Asiatic Mode Of Production

Asiatic Mode Of Production
   Karl Marx outlined the chief stages of historical development based on different modes of production. Initially he identified three stages of development: the ancient period based on slavery, feudal society based on serfdom, and capitalist society based on wage labor. To these he added the Asiatic mode of production, mentioning and discussing it in the Grundrisse (1857–1858), the Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859), and Capital, volume I (1867). Marx elaborated different features of the Asiatic mode of production in different writings, but the chief characteristic of it is that it is a stagnant society.
   There is no private ownership of property, with ownership of property, and land in particular, in the hands of the state or taking a communal form. Marx also attributed to the Asiatic mode of production an essentially despotic form of government and very low-level technology with the economy centered around agriculture and simple handicrafts. He also suggested that a dependency on irrigation requiring a centralized administrative apparatus to organize it gives the Asiatic state enormous power. The state characteristic of the Asiatic mode of production is exceptional in that it does not represent the power of a dominant property-owning class as in other modes of production, but instead has an independent, autonomous character. Critics argue that Marx’s notion of an Asiatic mode of production is a product of a European (even Eurocentric) viewpoint, implying that the European course of development is the norm and Asian society represents a departure from this. Furthermore, it also provides a justification for imperialism and colonization by more developed countries of Asian ones, and this is evidenced by Marx’s arguing for the progressive role of the British conquest of India. However, it also introduces an element of flexibility into Marx’s view of development, by undercutting the notion of a single linear deterministic view of history where each society must pass through primitive, feudal and capitalist stages before attaining socialism. The notion of the Asiatic mode of production was raised in debates on the possible transition of “semi-Asiatic” Russia to socialism.

Historical dictionary of Marxism. . 2014.

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