Monday, November 29, 2010
Asiatic mode of Production, Marx (contd-1)
Marx seems to have introduced the concept nearly in diference to the early 19th century view that Asia was the source of all 'Aryan' peoples whose history is what his materialist conception of history was originally conceived with. He later outlined a wider conception of primitive communism, mainly under the influence of Lewis Henry Morgan's theory of the development of the human race as a whole. Sometimes the term 'Asiatic Society' was used to refer to all non-Western social forms that were neither primitive-communist nor slave-based , whilst at others it (or its more common synonym oriental despotism)was said to be applicable only to the cases of Japan and China.Underlying this referential variation was a conceptual variation. Sometimes, especially in their earlier work (and aberrantly, in Capital, 1867).Marx and Engels stressed the dominant role that the state played in such societies because of either its monopoly of land ownership, its control over irrigation systems, or its sheer political and military power. At other times - and this is what allowed them to broaden the range of societies to which the term was applied in most of their later work- they suggested that it was the communal nature of landholding that isolated the inhabitants of different villages from one another andso made them prey to state domination.
The subsequent status of the concept among Marxists and non-Marxists alike has varied with changes in the political climate.Between the two world wars, the idea was disavowed by Soviet-influenced Marxists, who probably saw it as an obstacle to the Soviet Unions political ambitions in and for the far east. In the cold war climate of the 1960s Karl Wittfogel disinterned the concept in hisoriental Despotism(1957), suggesting that the real reason for its unpopularity in the Soviet Union was the uncomfortable similarity between it and the reality of Stalin's Russia.