General Question

DaphneT's avatar

What are the five estates?

Asked by DaphneT (5740points) September 30th, 2013

From seeing that a new movie is coming out called the fifth estate, what or who makes up the fifth estate? What were the first four estates and who came up with the concept? For what purpose?

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7 Answers

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I believe the fifth estate was the press. But I’m not sure why.

thorninmud's avatar

The “estates” idea originated in the Middle Ages as a way of ordering the major players in society. The original scheme included only 3 estates: nobility, clergy and commoners. But the concept is flexible, and has been tweaked freely by various thinkers to include other groups in the ranking., and to adapt it to governing systems other than monarchies. The press was called “the fourth estate” when it became a major player in society, and various other influences have been called a “fifth” estate.

It’s a little like the “eighth Wonder of the World”; it’s not an official ranking system, so people can confer “estate” status as they see fit.

PhiNotPi's avatar

Here is the relevant wiki article, and another short one on the fifth estate.

Basically, the estates are social groups, somewhat similar to castes. They were originally nobility, clergy, and workers, but the definition has changed in the modern world.

Judi's avatar

I learned something today. Great question.

glacial's avatar

This is interesting to me! I’ve always assumed that the Fifth Estate was the press, because of the long-running Canadian TV newsmagazine of the same name. But it turns out they chose the name back in the 70s because the press was the Fourth Estate, and they were trying to imply they would go beyond what the regular press covered.

It looks like people are trying to give the Fifth tag to new forms of media, though: TV political pundits, bloggers, now the online leakers (Wikileaks is the subject of the film). I feel like this is a bit redundant – shouldn’t all of these sources of information reside within the Fourth Estate?

DWW25921's avatar

Trekkies, Star Wars, Dr. Who, Galactica, Stargate.

All have their loyal followers and like to argue as to which is best. I’m a staunch whovian with a sympathetic view of the trekkie cause.

bolwerk's avatar

@thorninmud got it. The idea came from pre-Revolutionary France, where the peasants were shat upon by the other two estates, who easily outvoted them. The fourth estate idea is really just a metaphor, befitting an industry that always has its habits mired firmly in the past.

The fifth estate can be mouth-breathing pundits, which is basically what the fourth estate coddles anyway.

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