oriental despotism

(redirected from Asiatic despotism)

oriental despotism

Karl Wittfogel's (1955) now largely discredited term for ‘Asiatic society’ (see ASIATIC MODE OF PRODUCTION AND ASIATIC SOCIETY) and types of social system which he felt were related to this. ‘Asiatic society’ was a form of society which, following Adam SMITH, MARX and J. S. MILL and much 19th-century European thought, Wittfogel saw as characterized by ‘despotic’ state power. This resulted from a necessity for public works to provide irrigation and flood control, hence his alternative term -HYDRAULIC SOCIETY. Oriental despotism was contrasted with Western European forms of constitutional, ultimately liberal constitutional, government. The absence of ‘private property’ (and CIVIL SOCIETY) was seen as a further decisive factor in accounting for this difference. While there remains much support for the contention that Western European development (including constitutional state forms) constitutes a distinctive route (e.g. see WEBER, ANDERSON), the idea that this can be explained simply, or even primarily, in terms of an ‘hydraulic’ social basis has not been accepted. See also ORIENTALISM.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
References in periodicals archive ?
Stanziani provides readers with a look at Russian and Asian history from a global perspective which analyzes the impact of "economic backwardness," Asiatic despotism, and Orientalism on conceptions of modernization, economic growth, and democratization over the last three centuries.
He considers the development of the West--examining antiquity and feudalism--and then takes up the question of the Western Sonderweg, the assumption that the West was on some sort of "special path" that culminated in individuals, capitalism, and democracy (as opposed to a stagnant "Asiatic Despotism").
I do not think anyone could imagine a more solid foundation for stagnant Asiatic despotism (1968: 431-32).
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).