ORIENTAL DESPOTISM: A Comparative Study of Total Power. By KARL A. WITT- . FOGEL. xix If so, Wittfogel’s “Oriental Despotism” will not find many compe-. Review: “Oriental Despotism, A Comparative Study of Total Power.” By Karl A. Wittfogel. Yale University Press, New Haven, , $ Download Citation on ResearchGate | Karl August Wittfogel – Oriental Despotism | Wittfogel is best known for his monumental work Oriental Despotism: A.

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Karl August Wittfogel Chinese: Originally a Marxist and an active member of the Communist Party of Germanyafter the Second World War Wittfogel was orienyal equally fierce anti-communist. Wittfogel left school in He studied philosophy, history, sociology, geography at Leipzig University and also in Munich, Berlin and Rostock and in again in Berlin.

From he studied sinology in Leipzig. He left Germany for England and then the United States. Wittfogel’s belief in the Soviet Union was destroyed with the Molotov—Ribbentrop Pactand he began to hate the totalitarian, “asiatic” nature of Soviet and Chinese Communism from Lenin to Mao. He turned against his former comrades and denounced despotis, of them, as well as American scholars such as Owen Lattimore and Moses I.

Finleyat the McCarran Committee hearings in He came to believe that the state-owned economies of the Soviet bloc inevitably led to despotic governments even more oppressive than those of “traditional Asia” and that those regimes were the greatest threat to the dedpotism of all mankind.

In Wittfogel married Rose Schlesinger. Wittfogel’s second wife was the sociologist Olga Joffe Langa Russian sociologist who traveled with him to China and collaborated with him on a project to analyze the Chinese family. Lang later published a monograph on the Chinese family and a biography of the anarchist writer, Ba Jin. He died of pneumonia on May 25, at St.

Oriental Despotism

Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in Manhattan. In the early s, Dexpotism wrote a number of communist, but also somewhat expressionistic, plays: Wittfogel is best known for his monumental work Oriental Despotism: A Comparative Study of Total Powerfirst published in Starting from a Marxist analysis of the ideas of Max Weber on China and India’s “hydraulic-bureaucratic official-state” and building on Marx’s sceptical view of the Asiatic Mode of ProductionWittfogel kael up with an analysis of Oriental despotism which emphasized the role wittfogfl irrigation works, the bureaucratic structures needed to maintain them and the impact that these had on society, coining the term ” hydraulic empire ” to describe the system.


In his view, many societies, mainly in Asia, relied heavily on the building of large-scale irrigation works. To do this, the state had to organize forced labor from the population at large. As only des;otism centralized administration could organize the building and maintenance of large-scale systems of irrigation, the need for such systems made bureaucratic despotism inevitable in so-called Oriental lands.

This structure was uniquely placed to also crush civil society and any other force capable of mobilizing against the state. Such a state would inevitably be despotic, powerful, stable and wealthy. Wittfogel believed this hydraulic hypothesis applied to Russia under the Soviet Union. The sinologist Frederick W. Motehowever, strongly disagreed with Wittfogel’s analysis, [19] but others, such as Barrington MooreGeorge Orienatl and especially Pierre Vidal-Naquet are among those who found the thesis stimulating.

Oriental despotism: a comparative study of total power

Then East German dissident Rudolf Bahro later said that his Alternative in Eastern Europe was based on ideas of Wittfogel, but because of the latter’s later anti-communism, Wittfogel could not be mentioned by name.

Bahro’s later ecological ideas, recounted in From Red to Green and elsewhere were likewise inspired by Wittfogel’s geographical determinism.

The Hydraulic Society thesis was also taken up by ecological anthropologists such as Marvin Harris. despogism

Further applications of orisntal thesis included that to Mayan society, when aerial photographs revealed the network of canals in the Mayan areas of Yucatan. Critics have denied that Ceylon or Bali are truly hydraulic in the Wittfogel sense. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Ulrich Menzel’s excellent online presentation in the Personenlexikon Internationale Beziehungen virtuell. Walter Laqueur, Young Germany Later Wittfogel wrote under the pseudonym “Jungmann” am account of youth movements drspotism Max Horkheimer ‘s compilation “Studies in Authority and the Family.

After expelling a strong radical group in the autumn ofthe KPD was basically a sect, until a majority of USPD delegates decided to join it at their party convention in October A third of USPD members ca. Buckmiller says not only because W. Hedda Korschwho was active in the school reform movement. Rose Wittfogel, born Schlesinger, also took part. They were married from other sources say to She was a sculptor, later a librarian at the Frankfurt Institute. She emigrated to the Soviet Union and worked there among other things?

For Rose Schlesinger p. This was the first wiittfogel of Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft Chinas In a short notice to a reprint of his essay on Despltism Geography, Wittfogel wittfofel he came out much stronger against the Nazis than the KPD and Komintern line wanted. Politische GeographyJosef Matznetter, ed. He soon became a leading Nazi philosopher.


Edition Temmen, Bremen, The New York Times. John Heartfield managed a half-hour late delivery of the backdrop, Erwin PiscatorDas politische Theater [new edition], Hamburg,S.

The Proletarian Theatre bill I. Programm-Ausgabe for this evening on pages ff.

With the earlier Dada and Proletkult debates, the Mehring- documentary- and proletarian-literature feud, from on became part of the long and bitter debate on literary modernism and communism, which culminated in the s onslaught on Expressionism in the Moscow journal Das Wort. The whole sorry mess desptism rekindled in the s as the Brecht -Lukacs debate. At the time, Brecht had not really been able to publish his views.

The Maoist Jan Myrdal in accused Wittfogel, Kurt Sauerland and George Lukacswho were in favour of “culture” and an “elitist” aesthetics in the so-called “Mehring debate”, to have turned Marxism into a theology and thus brought Hitler to power.

Jan Myrdal who has written about China for nearly fifty years without knowing the language, also called Wittfogel non-intellectual, uncouth “ungeschlacht” and a pretend professor. Jan Myrdal also called Wittfogel “parteikonformer Ideologe”, “spineless follower of the party line”, but while Wittfogel believed in the party at least until and still sometimes fiercely defended it until at least around he broke with Paul Massing over the Ruth Fischer revelationseven in the s Wittfogel had ideas of his own, e.

With very few others he took Marx’s idea of a genuine “asiatic” way of pre-capitalist development seriously. At a Leningrad conference inall those ideas of an “asiatic” “mode of production” were shot down and buried by the Stalinist majority. They resurfaced aroundbut by then Wittfogel was of course a non-person in communist eyes.

The first part is all there is. Wittfogel took part, as did Agnes Smedley.

Karl August Wittfogel

Mit dem satirischen Teil Die Pleitevol. Rote Soldaten had been scheduled for a second season of the theatre. Wittfogel also published a theoretical essay on proletarian theatre: On the Weimar Proletarian Theatre: Wittfogel’s review was published in Die Welt am Abendon Dec.

Retrieved from ” https: Views Read Edit View history. In other projects Wikimedia Cespotism. This despoitsm was last edited on 5 Novemberat By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Karl Wittfogel in the American Communist newspaper. The Daily Worker, German-American playwrighthistorianand sinologist.

Columbia University University of Washington. A Comparative Study of Total Power.