hydraulic society

hydraulic society

WITTFOGEL's (1955) term for Asiatic society. He suggested that centralized and despotic state power could be explained as the outcome of the dependence of these Asiatic societies on extensive state-directed public works to provide and maintain irrigation and flood-control systems. However, Wittfogel's contention has not survived detailed empirical examination. Not only do many ‘despotic’regimes possess no obvious hydraulic basis, many regimes with such a basis are not despotic (e.g. see Leach, 1959, Eberhard, 1965; compare Harris, 1978). At the very least, Wittfogel's explanation is vastly overextended.

Wittfogel's more general claim to have entirely undermined MARX's assumptions about the implications of materialism are similarly overstated. His argument that his work also demonstrated:

  1. that the TOTALITARIANISM of Russian as well as Chinese COMMUNISM could be explained as building on the despotic and hydraulic legacy; and
  2. the dependence of any future freedom on a resistance to all encroachments of state power are similarly challengable. Compare GEOGRAPHICAL DETERMINISM, CULTURAL MATERIALISM. See also ORIENTAL DESPOTISM, ASIATIC MODE OF PRODUCTION AND ASIATIC SOCIETY, ORIENTALISM.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
References in periodicals archive ?
This is a particularly important dispute for Pakistan because this is a hydraulic society and irrigation water from the tributaries of the Indus river system plays a vital role in sustaining livelihoods, the economy, food security and overall social stability in this country.
Pakistan is fast becoming the hydraulic society of India, security narrative of the state will hardly be sufficient to address this, but the emerging global principle of commonality surely can take this on in the realm of science of people and sociology.
Yet engineers are still substantially involved, and this dissertation, accepted in 2013 at the University of Bonn, examines their political role in the resulting "hydrocracy." It makes substantial use of strategic group analysis, along with Wittfogel's hydraulic society hypothesis.
For millennia, Egypt has been a hydraulic society, with most of its population relying in subsistence predominantly on the River Nile.
This country is, at its roots, a hydraulic society, and water, especially for irrigation, is its most important natural endowment, upon which is based our entire social structure.