Asiatic Mode of Production

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Asiatic Mode of Production


The characterization of the Asiatic mode of production is first found in the correspondence between Marx and Engels (cf. K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 28, pp. 174–267) and in Marx’s article “The British Rule in India” (ibid., vol. 9, pp. 130–36). Its essence was subsequently elucidated in the “Economic Manuscripts of 1857–59,” particularly in the section entitled “The Forms That Preceded Capitalist Production.” These investigations allowed Marx to advance, in his preface to “A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy” (1859; ibid., vol. 13, pp. 1–167), the thesis that the “. . . Asiatic, ancient, feudal, and the contemporary bourgeois modes of production may be defined as progressive epochs of economic and social formation” (ibid., p. 7). Individual features and aspects of the Asiatic mode of production were examined by Marx in Das Kapital in the analysis of concrete economic categories and by Engels in his Anti-Dühring. The further development of their views on the Asiatic mode of production is bound up with the advances made in the knowledge of primitive societies and especially with the discoveries of L. Morgan.

Marxist literature of the late 19th and early 20th centuries sheds no further light on the category of the Asiatic mode of production. In some cases—for instance, in the works of G. V. Plekhanov—the Asiatic mode of production was interpreted as a special type of development that had coexisted with the ancient mode of production. In the works of V. I. Lenin the Asiatic mode is mentioned in connection with Marx’s theory of social and economic formation but is not examined in particular.

The question of the Asiatic mode of production had become a subject for extensive discussion in the 1920’s and 1930’s. The discussion soon embraced the question of precapitalist formations as a whole. It contributed to a more profound understanding of Marx’s teachings on social and economic formations, but the significance of the Asiatic mode of production and its place in the teachings were not properly elucidated. The discussion remained essentially unfinished; it was in fact renewed at the beginning of the 1960’s and ranged over the question of early class societies as a whole.


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References in periodicals archive ?
Hardt and Negri (2000: 120), in misunderstanding the nature of modes of production and in failing to appreciate their lack of singularity, are wrong to assert that when writing on India and the Asiatic mode of production, Marx obliterates 'the conception of difference in Indian society' in favour of a unilinear Eurocentric conception of 'progress'.
The rise-and-decline paradigm, for example, or the modernization paradigm, nationalist historiography in Turkey as well as the Balkan countries, the Asiatic mode of production, and the world-system theory are some of the more recent ideological and theoretical impediments blocking objective historical research.
The evidence is further interpreted in terms of Marxist social relations of production, namely an Asiatic Mode of Production in upland areas and a Germanic Mode of Production in the lowland region.