Joel Kotkin is one of America’s premier analysts of urbanism, urban economics, demographic change, and social trends. His brand new book, The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class, turns upside down the conventional liberal narrative about why the middle and working classes are under pressure. It’s not capitalism and markets, but their perversions, especially in the hands of the tech oligarchs of Silicon Valley and through the overregulation of basic occupations and industries that prevent aspiring people from attaining a middle class standard of living, especially on the left-leaning coastal regions of the country.

It does not take much imagination to make out the connections between the maladies Kotkin explains here and the riots and protests from the left of the last two weeks, but he thinks the real rebellion that we need is from the middle and working classes against this stifling neo-feudalism—a rebellion from the middle, so to speak, that will need to be both cultural and political.

Joel Kotkin joins Seth Barron to discuss China’s urbanization, class tensions in Chinese cities, and the country’s increasingly sophisticated population surveillance.

Rapid migration from China’s countryside to its cities began in 1980. Many of the rural migrants arrived without hukou, or residential permits, making it harder to secure access to education, health care, and other services. The result: the creation of a massive urban underclass in many Chinese cities. Rising tensions in urban areas has led Chinese officials to look to technology for alternative methods of social control, ranging from facial-recognition systems to artificial intelligence.

Joel Kotkin joins Brian Anderson to discuss California’s economic performance since the Great Recession, the state’s worsening housing crunch, and the impending departure of Governor Jerry Brown, who will leave office in January. After serving four terms (nonconsecutively) since the late 1970s, Brown is one of the longest-serving governors in American history.

While California has seen tremendous growth during Brown’s tenure, the state has big problems: people are moving out in greater numbers than they’re moving in, job creation outside of Silicon Valley is stagnant, and the state’s housing costs are the highest in the country.

In 2013, Joel Kotkin described the state of California as a new bastion of neofeudalism, marked by class division into the serfs, Americans dependent on government for their welfare, the yeomanry or small business owners and middle class citizens, the clerisy of government officials, media elite, and the Ivory Tower, and the oligarchs at the top, in California’s case the rulers of tech and finance. With government policies aimed to help each class that often instead solidify class barriers by giving each different group its own set of handouts, how on earth do we achieve upward mobility for all Americans and create the kind of dynamic economy that rewards risk and pays dividends for all Americans?

I spoke with Joel Kotkin about just these things. He is executive editor of He is the Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism.