Oriental Despotism. A Comparative Study of Total Power. Yale University Press. Ours is an age of second thoughts, and of going back to earlier writers for inspiration and new insights. Until a few years ago it seemed that knowledge progressed in linear fashion, each generation standing on the shoulders of its predecessors, and developing or refuting them at will. This blissful certainty has been seriously undermined by now, on both sides of the Iron Curtain; there is some awareness that problems and insights can sometimes disappear from view, even though they remain freely available on library shelves, and have to be rediscovered afresh, often painfully.
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Source: , vol. Irrigation and flood control, as well as roads, defense systems, palaces and tombs, are government enterprises demanding commandeered labor. The power of hydraulic states-China, ancient Mexico and Egypt-is greater than the power of government in free enterprise systems. And the agro-managerial despot does indeed possess such means. He exercises unchecked control over the army, the police, the intelligence service; and he has at his disposal jailers, torturers, executioners, and all the tools that are necessary to catch, incapacitate, and, destroy a suspect.
It differs from agrarian and industrial apparatus states in that the size, quality and use of coercion are determined by the non-governmental forces of society.
There are, however, some difficulties. No one, and least of all a Marxist, will deny that irrigation may be an important and, under certain circumstances, the most important factor in determining the mode of production and the character of political control.
It is no longer a specific skin color but a specific Asiatic institution, and the way of life stemming therefrom, which imperils Western civilization. And even though industrialization has brought about undeniable economic alterations, the terrorist social forms of control remain the same and tend to engulf the whole world.
Karl August Wittfogel
Source: , vol. Irrigation and flood control, as well as roads, defense systems, palaces and tombs, are government enterprises demanding commandeered labor. The power of hydraulic states-China, ancient Mexico and Egypt-is greater than the power of government in free enterprise systems. And the agro-managerial despot does indeed possess such means.
Karl August Wittfogel - Oriental Despotism
When he was freed from a Nazi prison in Germany, he came to the United States with his wife in and made several trips to China for research. Marx held that historical development outside Europe did not follow the pattern he saw in Europe. Europe, he wrote, developed through a process of class conflict from an ancient slave society to feudalism , then bourgeois capitalism , and from there to socialism and eventually communism. This proposition did not explain how rulers gained their absolute power and why no forces in society opposed them.
Wittfogel Wittfogel On The Hydraulic Civilization Civilizations whose agriculture was dependent upon large-scale waterworks for irrigation and flood control were called "hydraulic civilizations" by the German-American historian Karl A. Wittfogel in his book Oriental Despotism He believed that wherever irrigation required substantial and centralized control, government representatives monopolized political power and dominated the economy, resulting in an absolutist managerial state. In addition, there was a close identification of these officials with the dominant religion and an atrophy of other centres of power. The forced labour for irrigation projects was directed by the bureaucratic network.