As the Shine Cycle is set in a world that is basically medieval for about the first half of its history, it’s reasonable to ask the question: What is the role of guilds in Imperial society? Today I’d like to take some time to explore that question.
First of all, what is a guild? For our purposes, a guild is a group of craftsmen that is granted a monopoly on their craft in return for undertaking the training of the next generation in the craft, guaranteeing the quality of the craft’s production, settling disputes between practitioners of the craft, and so on.
The Imperial government—that is, its federal government—has steadfastly refused to grant Empire-wide monopolies to any guilds. This is primarily because several of its countries had granted national monopolies, which would have conflicted with or been overridden any new Imperial grants. But after the arrival of the Chosen, with experience as well as book-knowledge of modern “free markets,” the Imperial government increasingly values (initially limited) competition more than the perceived benefits of monopolies.
But even before modern capitalist economics were loosed on Imperial society, there were always a lot fewer guilds in the various kingdoms that became the Empire, particularly at their national level—and what guild charters were granted often were of limited, if renewable, duration. The reason for this is that, following the example of the Sunshine Kingdom, most countries allowed few if any patents of nobility to become hereditary, or even permanent for longer than the noble’s life, so the idea of giving a permanent monopoly rankled.
Because of this, most guilds are local affairs, given their monopoly within a town or other small district. And while they collaborate with their equivalent guild in other towns, such small guilds are not permitted to merge into larger, inter-district guilds holding both monopolies. This limits their power.
And, finally, within a few decades after the arrival of the Chosen, guilds have begun to fall out of favor, as rapid innovation has passed them by.
Any comments, questions, or other thoughts?