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What does the word "liquidated" mean in the following snippet taken from Readings in Social Research Methods? :

When society becomes industrialized, a peasant becomes a worker; a feudal lord is liquidated or becomes a businessman.

Dictionary.com shows 5 possible meanings for liquidated, but none of them seems to suit the passage:

  1. to pay a debt

  2. to determine the amount of

  3. to convert into cash

  4. to kill

  5. to do away with

  • Maybe converted? – Lester Nubla Feb 11 '14 at 2:59
  • One synonym of liquidate is convert, and that's the only thing I can see considering the context. – Lester Nubla Feb 11 '14 at 3:02
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There seem to be two options:

The feudal lord might get killed (liquidation in the criminal world). However, since the alternative is "he becomes a business man", which implies an active choice, this seems unlikely - and a bit overly aggressive. Although this is the interpretation of choice when we look at the French Revolution.

Another option is liquidation in the economical sense of the word, which indeed means conversion into cash.

Liquid assets are assets that are readily available for spending or investment - you can read it as "cash money" (yes, it is more complicated economically, but "cash" works for now).

A feudal lord would have many possessions that are not liquid, especially real-estate. In an industrializing society, that real-estate (which as farmland or otherwise provided income) becomes valuable for other reasons (availability of natural resources, or building land).

So if the feudal lord does not convert his assets into whatever can make him thrive in the industrialized world (so, he becomes a business man), his only other options is to sell his properties, that is, to liquidate. With the proceeds of those sales, he can then live as a financially independent person outside the industrial economy.

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It's the fundamental meaning. You kill a person, you tear down a building, but you liquidate a legal entity - make it nonexistent through legal means. The physical assets still exist but are either passed on, distributed or otherwise removed from ownership of the legal entity, the people still live on but lose their legal status with the entity (and often jobs associated with it), documents are archived and so on.

In this case feudal lord is a social position, an office, a legal position. The role vanishes - and it is not specified by which means. It may be that revolution kills the person and claims the land. It may just as well be that the person goes bankrupt and takes up a different job as the feudal system gets unprofitable. It may be that the land is distributed between peasants and the feudal lord without his land is not much, so they simply "close the office" and take a different job. Or - as in the sentence - the feudal lord changes the system of feudal land rent into "hired workers" farm, becoming a businessman. No matter what the actual (physical) consequences, the social, and legal position ceases to exist - it got liquidated.

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It means the lord will either lose everything or become a businessman if he tries to invest his money in the new world.

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