will be made, trading the labor power of workers for a place to build a cabin and a supply of food.

The workers will be at first fully unskilled— how many people know how to harvest grass for hay using a hand scythe or even a horse-drawn hay cutter? But with practice the survivors will become skilled peasants of the European type.

The farmers will be expected to supply some of the food needs of their workers, perhaps giving them a cut of the milk, butter and cheese harvested. But the new peasants will be expected to produce some of their own food through gardens and the like.

I have read that in Ireland the peasants subsisted on their potato crop plus what they got from the family cow. At least until the potato famine came along. Although a diet of potatoes plus butter, milk and cream is nutritionally horrible— too many carbs— it was able to sustain life. The new peasants of the Z. A. world will likely have to discover a similar way of basic subsistence to survive.

The wealth of the farmers will depend on how near they are to transportation of their goods to a market. Some farms— cultivated by the military to feed the troops— will be supplied with fuel and operate in a nearly normal method. Other farms, without the market, will mostly be about feeding their workers.

At first, most of the purchases people make will be in the form of barter. Perhaps some people will be able to install solar or alternative electricity in exchange for long-term food supplies. It will probably be a few years before a stable currency is reestablished.

In addition to food and/or a chance to produce one’s own food— one can’t garden without a home to garden from— a farmer will probably have to provide a degree of protection. The Z. A. world will likely be full of would-be Negans who would love to enslave other people. A farmer who arms some of his trustworthy male workers would be able to fight off most threats of that sort.  New peasants choosing a farmer for a ‘master’ would take into consideration the ability of that master to protect his workers.

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2 thoughts on “Worldbuilding Wednesdays: Economy — Feudalism in the Zombie Apocalypse

  1. I would imagine that, just like the farmers, the military types will have a upper hand in the social structure. Trained protection is as valuable as food production. Then there are the people with the skills to fix/make weapons, simple machinery, etc. It would be a very scary place to live.

  2. It’s also scary to think about how many people will die simply because they don’t want to put out that kind of effort, even though they might be capable of it. Stories like that definitely show more of the mindset behind the idea “If he won’t work, he won’t eat.” It’s less cruel than some might think, and more of a necessity when technology is no longer on your side. And yes, definitely what Sabrina said – food, protection, and the ability to make and fix things is what will become most valuable very quickly.

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