Asiatic Mode of Production

Also found in: Wikipedia.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

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.


Marx, K., and F. Engels. Soch., 2nd. ed., vol. 3, p. 38; vol. 8, p. 524; vol. 9, pp. 98–100, 130–136, 224–230; vol. 12, pp. 498, 710–714; vol. 13, pp. 7, 20, 110; vol. 18, pp. 543–546; vol. 19, pp. 120, 225–226, 305, 400–421; vol. 20, pp. 105, 151–152, 164–165, 180–187, 293, 636, 643, 647; vol. 21, pp. 62, 63, 130, 134, 140, 160–161, 169, 348–349; vol. 23, pp. 88–89, 97, 152, 229, 346, 352, 369–371; vol. 24, pp. 117, 267; vol. 25, part 1, pp. 194, 363; vol. 25, part 2, pp. 146, 165, 184, 345, 354, 358–360; vol. 26, part 2, p. 587; vol. 26, part 3, pp. 414–416, 432, 436–439, 450–453; vol. 28, pp. 214–215, 222, 226–230; vol. 32, pp. 36, 44, 158; vol. 36, pp. 96–97; vol. 46, part 1.
Lenin, V. I. Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 1, p. 136; vol. 13, p. 14; vol. 25, pp. 266–267; vol. 26, p. 57.
Lenin, V. I. Konspekt “Perepiski K. Marksa i F. Engel’sa. 1844–1883 gg.” Moscow, 1959. Pages 260–263.
Varga, E. Ocherki po problemam polit-ekonomiki kapitalizma. Moscow, 1964. Pages 358–382.
Vasil’ev, L. C. and I. A. Stuchevskii. Voprosy istorii, 1966, no. 5.
Vitkin, M. A. Voprosy filosofii, 1966, no. 8; 1967, no. 5.
Garushiants, Iu. M. Voprosy istorii. 1966, no. 2.
Danilova, L. V. Voprosy filosofii, 1965, no. 12.
Diskusiia ob aziatskom sposobe proizvodstva. Moscow-Leningrad, 1931.
D’iakonov, I. M. Narody Azii i Afriki, 1966, no. 1.
IGAIMK, issue 77. Moscow-Leningrad, 1934.
Istorik-marksist, 1930, vol. 16.
Melikishvili, G. A. Voprosy istorii, 1966, no. 11.
Nikoforov, V. N. Voprosy istorii, 1968, no. 2.
Obshchee i osobennoe v istoricheskom razvitii stran Vostoka. Moscow, 1966.
Pavlovskaia, A. I. Vestnik drevnei istorii, 1965, no. 3.
Semenov, Iu. I. Narody Azii i Afriki, 1965, no. 4.
Struve, V. V. Narody Azii i Afriki, 1965, no. 1.
Voprosy istorii, 1965, no. 5.
Ter-Akopian, N. B. Narody Azii i Afriki, 1965, nos. 2–3.
Chesneaux, J. “La pensée.” Paris, 1964, no. 114; 1965, no. 122; 1966, no. 129; 1968, no. 138.
Godélier, M. “La pensée,” 1969, no. 143.
Pečirka, J. “Eirene,” Prague, 1964, no. 3.; 1967, no. 6. “Premieres sociétés de classes et mode de production asiatique,” Recherches Internationales à la lamiere du marxisme. Paris, 1967, nos. 57–58.
Suret-Canale, J. “La pensée,” 1964, no. 117.
Tokei, F. Sur le mode de production asiatique. Buadapest, 1966.
Welskopf, E. Die Produktionsverhaltnisse im Alten Orient und in der griechischrömischen Antike. Berlin, 1957.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Here Sunar focuses on two concepts--the Asiatic Mode of Production and Oriental Despotism--which Marx used to demonstrate the historical development of capitalism within Europe.
As a constructionist historian Marx coins the term the 'Asiatic Mode of Production' in Grundrisse to characterize Asiatic society as being stagnant and passive.
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'.
Precapitalist Modes of Production exudes the theoretical confidence of Marxism of its period, even in its opening sentence, stentorian in tenor: "This book is a work of Marxist theory." (1) It sought out controversy, not least in the claim that there could be no Asiatic mode of production, that feudalism did not depend on serfdom, that transition needed to be understood in a nonevolutionary manner, and so on.
And therefore, his concept of Asiatic mode of production and the consequent thesis on the civilizing and revolutionary role of imperialism, which are scattered, contradictory and in journalistic form, should not be taken as a defining feature of his critical discourse.
Influenced by Marx's writings on the Asiatic mode of production, Chattip argues that historical change originated from outside the village (p.
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.
Amineh rejects both the concept of an Asiatic mode of production as well as the applicability of feudalism to agrarian empires like old Persia.
The two earliest models--the Marxist model of "oriental despotism and the Asiatic mode of production" and the "Indian historiographical model"--depict the state in medieval India as a strong and centralized political entity.
An authority on Marxism in prewar Japan, Hoston poses the question of why the Japanese and Chinese responses to Marxism were so different despite sharing many cultural roots from Buddhism and Confucianism and, at least according to Marx, laboring under the same condition of an "asiatic mode of production," which necessarily led to "asiatic despotism." In unravelling the answers, Hoston examines the political thought or "consciousness" of leading revolutionary intellectuals, which she regards as essential for shaping revolutionary movements, and focuses on how they addressed the national question as of particular importance to the success of Marxism (China) and its failure (Japan).
If his argument is that closed corporate peasant communities or the self-sufficient community implied in the Asiatic mode of production do not and have not existed in Thailand, then I have no problem with his argument.
Or by default, Marxism became trapped in the mythological contrast of the "two-roads": the open Occidental way (slavery--feudalism--capitalism), and the cul-de-sac of the "Asiatic mode of production." Amin has rejected these theses and has tried to demonstrate their Eurocentric character.