“Cities in the Neomedieval Era”. On Return of Middle Ages to Politics, Culture, Society, Law and Urbanism

Italian writer Umberto Eco and British political scientist Hedley Bull were right: in spite of the dashing technological progress we are returning to the Middles Ages. And fast. The era ahead of us is a period of fragmented identity, future shock, alienation, segregation, uncertainty and the growing impact of religion on the public life. How to manage this increasing social and political complexity?

“Cities in the Neomedieval Era”, a prognostic anthology may give you a few ideas: it offers a sneak peek into our neomedieval future. As a first publication ever to integrate different approaches to neomedievalism into a coherent prognostic framework, it is definitely worth your while.

The main thesis of the book is that in spite of dashing technological progress, the globalizing world is more and more similar to the one from the Middles Ages. What does it mean for humanity? In principle, we are internationally facing the re-emergence of some processes, patterns and macrostructers typical for the era of the Middle Ages in the present times. The trend is there, no matter how weird it may sound. Hence the overarching label “neomedievalism”.

Why to deal with this phenomenon at all? Because by reflecting on our medieval past we can ultimately benefit from a proper foresight into the neomedieval future.

From neoliberalism to neomedievalism?

It is possible that due to the reasons independent from ourselves we are now moving from the paradigm of neoliberalism to neomedievalism, which would mean a radical systemic change of political and social timespace. However, this change has not been properly described so far. Rather, neomedieval intuitions are scattered across many disciplines without any overarching order.

Although some scholars have already struggled to describe neomedievalism, their insight was limited to a single discipline at best. For example, Hedley Bull spoke of neomedievalism in international relations, whereas Umberto Eco vaguely sketched how a proper neomedievalism should look like in culture and society. In turn for the likes of Nikolai Berdyaev, neomedievalism was synonymous with nothing more than escapist withdrawal from the modern world. Faced with the multitude of “medievalisms” we decided to re-examine them. What emerges is a stub of an original, coherent concept of globalization.

The book contains an introduction and five essays, which apply principles of neomedievalism to study different aspects of global trends. The essays include contributions by Piotr Kłodkowski (culture, identity and Islamic law), Kees Terlouw (urbanism), Paweł Musiałek (international relations), Michał Zabdyr-Jamróz (sociology of cities), Jarosław Włodarczyk and myself (information and media theory).

Summary of the contents

What are these essays about?

Greg Lewicki | Return to the Future. Neomedievalism, Globalization, Cities. I explain the importance of neomedievalism for prognostics and offer a bird’s eye view on many different “neomedievalisms”. Then, based on the writings of Hedley Bull, Umberto Eco and my previous publications, I define “integral neomedievalism” or “network neomedievalism” as a branch of prognostics that seeks medieval phenomena in the disciplines such as social and political science, anthropology, urbanism, media theory and economics. Critical arguments against neomedievalism are elaborated as well.


Pawel Musialek | Europe’s Full Circle. Sovereignty of States and Cities in the Neomedieval Era. Musiałek presents the assumptions of neomedievalism in political science by juxtaposing the ideological frictions of the Middle Ages, which led to the emergence of the nation state and modern trends that weakened the state, thus paving the way for a return of the Middle Ages with its overlapping network relations. According to Musiałek, who refers to scholars such as Jan Zielonka, the European Union is a completely unique phenomenon on a historic scale, and in many layers it refers to “the concept of the political” characteristic of the Middle Ages.


Kees Terlouw | Trading Identities. Neomedievalism and the Urban Future’ Terlouw analyzes the consequences of the transformation of the nation state into the network state for cities and metropolitan areas. According to Terlouw, in neomedieval times, apart from “thick identities”, characterising, for example, nations, cities will strongly benefit from ‘”thin regional identities” and their potential to integrate network structures. These thin identities will enable the integration of urban networks irrespective of the framework set by the nation state.


Michal Zabdyr-Jamroz | Rational or Reasonable? The New Middle Ages as the Era of Deliberative Cities. Zabdyr-Jamróz argues that neomedievalism, comprehended as a direct adoption of organisational solutions developed in the Middle Ages, may be a useful tool for solving problems which bother urban planners and politicians in our times. As shown by Zabdyr-Jamróz, the adaptive nature of medieval urban policy that was built upon human spontaneity can help to effectively reconcile the interests of different groups and even create cities with a unique, individual character.


Piotr Klodkowski | Wrocław and New Delhi. On Metropolitan Cultural Identity, Islam and the Millet System. Kłodkowski addresses neomedievalism in the spheres of culture, identity and law by describing the surprising but probable consequences of multiculturalism. Based on an analysis of the institutional evolution of Islam in India, Kłodkowski concludes that in face of rapid demographic changes in Europe we may soon wake up in a fragmented reality no longer having one legal system but different systems for different groups depending on their declared identity.


Greg Lewicki & Jarosław Wlodarczyk | News wars. Information, Journalists and Media in the Neomedieval Era. We analyse the consequences of the widespread information overload and the global misinformation that follows from it. We are to expect “news wars” and epistemic chaos that will be more and more unbearable for an average consumer of information. In the future world of automated information flows it is time to reform journalism and education; and to consider the taxation of data sorting centres, such as largest social networking portals (e.g. Facebook) that have become the centres of global soul control.


Download “Cities in the Neomedieval Era”

Click on the image to DOWNLOAD PDF

Click on the image to DOWNLOAD PDF

“Cities in the Neomedieval Era” was written as part of “Social Foresight Wroclaw 2036/2056” for “City of the Future” project directed by the office the European Capitol of Culture 2016. You can download the PDF file HERE and at the website dedicated to neomedieval trends: www.neomedievalism.net.

Polish edition, called “Miasta w nowym średniowieczu” is also available.


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