The Asiatic Mode Of Production: Sources, Development And Critique In The Writings Of Karl Marx 9023212894, 9789023212898

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The Asiatic Mode Of Production: Sources, Development And Critique In The Writings Of Karl Marx
 9023212894, 9789023212898

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THE ASIATIC MODE OF PRODUCTION Sources, Development and Critique in the Writings of Karl Marx


x. THE ASIATIC MODE OF PRODUCTION: Sources, Development and Critique in the Writings of Karl Marx Dialect and Society Lawrence Krader, Editor Editorial Board Herman Bianchi, Amsterdam Stanley Diamond, New York Margrit Eichler, Toronto Marlis Krueger, Bremen David McClellan, Canterbury Claude Meillassoux, Paris Angel Palerm, Mexico City Peter Stadler, Zurich




VAN GORCUM & COMP. B.V. - ASSEN, The Netherlands

© 1975 Koninklijke Van Gorcum & Comp. B.V., Asscn, The Netherlands No parts of this book may be reproduced in any form, by print, photoprint, microfilm any other means without written permission from the publisher ISBN 90 232 1289 4

Printed in the Netherlands by Van Gorcum, Assen

This work is dedicated to one whose labors span over Orient and Occident: Joseph Needham, author of Science and Civilisation in China






Plan of the Book. Problems of Terminology. 1. Community - Collectivity. 2. Possession and Property.

9 13 13 13


Chapter I. Oriental Society and its Sources.


A. The History of the Oriental Society in European Writings 1. The Seventeenth Century. 2. Eighteenth Century. 3. The Nineteenth Century. B. The Village as a Corporation or Republic. C. On the Later History of the Development of the Theory of Landowners hip in India. D. Despotism and the Enclosed State.

19 19 29 43 62

Chapter II. From the Oriental Society to the Asiatic Mode of Production.'.

67 75


A. Marx’s Writings on India in 1853. B. Periodization of Social History. Its Critique by Marx in


1857-1859. C. Historical Excursus.

92 113

Chapter III. Marx on the Asiatic Mode of Production 1857-1867


A. The Asiatic Mode of Production in the Strict Sense ... 118 Table I. Plan of the Social and Cultural Evolution of Mankind in Marx, 1857-186-7.136 Overcoming of the Geographic Particularity of the Asiatic Mode of Production.I4° B. Community and Land. 164 1. Property in Land.164 2. Stagnation and Change in the Asiatic Mode of Production 168 C. Community and the State.17 5 1. The Asiatic Commune and Forms of Social Life ... 175 2. The Slavic, Indian and Peruvian Communities .... 179 D. Town and Countryside.186 Chapter IV. Kovalevsky on the Village Community and Landownership in the Orient.190 A. Ownership and Possession .190 B. Kovalevsky and Campbell on the Land Policy of Lord Cornwallis.209 Chapter V. Marx on Phear and Maine.214 A. Of Human Bondage.214 On the Dialectic of Freedom/Necessity and Freedom/ Bondage.224 The Language of Unfreedom and Freedom in the Theory of the Asiatic Mode of Production.229 B. Marx’s Critique of Phear’s The Aryan Village.231 Phear on Land Tenure Practices.239 C. Marx and Maine.242 The Sikh Kingdom in the Eighteenth Century.260 D. Political Economy and Society.264 1. Capital and the Relation of Man to Nature.264 2. Capitalism and the Relations of Man in Society .... 270

Chapter VI. Engels on the Oriental Society.271 A. Anti-Diihring.271 B. Engels on the Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State.277 C. Commodities and the Surplus Product in Capital .... 281

Chapter VII. Outline of Principles and Critique of the Asiatic Mode of Production.286 A. The Asiatic Mode of Production. A Systematic Outline . 286 B. Modes of Production, their Relation and Change .... 296 1. Capitalist and Asiatic Modes of Production.296 2. The Place of the Asiatic Mode of Production in the System of Karl Marx.300 C. Critique of the Theory of the Asiatic Mode of Production 304 D. The Outcome of the Theory of the Asiatic Mode of Production.317 The Village Republic and Headman.317 Labor as Bound and Free.320 E. “The Relation of the Asiatic Mode of Production to the Origin of the Political Economy, Civil Society and the State.”.327

PART II Karl Marx. Excerpts from M. M. Kovalevskij (Kovalevsky), Obscinnoe Zemlevladenie. Priciny, Khod i Posledstvija ego Razlozenija. Cast’I. (All Published). Obscinnoe Zemlevladenie v Kolonijakh i Vlijanie Pozemel’noj Politiki na ego Razlozenie. Moscow 1879.343 Introduction.343 Text. English East Indies


Algeria.399 General Bibliography.40 Indices



This work owes a profound debt to a number of people who helped and sustained it in its course. It was first discussed with Karl Korsch during the period 1947-1953; Dr. Hedda Korsch later placed many materials of his, both directly and indirectly related to this work, at my disposal. The International Institute of Social History made available materials in connection with an earlier work, of which this is a further development, and which have been here applied. In particular, the skill and coopera¬ tiveness of Mr. Ch. B. Timmer, sometime Associate Director of that Institute, should be noted. Much is also owed to my old friend, Dr. Angel Palerm. Eve Johanson, of the British Library, and Mrs. V. C. Weston, of the India Office Library and Records, solved a number of bibliographic puzzles. Dr. Ibrahim al-Haidari helped in transcription problems. Klaus Hesse drew up the index of names. Dr. Barbara Krader was involved in all the later stages of the work, in particular, the organi¬ zation of the bibliography and the control of the edition of the notes from M. M. Kovalevsky by Karl Marx. Dr. Dick Coutinho, of Van Gorcum, showed the way to solve many difficulties in bringing out this, which is a most complex piece of work. Such quality as the book possesses would be poorer, and its publication long delayed, without the contributions, which are a pleasure to acknowledge, of these and many more beside. This in brief is the material shape and cause of the book. Its place in the development of the work on the Asiatic mode of production should be traced. The idea is originally that of Karl Marx, but it long remained dormant. The literature on the Asiatic mode of production has grown from a rock to a cape to a peninsula. After a brief emergence in the 1920s and early 1930s, the theory was again taken up in the past two decades. However, that literature has largely fed on itself. Here, save in one or two cases, in which the subjects raised called into question Marx’s own formulations, current debates have been eschewed. The tasks of the book are other; they are threefold: The first is to direct the discussion of the Asiatic mode of production to its origin, the writings, both published and unpublished, of Marx. The second is to lay bare the sources whence Marx’s theory arose. The third is to develop the XI

theory in a systematic form, and to examine both the theory and its sources critically. The first and third tasks are inseparably related. Marx did not bring out his theory in one place, nor did he give it a definitive form. It is found scattered through his works, partly expressed, partly implicit. The most extensive of his formulations on the Asiatic mode of production will be found in his notes and comments on a number of writings which he made late in his life, notes and comments which have only recently been published. Marx’s excerpts and notes on Sir H. S. Maine and Sir J. B. Phear, which have a direct bearing on the Asiatic mode of production, were published in The Ethnological Notebooks of Karl Marx, Van Gorcum, 2nd ed., 1974 under my editorship. A further segment of these posthumous materials of Marx are of the same nature; they are his notes on the work of M. M. Kovalevsky, and form the second part of the present volume. On the basis of the published and un¬ published materials of Marx, the main outlines and further developments of the theory of the Asiatic mode of production are here set forth. One may relate the Asiatic mode of production to control of water, or to forms of property in land, or whatever pleases; here the discussion is returned to the points which Marx gave to it, with the relative weight assigned to them. No less important than its critical exposition is the task of relating the theory of the Asiatic mode of production to the critique of political economy, that is, to the main body of Marx’s materials, or the critique of capital itself. It will be shown that the Asiadc mode of production is far from primitive, but contains the same relations and moments of political economy and society as are contained in the capitalist: in both, commod¬ ities are exchanged and produced, capital is formed, These relations are more fully brought out in modern political society, bourgeois society, which is the most highly developed and most many-sided organization of production in history. This is the major theme in Marx’s Capital. They are already evident, although not in so high a degree, in the Asiatic mode of production, which belongs in the same category of political economy and society as the capitalist. In the reception of the previous work mentioned, The Ethnological Notebooks, the accusation has been made that it supports a thesis of Social Democrats, viz., that Friedrich Engels flattened out the work of Marx. This thesis is not generally attributed to them, but comment on that attribution will be left to them. I will not do so, not being of their number. It is not my own thesis that Engels flattened out or simplified the work of Marx. This was once said by Georg Lukacs, and of late by Jean-Paul Sartre. The present publication, which continues the work of Engels, and which was further advanced by men so differently



constituted as E. Bernstein and D. Rjazanov, itself repugns the detrac¬ tions of those who see the contributions of Engels called into question thereby. (In correspondence with friends and disciples, Engels expressed Marx’s intellectual superiority; that was a matter between the two men. Outside that circle, it is not meet that comparisons be made in general.) In their praxis the two men were one; the further from praxis they went, in their theory, they were other. There has been a wide and growing interest in the publication of the new materials of Marx. Not only is The Ethnological Notebooks in re¬ edition, but translations in Japanese, German, Italian, Spanish, French and other languages are under way. In its internal proportions, the present work differs from the earlier one; here one manuscript by Marx is published, four in the other. The matter in both is closely connected.



The social sciences have passed through a repeated cycle of development at different times. Those who professed these studies at first drank the heady drafts of politics before turning to the sober concerns of economy and society. At the beginning of the modern capitalist period of history, Machiavelli, Jean Bodin and certain Jesuits, Calvinists, Lutherans of the time, were political writers in the first place; if they thought of the society at all, they did not think of it as a whole. That politics is a part of the social whole, indeed a subordinate part, and is only apparently its leading principle, was not an early thought, but a late one. The study of the Orient does not differ from tiffs general rule. The European writers who dealt with Asia in the seventeenth century at first took up the study of the forms of political authority, which they characterized with the catchwords, despotism, tyranny. Only in the nineteenth century was the society in the countries of Asia acknowledged as a subject of study unto itself. At first the study was taken up as an abstraction, as though there were but one Oriental society, later as the many societies in Asia, each existing in its singularity, concretely. There is no secret about this transition from political to social concerns, nor about the transition from society as an abstraction to society as a concretion: the idea of society as we now understand it is the product of the nineteenth century thought, and so is the Oriental society, both abstractly and concretely. The world of nations had been until then taken up as a field of operations, whose peoples were to be manipulated as on a field of battle. The writers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in Europe advised princes, wrote laws, or thought to do so. These men ascribed to themselves the role of agent, their bird was the lark, which greets the sunrise, and not the owl, whose flight is at dusk. Karl Marx brought out the theory of the Asiatic mode of production in several stages. Before he developed that theory he swiftly recapitulated the steps which European social thought had taken: in his youth Marx made a fleeting reference to the Oriental despotism, but this characteri¬ zation was a mere rhetorical flourish.1 In the second stage, or the first 1 See Marx, Debates on Freedom of the Press. (Rbeinische Zeitung, no. 139, 1842.) There he I

Introduction actual one he addressed himself to the concept of the Oriental society as a whole. In it he brought out the economic factors at work, but paid the most attention to the political and social characterization of the society, and it remained at a distance from the subject matter. This stage is represented in his articles written in 1853 for the Neiv-York Daily Tribune, and in his correspondence with Friedrich Engels at that time. In the next stage, which was begun in 1857-1858, he formulated the theory of the Asiatic mode of production in a general way; there he initiated the inquiry into the internal economic relations in a specific way, and at the same time, he set forth the legal and political forms in their economic relations. But he only initiated this work, which still required further development. Moreover, he had not yet found the characterizing term to be applied to this new conception; this he introduced in 1859, when he wrote for the first time of the Asiatic mode of production. This theory was further developed in the 1860s, in the writings which culminated in the first volume of Capital.2 There the theory is found in a strict sense, but it is not systematized, being expressed here and there in the text. Moreover, the theory is there set forth in terms of a critique to which it is marginal. The opposite of this must now be take up. Capital has as subtitle, A Critique of Political Economy. It is not solely the critique of capitalism. It is the critique of the economy of political society; the economy of that society is political economy, and reaches the highest level yet attained in the relations of production, pro¬ ductive capacity and class antagonisms of capitalism. The political econ¬ omy undergoes several stages of development before it attains the level of the capitalist mode of production and the corresponding form of quoted from Herodotus, History, Book VII, ch. 135, in which the answer made to the Persian Satrap, Hydarnes, by the Spartans Sperthias and Bulis is given: “Hydames,” they answered, “you are a one-sided counsellor. You have experience of half the matter, but the other half is beyond your knowledge. You understand a slave’s life, but never having tasted liberty, you cannot tell whether it is sweet or not. If you had known what freedom is, you would have bidden us to fight for it not only with the spear, but with the battle-axe.” (MEW i, p. 77.) (Rawlinson translation. Everyman’s ed.) This mode of viewing the Orient was not taken up by Marx further. After Herodotus, Aristotle associated the East with the regime of despotism. Most meanings of the term despot have been pejorative since then. See R. Koebner, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 1931. The Oxford English Dictionary mentions, however, that “In modern Greek, despdtes is the ordinary appella¬ tion of a bishop.” Allusions to customs of the Rajputs of India and to the Vedas were made by Marx at this time {Rtmnische Zeitung, nos. 193, and 221, 1842. See MEW 1, p. 93 and p. 80). The allusions had a point which had little to do with India; their target was German and European customs. 2 Karl Marx. Grundrisse der Kritik der Politischen Okonomie 1857-1858. Zur Kritik derpolitischen Okonomie, 1859. ^as Kapital. Marx wrote Kapital, I-III, as well as the Theorien iiber den Mehrwert, in 1861-1867.


Introduction society. Once the primitive mode of production has been surpassed, the relations of production of political society are developed through several levels before the capitalist is achieved. These are the Asiatic, the ancient classical, and the medieval modes of production. All these modes are comprised in the political economy; the societies of the Asiatic, ancient, and medieval as well as the capitalist modes of production are comprised in political society. In Capital, Marx brought out the critique of political economy from the standpoint of the capitalist mode of production; the Asiatic mode of production, being at the farther end of the scale of political economy, was peripherally subjected to his critique. The present work is the first step in the critique of the beginning of the development, in the whole, of political society and economy. Let us return to the brief survey of Marx’s studies of the Asiatic mode of production. About a decade after the completion of Capital he ex¬ tended the material base of the theory of the Asiatic mode of production, making a more intensive use of the materials, and undertook the critique both of the theory and its sources. This task was begun, but not finished by him, in regard to the relations of society and production outside the capitalist sphere, in the ancient and Asiatic societies, in 1879-1881. In this, which is the final stage in the development of his theory, Marx’s studies of the works of M. M. Kovalevsky, L. H. Morgan, Sir Henry Maine and Sir John Phear enabled him to make explicit that which was partially expressed and principally implicit in the foregoing stages of the 1850s and 1860s, to comprehend the transition of mankind from the primitive to the civilized condition, and to relate theory of the Asiatic mode of production to the general theory of the social evolution of mankind. These are our inferences drawn from his literary remains; the integration of the parts of the theory was not achieved by Marx, at the end of his life; we have but the indications and outlines to work with. With the publication of The Ethnological Notebooks of Karl Marx3 we now have one of the bodies of materials pertinent to this end; there Marx’s studies of social evolution are set forth in the form in which he left them; there is much in Marx’s ethnological notebooks that is pertinent to theory of the Asiatic mode of production, just as his theory of the Asiatic mode of production bears upon his theory of social evolution. The present work has a twofold purpose, the first being to

3 The Ethnological Notebooks of Karl Marx, Lawrence Krader, ed. The Notebooks contain the excerpts and comments by Marx from L. H. Morgan, Ancient Society, 1877; Sir J. B. Phear The Aryan Village in India and Ceylon, 1880; Sir H. S. Maine, Lectures on the Early History of Institutions, 1875; and Sir John Lubbock, The Origin of Civilisation, 1870. On Kovalevsky, see below, ch. IV.


Introduction bring together Marx’s materials on the Asiatic mode of production, which, in view of the important relevance of his researches in 1879-1881 is a wholly new field of investigation, and to comprehend it, as far as possible, as a whole, and for its own sake. The second purpose is to formulate the theory of the Asiatic mode of production in relation to the theory of the social evolution of the human kind, and at the same time, in relation to the theory and practice of colonialism. The two tasks are related, for the problem of social evolution is an underlying one in Marx’s writings from his writings in the 1840s until his latest drafts, and is partly implicit, partly explicit throughout; the problem of social evolution is at the same time a current one. The question of theory and practice of colonialism and its critique is no less relevant to the twentieth than to the nineteenth century. In order to achieve these aims, the present work places the theory of the Asiatic mode of production in a twofold context: the first is the place within Marx’s own writings; the second is the literature out of which it was developed. This literature has been worked through virtually in its entirety, insofar as it is relevant to Marx’s theory. In the present work, the order of the two contexts, or the twofold context, is reversed.

In order to understand a subject, it is important to understand what it is not. Thus, what Marx wrote about the theory of the Asiatic mode of production bears at the same time upon its difference from the capitalist. Marx wrote of the Asiatic mode of production as a process of historical development which is different from the historical process in Europe, for the epochs of the economic formation of society from classical antiquity to feudalism to the modern capitalist society are found to have succeeded one another in Europe and only in Europe. Thus the writings by Marx on the Asiatic mode of production, fragmentary as they are, tell us not only about the contrast between the mode of production in the traditional civilizations of Asia, in their difference from the capitalist mode of production, but also about the historical antecedents of both. To be sure, the Slavic, Germanic, Celtic and other historical develop¬ ments provide important variations on the general theme of the transition of mankind from the primitive to the civilized life; these and other early historical and protohistorical accounts would be included in the center of our study if its primary concern were the evolutionary process as a whole, of which the Asiatic mode of production is, as we shall see, a part. But though our theme is limited, yet we will touch, if marginally, on the relations and oppositions between the Asiatic and capitalist modes 4

Introduction of production, in the context of the social evolution of mankind in general. The Orient is the direction of the sunrise, Levante in the sailing di¬ rections of the Mediterranean. By general usage it came to mean the lands of Biblical reference and history: ex oriente lux. By further con¬ vention the Orient has referred to the entire continent of Asia, or, alternatively, the ancient empires of the Orient: China, India, Persia, or parts and combinations thereof. The term has come to include the erstwhile empires of the ancient east lying along the Nile valley, the Tigris and Euphrates, as well as the Ganges. These were the Oriental empires known to the Greeks and Romans. In modern times, the Orient has come to include the lands of the Arabic conquests and those which fell to the Turks, extending across North Africa to Algeria, Morocco and the Atlantic. A part of the Orient also lies in Ethiopia, which is included in the geography of the Semitic family of languages. The term ‘Oriental society’ appears to have been first applied in the present context, resuming the previous references to the subject, by J. S. Mill.4 His usage was without the definite article, to indicate a geographic location, and not to characterize it, using the proper noun rather as he would a common noun, and not a formal geographic or social category, which would have reversed the appelation again, making it into a new proper noun. It is not clear that he intended thereby to establish a scientific generality for he brought out the differences between the Oriental nations as much as their common features. He nowhere indicated that he had a unitary social system in mind. Since that time the Oriental society has been spoken of as one would speak of the feudal or the capitalist societies. Generally, the great empires have been intended by the usage, with or without the article: China, India, Persia. Japan, Burma, Siam, Indonesia are usually omitted; Ceylon is included because of the Indian relation. The States of Central Asia, such as Khiva and Bukhara, are sometimes included by extension or analogy to India and Persia; the Mongol empire of Chingis Khan and Arabia are likewise held to be marginal Oriental zones. The Turkish empire was now included, now omitted from the list. During the seventeenth to mid-nineteenth centuries, which is the period of our concern, the merchant interest, colonial interest, and the attendant missionary and scholarly interests in India and China among the nations of western Europe were unfolded. The Oriental society exists nowhere, being an abstraction constructed 4 J. S. Mill. Principles of Political Economy. 1848. Friedrich von Schlegel, Philosophic der Geschichte. 1828-1829. Schlegel in Lecture 8 of this work refers to the “Asiatic intellect” and to the “generally unchangeable uniformity of Oriental manners and Oriental society”.


Introduction by Europeans, each with an interest of his own in advancing it in one or another of its aspects: One author dwelt on its despotic government, the second called it a tyranny, the next called attention to the stagnation of its economy, a fourth to its closed nature, a fifth smiled upon the Chinese empire as the ideal land of the philosopher-kings. Variations of the abstract notion were composed accordingly as one or another Asian land was chosen to fit out the intentions of the author. The negative of this thesis is the positive one: the societies of Asia were, insofar as they were taken up in this connection, all political societies; they were not primitive, they had the historical priority in their technological ad¬ vancement and the complexity of their civil systems; their literatures and historical records exceeded those of Europe in their antiquity. The theory of the Oriental society has a kernel of reality within it: Different though they were from one another, yet the nations of the East had features in common which caused them to appear as a system, far different from the varieties of the European political systems when taken as a body than were the differences in each continent, when internally compared. This was particularly the case in the prime of expansion by the capitalist powers, from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries. The theory of the Asiatic mode of production has its history. It is not a chapter in the history of the nations of Asia, it is a part of the history of political economy, philosophy, social anthropology, and their critique; at the same time it is a part of the history of capitalist society in Europe. The prehistory of the theory of the Asiatic mode of production is found in the early capitalist period, as a part of the attempt of the writers and thinkers of that time to grasp their own history and com¬ prehend their society. The initial ideas and observations that contributed to the formation of that theory came from the travellers, merchants, sailors, diplomats, who went to the East in the seventeenth century seeking careers or private gain or commercial advantage for their respective countries. Their writings were reflected on and digested or caricatured by the philosophers, historians, political economists, of the eighteenth century, few of whom were concerned with the study of Asia for its own sake, but were rather formulators and agents of policies of their own lands. This judgment is intentionally negative, and should be modified in the case of Adam Smith who, by the breadth and acumen of his insights stood above the others of his time in his studies of the Orient, at least as compared to those who were not themselves Orienta¬ lists. Among the latter, Abraham-Hyacinthe Anquetil-Duperron and Sir William Jones stand out above the average. Generally, the works of that time were written with particular policies at home in view, and ab¬ stractions concerning the distant lands. The speculations about the


Introduction Oriental despotism or tyranny, the forms of landownership in Asia, the Oriental society, supported at one time the mercantilist policies, the advocates of free trade, the East India Company, at another the utili¬ tarians, the liberal interests, and the colonialists throughout. In the early nineteenth century, these travel reports were still taken as objective fact; they were supplemented by the reports of colonial administrators, particularly the English, whose writings will be taken up in the following pages, together with the exposition of their interests as far as they are known. Marx read and cited certain of these travellers and administrators. We will attach in this connection particular im¬ portance to the knowledge of India and China by Adam Smith and Hegel, there being several reasons for this: first, the sources that Marx, Adam Smith and Hegel drew upon are jointly part of a common body of literature which fed from and fed back into the increasing knowledge of Asia by Europeans. Second, Adam Smith and Hegel each exercised a direct influence on Marx’s thought, of which he had made us conscious. Moreover, each had a bearing on Marx’s development of the theory of the Asiatic mode of production. Others on whom Marx drew, such as David Ricardo, made no such contribution to Marx’s studies of Asia. Third, Adam Smith and Hegel have places in the history of thought which are important both in themselves and in reference to the Orient. Only slightly less important to our purpose is the work of Richard Jones, whose writings on India were applied by Marx both in Capital and in the Theories of Surplus Value. The theory of the Asiatic mode of production moves in a direction that is different from the usual theory of the social evolution of humanity developed in the nineteenth and twentieth century. The latter body of theory is generally the bearer of a typological classification of human societies; the categories of the primitive, of savage society, or of animistic society, belong to such typologies. They are broad classifications, too broad in the cases just mentioned; moreover, they are defective links in an evolutionary chain, for they contain no analysis or criterion of the transition from one type to another. In this sense, they are fixed types, and stand to evolutionary types properly so-called as the biological classifications of Aristotle and of Linnaeus stand to those of Charles Darwin and of subsequent thinkers. The nineteenth century social evolutionists as a rule thought of transition from one type to the next as an unexplained leap, save in the case of intervention of higher stages in the advancement of the societies at lower stages: the example that is encountered is the case of England in India. The Asiatic mode of pro¬ duction is not here analyzed as a type or stage. On the contrary, particular social-economic conditions are here analyzed which, by their continua7

Introduction tion or change, have contributed to the stability or change of the society in which they are found. These conditions on the contrary are far from being a stage, for they are spread over many eras, social formations, and historical courses, in many variations, in the Old World and the New World before Columbus: as an example, see the discussion of the state as community in the third chapter, Pt. I, below. For Marx, the study of the Oriental societies was a minor theme within a major one; in this book, the priorities of Marx at the time that he wrote Capital are reversed; his priorities at the time, 1879-1881 are affirmed. This reversal and affirmation is more apparent than real, as will now be indicated. Marx’s constant purpose was the critique of political economy. If the writings pertaining to the Asiatic mode of production, that served as Marx’s sources, are here introduced, together with other materials of the same kind, it is in order to grasp the background to the theory of the Asiatic mode of production, their relevance to it, and the place of the whole in the critique of political economy. The system of the Asiatic mode of production is more abstract than the capitalist. The relation of the Asiatic mode of production to the capitalist is that of the potentiality to the realization of the potentiality. Historically, the productive and social forces inherent in the system of political economy are seen in their beginnings in the Asiatic mode of production. Their realization was observed by Marx; the older and the later systems came into direct confrontation, the last fragments of the older form having disappeared in India and elsewhere in Asia under the impact of European capital. Although the critique of the political economy of the capitalist mode of production is the major theme, the critique of the Asiatic mode of production is important at once for its own sake and for its relevance to the positing and the critique of the system of political economy of capital as a whole. The distinction between the major and minor themes is thereby negated; political economy is one and the same from this viewpoint, being subject to the same laws. Moreover, we are now dealing with the entirety of political society, over the whole course of its evolution. This is the society in which the division arises, whereby some do labor for others. This division arches over the Asiatic, the ancient and all other forms of po¬ litical society and economy, or the forms of political economy, whose vast system reaches its peak in the capitalist mode of production. That system, which is present in germ in the Asiatic mode of production, is unfolded before us. The theory of the Asiatic mode of production leads in three directions: 1. It is the forerunner of the system of political economy of capitalism. As such it can only be comprehended when the full system of the 8

Introduction political economy of capital is laid bare. Since this has been done, it is then possible to anatomize the political economy of the Asiatic mode of production. 2. The system of the Asiatic mode of production points forward to the development of the economy of political, that is, civil, society, or political economy. At the same time it points backward to the transition from primitive economy to political economy and from primitive society to political society. As such it is a period in the for¬ mation of society, and of the evolution of society. This mode of treat¬ ment of social evolution is in opposition to the bulk of such writings, particularly in the usual, academic schools, which treat the same matter formally on the one hand, uncritically on the other. Here the social evolution of mankind is analyzed in terms of bondage and freedom of labor, the formation of social classes, class individualization, and the State, the extraction of rent and tax from the villages, the first appearance of commodity exchange, the accumulation of property and its formal establishment and sequestration in private hands. 3. The system of the Asiatic mode of production has been destroyed on the impact of colonialism; it is then possible to describe its theory. At the same time, the colonialist impact, which took place in the period of expansion of European capital, in the early centuries of the modern period, effected a profound change on the form of colonialism as well. As a result, that period came to an end as well, and a new form of colonialism, in the twentieth century, took its place. Each, colonialism in Asia, and the Asiatic mode of production, destroyed the other. At the same time, the theory of the Asiatic mode of production is here converted into its opposite; it is developed in a way that strips it of its geographic limitation. It is a category that is applicable to the New World as to the Old.

The Plan of the Book This book is divided into two parts. The first part begins with the exam¬ ination of Marx’s source relative to the Asiatic mode of production; the entire body of Marx’s reading in this field is taken up. In this, the first chapter, the sources that Marx read are related in their context, in reference to the like literature of their time; further, the use made by others at that time of these same materials is discussed. (N.B. The body of literature relative to the Asiatic mode of production read by Marx is not the same as the entirety of Marx’s readings in the field of Asian economics and history; reference to works of this latter type is given in bibliographic additions to the notes, chapters II and III.) The second and third chapters deal not with the literature, but with the use that 9


Marx made of it; here the stages of development of the theory of the Asiatic mode of production is set forth. This closes the survey of Marx’s publication on the subject, but not of his writings. Marx’s un¬ published notes and commentaries, which have appeared in print posthumously, on contemporary works which had a bearing on the Asiatic mode of production, are taken up in chapters IV-V. Here is contained much that is new, and these materials should provide for their readers a material base and a frame of reference for the discussion of the Asiatic mode of production, the evolution of political economy and society, and the critique of colonialism, that supersede the literature that has been available on these subjects until now. A systematic outline of the theory of the Asiatic mode of production, and the critique of the same is given in chapter VII. The second part contains Marx’s excerpts and comments on Kovalevsky’s work, on communal property, as they concern the Asiatic mode of production. These are given in full, for the first time, in a faithful rendering, in English. These matters are taken up, generally, in the chronological order in which they were introduced by Marx. The order in the last chapter of part one, however, is not chronological but systematic. Chronology here is here applied in two senses: the first is the history of the theory of the Oriental society from the seventeenth century to the middle of the nineteenth. Together with the history of the theme of the sovereign landlord as landowner, or land tax as ground rent, that is, the confluence of the public and private sphere of social life. This is external history, connected with the history of ideas. The first history is related to the general events of European history, the opening up of trade with the Orient, the era of absolute monarchy, together with the theses of mercantilism, free trade, physiocracy, utilitarianism, classical political economy, that are related to these events. The second chronology as history is the internal development of Marx’s critique of capitalist political economy with reference to its effect on the countries of Asia. Few indigenous sources were used in the development of the theories of the Oriental society and the Asiatic mode of production; those that were used were not always applied in a critical way. The main sources that were applied to the Indian questions were those of British officials of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, leading in some cases to problematical results, which will be brought out in their places. Marx began a critical work on the sources in his very last studies, those made from Kovalevsky, Phear, and Maine, in reference to Asia. A comparison of the works of Marx and Engels in regard to the study io

Introduction of the Orient is added. In this connection, the task begun in an earlier analysis is here carried forward.5 It was at one time fashionable to disparage the interest in obscure authors of works on jurisprudence, Gneinzius or Gryphiander of a bygone period. This disparagement did not discourage the continued production of works in the footnotes of which these names still appear. We will not make this mistake, while questioning, nevertheless, the references to the Orient and the value or merit thereof in the works of de la Mothe le Vayer, Wolff, Baudeau. These works are of interest perhaps for the insights which they afford into the minds of thinkers whose mental strength may lie elsewhere; the Oriental topics which they deal with are made relevant to our purposes because of their reception, whether direct or indirect, by Marx. More substantial though still to be strictly questioned, the writings of Franpois Bernier, Mark Wilks, George Campbell, John Phear and Henry Maine, as they are taken up here, are not primarily sources for the knowledge of India, but for Marx’s knowledge of India. The limitations which are confronted in the study of the Asiatic mode of production are twofold: The first is the same as the limitation on the study by the ancient Romans of their ancestral institution, the gens. The law of the gens, or the ius gentilicium, was composed long after the gens had lost its most important functions, and had been absorbed into the civil society of Rome, the political society of the ancient world. The gens had been formerly an institution of the Romans, and had been transformed, torn down, transcended in the process of establishing the historical Roman society and the State; at that later time the gentile law was first written down. In the same way, Julius Caesar, in writing of the Gallic wars, referred to the law of the Celtic and Germanic peoples. We note that in all these cases, the system of an era is set down when the era has come to an end; we reduce it to order, create a system, that is possible only after the decline of the institution. This is what has become of the Asiatic mode of production. We also conclude that the rules of the gens or of the village community of the Asiatic mode of production are not the rules set down by the people who lived and were related within those institutions themselves; they were developed by others in reference to them, whether their descendants or foreigners. The rules of the Asiatic mode of production, just as the gentile rules, cannot be varied or overturned by the creative lore and acts of people who are now dead. The ancient Romans, when they wrote down the gentile law, were alive, 5 Lawrence Krader.

The Work of Marx and Engels in Ethnology Compared, 1973. =

Ethnologie und Anthropologie bei Marx, ch. 2. See below, ch. VI.

Introduction but the gens was an empty form, and this is the same for the Asiatic mode of production. The second limitation arises out of Marx’s own researches into ancient society. In addition to his treatment of the related social institutions of the Slavic, German and other peoples, Marx took up the village communities of Asia, and all these together comprise variants in one form or another on the general theme of the village communities in their historical development. The relations of the different forms of the village communities and of their histories to each other cannot be taken up in the present work; but what is most important is that Marx devel¬ oped a more general category of the institutions of ancient society, in which he brought together the village communities of traditional India with the gens of ancient Rome in a common perspective, having taken up the latter in his studies of the work of L. H. Morgan. Marx came upon Morgan’s conceptions after he had developed his own theory of the Asiatic mode of production. But he surpassed Morgan: Morgan’s gens is a group of kinsmen; Morgan had no idea of community, of territorial grouping other than the kin group, which shares a common tilth and its product. His idea of the social unit that is the bearer of evolutionary change of society is therefore caught in a defective because one-sided perspective; it is a defective dialectic. But the community taken alone is likewise defective unless it is related to the system of kinship, of con¬ sanguinity and affinity of the society. Marx in his notes on Morgan introduced his own combination of the two sides, kinship and community, having found the concept which brings the two sides together and overcomes the defect in the dialectic.6 Since this work has the sources, historical development and critique of Marx’s own theory of the Asiatic mode of production for its object it cannot go into the discussion of the theory in the twentieth century in a systematic way. The exposition of the fate of the theory after the death of Marx would require a study unto itself. Discussions of these topics will be found in Lichtheim, Hobsbawm, Pecirka and Vitkin, Godelier, Sofri,7 Wittfogel, Tokei.8 For an indication of the later development of the theory we point to these writings and the literature there cited; a

6 Ethnological Notebooks, op. cit., pp. 203 and 241. pp. 22of.

See Krader, Ethnologie bei Marx, op. cit.

7 George Lichtheim. Marx and the ‘Asiatic Mode of Production,’ 1963. E. J. Hobsbawm, Introduction. In: Karl Marx, Pre-Capitalist Economic Formations. 1964. Maurice Godelier. Sur les societes precapitalistes. Gianni Sofri. Uber asiatische Produktionsweise. Jan Pecirka, Die sowjetischen Diskussionen uber die asiatische Produktionsweise. V. M. Vitkin, Vostok v filosofsko-istoriceskoj kontseptsii K. Marksa i F. Engel’sa.

8 K. A. Wittfogel. Oriental Despotism. Ferenc Tokei. Sur le ?node de production asiatique.


Introduction brief criticism of Wittfogel will be found in the text below, as the occasion to go more deeply into Marx’s ideas: it is not our primary task to engage in controversies with contemporary writers, for that would withdraw attention from the expressed object of this book. Further, we have no intention to elucidate what Marx “really” meant; that would be an illusion by those who feel that they have the gift of second sight. We intend as full an indication of the origins of Marx’s theory as possible, together with its elaboration, and the critique of its limits.


1. Gemeinde - Comm unity - Collectivity The discussion of the village community, or Dorfgemeinde, in the Orient was begun in the eighteenth century; at that time it was already con¬ sidered to be inseparable from the question of ownership, sale and purchase of land. At first, it was proposed that land in the countryside around the Coromandel Coast, in India, was held by village communities in common, subject to restrictive covenants of purchase and sale. Members of the communities held the land in private possession, but could not alienate it to a non-member of the community; it could only be acquired through purchase by another member of the community. This position was later modified, and it was then discovered that some land could be alienated to another who was not a member of the com¬ munity. But the fact remained that at least one type of land existed which could not be alienated outside the community, and which remained within its government. The distinctions made in reference to practice in Coromandel were lost to view during the discussion of landownership in the nineteenth century, wherein the participants were less concerned with current practice than with the reconstruction of an “original” state through interpretation of the ancient texts, together with extrapolation and projection of a selected aspect of current practice onto a hypothetical past. It was then held by some that the village owned the land in common, by others that the land belonged to the king, or to the individual cultivators by a third inter¬ pretation. Throughout most of the nineteenth century, it was supposed that there was a single original system of land tenure in India; this idea was propounded by Maine, Kovalevsky and Phear.

2. Besit^jPossession and Eigentumj Property The modern discussion of possession and ownership begins with the *3

Introduction work of Savigny who sought to make, by his application of historical principles to the law, the Roman system of ownership and possession actual in the modern period. He distinguished between possession and ownership, holding both to be legal categories, and he followed the Roman Law of the Twelve Tables in making out possession to be a means or stage on the way to ownership. Possession is both positive, by which the possessor’s own exertions upon a thing are physically possible, and negative, whereby any alien exertion with a like intent can be impeded; taken together, this constitutes detention.9 This system was taken up by the later writers in the sense that pos¬ session is an inferior right, ownership the superior; possession is either a means to the end of ownership, or it is a part of a whole, the right of possession forming part of a system of ownership. Possession as a means to the end of ownership is a phase of a temporal sequence; possession conceived as a part of a whole is a system that is stable, without further development of a right to a thing over time. In the pre¬ sent work, the first relation, possession as a means or stage leading to ownership, comes into the system of land tenure in India when the

* Friedrich Carl von Savigny.

Das Recht des Besides.

Marx studied the Pandects with

Savigny, and his Recht des Besides, in 1837. {Karl Marx. Chronik seines Lebens in Ein^eldaten, p. 4). He attacked Savigny (Rheinische Zeitung, nos. 179, and 221, 1842. MEW 1, pp. 86-92 and 79-85.) The attempts of late by Professor J. O’Malley a. o. to seek out the influence of Savigny on Marx have a grain of fact, but must also be taken with a grain of salt. The in¬ fluence is exaggerated.

The matter is being studied by Mr. C. Levitt.

The question of

possession was taken up by G. W. F. Hegel, Philosophic des Rechts, §§54sqq. This formula¬ tion had a decisive influence on Marx, which will be taken up in the following, Ch. II.B and IV.A. On Hegel, see also Franz Rosenzweig, Hegel und der Staat, vol. 2, p. 108. P. J. Proudhon, Qu’est-ce que la propriety founded his system of law and government on the distinction between possession and property, and concluded his work with his proposals respecting agricultural land, “Individual possession is the condition of social life; ... property is the suicide of society.”

He called for the suppression of property. (1966, p. 307.)


Marx on property as theft, Kapital I (MEW 23, pp. 643b) An original possession in common was proposed by Karl Bucher, Emile de Laveleye, P. Viollet, who adopted a closely related set of positions at the end of the nineteenth century

A variant on this was advocated by

R. Hildebrand, Recht und Sitte auf den verschiedenen mrtschaftlichen Stufen. A contrary position was taken up by Max Weber, Der Streit um den Charakter der altgermanischen Sozialverfassungdes letzten Jahrzehnts; id.. Die Agrarverfassung und das Problem des Agrarkommunismus.

Also George von Below, Territorium und Stadt, id., Das kurze Leben einer viel

genannten Theorie. Further in regard to theories of communal possession of the soil, and the discussions pertaining to theories of the same, see Ethnological Notebooks op. cit., pp. 58 et seq.

On the

relation of possession and ownership, see Marx, Kapital IE, Ch 37, (MEW 25, pp. 637 ff). Paul Viollet, Le caractere collectif des premieres proprietes immobilieres, 1872, was noticed by Marx, Bibliographic notes to his excerpts from Kovalevsky, ObSIinnoe Zemlevladenie (see below).

Introduction system appears to be breaking down. Marx operated with the presuppo¬ sition that when the system was stable, and its stability was demonstrated in that it had a duration which extended over many centuries, the right of possession by the individual cultivator, the family cultivating the land, took its place within the right of the village community to ownership of the lands cultivated by the total sum of its members. At one point Marx held the possessory right to be absorbed in an overarching right of sovereignty which rested on the one hand in the village community, on the other in the political society, and the State; Marx intended to return to this and work it out. Here the reader will find some indications of his further work in this regard. The relations of possession and ownership on the one hand, occupancy and property right on the other, are connected with differences in the practices between the different peoples in the different historical periods.10 However, in the theoretical discussion of peasant practices in the nineteenth century in Russia, and in other countries, in the nineteenth century, the distinction between possession and property was left unclear. It is out of this alternative to Marx’s usage that Kovalevsky’s writings emerged, and this is reflected in some of Marx’s terminolo¬ gical and theoretical adjustments. Thus the writer Beljaev referred to Russian peasant holdings as possession, vladenie\ Efimenko and Engel’mann referred to it as property, sobstvennosf. Kovalevsky referred to peasant village community land holding or tenure in India and elsewhere as possession; Haxthausen referred to the Russian practices as possession (in German, Besit%).n Kovalevsky later altered his usage, 10 The article by W. Hamilton and I. Till in Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences, 1933, vol. 12, is an example of this inadequacy. They wrote of feudal possession without specifying which feudal regime they had in mind, nor which definition of property. The article by W. Cook on Ownership and Possession, op. cit., vol. 11, is superior. The matter has been dropped in the International Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences, 1968. 11 Kovalevsky applied the term zemlevladenie, ‘possession of land , in the work discussed in Ch. IV, below. He varied his usage, however. See his Tableau des origines et de revolution de la famille, 1890. (Ocerkproiskhoidenija irazvitija sendi i sobstvennosti, 1939.) Here ‘property’ was sub¬ stituted for ‘possession’, by Kovalevsky.

The usage in Kovalevsky’s day was no less con¬

fused: See I. D. Beljaev, O po2emel’nom vladenii v Moskovskom gosudarstve.


1831.I. Engel’mann, O priobretenii prava sobstvennosti na zemiju P° russkomu pravu, 1859. Eckardt, Der russische Gemeinde Besitz.

Baltische und russische Culturstndien, 1869.


J. v.

Keussler, Zur GeschichteundKritik desbauerlichen Gemeindebesitzesin Russland, 1876. A. Efimenko, Krest'janskoe zesnlevladenie na Krainem Severe, 1884. Note. Marx considered the Slavic peasant communal property to be a modification of the original or Oriental form.

See his Grundrisse, op. cit., pp. 396b Our task will be limited to

the Oriental or Asiatic problem, and will not take up the Slavic aspect, which will be the subject of a separate undertaking. August v. Haxthausen, Die landlicbe \Zerf as sung Russlands, was excerpted by Marx. 19, p. 107. Engels referred to him (MEW 4, p. 462).


Introduction without explicit remark. Marx, in his notes on Kovalevsky, silently substituted the usage Eigentum, property, for Kovalevsky’s of vladenie, in possession, the notes on India and Algeria. Marx’s usage is in conformity with the practice which he had set forth in his writings in 1857-1858.




i. The Seventeenth Century Our knowledge of other peoples grows slowly and with difficulty. Marco Polo brought reports back to Europe in the thirteenth century of the vast extent, population and wealth of the empires of Asia, but stood accused of exaggeradng and earned the name of Marco Millions. He tried to tell what he had seen, but he saw only selectively, and recalled in his later days in prison only the wealth of the kings and not the poverty of the common people. The public of his time likewise had a restricted grasp of the matters he had to recount. The seventeenth century travellers to the East had an easier fate, the reports of Sir Thomas Roe, William Methold, Adam Olearius, Francois Bernier, Jean Chardin, Jean Tavernier, Jean de Thevenot were accepted and their authors honored; the literate and interested public of Europe was prepared for their accounts; ministers and merchants made use of them. Niccolao Manucci’s account of the Great Mogul Empire succeeded all too well, having been taken over by an editor who made free use of it. The accounts were no more circumstantial than those of Marco Polo, but the social life of the different countries of Asia was now seen from a standpoint that was agreeable to the different sectors of informed opinion, which, by their social development in Europe now understood how to read the works of travels and apply their lessons in their own interests: mercantilists, physiocrats, French philosophes, Scottish moralists, the Catholics and anti-Catholics. In the accounts of the European travellers to Asia in the seventeenth century, the Oriental peoples were represented as living in either utter want or luxury and the government of the Orient as despotic, the power of the autocrats who ruled the various countries of Asia being arbitrary, absolute and unbounded. The courts of these despots were far removed from the peasant villages in the manner of life, their opulence and show were as impressive as the condition of the tillers of the soil was miserable. The travellers were not interested in the village life, their concern was *9

Oriental society and its sources with the courts and the sovereigns whom they served and with whom they traded. Yet in that same century the misery of the peasantry of western Europe contrasted no less sharply with the sumptuous and sumptuary life of the royal courts, and the rulership of Europe in that period is generally characterized as absolutist. The difference between India and Europe at that time was not great, but the western parts of Europe were rapidly developing a changed condition, particularly in England, the Low Countries, France and Germany and northern Italy, and a profound difference from the Orient therefore. Already, the merchants and manufacturers had begun to increase in wealth and numbers, while social revolutions which secured their political power had not yet, as we now know, taken place. The literature was the work of Dutch sailors, English and German diplomats, French, Italian and English merchants. This literature, which related the affairs of India and the lands of south and southwest Asia, is distinquished from the reports of the Catholic missionaries in Peking, which provoked the controversy over that land in which the philosopher was king. The writings of the merchants about the Orient were closely related to economic policy of the respective European countries as they were to political speculation, yet the differences in the levels of economic development between Orient and Occident were rather anticipatory than actual: They made much of the misery of the Oriental peasantry, whereas they could have observed the same conditions at home; they anticipated the changes of those conditions in the Occident. Oriental lands were lacking stable social orders, whether a merchant class or hereditary nobility, standing between the monarchy and the village cultivator's; the distance between the top and the bottom of the Oriental peoples was great. Gold in India and Persia was buried in the ground or else carried about the person as ornaments; it was not cir¬ culated as money, as it was in Europe. The Oriental agricultural product was large in aggregate, but the amount produced in the individual agricultural plot was small. Certain products of the handicraft industries of China and India were regarded with favor in Europe for their high quality and ingenuity of technique, but European opinion came to be convinced of the superiority of the industrial arts and sciences at home. Moreover, although the anti¬ quity of the civilizations of Asia was recognized, at the same time the stagnation of the ancient traditions of cultivation and government had to be accounted for by Europeans who were living through the period of rapid change of their own ancient institutions. These matters became the subjects of philosophical, legal, moral, historical, political reflection in the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century. 20

Oriental society and its sources In the eighteenth century, the explanations of the stagnation in Asia and rapid change in Europe were sought outside the realm of human affairs: god, innate superiority of race, and climate were invoked to account for the difference. The discussions were obscured by the different interests of the European advocates of the Oriental society. The accounts of the difference which were confined to the realm of human society became prominent in the nineteenth century. Judged from the standpoint of the present day, the writings of the eighteenth century and even the nineteenth had but a limited amount of data in reference to Asia; but there was little awareness of this weakness revealed in those past reflections (a weakness from which we are today not free, although the awareness of it is greater). The lack of mindfulness of the limitations of factual knowledge was directly connected to the infant state of development of the sciences of man in the eighteenth century, whereby many concepts such as society, culture, social history, were poorly understood and explored. These limitations were of opposing kinds: On the one hand, the literate civilizations of Asia preempted the most prominent place in the writings of the European Enlightenment, and the eighteenth century generally. Writers of that time sought to understand the European developments in a context that was wider than Europe alone. The problem which was partly raised to the consciousness of these writers was that profound changes had been effected throughout Europe in the early period of capitalism, and they stood at the beginning, not at the end, of the process of comprehension of the changes, just as they stood at the beginning, and not at the end, of the processes of change. One of the means that they applied for their better under¬ standing was the comparative study of Europe and the Orient; but their object was not that of societies or of civilizations, but the comparative studies of polities and their histories. The object of their comparative study was the form of rulership, law, and the political or moral judgment of the origins and effects of these. To these aims and means the political economy was later added. The best of the writers of the early period of capitalism, from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries, knew well the European historical course, which they traced back to Biblical and classical antiquity.1 By the eighteenth century the materials of these


The Book of Ser Marco Polo.

Sir Henry Yule, ed., 1920-1926.

Marco Polo. The Description

of the World. A. C. Moule and Paul Pelliot, ed. The best work about Marco Polo is Leonardo Olschki, Marco Polo’s Asia. Jean Bodin knew of Asia through his readings of the Bible and of classical authors. This was also the reading ambitus of Hugo Grotius and of Thomas Hobbes. Bodin was an early writer in the modern period on the Asiatic despotism.

See his work, Les six livres de la


Orintal society and its sources authors was enriched and they began to draw upon the books about China, India and Persia produced by the ambassadors, merchants, missionaries from Europe. At first the European judgments were gross and the characterizations stereotypes; further, their object was not the Orient itself, but the judgment of the Orient was a means to another end, for their world of action and thought was Europe. It cannot be denied, moreover, that their materials were not only few, but also had not been well grasped by them. On the other hand, although the comparative study of civilizations was developed precisely in the eighteenth century, the study of Asian political systems operated under further restrictions: First, the interest of those writers who dealt with Asia was in the moral lessons for Europe that they could draw. Second, even this interest was not universal; many of the minds who dealt with historical matter either ignored or

republique. Book IT, ch. 2: “And in all the Bible, the scripture speaking of the subjects of the kings of Assyria and of Egypt always calls them slaves; and not only the holy scripture but also the Greeks at every turn who wrote that the Greeks were free and the Barbarians slave: they meant the peoples of Persia and of high Asia. Likewise the kings of Persia in declaring war demanded water and earth, says Plutarch, to show that they were absolute seigneurs of goods and persons (des biens et des personnes). It is why Xenophon in the Cyropedia writes that among the Medians it is a fine and laudable thing that the Prince is proprietary lord (seigneur proprietaire) of all things.” Bodin, loc. cit., distinguished between three forms of monarchy: seigneurial, royal and tyrannic.

“In the royal monarchy, the subjects obey the laws of the monarch, the laws of

nature, natural liberty and ownership of goods remaining with the subjects. The seigneurial monarchy is that in which the prince is made seigneur of the goods and persons by right of arms and war, governing his subjects as the father of the family governs his slaves.


tyrannical monarchy is that in which the monarch, despising the laws of nature, abuses the free persons as slaves, and the goods of his subjects as his own.” The seigneurial monarchy was the earliest among men, but is found seldom, as examples Bodin mentioned the States of Tartary and Muscovy; he added that the king of the Turks is also called Great Seigneur, he being the seigneur over the goods and persons, gentlemen of his house are called his slaves. See Bodin, op. cit., pp. 272-275. Bodin’s system included the various differences in the form of rule which were made by later writers, Montesquieu, Voltaire, and Quesnay; Bodin set the seigneurial monarchy in the east, among the Tartars, Muscovites and Turks; Bodin considered the seigneur in the east to be the proprietor of the goods and persons of his realm. Bernier.

The conceptions of Bodin were followed by Francois

The conception of Bodin, that the seigneurial monarchy is the earliest monarchic

form has a bearing on the relation of the cultivator to the soil in the Asiatic mode of pro¬ duction: the immediate cultivator, in the village community, was conceived to be in an unbroken continuity with the same relation of the cultivator to the soil in the primitive community. The first form of monarchy arose among these agricultural communities, and over them. Thus, the theory of the Oriental society and of the Asiatic mode of production are consonant with the positions of Bodin.

Likewise, the communal relations of these

cultivators are continuous with those of the primitive cultivators.


Oriental society and its sources were ignorant of Asia. Giambattista Vico1 2 knew of the Jesuit and Dutch voyages and reports concerning the East, but did not draw substance from them; David Hume, Diderot, Jean Jacques Rousseau,3 Immanuel Kant, Jeremy Bentham made either superficial allusion to Asian peoples and history, or none at all; they drew for their reflections chiefly on the modern peoples and history of Europe, and on Greek or Roman anti¬ quity. Outstanding exceptions to this rule among the thinkers of that time were Leibniz and Adam Smith; Leibniz was interested in China for the purpose of the development of his philosophy of science and of language; Adam Smith introduced categories of the political economy of Asia as a whole. European thinkers were interested in Europe; they interested themselves in Asia only for what they could get from the latter, for their sustenance, just as the merchants for theirs. From the early period of modern contact with the empires of Asia two judgments were soon formed in Europe: the government of Asia was personal and despotic; these judgments were published at the beginning of the seventeenth century; they were still pronounced by Herbert Spencer at the end of the nineteenth century. The theory of despotic government in the East was accounted for, by certain writers, in virtue of there being but the sole proprietor of the land; this thesis will occupy our attention. There was an alternative thesis to this which agreed on the despotic nature of the government, but derived the power over property and persons from the absolute power of the sovereignty and not the other way round; this was the thesis of Adam Olearius, who travelled to Persia in the 1630s.4 1 Giambattista Vico. Principi de Scien^a Nuova. 1744. In §303 Vico wrote of the nations which, while they are in a barbarous state, remain closed to the outside world, cf. Louis David Lecomte, Society of Jesus, author of Nouveaux memoires sur Tetat present de la Chine, 1701. Joost Schouten, Beschrijvinghe van des Coninghrijcx Siam, 1636. (See Nicolini’s ed. of Vico, note to §337). 3 Jean Jacques Rousseau made passing mention of the voyage to Persia by Jean Chardin in the Notes to the Discours sur Vinegalite parmi les hommes; he next referred to Chardin as the authority for his statement that “In Persia the rights of the king over the produce is paid in kind”. (See Rousseau, Ueconomic politique, 1755. Political Writings of Rousseau, C. E. Vaughan, ed., vol. I, 1915, p. 270). Rousseau again quoted Chardin in praise of the personal habits and appearance of the Persians at the expense of the Europeans, in a passage contained in the Contrat Social, Book III, Ch. VIII, where climate and civilization are discussed (Political Writings, op. cit., vol. II, pp. 846). 4 Adam Olearius (Olschlager). Moskowitische und Persische Reise, 1656. His voyage was made in 1633-1639. See Book 5, ch. 12: Vom weltlichen Regiment, und zwar von ihrem Oberhaupt, dem Konige: “Was der Perser weltliches Regiment betrifft, so ist dasselbe dem russischen, wie obgedacht gar ahnlich, denn es ist ihr Konigreich, wie alle Historien-schreiber recht davon melden, Imperium Monarchicum, da der Konig die grosste, ja alle Gewalt hat, nach seinem Belieben zu tun und zu lassen, was er will.” (i959> P- 442)- On Herbert Spencer see The Man versus the State, p. 80.


Oriental society and its sources Sir Thomas Roe, English ambassador to the Mogul court in 1615, wrote an account in which he held that all the lands of the Mogul realm belonged to the king. William Methold in 1618 disclosed that the subjects of the King of Golconda were all his tenants, and paid him rent; “for the king, as all the other princes of India, was the only Free¬ holder of all the country.”5 Francois Bernier took up this matter, which is a question of economic and legal fact, and added to it a political and moral judgment concerning the despotic power of the monarchy in the Mogul realm. He served for eight years, in the 1660s, as a physician in Mogul India, and published a series of reports, letters, and diaries of his travels. One of his letters was addressed to Colbert, controller-general of the finances during the reign of Louis XIV of France. The policy of Colbert was a mercantilist one, in which he advocated the protection of home industry from foreign competition, and free trade within the country. It was in harmony with Colbert’s policy to have his name associated with the doctrine that despotism and the monarchic monopoly of the right to all landed property went hand in hand, as he learned from Bernier: “Finally you can consider that this great Mogul bears himself as the heir of the Omrahs or Seigneurs, and of the Mansedbars or lesser Seigneurs, who are in his pay; and, what is of the utmost consequence,

6 Sir Thomas Roe’s Journal, giving an Account of his Voyage to India. Churchill’s Collection of Voyages, 1732. Extract of a letter to the Arch-bishop of Canterbury, January 29, 1615. Vol. I, p. 729: “Laws these people have none; the king’s judgment binds.” “In revenue he doubtless exceeds either the Turk, or Persian, or any eastern prince, the sums I dare not name; but the reason. All the land is his, no man has a foot.” “The Mogul is heir to all that die, as well those that gained it by industry, as merchants, &c. as those that live by him.” Methold: [Samuel] Purchas his Pilgrimage or Relations of the World. 1626. William Methold, Relations of the Kingdome of Golchonda, p. 996: “His revenues are reported to be five and twenty lackes of pagodes, a lacke being 100,000, and a pagode ... worth there seven shillings six pence sterling which huge treasure arises from the large extent of his dominions, his subjects being all his tenants, and at a racked rent: for this king, as all others in India, is the only free-holder of the whole country.” “For the government is farmed immediately from the king by some eminent man, who to other inferiors farms out the lesser ones, and they again to the country people, at such excessive rates, that it is lamentable to consider, what toil and misery the wretched souls endure.” Roe explicitly, Methold implicitly derived the sovereign power from the monarchic state as great landowner. The judgment of Roe leads in two directions: he described the Mogul empire as the private domain of the emperor; this thesis leads to that which Francois Bernier, the mercantilists and Karl Marx set forth in one form or another, as we shall see.

On the

other hand, he described the authority of the sovereignty as a personal relation in the Mogul empire, a thesis followed by Olearius, Spencer, Max Weber, i.a. The two theses are counterposed to each other: on the one side, the entire realm as the private property of the sovereign follows from his personal rulership; on the other, the personal rulership follows from his monopoly of the landownership of the realm. On Bernier and the mercantilists, see the next note.


Oriental society and its sources that all the lands of the realm are his property (sont en propre a lui), aside from a few houses and gardens which he allows to be sold, dis¬ tributed or bought among [his subjects] as they see fit.” Bernier then drew the moral: “Thus I conclude in brief that to take away the ownership of the land from the private individuals, would have tyranny, slavery, injustice, beggary, barbarism as an inevitable result, it would render the soil infertile, make of it a desert, it would lead to the ruin of the human race and even of kings and States.”6 Manucci, a Venetian who came to India in 1656 and stayed there until his death some sixty years later, wrote a history of Mogul India, in which he developed these points: “The Hindu government is the most tyrannical and barbarous imaginable because, all the rajahs or kings being foreigners, they treat their subjects worse than if they were slaves. All land belongs to the crown; no individual has as his own a field, or estate, or any property whatever, that he can bequeath to his children.”7 Jean Tavernier travelled to Turkey, Persia and India during the same period and drew conclusions concerning the political system somewhat like the foregoing: “The government of Persia is purely despotic, and the king has the right of life and death over all his subjects... There is no sovereign in the world more absolute than the king of Persia.” Tavernier put the matter of the right of the Persian monarch to the land in different terms from the Indian case: “The greater part of the lands of

6 Frangois Bernier.

Voyages, contestant la description des Etats du GrandMogol. 1723-1724. See

vol. I, pp. 276, 319-320 {sic: read 329-330). The first ed. of Bernier’s book was dedicated to Louis XIV, who accorded it his royal privilege. The era of European history of that time is called absolutist, including the reign of Louis XIV, whose contemporaries applied to it a stronger term.

See Les Soupirs de la France Esclave, qui aspire apr'es sa Liberte (The sighs of

France enslaved, which yearns after its liberty), 1689-1690. This work in pamphlet form was published anonymously; its author is now proposed to have been Michel Levassor, of the Oratorian Congregation.

See G. Riemann, Der Verfasser der “Soupirs de la France esclave,”

1938; and R. Koebner, Despot and Despotism, op. cit., pp. 297ff. Bernier was a physician of the University of Montpellier, later a naturalist and empiricist philosopher, follower of Pierre Gassendi in opposition to the rationalism of Descartes. Bernier anonymously published in the Journal des Sfavans his “Nouvelle division de la terre, par les differentes especes ou races d’hommes qui l’habitent”.

This is a division of mankind into four or five divisions (he is

unsure of the American Indians), and embodies his experiences in Asia. Bernier included a letter to Colbert, the controller-general of the finances of Louis XIV, and a mercantilist of the kind that advocated free trade within the realm and protection from foreign competition.

It was in keeping with Colbert’s policy to have his name associated

with the view which Bernier directed to him publicly, which was that the restriction of private property in land led to beggary and enslavement. 7 Niccolao Manucci. Stori a do Mogor, or Mogul India. (1907). W. Irvine, tr. and ed. Calcutta, vol. 2, p. 44.

See also Irvine’s Introduction, vol. I, 1965, p. xxxiii; on relations to Bernier,

p. lxxi, to Tavernier, pp. lxxii f.

Oriental socity and its sources Persia belongs to the king, and several private individuals hold it on lease.”8 Regarding India Tavernier wrote, “The Great Mogul is certainly the most powerful and the richest monarch in Asia; all the Kingdoms which he possesses are his domain, he being absolute master of all the country, of which he receives the whole revenue. In the territories of the Prince, the nobles are but Royal Receivers, who render account of the revenues to the Governors of Provinces, and they to the Treasurers General and the Ministers of Finance, so that this grand King of India, whose territories are so rich, fertile and populous, has no power near him equal to his own.”9 Tavernier, a merchant who grew rich in the Oriental trade, here provided a detailed account of what was known to him. He came into contact with Bernier, and Bernier, who is reported to have influenced Tavernier’s views of India, is supposed to have been the better educated of the two, yet Tavernier’s editor praised the facts recorded by Tavernier against Bernier’s speculations.10 The Great Mogul is here represented as a powerful monarch, far removed from any other person about him and hence much farther removed from the village cultivators. His authority was absolute, the mode in which he owned or possessed the land in his empire is related to this absolute power on the one side, and to his revenues from the land on the other. Tavernier’s view would support the idea that the Great Mogul was a despot; it does not follow from what is here recorded that the Great Mogul owned the land as his private property: the kingdoms in his possession were his domain, not the fields cultivated. In view of the controversy over the nature of property in land in Asia, which will be taken up in the following pages, it is of importance to bear the difference as well as the similarity between these reports in mind. It does not by any means follow that Tavernier and Bernier were of the same opinion, except in a general way. Tavernier was able to purchase a barony in France with the profits of his Oriental commerce, and doubtless knew the difference between his relation to his baronial domain and the

8 Jean-Baptiste Tavernier.

Voyages en Perse. Paris 1970. (See following note.) P. 227: “Le

gouvernement de la Perse est purement despotique, et le roi a le droit de vie et de mort sur ses sujets... II n’y a point de souverain au monde plus absolu que le roi de Perse.” 9 Jean Baptiste Tavernier. Les six voyages qu'il a fait en Turquie, en Perse, et aux Indes. Seconde partie, ou il est parle des Indes. 1679. Livre Second. Description Historique & politique de l’Empire du Grand Mogol, p. 229: “Le Grand Mogol est asseurement le plus puissant & le plus riche Monarque de PAsie, tous les Royaumes qu’il possede faisant son domaine, & estant maitre absolu de toutes les terres dont il regoit tous les revenus.” Travels in India. 1925, vol. 1, p. 260. Ball, Introd. to Eng. transl., vol. 1, pp. xxv-xxvi.

See Tavernier,

Oriental society and its sources relation to that domain of his monarch, Louis XIV, who bought jewelry from Tavernier’s stock in trade. But it would be idle to speculate over whether Tavernier translated this difference to the land relations in the Mogul empire. The Mogul emperor was, according to Tavernier, the absolute lord of all the lands; he was not their owner, but their master: maitre absolu; he was landlord, not landowner, accordingly, receiving income from them in his public, not in his private capacity. Again, Tavernier’s usage points to his consideration of the Mogul emperor to be a despotic ruler, but the point concerning the autocratic, despotic and arbitrary character of the governments of the Persian and Mogul empires, as reported by these seventeenth century travellers, is to be regarded not as a fact accepted today but as a datum unquestioned at the time. Bernier, Tavernier and Manucci reported what they believed to be true, and were believed by their readers. The point concerning the right of the sovereign to the exclusive or preponderant ownership of the land in his realm was likewise accepted; in the eighteenth century, evidence of a wholly different character, pointing to land tenure practices in the Orient at variance with the views of Bernier began to appear. Jean Chardin, who travelled to Persia and India in the middle of the seventeenth century, was quick to make the distinction in those countries between the life of the great and that of the common people;11 “At the present time, the government of Persia is monarchic, despotic and absolute, being entirely in the hands of one man, who is the sovereign chief, spiritual as well as temporal, full master of the life and goods of his subjects. What I have just said, that the king of Persia can take away the goods and the life of his subjects on the least caprice, should be extended only to the great people of his court, and more particularly to his favorites; because just as much as men of this rank meet cruel and bloody adventures, just as little do the common people, for the caprice of the sovereign does not extend as far as that.” Chardin did not hold that the king in Persia was the owner of all the land in his realm. He distinguished between State lands and domanial lands; these lands are further distin¬ guished as general and particular. The domanial lands were under the administration of the Vizir, the State lands under the administration of the governors, who paid but a small part of their dues to the king. He defined the domanial lands as Kasseh, that is, property of particular

11 Jean Chardin.

Voyages en Perse et autres lieux de [’Orient, 1711. See vol. 6, pp. 18-19 anischen Altertum und Mittelalter, 1969. The questions are


Oriental society and its sources

society and trade were open, but the production and trade in the towns was too weak to profit from this organization of economy and society. By the eighteenth century the closeness of the corporations, worshipful companies, guilds was an anachronism that evoked the scorn of Adam Smith. The corporations of the European Middle Ages were closed, but the cities were open. Such peasants as could come to the cities to hide were then free, after a number of years, from the pursuit by the bailiffs of their erstwhile lords. The countryside was closed in the feudal system, in the sense that the serfs were bound to the soil; all the soil was closed, in theory: no bit of soil was without its lord. Having a bit of soil made one a freeman. But land was not the source of wealth: it was the serfs and the cattle, the instruments of labor to work it that was. The closed society of the countryside was opposed by the openness of the trade with the outside world, if the lords could afford it they bought com¬ modities from everywhere. The guilds of the cities, faced with com¬ petition, closed their doors, their gates, their offices and their rules of entrance. In India there was indeed a separation of town and countryside. The division of society was between castes and between religions. The king was far removed, but his residence was in a continuum from all sides of his realm. The poor people of the Central Asian, Persian, Mogul and North Indian cities differed little from the poor of the surrounding countryside. The descriptions by V. V. Bartol’d of the Central Asian cities of antiquity and the Middle Ages are generalized and idealized, they overemphasize the difference from the European cities, but after correcting for their extremism, they have an element of truth:106 there was no opposition of town and countryside in Asia, the town did not exploit the countryside, the great oppressor of city and land alike was the sovereign power, the collector of taxes for the State treasury. The whole was enclosed from within. The power of the sovereign was absolute. generally phrased as temporal continuity or discontinuity from antiquity on, but the question is not only that of temporal continuity, also the continual contemporary relations between Europe and Islam. The comprehensive view of Pirenne brought together the East and the West in a common perspective. A conscious continuation of Pirenne’s work was undertaken by Fernand Braudel, La Mediterranee et le monde mediterraneen a I’epoque de Philippe II. The ancient world has been separated from the modern, according to a popular prejudice; likewise, the Orient has been separated from the Occident, according to the sort of prejudice that was expressed by Rudyard Kipling; integration of the chronological and the geographic separations remains to be accomplished. loe y V4 Bartol’d. Istorija Turkestana, 1922. Critique by V. L. Voronina in Sovetskaja Arkbeo1959, no. 1. See L. Krader, Peoples of Central Asia, 1971, p. 219.


Oriental society and its sources had no rival, eliminated all rivals. The closed character of the Oriental society was the sign of its backwardness, of the low level of interrelation¬ ship between the royal power and the peasantry. The court itself was open to contact with the outside world, as Bernier found; the country as a whole was divided and closed within itself into castes, into religious communities, above all into self-contained, self-sufficient peasant communities, according to the descriptions by Dow and Wilks. Adam Smith understood the Orient in this way, and so did Richard Jones. It is not the picture that comes out of present-day researches into that era, for it was idealized; it was based on a narrow range of observations, which, once published were searched out again by the next traveller, who reported what he had been led to expect to find by his predecessor, in his turn, and this was taken by their readers as independent corrobora¬ tion. But in fact it is not independent, it is subjectively influenced. The fiction of the objective veracity of such reports was introduced, par¬ ticularly in the nineteenth century, when the descriptions of human affairs, as ethnographies, were brought out in the same way and under the same guise as geological and astronomical observations in proceedings of scientific societies, museums, and academies. The ethnographic accounts were, to be sure, partly veracious, partly the reports were interested, and we have come to know something of the interest, or have come to be conscious of the interest of Bernier, of Wilks, of the Mills, as the class and national interests, interests within these categories of special groups of mercantilists, physiocrats, utilitarians, colonialists; Marx above all expounded the method to detect these interests.




The earliest significant writings by Karl Marx on the theory of the Oriental society were brought out by him in a series of articles in the New-York Daily Tribune, for which he served as London correspondent in the 1850s.1 At this time he formulated a gradation of human societies ac¬ cording to a scale on which India was held to be a high civilization, yet the British conquerors stood on a yet higher stage. The Arabs, Turks, and Moguls, who had previously conquered India, were barbarian conquerors who stood below India on the scale of development; there¬ fore they were conquered by the civilization of the people whom they had subjugated militarily and politically. Further, Marx implied thereby the distinction between achievements of the civilization as a whole and the military-political power; he also implied a distinction between the economic factors (production relations, productive forces, means of circulation, exchange, and distribution) and the civilization as a whole, for they were not developed at equal levels. He had not yet come to the formulation of rates of development; therefore, it is not possible to speak of the evolutionism of Karl Marx at this point; this will be brought out later in the present work, as it was later developed by Marx himself. Marx conceived in these articles that the British, standing higher than the Hindu civilization, were impervious to the latter, ‘in accordance with an invariant law of history.’ It is implicit here that the British had already developed capitalism at the time of the conquest of India; it is not said, nor is it necessarily implied, that the Indians would evolve in the direction of capitalism if left to themselves. All that is set forth here 1 New-York Daily Tribune. 25 June 1853 (MEW 9, pp. 127-133), 5 August 1833 ibid., pp. 212-219), 8 August 1833 (ibid., pp. 220-226). In these articles he expressed ideas developed in correspondence with Friedrich Engels in June 1833: Marx to Engels, 2 June 1833 (MEW 28, pp. 250-234), and 14 June 1833 (ibid., pp. 264-269). Engels to Marx, 6 June 1833 (ibid., pp. 255-261). In the articles and letters Marx referred to or made use of the reports and works of Bernier, George Campbell, Sir Josiah Child, John Chapman, James Mill, Thomas Mun, John Pollexfen, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, The Fifth Report 1812, and A. D. Saltykow. See W. Ruben, Karl Marx iiber Indien (1853). 80

From the oriental society to the asiatic mode of production

is the comparison of the stage of civilization attained by either people. Marx further distinguished between the development of civilization in the Orient and that of the Occident generally, the characteristic of the Indian civilization, as opposed to the European, being the continued existence from the highest antiquity of the village communities.2 The ‘invariant law of history’ to which Marx made allusion has been assimilated in recent times to the theory in ethnology, whereby the more highly developed culture is ultimately the conqueror, regardless of whether it has gained the initial military victory. Thus China conquered its conquerors, the Manchus. The British were superior to the Hindus in weaponry and military organization; they were superior first of all in productive power. The Arabs, the Moguls, the Pathans were superior only militarily to the Hindus, who were superior in other respects, and the barbaric conquerors were swiftly Hinduized; the British effected changes in the conquered society, without being affected by it:3 what remains of Indian influence in English civilization is a few words, names of textiles no longer made of cotton, foodstuffs which by their taste bear no relation to the country of their origin. The traditional government of India at the imperial level was composed

* Marx, New-York Daily Tribune, 8 August 1853 (MEW 9, p. 221). He had already noted the distinctions between barbarism and civilization. Adam Ferguson, An Essay on the History of Civil Society, had made the three-fold distinction, savagery, barbarism, civilization, which is the structural element in L. H. Morgan’s Ancient Society. Marx cited Ferguson’s work in Kapital. He applied himself in 1880-1881 both extensively and intensively to the task of excerpting Morgan (see Ethnological Notebooks, op. cit.). Prior to his having written the article for the Daily Tribune, he had excerpted W. Cooke Taylor, The Natural History of Society (Cf. Ethnological Notebooks, p. 90.) The meanings attributed to these terms changed over the intervening century in the hands of the different authors; the common elements among them are that they correspond to stages of civilization, in which the progress of mankind is traced, and they are means of classifying societies within these stages. The relation of Marx to the writings of Wilks, to the Fifth Report, (1812) and to Campbell, and the expositions of the editors of the works of Marx and Engels in Russian (Sotinenija) and in German (MEW) in regard to this relation are discussed in the present section. (The Collected Writings in the New-York Daily Tribune of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, A. T. Ferguson and S. J. O’Neil, ed.. New York, 1973, has been announced. May 1973, but not seen by me. L. K.) 5 Marx took up the effects of the British conquest and subsequent trade relations on India in his correspondence with his Russian translator, N. F. Danielson. In a letter dated 10 April 1879 (MEW 34, p. 372) Marx referred to the piling up of stocks of cotton “where they are daily sent on consignment”. In a letter dated 19 February 1881 Marx wrote of the sums taken by the English from India, equal to more than the total stun of the income of the 60 million agricultural and industrial laborers of India (MEW 35, p. 15 7). See the two-part article in the New-York Daily Tribune of 30 April 1859 which deals in extenso with the latter subject and the resultant financial crisis in India (MEW 13, pp. 292-299). See below, ch. IH, note 48, on the impact of the conquering, trading nation on India.


From the oriental society to the asiatic mode of production

of three departments, as it had been in ancient Egypt: finances, for the plundering of the people within the realm; war, for the plundering of peoples outside the realm; and great public works, for canalixation of water and irrigation of the soil. The Oriental peoples left the concern for the great public works to the central regime, and lived dispersed in villages, small centers of population, in which rural household industry and agriculture were joined together. Politically, the village community is a corporation or township, having great stability over vast extensions of time, and remaining independent of changes in sovereignty. Within this system, a capital city such as Agra or Delhi lived only from its military, it had no industry or other way of supporting itself, and was ‘properly no more than an armed camp.’4 Marx recast the materials which he had gathered in his readings, giving them a changed form. In the view of the authors of the Fifth Report the Indian village is a corporation or township, which is not the same thing as a republic, the latter being a kind of sovereignty, a township or corporation being politically a dependent body. The emphasis in the Fifth Report was placed on the self-sustainment and economic independence of the village; it was, however, to be considered politically independent in traditional India by default, since the sovereignty interested itself not at all in the affairs of the village once the material wants of the central regime are met by its rent collections. The bridge between the two views, or the two variants of one view, of the village as corporate body and the village as a republic, was made by Karl Marx. In a letter to Engels he wrote, “A village, geographically considered, is a tract of country comprising some ioo or 1000 acres of arable and waste lands: politically viewed, it resembles a corporation or township.”5 He had copied out the language, with slight changes, from the Fifth Report. Without a break, or any indication that he had proceeded to a new source of information, Marx

4 Marx, New-York Daily Tribune, 25 June and 5 August, 1855; letters of 2 and 14 June, 1853. Engels had written, “The swift establishment of great cities, Nineveh and Babylon, occurred exactly the way as only 300 years ago, the creation of similar giant cities, Agra, Delhi, Lahore, Muttan, in the East Indies by the Afghan or Tatar invasion, as the case may be. In this way the Mohammedan invasion [of India] loses much of its distinctive character.” (MEW 28, p. 246.) Marx in his letter of 2 June (MEW 28, p. 252) quoted Bernier on city-building in the Orient, with reference to Agra and Delhi at length. Here the point is made that the capital city lives from hardly anything else than the military, being only somewhat better and more comfortably placed than armed camps in the field. Marx (ibid., p. 25 3) then quoted Bernier to the effect that the poor lived by foraging for the army. Engels sought for a broad historical law of city-building in the Orient, Marx gave the more limited response to Engels by citing Bernier’s report of the experience in the Mogul period in India. Further in reference to Marx’s application of this passage from Bernier, see below, this section, note 16. 5 Marx, Letter of 14 June 1853 (MEW 28, p. 267).


From the oriental society to the asiatic mode of production continued in his citation, taking a lengthy passage out of Wilks: “Every village is, and appears always to have been, in fact, a separate community or republic.” Marx then copied out the list of twelve village professions or occupations chiefly taken from the formulation that Wilks had given them, and he alluded to the Indian ‘idyllic Republics’ further in the same letter.6 Wilks7 lists the ‘dozen’ Indian village occupations:

4 Marx, op. cit., pp. 267ft Fifth Report, op. cit., p. 85. Wilks, op. cit., pp. 117^. The editors of the SoSinenija of Marx and Engels, Moscow, and of the MEW, which is based on it, have written that Marx quoted in this letter to Engels from the Fifth Report having “evidently used George Campbell’s book. Modern India: a sketch of the system of civil government, London 1852.” (MEW 28, pp. 696L) This is an error; the major part of the quotation, with slight changes, was taken from W ilks, loc cit. See the Appendix to this chapter, where the relevant passages from Wilks and the Fifth Report are reproduced. The editors of the Socinenija and the MEW then write that the materials from the Fifth Report and Campbell were applied to Marx’s article, “The British Rule in India”; this is correct, save that Marx made some significant omissions from the passage which he got directly or indirectly from the Fifth Report. Finally, the same editors have written that these materials were later used by Marx in Capital-, this is an error, for Marx here based himself on materials that he found in Wilks, whom he mentioned as his source, and took characteristic phrases from him, such as the reference to the village poet replacing here and there the silversmith and the schoolmaster. The Fifth Report is not mentioned in Marx’s Capital-, Campbell is, and Campbell quoted the Fifth Report. There is not perfect consonance between Campbell’s citation from the Fifth Report and Wilks. Marx now leaned toward the one source, now toward the other, as here set forth. He assumed that they provided independent corroboration for each other, which is doubtful. Marx took over the system of the village in India as corporation or as republic. In view of some differences of opinion regarding Marx’s relations to his sources, the relevant passages from Marx’s letter to Engels of 14 June 1853, from Wilks’ Historical Sketches of the South of India, and from the Fifth Report (1812), are reviewed in this chapter. It will be seen from these sources that Marx first quoted a passage from the Fifth Report, then copied out three of the four terms for village headman, in a changed order, listed by Wilks, citing in a paraphrase the definition of the functions from the Fifth Report. Marx then took the list of occupations, the twelve Ayangadees, in slightly shortened form, from Wilks, adding the mention of “the Bramin for worship” from the Fifth Report-, this Brahmin is not found in Wilks, who mentions only the Astrologer or Jotishee Brahmin. The list of village occupa¬ tions, all surrounded by the magic aura of the number 12, has been taken up by many in the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The first who appreciated the problem, without giving the detailed list, appears to have been the friend of Wilks, Lt. Col. Thomas Munro. See Wilks, op. cit., vol. I, p. 121. Here is cited the earliest reference Marx is known to have had access to, pertaining to the “round dozen” village occupations, as well as to the village republic. It is found in the “Report from Anantpoor, 15 th of May, 1806”: “Every village, with its twelve Ayangadees as they are called, is a kind of little republic, with the Potail at the head of it; and India is a mass of such republics. The inhabitants during war, look chiefly to their own Potail. They give themselves no trouble about the breaking up and division of kingdoms; while the village remains entire, they care not to what power it is transferred; wherever it goes, the internal management remains unaltered: the Potail is still the collector and magistrate, and head farmer. From the age of Menu until this day the settlements have been made either with or through the Potails.” This formulation, with details added, was taken up in one variation or another, by Wilks, the authors of the Fifth


From the oriental society to the asiatic mode of production The head-inhabitant (as the Fifth Report had it), who is at once judge, policy and tax-collector in one person; The Bookkeeper who registers and keeps the cadastral accounts; The official who investigates criminals and accompanies travellers to the next village; The boundary watchman; The water-superintendent; The Brahmins; The Schoolmaster, who teaches the children to write in the sand; The Calendar-Brahmin or Astrologer; The Blacksmith; The Carpenter; The Potman or Potter; The Barber; the Washerman; the Silversmith who may also be the poet or the Schoolmaster. The list was taken by Marx from Wilks; features in common with it are found in the Fifth Report, which is quoted in Campbell, who expressed the further idea that the entire land in India is the common property of Report, by Raffles, Metcalfe, Elphinstone, Campbell, by Hegel and Marx. On Hegel see the following note. For further discussion, see Daniel Thorner, Marx on India and the Asiatic Mode of Production, and Louis Dumont, The ‘Village Community’ from Munro to Maine, both ir> Contributions to Indian Sociology, vol. 9. Dumont’s figures, p. 8 in., are not accurate. Claude Meillassoux, Are there Castes in India?, gives a critique of Dumont. Eric Stokes, The English Utilitarians and India, pp. 9 et seq. refers to the romanticism, paternalism, conservatism, and to some degree, the aristocratism of Munro, Elphinstone, Metcalfe, and a fourth, Malcolm, administrators in India in the nineteenth century. This theme is taken up by Dumont, op. cit. The themes of the village republic, of the self-sufficien¬ cy (the non-agricultural occupations of the village are particularly pertinent to this theme), the form of landholding cannot be isolated from these characterizations. The name of Lord Cornwallis and his reforms should be mentioned, and will be discussed below, in Chapter IV of our work. The background to this discussion should bring in A. Dalrymple, M. Krishna, A. Anquetil-Duperron. The romanticism, etc., is rooted in the land and administrative policies of the English in India, and has its explanation therein. The matter concerns the extraction of the surplus product from the villages and the external relation of the villages to the central State power; the internal relations of the division of labor has already been touched on in relation to the Ayangadees, and the intermediary role of the village head in collection and provision of the tax has been taken up. Munro and Wilks sided together in the controversy over the interpretation of passages from Manu regarding private property in land in ancient India; they opposed the conception of the Sovereignty as landlord and landowner, they likewise opposed the conception of the officers of the Sovereignty, the tax collectors or Zamindars, as landowners; they rested on the cultivators as proprietors of the plots that they tilled. This is the practical side of the question; that their case was weak and was developed through a romantic coloring of the ancient texts should not withdraw attention, particularly in the case of Wilks, from his intent in advancing the cause of the individual proprietors as opposed to the sovereignty and the tax agents or from that of John Shore (Lord Teignmouth).


From the oriental society to the asiatic mode of production all and was originally occupied by cultivators for a period of a year, and was annually changed. Since that time, according to Campbell, the holdings became fixed, although subjected to periodic remeasurements and readjustments. The Indian villages do not enjoy community of goods, nor do they carry on cultivation in common.8 The statement about the original relation to the land in India is a reversion whether conscious or unconscious to the system attributed by Tacitus to the ancient Germans. In the book by Wilks on the South of India, the Indian village commu¬ nity was likened to a republic. We have seen that Marx had copied out passages from the Fifth Report and from Wilks in his letter to Engels of 14 June 1853. Both Wilks and the authors of the Fifth Report compared the village to a corporation or township as well. Marx omitted the comparison to the republic in his article on India which was published in the Daily Tribune, 25 June 1853, and mentioned only the figure of the corporation or township. The village was likened to a republic in that it was democratic, wholly unlike the Oriental sovereignty; it ran its own affairs independently of virtually all outside connection, save the The Fifth Report was quoted extensively by James Mill, History of India, but James Mill intended to prove thereby that the king was the owner of all the land in his realm, which appears to be out of keeping with the line of development from Wilks to Campbell of which the Fifth Report forms a part. Mill mentions its date of publication as 1810 (1972 ed., vol. I, p. 155, vol. Ill, p. 346, etc.) Marx quoted Raffles on the Indian village{KapitalI, MEW 23, p. 379); in fact he was quoting Raffles’ quotation from the Fifth Report. 7 Wilks, op. cit., vol. I, 1810, p. iiyf.: “In some parts of the country the silversmith is not found in the enumeration of the twelve, his place being occupied by the poet, a less expensive member of the community, who frequently fills also the office of schoolmaster.” (Note, p. 118). Marx, letter of 14 June 1853 (MEW 28, p. 267): “12. the silversmith, der oft auch zugleich der poet und schoolmaster des Dorfes in einer Person.” Marx, Kapital I (MEW 23, p. 379): “... den Silberschmied, hier und da den Poeten, der in einigen Gemeinden den Silberschmied, in andren den Schulmeister ersetzt.” Cf. Henry Sumner Maine. Village Communities, pp. i25f. See also Campbell, op. cit., pp. 84ff. See below, ch. Ill, note 21. Hegel, Samtliche Werke, Bd. 11, op. cit., p. 207, wrote: “The entire produce of each village is divided into two parts, as we have said; of which one part goes to the Raja, the other to the peasants; then the local headman, the judge, the water-overseer, the Brahman for divine service, the astrologist (who is also a Brahman, who tells the lucky and unlucky days), the smith, the carpenter, the potter, the washerman, the barber, the doctor, the dancing-girls, the musician, the poet, also receive, beside this, relative portions. This is fixed, unchangeable, and subject to no choice. All political revolutions therefore pass the common Indian by, for his lot does not change.” The coincidence of the whole and many points of detail with the system of Marx has reference to the form of rent in kind which is paid directly to the sovereign; the list of village labor specializations is taken as invariable by both Hegel and Marx. The dancing-girls are mentioned in the Fifth Report, in Campbell and in Hegel; they are not mentioned by Wilks and Marx. 8 Campbell, op. cit., pp. 87b


From the oriental society to the asiatic mode of production rent or tax relation. But unlike the form of the republic known elsewhere, the village community as a rule runs the public and the private matters together; there is no clearcut respublica, or public conern, as opposed to the private. The official and the unofficial sides of the life in society, or the public and private are distinguished only in more complex and wider-reaching systems; societies with some form of the State, not the community, have developed this distinction.9 The comparison of the village to a corporation or township moves in a different direction. The corporation, the township, the village community as republic, these are all autonomous bodies, but they are not sovereign. The State, or the republic as State alone is sovereign. On the other hand, all these in¬ stitutions are self-perpetuating bodies, which survive the physical lives and the biological deaths of the individual constitutive elements. The village is capable of sustaining itself; the State depends on the villages within its territory for its support and for the support of its creatures. Regarding the distinction between the public and the private relations, as between the official and the unofficial, the matter is not clear-cut in the cases of the township and the village as it is in the case of the republic. The corporation is a public body. The comparison of the village to the republic is not as apt as it appears on the surface. Marx referred to Bernier’s view that the ‘king is the sole and unique proprietor of the land of the realm’ in the Mogul empire,10 taking this positive statement, and making of it a negative: “Bernier finds rightly the foundation of all phenomena of the Orient - he speaks of Turkey, Persia, Hindustan - to be that no private property in land exists.”11 Here Marx also drew the thought from Bernier that the handicraft industry did not belong to the great capital cities, but to the smaller population centers of the countryside. Through the British rule in India, the communal institutions of the village communities, which had survived all the earlier conquests, and the handicraft industries of the villages were crushed; the British sought to establish in India the material foun¬ dation of a western social order.12 • Marx did not abandon the implicit problem of the mode of independent sustenance and government of the village community, returning to it in 1857-1858 (see the next section), and in 1867 (see below, ch. III). 10 Bernier, Voyages, op. cit., vol. I, p. 300. Bernier made this point a half dozen times in his letter to Colbert, and pointed the same thing out at the beginning of his work (on p. 10 in the edition cited) as well. For the sources of other aspects of life in the Indian villages which Marx drew on, see notes 1 and 2 in this section above. 11 Marx, letter of 2 June 1853. Marx then added, “This is the actual clef to the Oriental heaven itself.” (MEW 28, p. 254.) l* Marx, New-York Daily Tribune 8 August 1853 (MEW 9, p. 221). Cf. Marx, Kapital I (MEW 23> P- 347)-


From the oriental society to the asiatic mode of production Marx had already brought out the concepts of the village life and the political life at the royal courts, distinguishing between the communal ownership of the village and the sovereign right of property in land throughout the realm; it was clear that village land practices, ownerships, distribution, laboring on the land, continued without reference to the historical changes of sovereignty. Marx operated at this time with the category of the Oriental society which had been subjected to the colonial inroads of British practice, whereby the traditional institutions were destroyed. Engels asked, “But how does it come about that the Orientals did not come to property in land, not even to the feudal? I believe it lies chiefly in the climate, connected to the relations to the earth, especially to the great stretches of desert which reach from the Sahara across Arabia, Persia, India and Tatary, right into the Asian highland. Artificial irri¬ gation is here the first condition of agriculture, and this is a matter either of the communes, provinces, or of the central government.”13 Marx took this thought from Engels, incorporating it, with changes, in his article on British rule in India.14 In his letter to Marx, Engels connected climate and terrain with agriculture through the application of artificial irrigation, which is its ‘first condition’ in the Orient. Marx’s formulation begins with the same reference as Engels: “Climatic and territorial relations, especially the broad desert stretches which reach from the Sahara across Arabia, Persia, India and Tatary up to the highest Asian highland conditioned artificial irrigation through canals and water¬ works, the basis of Oriental agriculture.” Marx changed Engels’ formu¬ lation : Marx ended with a question of the means of production, irrigated agriculture, Engels with a question of the form of property. Marx proceeded from the abstract to the concrete: the overflow of the rivers in Egypt, India, Mesopotamia, Persia and other lands, their inundations are rendered useful in increasing the fertility of the soil. Thus the geographic or natural factor, in Marx’s conception, is trans¬ formed in a practical way into a cultural factor; nature is appropriated by man. Without the intermediation of social labor, the inundations themselves are worth nothing, on the contrary, they are catastrophic; they must first be controlled by a collective effort, the regularities or conditioning factors must be understood, and the cultivators must master the inundations in a practical way by digging channels, dams, and dikes. Water lying under the ground is brought up to the surface, whereby the laws of chemistry and physics, as we know them today, were applied in

l* Engels, Letter to Marx of 6 June 1853 (MEW 28, p. 259). 14 New-York Daily Tribune, 25 June 1863 (MEW 9, p. 129).


From the oriental society to the asiatic mode of production the ancient techniques of water control and distribution: the capillary action of water in the soil and the tendency of water to seek its own level have been known for centuries by channel and well diggers in the Orient from Persia to China. The processes of external nature, whether as abstract science or as concrete technology, have been observed, com¬ prehended, internalized and therewith transformed. The dialectic is that of a multiple transition: from the abstract to the concrete, at the same time, from the theoretical to the practical, from nature to culture, from the external to the internal relations of society by the processes of appropriation, control and regulation of the forces of nature. The potential disaster may prove actually useful to the people dwelling beside the banks of the Nile, Tigris, Euphrates, Ganges and Yellow Rivers, who have turned the destructive forces of nature to their ad¬ vantage.15 Engels had written to Marx in the same passage of his letter that irrigation was the work of either the communes, the provinces, or the central

16 In fact, it frequently has not been turned to human advantage. The Yellow River, which was known as China’s sorrow because of its destructive inundations in the past, at the same time enriched the soil by its floods. Herodotus called Egypt the gift of the Nile. The number of eminent writers of the past who have developed or evoked a direct natural determination of human history is great. These include Hippocrates, or the collection of works attributed to him, Ibn Khaldun, Jean Bodin, Giambattista Vico, Montesquieu and J. G. Herder. Those who exaggerated the geographic factor into a theory of history in one guise or another include Karl Ritter, Friedrich Ratzel, H. T. Buckle, L. Metchnikov, Ellsworth Huntington, H. Mackinder and Karl Haushofer. G. Plekhanov, in Die Neue Zeit, wrote of the scientific side of Metchnikov’s explanation of the effect of the great rivers on civilization in a positive way; the position of Plekhanov in regard to Metchnikov was otherwise equivocal. On the other hand, Hegel poured scorn on the simplifying and simplistic talk of the effect of the Ionian sky on the ancient Greek art and thought. The factors of soil chemistry and physics; amount, seasonal distribution and quality of water; cloudiness and total insolation, amplitude and sum of temperature, altitude, air currents, distance from the sea, latitude and land forms, the micro¬ climate and macro-climate are generally taken into account, together with practical knowledge of available life forms, their domestication and breeding, in ecological studies. A people may survive and flourish in a given region only by forming a life community with the biota on which their life depends; all these factors must be comprehended and applied by a cultural tradition in its concrete and defined form. They are applied consciously by some peoples, unconsciously by others. Marx was conscious that man does not abut upon nature directly, but only through his social labor in the historical traditions and the conditions of his social and cultural life. The individual factors are not to be taken in isolation, but in their system. Single factor explana¬ tions or theories of human affairs are self-defeating, derived from false analogies to other disciplines. Because of the aridity of the soil and atmosphere. Central Asia has been a nesting place of such theories. See Lawrence Krader, Peoples of Central Asia, Introduction and ch. I containing a discussion of such theories, their shortcomings, and supporting documentation. 88

From the oriental society to the asiatic mode of production government. Marx mentioned in the article for the Daily Tribune only the great public works of the central government, omitting the collective works of the village communities and the public works of the provinces. He wrote further that the unconditional necessity for thrift and communal water control in parts of Europe, such as in Flanders and Italy, led to voluntary, private enterprise; in the Orient, on the other hand, the civilization was too low and the territorial extent too vast to call forth voluntary associations. Hence, he continued, the centralized State power in Asia had an economic function, the control of the irriga¬ tion of the soil by artificial means. This activity by the agencies of the State is the opposite of the mercantilist policy of laisser-faire, of the limitation of the State operations in the political economy to that of watchdog, or the do-nothing state. Marx began with the formulation by Engels in reference to the artificial irrigation of agriculture in the Orient, but transformed it. The idea of the Oriental despotism, which was a central one in Bernier, was reversed and converted by Marx.16 Bernier had written for a political purpose in a polemical way regarding the Mogul land tenure practices as he understood them, according to which, if the Europeans followed the despotic practices of the Orient they would make the land into a desert; he did not refer to the great public works of irrigation in parts of Asia, or to the fruitfulness of the soil created thereby.17 Marx did not accept this extreme view of Bernier’s, while at the same time he made reference to the absence of private property in land, which, he said, was the actual key to the Oriental heaven. Bernier’s view is a crude economic deter¬ minism. Marx, on the other hand, by failing to follow up the further indications by Engels in the matter of artificial irrigation of the soil by communities did not ascertain whether these were or were not voluntary associations, at this time. He returned to the question of the voluntary associations for artificial canalization in the history of early European capitalism when he wrote Capital; this will be shown when we take up Marx’s treatment of the Asiatic mode of production in the strict sense. (See Chapter III.) Hegel’s statement regarding the absence of the historical formation of India into a veritably political condition, die Herausbildung zu einem wahrhaft politischem Zustande, was recovered by Marx, albeit in a changed form. In a dispatch to the New-York Daily Tribune, Marx wrote

lf Marx praised Bernier and could recommend nothing more brilliant, perceptive and striking on Oriental city-building in his letter of 2 June 1853 (MEW 28, p. 252). Here Marx cites, in a condensed form from Bernier, Voyages, op. cit., vol. I, pp. 299-300 and vol. II, pp. 251-252. 17 Bernier, Voyages, op. cit., vol. I, pp. 319-320 (sic. See above, ch. I, note 6.) 89

From the oriental society to the asiatic mode of production that “India had no history in general, at least no written history: what we call the history of that country is external history, the succession of foreign conquerors who set up their kingdoms on the passive foundation of their societies, who offered no resistance to them, and underwent no change.”18 Hegel and Marx were agreed on the absence of written history, whether this is taken as the chronicle of events or as the active principle of the events. Further, the opposition between the political and the social formation is common ground between them. Marx then developed this thesis concretely: the opposition between the political center, the sovereignty, on the one side, and the villages on the other has generated the different relations to history. If history is the record of changes, then the villages have no history. The actions of foreign conquerors were counterposed to the life of the indigenous villagers; Manucci had grasped this point two centuries earlier. The record of the activity of the foreign conquests is opposed to the continuity of the village life, which lies outside history conceived as res gestae. Marx held that history in this sense is the chronicle of events, the lower historical stuff, as did Hegel. On the other hand, Marx had written in the Communist Manifesto that history is the history of class struggles; there being no way to detect or to indicate the class struggles in the Indian villages in the nineteenth century, the Indian village was held to be outside history. Both Marx and Hegel sought the active principle in history. According to Hegel, the active principle was the formation of a people into a veritable political condition, or the formation among them of a political constitution, the State. This abstract formulation was made concrete by Marx, whereby the active historical principle is the class struggle. The Indian village community retained the twofold aspect of retention of prehistoric characteristics, in which evidence of class opposition is scarcely detectable, if at all, while forming at the same time a part of a class-divided society. The ambivalent condition of the village community in India is implied by the reference to it as a little republic; the selfsustainment, the autonomy, removed it from the class relations of the outside world. The village does not generate within itself the oppositions of the social classes, just as it does not generate within itself the production of commodities, which has its source elsewhere in the economy. The examination of the social relations which emerge out of the destruction of the traditional village will reveal the oppositions borne as a potentiality within it, a potentiality which is only primitively realized in the traditonal village itself. The double aspect of the Indian villages, in their traditional 18 On Hegel, see above, ch. I, notes 46, 47, 50. Marx, New-York Daily Tribune, 8 August 1853 (MEW 9, p. 220).


From the oriental society to the asiatic mode of production relations, was the condition of apparent passivity, slow development in actuality which gave the impression of stagnation, or optimistically put, stability. To this passivity the British counterposed a double activity; having destroyed the old Asiatic social order, they created the material basis of an Occidental social order in Asia. The political unification of India, given force and permanence by the electric telegraph, a free press, the creation of private property in land in the forms of zamindar and ryotwar holdings, the formation of a new class in the cities, in Calcutta which is capable of ruling the whole country, the formation of an army of Indian soldiers, the sine qua non of independence, of self-liberation; these were the British contributions to social change in India.19 The elements of the political economy of the Indian society and the village community that Marx evolved at this point were: the separation of the sovereign power from the village community, the predominance of agriculture, the unity of soil cultivation and manufacture within the village, directly connected to the isolation and self-sufficiency of the villages. The Oriental civilization was reckoned as backward by Marx when compared with the civilization of western Europe, for the insti¬ tutions of water control were developed in the West on a voluntary and local basis, in the East only through command of involuntary labor by the central political authority. The discussion of periodization within the history of the Oriental society20 was introduced by Marx: “In Bali, island on the east coast of Asia still complete, alongside Hindu religion also this Hindu organization [of the village community], whose traces, as those of Hindu influence, is to be discovered, moreover, on all of Java. Regarding the property question, it is a greatly debated one among English writers about India. In the broken country south of the Crishna [River] property in land appears indeed to have existed.” “In any case the Mahometans appear to have first established in all Asia ‘absence of property in land’ in principle.”21 The citation from the *• Marx, op. cit., pp. 22of. Also the railroad is mentioned. See ibid., p. 223, citing John Chapman, The Cotton and Commerce of India. 10 See above, ch. I, note 62. 11 Marx, letter of 14 June 1853 (MEW 28, pp. 268f.). For the reference to Java, Marx based himself on Sir T. Stamford Raffles, The History of Java. 2 vols. London, 1817. Raffles had been Lieut. Governor of Java when it had been under English rule. He quoted Raffles in reference to the exploitation of Java by the Dutch (see his article in the New-York Daily Tribune, 25 June 1833: MEW 9, p. 128). In view of Raffles well-known enmity toward the Dutch, he was scarcely an objective reporter, and Marx noted him down as the English (his emphasis) Governor of Java in his article on the British Rule in India. Marx found support for his analysis of the organization of production in the village com-


From the oriental society to the asiatic mode of production Chach Nama above indicates that the question of periodization is more complicated than this simple reference to the Mahometans, for at least one case shows that the Islamic conquerors protected property in land, or did not transfer it to the crown if it was in private hands and was well cultivated. Nevertheless the opposite of a static picture emerges, the idea of slow change in the village life in Asia. Marx recognized likewise property other than village community and crown or sovereign property in land in part of India. The property question was debated by Englishmen who held, like Wilks, that it was originally owned by private persons, or who, like James and J. S. Mill, held that it was originally owned by the king. Marx wrote of this in a neutral manner, without expressing an opinion in this context. The chief problem in reference to the Orient in Marx’s writings was connected with the collective labor processes, the mode of production, the relation of the various branches of the economy to each other, and the absence of private property in land. Bernier’s dictum in regard to landownership by the sovereign was found by Marx to be insufficiently exact, and he took up the question again in his further writings on the East.


Marx wrote in 1857, “Thus bourgeois economics came to an understand¬ ing of feudal, ancient, Oriental societies only when the self-critique of bourgeois society had begun.”22 Implicit in this statement which has as its primary intent the exposition of Marx’s method, is a periodization. The critical method was developed in the Grundrisse, later in the Critique of 1859, and brought to its full development in Capital. The Introduction to the Grundrisse is a preliminary statement of the method, and a prelimi¬ nary statement of the question of periodization. Here the classification of broad social eras is carried forward from the earlier propositions by Marx in the German Ideology (1845-1846), the criticism of Proudhon (Poverty of Philosophy, 1847), the Cojntnunist Manifesto (1848), and the articles on Asia written in 1853. The statement of the periods is here made according to the type of society, feudal, ancient, Oriental, which then serves to characterize a given period. It is not the economic formation of society, still less the respective mode of production that is at the base of this classification schema, but the broad category. This approach to the periodization of society was then transformed by Marx.

munities of the Orient in the report of Raffles. This will be taken up in ch. III. On Raffles, see ch. I, note 78, and III, notes 1 and 2. 12 Marx, Grundrisse (see next note) Einleitung, p. 26.


From the oriental society to the asiatic mode of production He wrote in 1859, “In broad outline, the Asiatic, ancient, feudal and modern bourgeois modes of production can be designated as the pro¬ gressive epochs in the economic formation of society.”23 Just as in the foregoing statement by Marx, an explicit proposal for periodization is made; it is not a broad social classification, but an economic one. A chronological sequence of events is brought out, in which societies successively make their appearance, and whereby they are grouped into the named categories. The categories include a number of societies, which are identified by the respective mode of production, and are caused to form a hierarchy from lower to higher in the economic for¬ mation of society. The hierarchy corresponds to the sequence in the course of time, the earliest and simplest, or lowest, being the Asiatic mode of production, the latest and highest being the modern bourgeois. Further, historical periodization rests on the identification of particular societies in a definite time and place, and the designation of general, abstract categories into which they are grouped. These groupings if left at that point would constitute a static conception, and this is true likewise of a rank order of societies or of forms of property, etc. The ranking of the societies into a hierarchy constitutes a series of stages of human social development into which the particular existing societies, or evidences of human societies from the past, are placed, but unless concrete historical means are designated which indicate the transition from one stage to the next, and how it is accomplished, the hierarchical

13 Karl Marx. Kritik, 1859, Vorwort. See also his Grundrisse der Kritik der Politiscben Okonomie, 1953, p. 26: Oriental economy is there mentioned; also in the Grundrisse, pp. 369, 371, and 375-429 passim. During the period 1857-1859, Marx composed three statements on the critique of political economy. The earliest in time and the shortest is known as the Einleitung, Introduction. It was written between 23 August and mid-September 1857, when it was set aside. It was first published (in a non-final shape) in Die Neue Zeit, in March 1903, by Karl Kautsky. From October 1857 to March 1858, Marx composed the manuscript of a work that has been lately given the title Grundrisse der Kritik der Politiscben Okonomie \ it was first pu¬ blished in Moscow, 1939, by the Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute. The Einleitung was published, pp. 5-31 of the Grundrisse. It is not the introduction to that work, yet is connected to it in a general way. In 1859, Marx published Zur Kritik der Politiscben Okonomie. For many years and in many editions, the Einleitung was published together with the Kritik of 1859, but it is no more and no less connected with it than it is with the Grundrisse, which is sometimes referred to as the first draft of Das Kapital of Karl Marx. The Grundrisse was composed in seven manuscript notebooks organized into two chapters: the chapter on money (Notebook I and part of Notebook II), pp. 35-148, and the chapter on capital, (the remainder of Notebook II and Notebooks III-VII), pp. 149-762 of the 1953 edition here cited. There is a passage on value, pp. 763E. which is incomplete. For discussion of the relations of the plan of the Grundrisse to Kapital of Marx, see Roman Rosdolsky, Zur Entstebungsgeschichte des Marxschen *Kapital’.


From the oriental society to the asiatic mode of production ranking is merely a static conception in a disguised form, and a utopian theory of human progress.24 If the factor of social dynamism, and specific reference to the means of bringing about the social change, is excluded from the discussion of classification, it is rendered into an abstract exercise. Marx considered the effectuation of social change as the end result of any discussion about society, and the social classification as a means to that end. The passage of the society from one period or stage to the next lay in the center of his interest, and inseparably connected with this passage, the mastery of the social means to bring it into being. The classification of societies, if it is not in a line of action and thought as here presented, is a pseudodynamic, actually static conception. At times the discussion of the classification or periods is a supposedly dynamic one because it proposes stages of progression from one period to the next; but such a dynamism is no less static than the labor of classification alone. Moreover, it is utopian because it does not indicate the means whereby the progress from one stage to the next is assured and sustained. The method in any scientific work on social change and development is to consider the classification not as as end but as a means leading to the critique of the social process and relations, and to the change of the society by its critique. The critique of the criteria of the classification is therefore not a means to improve upon the given classifi¬ cation, but a means to the grasp and mastery of the social process itself, and in this way to contribute to social change in the actual world. In the passage cited from Marx, a schema of periodixation is proposed which is based upon the classification of modes of production. Each such mode includes large regions of the world, or continents, each mode having lasted for centuries or, in some cases, millennia, Most classifications are not of this sort, but indicate classifications of social phenomena, whole societies, or cultures. Marx, however, did not stop at this point, for the

14 The problem of periodization has occupied thinkers from ancient times down to the present. Ssu-Ma Ch’ien, the ancient Chinese historian, and Aristotle made periodizations, as had medieval Arabic historians. The beginning of modern periodization can be traced to Thomas Hobbes; see Lawrence Krader. The Anthropology of Thomas Hobbes. Theories of periodi¬ zation were introduced by J. J. Bachofen, H. S. Maine, Tylor, Morgan, Engels, Kovalevsky, Lubbock, E. Durkheim, etc. Discussion in the twentieth century has been conducted by V. Gordon Childe, Man Makes Himself, and Social Evolution; L. A. White, The Evolution of Culture-, M. O. Kosven, Matriarkhat; Zur Periodisierung des Feudalismus u. Kapitalismus in der geschichtlichen Entwicklung der UdSSR. K.-E. Wadekin, ed. I. Sellnow, Grundprinsfpien einer Periodisation der Urgeschichte, Kulturbruch im Obergang von der Antike %um Mittelalter, P. Hiibinger, ed.; Zur Frage der Periodengren^e spvischen Altertum und Mittelalter, P. Hiibinger, ed. I. S. Kon, Die Geschichtsphilosophie des 20 fahrhunderts, vol. 2, ch. 3. P. M. Sweezy et al. The Transition from Feudalism to Capitalism.


From the oriental society to the asiatic mode of production mode of production in society is at the same time related to the question of historical dynamism. Marx had composed two years earlier the section on the Epochs of Economic Social Formations,25 which is a work of periodization, just as the well-known passage quoted above from the Preface to the Critique. The section which treats of the Epochs is a part of the chapter on Capital in the Grundrisse der Kritik der Politiscben Okonomie, and follows a section which takes up the question of the original accumulation of capital. The original accumulation of capital is there considered not from the histori¬ cal point of view but as a systematic process within the political economy of capitalism;26 the following section, which treats of the periods, is a far longer one, a historical excursus which analyzes the Voraussetzungen, presuppositions, of capitalist production, and, to begin with, labor in capitalist society. The discussion which Marx here conducted did not have as its end the positing of the epochs, which are forms of society, but, through their depiction, he intended to reach through to the process which precedes the formation of the capital relation, or of the original accumulation. This is a dialectic of social statics and dynamics. There is nothing fixed and eternal about the process of labor in society, or the relation of labor and capital; yet this set of ideas had been advanced by the political economists in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Marx fought against this conception and against its reflexion in the religious creeds of the time. The method that Marx followed is set forth in the introductory chapter and in the beginning of Capital: the method is not to allow the economic categories to succeed each other in the order in

25 Karl Marx. Grundrisse der Kritik der politiscben Okonomie (1857-1858). pp. 375-413. 18 Ibid., Urspriingliche Akkumulation, pp. 363-374, esp. p. 371. Here Marx wrote: “In asiatischen Gesellschaften, wo der Monarch als der exklusiver Besitzer des Landsurplusprodukts erscheint, entstehn ganze Stadte, die au fond nichts als wandelnde Lager sind, durch den Austausch seiner Revenu mit den free hands, wie Steuart sie nennt. In diesem Verhaltnis ist nichts von Lohnarbeit, obgleich es im Gegensatz zur Sklaverei und Leibeigenschaft stehen kann, nicht muss, denn unter verschiednen Formen der Gesamtorganisation der Arbeit wiederholt es sich immer.” Here three points will be raised: 1. The monarch as the possessor of the surplus product of the land (elsewhere he is referred to by Marx as the sole proprietor of the soil); he is the exclusive possessor of the surplus product, there being no other form of exploitation of labor, in Asiatic societies. 2. There is no opposition between city and countryside; the view of Bernier is here carried forward. The exchange of the State revenue (the surplus product) with the handicrafts specialists (“free hands”) is an extension of the same exploitation, the extraction of the surplus product from the immediate producers thereof. 3. The major op¬ position in the relations of labor to the means of production is between wage labor on the one side, and the relations of labor in the Asiatic societies, slavery and serfdom on the other. The relation of labor in Asia can, but does not necessarily, stand in opposition to the other forms of bound labor, slavery and serfdom.


From the oriental society to the asiatic mode of production which they are historically determined; but rather, the order in which they appear in the critique of political economy is determined by the relation that the categories bear to each other in the society.27 The depiction of the periods and stages in the Grundrisse, and in the Kritik of 1859, is a discussion of the Epochs or Forms, and if that discussion is conducted no further, is not related to the preceding passage on accumu¬ lation of capital in the Grundrisse, it would be undialectical and false. Yet this is what the discussion of the epochs has accomplished until this time.28 Further, it is undialectical not only in regard to theory and ab¬ straction to which we have made reference until now; it is no less a onesided and false dialectic from the viewpoint of practice, for Marx had in view not the forms and periods themselves, but the process of social labor and the relations of labor and capital in society. The epochs to which Marx made reference in the Preface to the Critique of Political Economy are tickets to enter into the discussion of the corresponding relations of production: in the Orient, the communal; in ancient Greece and Rome, the slave relation; in the medieval period of Europe, the servile; and in modern capitalism, that of wage labor. The broad outlines of the scheme are then set aside, once having been set forth, and in his further analysis of the process of social production, it is the actual relations that concerned him, as opposed to the categories.29 *’ Ibid., p. 28. 18 K. A. Wittfogel. Oriental Despotism. E. J. Hobsbawm, Introduction to Karl Marx, PreCapitalist Economic Formations. F. Tokei. Sur le mode de production asiatique. 1966. Marxism Today, January 1967. Premilres Societes de Classes, J. Suret-Canale, ed. 89 In the chapters devoted to the broad historical tendencies of capital, Marx later dealt but little with the grand schemes of social classification, concentrating on the processes of economic relations and their formation. Thus, in Kapital I, ch. 8, §2, Marx confronted the Fabrikant to the Boyar, and in ch. 24 he took up the question of the so-called original accumu¬ lation of capital. In treating of the Fabrikant and the Boyar, it was not the periods in which these representatives came forth, but the Heisshunger nach Mehrwert that is at issue. In the historical tendency of capital accumulation, the point is not to classify these tendencies but to set forth the dual conditions, of centralization of production and the socialization of labor, under which the husk of the ownership of private property as capital, in which both were developed, is broken. (Kapital, vol. I, ch. 24, §7). In the analysis of the genesis of capitalist ground rent (Kapital, III, ch. 47, §2) Marx brought out the opposition of the forms of labor rent under the conditions of serfdom and slavery The point was not to depict the formation of these gross historical cadres, but to concretize the social relations of slavery and serfdom which has the given social form in the ancient or medieval periods of European history as its result. But this depiction is merely a step to the transition to the capitalist form of labor rent in its relation to the content of the mode of production in bourgeois society. This is a question of the dialectic of form and content in society, just as earlier the question of historical periods was raised in reference to the dialectic of social statics and dynamics. Land rent as labor rent will be discussed in the following section. The historical treatments mentioned, in volumes I and III of Das Kapital, follow sections


From the oriental society to the asiatic mode of production In the Einleitung of 1857, Marx still wrote of the Oriental societies, still using the same terminology in the body of the Grundrisse. In the Foreword to the Critique of 1859, however, he already referred to the modes of production as progressive epochs in the economic formation of society. Marx moved, in his formulations, from a concern with the total category, societies as a whole, and from the forms of capitalist and precapitalist production, to the concern with the relations of production. The mode of production that he considered in 1859 took up a range of questions in which the juridical form was closely interrelated to the content. The juridical form of property ownership which he took up in 1857-1858, in the Grundrisse, was provisionally set down in writing, to be taken up later. When he returned to the question, it was with a change in formulation, which was expressed in the Critique of 18 5 9 as the modes of production, Asiatic, capitalist, etc. The change in formulation from form to mode meant not only a change from formal and abstract to concrete analysis, but also a change from the category of the society as a whole to the category of the mode of production constituted a change from the more concrete and more critical analysis. Even the best of the recent analyses have caused the discussion of the Asiatic mode of production to be limited to a formal problem, by lim¬ iting the discussion to the historical-chronological sequence of forms. There still remains the problem of bringing together the form in relation to the content; this means the establishment of the relation between the formal-systematic treatment to the historical treatment. Yet the systemat¬ ic treatment can only be roughly sketched by adversion to a few key concepts; against this, the historical development of Marx’s thought concerning the Asiatic mode of production can be discussed more fully. This imbalance between the historical and the systematic elements is the restriction that we labor under. On the formal side, we will begin with the relation of labor to the land, the great laboratorium, as the more concrete category, rather than with such a category as population size; Marx then proceeded to the relation of labor to capital, in the system of capitalist production, but left few indications of this for the Asiatic mode. Within the chronological problem of the Epochs of economic formation thus far, the discussion of the Grundrisse has been limited to setting out the broad classifications of the periods of economic formation of society

in which a systemic and synchronic treatment is presented. This follows the same plan as that of the Grundrisse, and the program set forth in the Einleitung. The same is implicit in the treatment of economic formations of society in Kapital II (MEW 24, pp. 42 and 474), wherein the formulations lie very close to those contained in the passages referred to in the Grundrisse.


From the oriental society to the asiatic mode of production in the order in which they have succeeded each other. The process of dissolution of the different periods and the succession of the next are still to be introduced into the discussion. In Chapter III, a broad his¬ torical-evolutionary schema is set forth as it was developed by Marx in his writings between 1857 and 1867. This historical schema becomes concrete only insofar as it is related to the formal-systematic treatment of Marx’s presentation. Therefore in this schema we will take up both the relation of the Asiatic to the modern bourgeois modes of production, the difference of the Asiatic from the ancient and feudal modes of production, as gross categories, as well as the relation of the forms of labor in the Asiatic, ancient, feudal and capitalist modes, in particular, the forms of unfree labor in the Asiatic as collective unfreedom, in the difference from the feudal as servile unfreedom, as adscriptio glehae or bondage to the soil. In the Asiatic mode, the cultivator of the land is bound by custom to the community, he is not bound to the soil by his overlord.30 In order that the discussion proceed, it is necessary to shift the focus from the discussion of the gross periods to the more concrete questions. The first of these concerns the forms of unfree labor and the relations of these forms to those of the formally free labor under capi¬ talism. The second concerns exchange which has a decisive importance in the development of commodity production in the traditional econo¬ mies of Asia; the third concerns trade, which has a decisive importance in determining the relations between the capitalist-colonial powers to the Oriental nations; finally, the stagnation of the Asiatic mode and the accelerated development of the capitalist mode of production is connected directly to the first question raised, that of the forms of labor as bound and free, and then to the next two, which concern exchange and trade. The forms of society have at their basis the processes of social labor, and the task of Marx was to lay bare that basis, the conditions under which labor and capital are produced and reproduced in capitalist so¬ ciety, the relations of labor and capital in society, and the process of development and change of those relations, and of the underlying condi¬ tions. Marx, in the discussion of these forms, had as his end the estab¬ lishment of the historical conditions of capital: free labor and the exchange of formally free labor for money. At the same time, the free labor is separated from the means and material of labor, which is the soil. The laborer under capitalist conditions in capitalist society thereby gains an ,0 Marx was explicit on contrasting the relations of labor to the soil in the Asiatic mode of production in his notes and comments on M. Kovalevsky’s book, Obscimoe Zemlevladenie, and in his notes and comments on J. Phear and H. S. Maine. These relations were developed by him as being different from the relations of the European serf under feudalism. See below. Chapters IV and V. 98

From the oriental society to the asiatic mode of production objective existence, independent of his labor, an existence which is toto coelo removed from the social existence of the European peasants under the conditions of medieval serfdom, the slavery of the estates of classical antiquity, and the peasant communities of the Asian empires. The practical side of the scheme of Marx is the identification and critique of the relation of labor to capital in capitalist society in order that the relation may be mastered and changed, and for this purpose he supplied the developmental context as history. The discussion of the epochs of economic formation of society was entitled by Marx, “Forms which precede the capitalist Production,” bearing the subtitle: “On the Process which precedes the establishment of the capital relation on the original capital accumulation.” In the table of contents to the Grutidrisse, the entire section bears the title, “Progres¬ sive epochs of economic formation of society.” The headings and titles refer to the forms, the matter of the section to the content: Two presup¬ positions form the basis on which the modern bourgeois society rests :31 First, formally free labor and the exchange of this labor against money; the purpose of this exchange is to reproduce money and expand its value. The second presupposition is the separation of free labor from the objective conditions of its realization, above all, the dissolution of the bond of the laborer to the soil, which is his natural laboratory. The formation of formally free labor is a presupposition for wage-labor and one of the conditions of capital, presupposing in turn the formation of an economic social form in which exchange for money has replaced exchange in kind and labor as the predominant exchange relation. The first and main point of the section on the Epochs of economic social formation in the Grundrisse is the laying bare of the substructure of the relation of labor and capital in its historical development. This ex¬ position presupposes the dialectic of the formal freedom of labor as wage-labor in relation to the content of its bound condition. Marx developed the relation of labor in the Orient in its historical movement: The separation of the laborer from the soil, the second of the presup¬ positions of the capitalist economic formation took one of two forms: the formation of small, free units of property in land and communal property in land which rests on the Oriental community. Marx assumed that the first form of this property was communal but it was not seden¬ tary; it was a wandering, herding mode of existence. At the time of the first settlement of the human communities, the individual members were related to the soil quite naively, they were indifferently proprietors or possessors of the land of the community as a member of the community. SI Marx, Grundrisse, op. cit., pp. 375f.


From the oriental society to the asiatic mode of production and the distinction between ownership or proprietorship and possession was not yet a meaningful one. Appropriation, the establishment of the right to ownership, takes place through the process of laboring upon it; the appropriated land does not appear, however, as the product of the labor.32 In most of the basic forms in Asia, the integrating unity appears as the higher proprietor, or as the sole proprietor, standing over all these small communities which are therefore only hereditary possessors. Marx here applied the formulation of Bernier, which made the Oriental sovereign, or in Marx’s terms, the integrating unity, into the higher or sole proprietor of the land of the realm. The characteristic of the polity of the Orient is the despotism by which it was governed, that of the juridical system is the lack of property which appears to have existed there, and which existed in fact as the foundation of the tribal or communal property of the Orient. Marx here developed a dual dialectical opposi¬ tion, on the one side between the concrete (in fact) communal property and the abstraction of the property right in the hands of the sovereign, on the other, the appearance of the relation of possession of the land by the community and the reality of the property right. The sovereign power is evanescent, the village has remained where it is, long-lasting. The durability of the village existence is its power against the tyrannical might of the ruler; it is also the cause of its backwardness, the back¬ wardness of the country, and its ineffectual resistance to the incursion of the colonial power of the bourgeois might of the nineteenth century. The village at the same time is self-sustaining, as a condition of its durabil¬ ity, carried forward in its communal existence which antedates the beginning of history. The self-sustaining village contains within itself all the conditions of production, reproduction and surplus production. A part of the surplus production. A part of the surplus labor of the village belongs to the community as corporate person, a part of the

32 This is Marx’s response to Montesquieu, Uesprit des lots, Linguet (l’esprit des lois, c’est la propriete), J. J. Rousseau, and P. Proudhon (l’esprit des lois, c’est le vol). This line of thought is further developed in Marx, Kapital I (MEW 23, pp. 353, 6445, 766, 774). References there cited. Cf. Kapital III, ch. 48, and Theorien iiber den Mehrwert I (MEW 26.1) pp. 320-326. On Linguet, see below, ch. Ill, notes 22 and 45. On the separation of the laborer from the means of production, see Kapital I, ch. 24: Die sogenannte urspriingliche Akkumulation. See below, ch. VII, in which the difference between the Asiatic and capitalist modes of production is developed. Marx, in a letter to J. B. Schweitzer, 24 January 1865, wrote that Brissot, “before 1789, had already given in the same words: ‘Property is theft.’” (See Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Selected Correspondence, 2nd ed., Moscow, 1965, I. Lasker, tr., p. 133.) Intended is Jacques-Pierre Brissot de Warville; Jacobin, later Girondist, author of Recherches philosophiques (on property and theft). His thesis, that property is theft, modifies that of Linguet, and is modified in turn by Proudhon.


From the oriental society to the asiatic mode of production surplus adverts to the despot in the form of tribute. Marx carried forward Adam Smith’s point about the centralization of the water control in the hands of the monarch, and the point made by George Campbell about the village community as a sovereignty unto itself. Marx agreed with Bernier regarding the unity of town and country, their inseparability, as opposed to Adam Smith, but reshaped it to his own conclusion concern¬ ing the unity of agriculture and handicraft industry in the village; he took up Bernier’s conclusion, casting it in a changed form. Only later did he take up the problem of the branches of production in Indian society as a whole. Marx set forth the matter of landownership in Asia as follows in the Grundrisse: In the Asiatic form the individual has no property, instead has only possession of the land. The community is the proprietor, but the community has the form of the State, the overarching community is the State. The production of use-values, and the repro¬ duction of the individual, is the determinate relation of the community; the community, not the individual, is self-dependent and self-sustaining, this being the purpose of the economic order of the community. Marx brought out a series of negations as the characteristics of the Oriental community: the negation of individual private property in land, the negation of inputs from the outside, the non-separation of town and countryside, of agriculture and manufacture, the non-distinction between rent and tax, the non-necessity of the village to pay taxes to the sovereign, for it got nothing in return. The State therefore forces the villages, by extra-economic means, to pay. (Marx concluded in the third volume of Capital that land-rent in labor is the original form of surplus value and coincides with it.)33 Rousseau wrote that the first who, having enclosed a piece of land, took it into his head to say “this is mine”, and found people simple enough to believe him, was the true founder of civil society. He con¬ sidered that he was writing about property, but it was possession that he had in view. Hegel distinguished between possession and property, and set forth three ways of taking possession: it is covered by Hegel’s category of possession by physical seizure, by enclosing the piece of land, and by the designation of it as one’s own.34 Hegel further distinguished

33 Marx, Grundrisse, op. cit., pp. 375-386, 390-395. See also pp. 423f., and 429. He remarked after his main work of exposition, “Auf alles dies tiefer und ausfiihrlicher zuriickzukommen.” (ibid., p. 396.) On the original form of surplus value, see Marx, Kapital III (MEW 25, p. 800). 34 J. J. Rousseau. Discours sur I’inegalite, Seconde Partie, beginning. (1915, vol. I, p. 169). G. W. F. Hegel. Philosophie des Recbts. §§54-59. See also his Ensyklopadie, 3rd ed., §§488-492. In the Zusatze to the Paragraphs of the Philosophy of Right, Hegel begins with physical posses¬ sion of a thing which has other properties of extension than those which are physically graspable, whereas the human hand can grasp more than one thing. Thus two axes are IOI

From the oriental society to the asiatic mode of production between taking possession of a thing and of a human being (slavery), which, according to Hegel, is an outmoded, untrue appearance en¬ countered by the mind which is only just at the standpoint of its con¬ sciousness. Hegel then added, “The dialectic of the concept, and of the consciousness of freedom which at first is direct, effects at that point the struggle for recognition and the relation of mastery and servitude.”35 Hegel had slavery in the ancient world in view, later the general relation of mastery and servitude. Marx in the Einleitung evolved out of Hegel’s distinction between possession and property and the relation of mastery and servitude the

imagined which meet at a given point, which is the act of prehension. Hegel then took up the second mode of possession, by Formierung, forming a thing either by direct or indirect means. The example of possession by direct forming is animal taming, also penning of animals in a game preserve. The example of indirect forming is that of forming the air by use of a windmill. Wearing the national colors is given by Hegel as the means of possession by designation. This is not a natural but a conventional relation; there is no natural relation between the color and the nationhood. Others must agree with me in regard to the significance of the colors and my act of donning them. Taking physical possession and forming a thing have also the meaning, Hegel wrote, that I designate or demarcate it; other are intended to recognize this demarcation and their exclusion. Thus it is a private act. Demarcation, or possession as idea means taking a thing as a whole into possession; physical possession is limited to possession of the part of a thing that can be grasped. In regard to contract alone, Hegel wrote: “The difference between ownership and possession, the substantial and the external sides...” (Philosophic des Rechts, op. cit., §78). Hegel’s system is more subtle than Savigny’s theory of possession as detention, or Rousseau’s conception of possession as private ownership. The notion of possession-Bezeichnung/demarcation is conceived as private and conventional. It is total possession. The thing owned or possessed by demarcation is either alienable or inalienable, individual or collective, used or not used, partible or impartible. The possessor may be present or absent. Internally, Hegel’s system, particularly in regard to slavery (§57, Zusatz) is apt. The relation of master-slave is the combination of the conquest by the master and the agreement of the slave; it is the composition of subject and object, and is an extension of the relation of mastery-servitude, which was examined in the Phanomenologie des Geistes. The distinction of possession by direct and indirect forming may have been an afterthought, for the distinction is not mentioned in the Zusatz to §54, where the system of possession as a whole is surveyed. In regard to possessory right, see above, Introduction, also ch. IV A. The particularities in regard to Asia which have been introduced here in the interpretation of the system of Hegel take into account my own work in Central Asia, and research in connection with the region. Regarding the abstract individual, Robinson Crusoe, see Marx, Kritik, 1859, (MEW 13, p. 46), and Kapital I (MEW 23, p. 90). Rousseau sought to found civil society by the act of possession, or, as he proposed, of appropriation, taking of property. Hegel founded civil society by other means; a line of development goes rather from Machiavelli to Linguet to Hegel and to Marx in the develop¬ ment of the concept of civil society. Karl Korsch adds Ibn Khaldun to this line of thought. See his Karl Marx, p. 138. 56 Hegel, Philosophie des Rechts, §57; reference is there made to his Phanomenologie des Geistes (1952), PP- i46ff., and to his En^jklopadie, op. cit., §§430!?.


From the oriental society to the asiatic mode of production following: “Hegel begins the Philosophy of Right correctly with posses¬ sion as the simplest legal connection of the subject. But no possession exists before the family or the relations of mastery and servitude, which are more concrete relations. Against this it would be more correct to say that families, tribal wholes exist which only possess, and do not have property. The simpler category thus appears as a relation of simpler family or tribal associations in relation to property. In the higher society it appears as the simpler relation of an evolved organization.”36 The physical possession is transformed into property by the formation of the community under primitive conditions as well as in its continuation in the Asiatic form, whereby the individual as yet has no property but only possession of the soil that he works and which sustains him. Whereas Hegel in this connection did not derive the relation of possession of a thing and property rights in it as a chronological sequence, but only as a set of logical relations and conditions, Marx introduced the relation of possession to property both as a logical and a historical sequence. The example taken from Hegel served Marx as an illustration of the method in which the order of presentation reverses the sequence of the appearance of a thing. The sequence is not only a temporal succession but a development over time, with the introduction in turn of conditions necessary for the appearance of the later phenomenon. The community according to this sequence is not the primordial condition, as is the family and the tribal whole, but a later phenomenon. The family and the tribe have no significant difference in respect of possession at this stage, and these unities of possession come first, prior to their appearance there is no possession; the family and the tribe at the same time both precede the community in chronological order of appearance and are necessary preconditions for it. With the community, property makes its appearance, prior to the community there being no property. The com¬ munity is self-sustaining and is a social unity of great durability, pro¬ ducing and consuming its own agricultural and manufacturing products, it has no need of roads or other communication with the outside world. On the contrary, it is the latter, the sovereign State that arches over a number of communities that have been comprised within its rule, that needs to build the lines of communication into the community; it needs to collect the surplus product from the community in the form of taxes, 3‘ Marx, Einleitung. Grundrisse, pp. 22-23. See also Richard Jones, Essay on the Distribution of Wealth, where the distinction between the sovereign as proprietor, the ryot as possessor, is

discussed, pp. u6f. See above, Introduction, section C, where terminology is discussed. For the critique of Hegel’s conceptions of private property and possession, See Marx, Kapital III (MEW 25, pp. 628f., n. 26).

From the oriental society to the asiatic mode of production without which it cannot exist. The negative condition of the com¬ munity as seen from the standpoint of the State is a positive one as seen from the standpoint of the village community. The self-sustainment of the village is at the same time its seclusion, closure, non-communication, all this is an essential moment of its unchanged, continued duration.37 The relation between communities was not considered by Marx at this point, but was developed by him later, in the composition of Capital. The relation of mastery and servitude is no less concrete than that of possession of the land by the family or the tribal association;38 nev¬ ertheless, the mastery-servitude relation is found only in political society. It is a category of the more evolved organization, hence it is more concrete. The simpler society has the abstract relations of personal dependence, clientage; the simpler category formally appears as a relation of the family or tribe. This simpler category is caused to make the formal transition to the more evolved relations of political society, in which the oppositions of the economic classes are more concrete, and in this sense less formal. At the same time, the formal transition from the simpler relation of possession to the more evolved relation of property, in the higher society, appears as the simpler relation of a more evolved organization; it is the more abstract category of the two than the prop¬ erty relation. The simpler category formally appears as a relation of the simpler family or tribe. But the simpler relation is negated by the property relation of the State. The State is purely an abstraction, but it is not the simpler relation of the two; the family is simpler, it is more concrete, but its possession is an abstract possession. The relation of mastery and servitude in the context given by Marx is that of a society divided into opposed classes, political society. Both Hegel and Marx in¬ troduced the mastery-servitude relation; to Hegel it is the relation be¬ tween individuals, while to Marx it is the relation between classes of communities or of individuals. In the same way, both Hegel and Marx introduced labor as the medium intervening between the human kind and the natural surroundings in general, the soil in particular, whereby the human community takes possession of the soil. This is the primary act of abstraction from nature, hence of alienation from nature. To Hegel, the labor relation is that of the individual, the abstraction and hence the alienation is an individual act; to Marx the relation is that of labor in society, social abstraction, and alienation in society. The Oriental community, once it is in existence, is the basis of the

87 Marx, Grundrisse, pp. 423-424. 88 Otto Gierke, Das deutsche Genossenschaftsrecht, v. I, §§1-12. Out of these Genossenschaften were evolved the later associations and corporations of the European tradition generally.


From the oriental society to the asiatic mode of production

collective form of landownership.39 This is a logical, not a chronological relation, for neither property in the form of communal property nor community has precedence in time. It is a dialectical relation between them, each being the condition of the other. The original form of property in land is direct community property in its Oriental form, modified in the Slavic form; the landed property develops to the point of opposition within itself, as the secret even if internally opposed basis in ancient Greek and Roman and in Germanic property.40 The sequence from the primitive communal to the Oriental communal to the ancient and Germanic forms of property was posited by Marx as a dialectical sequence, with provision both of logical preconditions and chronolog¬ ical succession, and the interrelation between the two: This is a formal sequence, and is related by Marx to the content, the mode of production, the relations between labor and the soil, and between labor and capital, which determines the succession of forms. The more primitive form can be understood from the study of the advanced form; each is a logical precondition of the other.41 The laborer has a bound relation to his means of production in the Specific-Oriental form of property. The member of the community is as such co-possessor of the communal property. No part belongs to any particular member of the Oriental community as such; it belongs to the community and to the individual as direct member of the community, hence as being directly in unity with it, not as distinct from it, hence he is only a possessor, for there exists here only communal property and private possession. Over the particular communities there hovers a further unity,42 which is the State. The content of the relation of bound or unfree labor to the means of production is the communal ownership and private possession, which is in its formal expression, as we shall see, a juristic relation. The content is not in opposition to the form, therefore the form has great durability. The juristic expression of the form in the Oriental village arises out of the same tradition as the bound relation to the means of production and the corresponding forms of property and possession; the State has a formal relation to the content, but comes seldom into contact with the village community. Oppositions arise, but they do not engender class conflicts of a violent and extended sort. The history of the Asiatic mode of production is one of almost imperceptibly slow change, giving the impression of stagnation.

22 Marx, Grmdrisse, p. 375. 40 Ibid., pp. 396ff. 41 Grmdrisse. Einleitung, p. 26. 42 Ibid., pp. 378f. See below, note 50. 105

From the oriental society to the asiatic mode of production The section on the epochs of the economic formation of society in the Grundrisse treats labor as the constant theme in human history, it is the objective condition of human life. The variable is its social relation as bound or free. The particular period of capitalist production is a local development within that history, arising under the preconditions of the separation of the soil from the other means of production as instruments, and further, the dissolution of the relations of the laborer to the soil and to the instruments, whereby labor belongs to the objective conditions of capital. The original relation of labor to the soil took the form of communal property, in its direct relation posited in the Orient, modified in the history of the Slavs. The unity of agriculture and handicraft industry in Eurasia was disrupted in both Asian and European history; Marx related the European guild system, which was (a) a corporate person and (b) incorporated rules of inclusion and exclusion within itself, to the Indian caste system, which is in part a manufacturing system, and in which the same constitution and practices are embodied.43 Marx returned to the formulation that the sovereign body is the proprietor of the land in the Orient; the political sovereign is the proprietor eo ipso in his capacity as such; the village community is such a proprietor in its capacity as a small republic. The inherent difficulty in this thesis is that the politically sovereign body has different functions, a different constitution, and is of a different order of magnitude from the village in scale of size and wealth. Voltaire, Justi and Quesnay, as we have seen, made allusion to the fusion of the public and the private spheres in the government of China; Adam Smith expressed the same thought in the economic sphere, it was systematically applied by Richard Jones to India and to Asia generally; it was taken as a fundamental presupposition in regard to China by Hegel. Marx understood the landowner to be the State in Asia, having taken up the formulation of the classical economists who were his 43 Ibid., pp. 396f. Cf. p. 397: Here Marx refers to the dissolution of the relations of the laborer as owner to his instruments of production: The unfree form of the relation of the immediate producer to the land and to property in land presupposes a real community; the ownership of his instruments by the laborer presupposes a special form of the development of labor in manufacture, as in medieval Europe, to which the guild corporation is connected.


ancient Oriental system of manufacture can be regarded as a case of the separation of the immediate producer from the means of production. Marx therefore separated in the Asiatic mode of production the relations of production in manufacture and the relations of production in agriculture. Thus he cancelled out the earlier identification of town and countryside in the Orient; the reference in Bernier was now set aside, in regard to the cities of India (see above, ch. II A, notes 4 and 16). The premiss of a real community is the argument from the more highly developed form of society to the less highly developed form. (See below, note 50.)

From the oriental society to the asiatic mode of production forerunners. In the Grundrisse, the higher community, or the sovereign power as the State, and the private capacity are caused to coalesce into one body. The public power as lord of the land, as landlord, and the private capacity as landowner are not distinguished with reference to the Orient as they were with reference to Europe in the same period, the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The sovereignty has nothing to do with biological individuals either in Europe or in Asia; in both cases, the sovereignty of the kingdom passes from one individual to the next while the sovereign as juridical person remains continuously in being.44 The sovereign body in this formulation by Marx is the proprietor of the soil; the sovereign takes two forms, on the one side, the political sover¬ eignty or the State, on the other the village-republic.45 The identification of either side as the proprietor is the formal-juristic resolution of the question of proprietorship. The village community does not come to the differentiation of the public and the private spheres, nor of the official and the unofficial, whereas the State necessarily does; the State does so by definition, it is defined as the official, public sphere of social life. The formal analogy between the village community and the State as res puhlica that was mentioned by Marx46 therefore exists in its abstraction 14 On Quesnay, Adam Smith, and Richard Jones, see above, ch. I. iiber den Mebrwert III (MEW 26.3, p. 412); see also note 46, below.

See also Marx, Theorien On the theory of the

person, see Lawrence Krader, Person and Collectivity, a Problem in the Dialectic of An¬ thropology. pp. 856-862. Idem, Persona et culture. Les Etudes Pbilosophiques. pp. 289-300. 45 Marx, MEW 28, p. 268: “Diese idyllischen Republiken”; “keine solidre Grundlage fur asiatischen Despotismus und Stagnation.” On the village as republic, see ch. I C, above. 44 Marx, Grundrisse, p. 376, wrote that the laborers relate naively to the soil as the property of the community and the community produces and reproduces itself thereby, through the living labor. He continued: “Each individual is related only as a member of this community as owner or possessor.” It will be noted that in the community, in this form, ownership and possession are not distinguished. Further, Marx wrote, “The actual appropriation through the process of labor takes place under these preconditions, which are themselves not the product of labor, but which appear as their natural or divine preconditions.” “... In most of the Asiatic basic forms, the integrating unity, which stands over all these small communities, appears as the higher proprietor or as the sole proprietor, hence the actual communities appear only as the hereditary possessor.” It will be noted that, with the appearance of the State, the distinction between possession of the soil and right of property in it is made. Marx continued, “Since the unity is the actual proprietor and the actual precondition of the communal property, it can thus appear as a particularity over the many real particular com¬ munities, where the individual is in fact without property, or the property, — that is, the relation of the individual to the natural conditions of labor and reproduction as belonging to him, as the objective body of his subjectivity, as the body found in inorganic nature, — appears as mediated for him by the indulgence of the total unity - which is realized in the despot as the father of the many communities — to the individual through the mediation of the particular community. The surplus product — which is moreover determined in consequence of the actual appropriation through labor - belongs therewith, of itself, to this highest unity. Within the Oriental despotism, and the absence of property that appears juridically to exist


From the oriental society to the asiatic mode of production from the content. The community in its development of the property relation is a State in potentiality; it is not a State as such. The conditions of the transition to the State were developed by Marx only later, in his excerpts and notes from L. H. Morgan and H. S. Maine. Marx differentiated the family from the society and attacked efforts to reduce the society to the family, or to identify the two, or to explain the

in it, therefore, there exists in fact this tribal or communal property as foundation, produced mostly through a combination of manufacture and agriculture within the small community, which becomes thoroughly self-sustaining in this way, and contains all the conditions of reproduction and further production within itself. A part of its surplus labor belongs to the higher community, which in the last instance appears as a person, and this surplus labor is validated in tribute, etc., as well as in communal labors for the glorification of the unity, of the real despot, in part, on the one hand, and of the mythical tribal being, the god, on the other.” The State as a person is the legal person, the corporate personality, the public face of the human individual which is now separate from the private, the official from the unofficial. The person now has a perpetuated existence independent of the individuals who comprise it. The great public works, such as the Egyptian pyramids or the Taj Mahal, as glorification, exist side by side with the public work which is the communal work on the irrigation canals, etc. The communal work becomes public work, as the difference between public and private is established. Marx continued, “This kind of communal property can then appear, insofar as it is actually realized in labor, in two forms: Either the small communities vegetate beside each other, independently, and the individual himself labors on the plot assigned to him, independently with his family; (a certain amount of labor for communal provision, insurance, so to speak, on the one side, and for defraying the costs of the community as such, thus, for war, divine service, etc.; the dominium of the overlord in the original sense is first found here, e.g., in the Slavic communes, in the Rumanian, etc. Here lies the transition to com¬ pulsory labor service.) Or else the unity can be extended even to include the communality of labor within itself, which can be a formal system, as in Mexico, Peru in particular, among the ancient Celts, some Indian tribes. The communality within the tribe can further appear so that the unity is represented in a head of the tribal family, or as the relation of the family heads to each other; accordingly, then, a more despotic or democratic form of this com¬ munity.” The despotism is determined, accordingly, not by the relations of the State, but by the relations of the communities which are then gathered into the State. Marx concluded this passage: “The communal conditions of real appropriation through labor, canals, which are very important among peoples of Asia, means of communication, etc., then appear as the work of the higher unity - the despotic government hovering over the small communities. The cities proper are built beside these villages there alone at particularly favorable points for external trade; or else where the overlord of the State and his Satraps exchange their revenue (surplus product) against labor, expending them as labor-funds.” The historical movement, accordingly, is toward ever greater differentiation: the process is to be seen in the initial non-difference of possession and property, later, their differentiation. Further, public and private are only later differentiated. The product of labor is at first un¬ differentiated, the different divisions of labor are later established, the amount necessary within the community for economic reproduction and further production is opposed to the surplus labor and surplus product. Note on juridical formalism.

Marx in his published work rejected the argument from

juridical formalism in the tenure of land. “The Celts of Highland Scotland consisted of clans.


From the oriental society to the asiatic mode of production course of social history by categories of family life and relations.47 On the other hand, he differentiated the relations of political society from those of the primitive community; these two processes are not one. The relations of the family are opposed to those of the village community as well as those of the tribe on the one side and of the political society or the state on the other. First, as to the differentiation of the family from society, on a superficial plane it is the defense against reduction of sociology and anthropology to psychology. But since that reductionism is not an important problem today, it is more interesting to consider the matter of the public versus the private life in society. The relations of the private and the public spheres were taken up by ffegel: “As opposed to the spheres of private right and private well¬ being, of the family and civil society, the State is on the one hand an external necessity and their higher power, by the nature of which their laws as well as their interests are subordinate and dependent on it. On the other hand, the State is their immanent end, and has its strength in the unity of its universal final end and of the particular interests of the individuals in that, so far as they have duties to the State they have rights in the same way.”48 Marx pointed to the logical, pantheistic mysticism in Hegel’s philosophy of the State and law, but he took as his starting point in the critique of Hegel, the separation by Hegel of the public and the private spheres, the State on the one side, family and civil society on the other.49 This opposition remained a constant theme in his writings from the time that it was taken up by Marx in 1843 until the late writings in 1880-1881. The family is not the State on a small scale, just as the political economy is not the household economy magnified a thousand fold. The community relates to the family on the one side, to the State

each of which was the owner of the land on which it settled. The representative of the clan, its chief, or ‘great man’, was only the titular owner of this land, just as the Queen of England is the titular owner of the national soil as a whole.” (Kapital I. MEW 23, pp. 756f.)


distinction drawn by Marx between the formal title and the actual ownership in Scotland and England holds a fortiori for the Asiatic mode of production, where the formality was imputed to the Asians by Europeans. 47 Cf. Marx, Kapital I (MEW 23, p. 92) for the distinction between social division of labor, which is based on expenditure of individual labor power measured by length of time, and division of labor within the family, when this is not reckoned. (MEW 24, p. 436).

Cf. also Marx, Kapital II

Here the primitive production is described as having no relation to

abstinence or saving of time. Nassau W. Senior and Edward B. Tylor are cited in support of this proposition. See also Ethnological Notebooks, in reference to Phear, p. 281. Marx criticized Phear for having everything in the village founded by private families, referring to social position of respectability and to employment. 48 Hegel, Philosophie des Rechts, op. cit. §261. 48 Marx, Kritik des Hegelschen Staatsrechts MEW 1, pp. 203-209.

From the oriental society to the asiatic mode of production on the other: this thesis underwent a profound change in formulation from the time that it was conceived by Marx in 1857-1858 until his thoughts on the subject in 1880-1881, in connection with the writings of Morgan, Phear and Maine. The village community in the Oriental society is the unit of production and of landownership. As such it is like the State, and thus its State-like quality, which had already been discerned in view of its isolation and self-sufficiency, is reinforced. The property of the community is con¬ ceived as is State property, and is divided as the ager puhlicus is from the private property. The ager puhlicus is known as the land of the com¬ munity in ancient Rome that was held in common: it is established with the separation of private property from the whole, and is the remnant that remains to the community as a whole in the West, while in parts of traditional India it tended to be identical with the whole of the village property, even if in a ruined and devastated way, down to modern times.80

60 Marx, Grundrisse, p. 378. “Das Gemeindeeigentum - als Staatseigentum, ager publicus hier getrennt von dem Privateigentum. Das Eigentum des Einzelnen getrennt hier nicht, wie im ersten case, selbst unmittelbar Gemeindeeigentum, wonach also nicht Eigentum des Einzelnen, von der Gemeinde getrennt, der vielmehr ihr Besitzer ist ” (The first case, p. 375b, concerns the natural community.) The identification of community property and State property, coupled with the separation of both from private property, is part of the thesis; the other part is the identification of ager publicus, or public land, as State property. Marx here applied the model of the more highly developed form of society with the State for the grasp of the less highly developed form, which also appears earlier historically, the tribal form, or the natural community; the antithesis of the more highly developed form is therefore a form of jus gentilicium here proposed by Marx, as it is applied to societies without the State. The model for the less highly developed form is that of Tacitus, Germania, c. 26, in which ager and arva, respectively that land of the whole and individually cultivated fields, are distinguished by Tacitus in respect of ancient German practice. (See Ethnological Notebooks, op. cit., p. 241.) (See also MEW 32, p. 52; letter dated 25 March 1868.) Marx further understood ager as ager publicus in this reference (ibid., p. 414, note 284). The system is therefore the following: individual possession of the arva, which is annually changed, hence it is not permanent in¬ dividual property, which remains in the hands of the community. The distinction between individual possession and community ownership or property in the jus gentilicium, in the condition of tribal and community life, is the reflex of the more complex condition in which the public and the private property, of the State and the community within the State on the one side and of the individual on the other, are distinguished. See Grundrisse, p. 379: “Die Gemeinde - als Staat - ist einerseits die Beziehung dieser freien und gleichen Privateigentiimer aufeinander...” It is implied that private property in land arises only under the circumstance of its distinction from public property; but the distinction between the public and the private is introduced only where society with the State has been developed. Until this point, the distinction between community ownership and individual possession continues in force. This is further developed below, ch. Ill A, note 45. The argument in accordance with a hypothetical jus gentilicium can be accepted as relevant only to the more highly evolved society, and not to the tribe, or tribe-community just as the ancient Romans spoke of a jus gentilicium only after their gentile system had been broken up and parts absorbed into the political system, the


From the oriental society to the asiatic mode of production The end result of this composition is not the establishment of a category, but the critique of a human condition in the social life of the great empires of Asia, the long duration of its periods, its slowness of change, and the low development of the class antagonisms in the political, class divided society. The consequence of this great durability, the prolongation and the slowness of development, the retention of the archaic forms, was the ease with which the higher form of the bourgeois power subjugated it. The discussion of periods, just as the discussion of social categories of history, has caused an extensive literature to be brought forth, partic¬ ularly in reference to the relations of Orient and Occident, and likewise in relation to classical antiquity, feudalism, modern capitalism, and so¬ cialism. The revolutionary movement in the passage from capitalism to socialism had been an important element of the critique of the Chinese Revolution of the 1920s, its defeat, and the difference between China and the West. Periodization of history has been related to conditions of progress on the one hand, and to differential rates of development on the other. Although the literature concerning progress has been kept separate from that of differential rates, nevertheless the two bodies are related. Ginsberg and Pollard make no mention of such differentiation, nor is any mention to be found in the older literature, of Javary, Delvaille and Bury.51 On the other hand, the concept of different rates of progress has a temporal and a spatial reference. Temporal-. In different times social change has been fast or slow. The periods of time when the change has been fast have been called revolutionary periods, and the actively, consciously planned revolutions have been distinguished from the passively experienced, unconscious revolutions. Spatial-. The differen¬ tiation has been set down in terms of continents (Asia, feudal Europe) or in terms of great geographical regions (the Mediterranean basin during classical times). An obeisance is sometimes made to the New World (Ancient Mexico and Peru), but this is not a serious matter when compared to the great attention paid to civilizations of Eurasia and

civil society and the State. Marx here pursued the same thought that he posited in the In¬ troduction to the Grundrisse\ it is related at the same time to the interpretation of the Asiatic mode of production on the one side as a chapter in the history of capitalist society, on the other to the generalization of the conditions of the beginning of that mode of production to those of all mankind during the dissolution of the community and the gens, or the formation of political and civil society. 61 Morris Ginsberg. The Idea of Progress. A Revaluation. Sidney Pollard. The Idea of Progress. History and Society. Ch. van Doren. The Idea of Progress. M. A. Javary. De Tidee du progr'es. Jules Delvaille. Essai surTbistoire de Tidee du progris. 1910. J. B. Bury. The Idea of Progress. Ernst Cassirer. Die Philosophic der Aufklarung. Friedrich Meinecke. Die Entstehung des Historismus.


From the oriental society to the asiatic mode of production North Africa. Africa south of the Sahara, Oceania and the Artie are even more rarely discussed. During the nineteenth century, few evolutionists took account of both spatial and temporal differences in human progress; on the other hand, few did not identify evolution and progress. The idea of revolutions has a different meaning in the twentieth century than it had in the past. Jean Bodin, Richard ffooker, the poet Milton, Francois Bernier, Giambattista Vico all used the word in the sense of a recurrent cycle which returns upon itself with any change in the given system, all having reference to human history; their usage was not different from that of the astronomers who write of the revolutions of heavenly bodies. At the same time, the term revolution was applied to the restoration of the monarchy in England, and subsequently came to be used in reference to rapid and thoroughgoing social change, accompanied by violence: the French Revolution accompanied by the storming of the Bastille, the Russian Revolution accompanied by the storming of the Winter Palace. Lately, V. Gordon Childe extended the term to the archaeological domain, writing of the Neolithic Revolution and the Urban Revolution that followed it. Within the framework of archaeological time, his method is justified by the consideration that the changes were relatively rapid and the consequences of the changes were thoroughgoing. If the time of the Urban Revolution in the ancient Near East is measured in generations or centuries, then the preceding period was measured in millennia. This terminology has more recently been taken up by R. M. Adams and H. Nissen.52 The measurement of human progress by the nineteenth century evolutionists J. J. Bachofen, Maine, Herbert Spencer, Tylor, Lubbock, Kovalevsky, Morgan, Engels, was primarily in terms of temporal succession, in which periods of slow change or apparent stasis were followed by periods of rapid change. Their attention was usually con¬ centrated on the parts of the planet where the change was first detected, or took its most striking form; they assumed for the most part that the rest of mankind simply followed along the path broken by the innovative society. The existence of tensions and oppositions between the advanced and the backward societies was recognized, but did not constitute a significant problem, nor did it occupy a significant place in the classical literature of social evolution in the period immediately succeeding Charles Darwin’s publication of his Origin of Species. The mention of the problem by Karl Marx in 18 5 3 was not followed through. The opposition of differences in rate of change over periods of time, or temporal “ V. Gordon Childe. Man Makes Himself. Idem. Progress and Archaeology. R. M. Adams and Hans Nissen. The Uruk Countryside.

11 2

From the oriental society to the asiatic mode of production differentials, cannot be separated from that of spatial differentials. On the one hand, the failure to take the spatial differentiations into account has suffered from the consequences of negligence: the histories of Asian societies, as well as others both in the Old World and the New (the high cultures of North America, Mexico and Peru) have been caused to be subsumed under the paradigm of European history, just as Latin served as the model for grammars of unrelated languages (Chinese, etc.). The European paradigm was imposed on the Orient either by combining the latter with Greece and Rome in classical antiquity, as though the predominant mode of social production and exploitation was that of slavery, which Engels had done, or by putting it together with the societies of Europe in the Middle Ages, as though the predominant form of production and exploitation in Indian society were serfdom, which was the thought of Kovalevsky and Phear. This ethnocentrism has been rejected by the current discussion of Asiatic mode of production. Practically, the subsumption of one set of societies within the historical category of another is the reflex of the colonialist exploitation of the one by the other, the superordination of the European categories correspond¬ ed to the superiority of the European artillery. The current discussion, however noble the motivation of its rejection of ethnocentric classifi¬ cations, yet has not gone to the point of developing the dialectic of history and the actual relation of social production, which Marx had done, whereby the critique of the social production relations and of colonialist relations was posited by him. Our task is to return the dis¬ cussion to the issues that Marx raised. Instead of synthesizing social evolution into great periods, we analyze them into their social relations. (Further to this see below, ch. Ill D, Town and Countryside.)


The discussion of the Asiatic mode of production, though begun in a promising and at times brilliant manner in the 1920s, in conjunction with the Chinese Revolution of that time, and the revolutionary poten¬ tials elsewhere in Asia, was arrested in the 1930s. The Third International suffered a defeat, and many of the participants in the discussion of the Oriental society and the Asiatic mode of production, both pro and contra, were imprisoned or killed. After the victory of the social revolution in China in the 1940s slowly the interest in the problem emerged again. While account is taken of the ebb and flow of the discussion of the Asiatic mode of production, as it is connected with the defeats and victo¬ ries of the revolutionary movements in Asia, this is again merely a

From the oriental society to the asiatic mode of production historical notation. The Asiatic mode of production exists no longer in its classical form. To separate the ideology of the Oriental society from its basis in the Asiatic mode of production, and to see despotism as one, a unity based upon the most diverse modes of production, as K. A. Wittfogel has done, is a false problem. The argument is based upon the identification of the relation of ownership and the mode of production. This is the error of taking pars pro toto, the part for the whole. The fact that the State owned all the land in the Oriental society and in modern socialist countries is a superficial analogy; the modes of production of the two systems are totally different: in particular, the relations between labor and capital. F. Tokei has more recently advanced the same argu¬ ment. He has proposed that the ancient Germanic society once con¬ stituted a mode of production in itself, based on the finding that Marx had characterized the form of property ownership among the ancient Germans as sui generis. The answer in each case is the same: ownership and mode of production are not the same.53

“ Ferenc Tokei, Sur le mode de production asiatique, See also J. Suret-Canale, ed.. Premieres Tokei has written a valuable account of the Asiatic mode of production in the work of Marx; at the same time he has sought to establish the old Germanic form of property as a category on the same level as the feudal, classical, oriental and bourgeois. This would be the case if property and mode of production were the same, but it cannot be maintained that Marx caused the formulae of the property forms to give the ‘key to the analysis of the mode of production corresponding to the three forms of property’ (Tokei, p. 47). (Moreover, Marx mentioned the Slavic form in the Grundrisse, p. 395, together with the Asian, ancient, feudal, and Germanic forms of property, but neither the Slavic nor Germanic forms as corresponding to a mode of production.) Marx wrote in the Vorwort to the Kritik of 1859, “Auf einer gewissen Stufe ihrer Entwicklung geraten die materiellen Produktivkrafte der Gesellschaft in Widerspruch mit den Produktionsverhaltnissen oder, was nur ein juristischer Ausdruck dafiir ist, mit den Eigentumsverhaltnissen, innerhalb deren sie sich bisher bewegt hatten.” Tokei has reduced the question of the property relations to that of the forms of property; but the discussion of the property relations is a restriction of the problem if production relations are intended, for the former are only the juridical expression of the more general question of the relations of production in society. In order to bring out the mode of production, both the material productive forces must be related to the existing relations of production, and, in the given context, in their contradiction. This equation of the juridical expression with the entire economic formation is at the same time the identification of the ideological forms, of which the juridical is one, with the socialeconomic whole; or the superstructure is put in the place of the whole. G. Plekhanov, Grundprobleme des Marxismus pp. 59-60, considered that mode of production and social for¬ mation were mutually substitutable, which in the context of Marx’s writings has the same dubious intent. Daniel Thorner, Marx on India and the Asiatic Mode of Production, in: Contributions to Indian Sociolog), no. 9, 1966, has written a learned and perceptive review of Marx’s writings on India. After surveying the writings of Marx on India in his articles written for the NewYork Daily Tribune, in the Grundrisse and in Kapital, Thorner concludes, “Only the Asiatic societies based on the ancient village communities of India are represented as exceptions to societes de classes et mode de production asiatique.

From the oriental society to the asiatic mode of production The discussion of the Asiatic mode of production is an actual problem. It is a part of the general conception of the development of human socie¬ ties over a multiplicity of lines, and not merely over one line. It is, in its negative aspect, the rejection of the theory of social development of mankind according to the European model as false. Marx at first adopted the formulation of the Oriental society, in his publications in 1853; this formulation continued in his writings, which he did not publish, in 1857-1858, while at a later time he developed the analysis of the Asiatic mode of production, the first formulation of which he published in 1859. The revolt of the Indian Army in 1857 led to the taking over of the

this law of unceasing change.” (p. 56). Marx’s view, developed in Kapital and in the Theorien iiber den Mehrwert, did not exempt India from this law. We have already mentioned at the end of the preceding section that Marx had taken up briefly a periodization of the history of Indian society, including the village communities. In the following chapter the changes im¬ posed in the colonial period of British domination, as Marx set them forth, will be discussed. K. A. Wittfogel, Oriental Despotism, made the hydraulic interpretation of the Oriental society into the central one; thereby he focussed his attention on the category of the despotism, the political side of the problem, as opposed to the category of the society as a whole. He did not bring into the central focus the Asiatic mode of production. He further made the categories of despotism and totalitarianism into economic structures, as a part of the managerial and semi-managerial systems (see his book for the meaning of these terms). Thus, the mana¬ gerial and semi-managerial categories enter directly into the economic relations of the society in the Orient; hence, in the Orient, the State is not a part of the superstructure, but a part of the economic basis of the society. According to Wittfogel’s thesis, the agencies of the State play a direct part in production by the control of the water supply, or the hydraulic function in the Oriental society. It is a hypostatization of water control, of the role of semi-manage¬ ment, and of management in the economy. The feature of a managerial or semi-managerial system belongs to the same category of superstructure as does the feature of despotism and totalitarianism. It is a superimposition upon water control, which can be managed in several ways.

In contrast to this proposition,

Wittfogel began his work of 1931 on China with

social labor, which, in his work of 1957, has diminished to the vanishing point. He has not exaggerated the importance of water in the actual life of the agricultural peoples of Asia, nor in the Asiatic mode of production in general; it is rather that the factor of water control by [the agencies of] the State has been exaggerated, indeed misformulated by him. When the control of the water supply is centralized, the power of the sovereign authority is great; it waxes as the water supply is centrally controlled. Wittfogel argues conversely, proceeding from the managerial power of the State to the central control of the water supply. He proceeds from the State to the society and thence to the political economy. The State and its agencies, organisms, then appear to be what they are not, part of the immediate labor in society, and part of the immediate material interchange with nature. But the managerial agencies of the State are not direct or immediate participants in the material interchange with nature, nor in the labor in society.

The agents of the State, managers, bureaucrats, etc., are one or more

steps removed from these processes, which are carried on by the immediate cultivators, tillers of the soil, diggers of the irrigation ditches, upon whose labors, upon whose backs, the State agencies are borne, and the State itself thereby. The determining form of the State

From the oriental society to the asiatic mode of production British rule in India by the British government and the eradication of even the formality of rule by the East India Company.54 The capitalists learned that great profits are to be made out of the military establishment; the sale of blankets to the Union Army in the American Civil War had made J. P. Morgan rich. At the same time, capitalists made profit out of the military conquests, and this was as much a lottery for them as its deathly meaning was to the soldiery: Adam Smith saw the second meaning, for the Portuguese, Dutch and French one after the other lost their Indian Empires to each other and to the English. English joint stock owners had privately capitalized the East India Company in the seventeenth century; but by the nineteenth, the English could no longer afford an imperium in imperio, the East India Company and its private army became outmoded, opposed to the national interest of England.

power is the class relation in society, which opposes the immediate producers to the managers, bureaucrats, etc., the landowners, the sovereign.

Wittfogel has obscured this relation; and

the direction of the determining factor has been reversed by him. This permits him to bring together many modes of production under one, which he has termed the managerial, or might have so termed it. He proposes that the category of management is that of the determinant, whereby he can bring together the Soviet system today, the ancient Chinese, etc.

This is

nonsense if you wish to remain within the system of Marx. The error therein is that the mana¬ gerial control is not directly a means of production, nor is it directly related to the means of production, which is the soil, water, irrigation channels, tools, manure, etc. The managerial control is the control over labor in society and over the means of production, by superimposed authority. Wittfogel is, however, ambivalent about his relation to the framework of Marx. This can be seen in a matter of Marx philology. In the passage in which Marx took up the factor of water control in the Orient (Kapital I, MEW 23, p. 537), he dealt with the Nile, making further reference to India, and Arab States.

There Marx wrote, “Die Notwendigkeit, die

Perioden der Nilbewegung zu berechnen, schuf die agyptische Astronomie und mit ihr die Herrschaft der Priesterkaste als Leiterin der Agrikultur.”

Wittfogel then judges Marx by

adopting the standards of Marx himself. Wittfogel, op. cit., p. 382, writes, “By making astronomy the basis for economic leadership, Marx dropped his standard criterion: control over the means of production.” The means of production are the soil, the cleared, watered, manured field, the relation to the means of production is in the hands of the immediate cultivators. Wittfogel taxes Marx with an error that he himself has made, for Wittfogel begins with the premiss that the managers participate in social production, that the State has a direct relation in social production by water control, in the hydraulic society, including ancient Egypt, and he then accuses Marx of having failed to combine that which he, Wittfogel has combined without appropriate differentiation, the direct and indirect relation to production in society.

But Marx’s separation of the direct

relation to the means of production by the cultivators and the indirect relation to the means of production by the astronomer-priests is consistent with his general system, thus: the formu¬ lation by Wittfogel in this light withdraws the attention from Marx’s central point here, which

From the oriental society to the asiatic mode of production The national aspirations of Indians and its expression by the revolt of the soldiers employed in the Company army, went hand in hand with its dialectical opposite, the national expression of British capital.

Bibliographic Addition Marx referred to another body of literature on India in 1853, which is relevant not to the theory of the Asiatic mode of production, but to its destruction by British colonialist practice as it was criticized by English writers at the time: John Chapman: The Cotton and Commerce of India, considered in Relation to the Interests of Great Britain; with Remarks on Railway Communication in the Bombay Presidency. London, 1831. Richard Cobden. London, 1853.

How Wars are got up in India.

The Origin of the Burmese War. 4th ed.

John Dickinson. The Government of India under a Bureaucracy. London, 1833.

is that wants of the Egyptians living along the Nile in ancient times were met by their agri¬ culture; their agriculture was in major part dependent on the seasonalinundations of the valley of the Nile by the river. These cyclical inundations have never been reported to have failed, but vary from year to year, and the rising and falling of the waters are followed with concern and affect by those whose living so much depends on the floods. The cycles of the inundations were calculated at least in part by astronomical observations and measurements, these cal¬ culations forming the basis of Egyptian astronomy, which was in the charge and care of the Egyptian priests, who are said to have formed a caste. These are matters wellknown to the ancients, and one aspect or another was reported by Herodotus (who wrote, Egypt is the gift of the river), by Aristotle, Ptolemy, etc., as well by Egyptians themselves, both ancient and modem. The issue is, moreover, far more important than the philology of the word Leiterin, for it concerns the interpretation of the role of science in Marx’s theory of social production and in his theory of value.

Joan Robinson and Jurgen Habermas have both recently criticized

Marx for failing to take science and scientific development of the technical productive forces into account in this connection. Marx introduced the role of science in antiquity in the form of astronomical observations carried out by the Egyptian caste of priests, observations which were necessary for reckoning the periods of the Nile floods, whereby the agriculture was carried on. The socially necessary labor which is reckoned up in this case is composed of the elements directly involved in the material interchange with nature, hence in immediate production, and the elements indirectly involved through the introduction of the astronomical observations. (Joan Robinson. An Essay on Marxian Economics, p. 38. Jurgen Habermas. Theorie und Praxis, p. icjif. The issue raised by Robinson is whether in Marx’s view technical, scientific knowledge is an independent or dependent factor when capital per man increases. In the formulation here considered we have taken up the question of the direct and the indirect relations of science and technology to social production; these relations are inseparably connected, but they are not the same. Nevertheless the entire issue is one and should be treated as one; this must be left to another occasion.) “ For Marx on the Indian Army revolt of 1837, see below, ch. IH, note 12.



Those who wrote of the Orient in the eighteenth century did not have the society as a whole in mind, but its polity and morality; in particular, they had intended a moral judgment of European politics. The positive determination of this proposition is that Montesquieu, the Scottish moralists, specifically, Adam Ferguson, and the physiocrats, specifically, Fran£ois Quesnay, sought for an instrument to criticize and thereby regulate human affairs; it was to this end that Montesquieu set forth his idea of the Oriental despotism. They did not begin with man in a state of nature as in a golden age; they began with the elements of human nature as their raw materials for the purposes of reform. If they took up Robinson Crusoe, it was for the purpose of establishing an Archimedean point of support for their reforms, which was a man without qualities, without presuppositions, to serve as the point of departure, just as Condillac had posited a statue to which the sense of touch, sight, taste, was then added. The concept of despotism is a particular one; as a political characterization it is a part of a social whole, just as its criticism is an element of social criticism. The concept of society, on the contrary, is a comprehensive one, embracing the political economy, the political forms and relations, as well as that which was first emphasized by J. G. Herder, the traditions of the people. The proposition has a negative determination: the concept of society was not yet formulated in the eighteenth century, in the sense that we give the term today. Justus Moser thought of society as a voluntary association of individuals, a joint stock company, which is close to the ancient Roman sense implicit in the term socius. This was opposed to the meaning found in the work of Herder, of the rule of involuntary tradi¬ tions over a people. It was not until the nineteenth century, in the tradition of German idealism in Hegel, by the critique of the French Revolution and its consequences, and in the promulgation of the related critique by Saint-Simon, Comte, Fourier, Robert Owen, Pecqueur, that the two sides, the voluntary and the involuntary factors, were brought together, a movement which L. von Stein followed closely. 118

Marx on the asiatic mode of production, i8jy-i86y John Stuart Mill then referred to society in its Oriental form in 1848, as we have seen. Marx at first applied the comprehensive term, society, in writing of the Orient in 1853; but in the virtue of its comprehensiveness lay its defect, the term is still to be analyzed into active and passive factors. Of the eighteenth century writers on the Orient in Europe, Adam Smith almost alone sought after the inner workings of the political economy of the Asian nations; he not only made an estimation of the relative achieve¬ ments of European and Oriental science and technology, as had Leibniz and Hume, which is a subjective judgment; but he also made a comparison regarding bound and free forms of labor, he analyzed the relations of the city and the countryside, and formed inferences regarding rent and tax in Europe and the Orient. He was followed in many of these matters by Richard Jones, who made further contributions in the same lines, and by John Stuart Mill. It was by further development out of the latter courses, that Marx overcame the limitations of the concept of society, and at the same time integrated the category of the social with that of the political economy. Alone, the former was far away from the exacting discipline of its command which he began to perceive in the writings of classical economists. The Oriental societies as the political economists dealt with them, were political societies, divided into opposed social classes. The political economy of the Orient in its traditional form was rich in labor, poor in capital; this was particularly so in India, which became the model of the Oriental society as an abstraction. The agricul¬ tural plots were tilled there with archaic implements by archaic tech¬ niques, the productivity was low, although the total yield was high; the division of labor within the villages was maintained, and between town and countryside, but it was fixed in a stereotyped form. In the latter part of the 1850s, Marx developed the means of moving beyond the comprehensive concept, together with its caricature, the Oriental despotism, but he still had not brought out the characterizing term, which he found only in 1859: the Asiatic mode of production. It is implied that there is a primitive mode of production, but beyond this there are four successive modes of production, and four successive epochs of economic formation of society: the Asiatic, the classical, the feudal, and the modern capitalist. In the Asiatic mode of production, the villages were self-sustaining, the production of both agriculture and of handicraft-manufacture was contained within them, therefore, exchange between the village com¬ munities was at a low level. Marx wrote in 1867, “In the Asiatic and classical-antique modes of production, the transformation of the product into a commodity, hence the existence of man as a commodity producer,

Marx on the asiatic mode of production, i8py-i86y plays a subordinate role, which yet becomes more significant the further the communities proceed into the stage of their decline.”1 The expression which he gave to the theory of the Asiatic mode of production in 1859 became the definitive one in the composition of Capital. Further, instead of taking up society as a whole, he propounded the mode of production generally as the driving factor in the various historical periods, and related the system of exchange, through the development of commodities, to the mode of production. We will see that the relation of property is subordinate to the mode of production. In reference to the commodity relation, the four modes of production are placed in two camps, on the one side, the Asiatic and the classical-antique; on the other, the feudal and the modern capitalist modes of production. Neither in the Asiatic mode of production nor in the mode of production of classical antiquity in Europe did the production of commodities play a significant role in the economic relations of society, still less a dominant role. The commodity production and man as a producer of commodities came to play an increasingly dominant role only after these two periods. In Asia the communities have declined (they had declined in ancient Europe prior to the development of the classical mode of production in Greece and Rome). In Asia this decline was not brought about by the transformation of the product into a commodity. On the contrary, the transformation of the product into a commodity in traditional Asia is generated by forces outside the communities, at first by the relation between them. The production of a small amount of commodities, arising out of exchange between communities is then expanded into the production of a vast amount of commodities, which has been converted into production of surplus value transferred to the treasury of the State by voluntary and involuntary means. The production of the small and vast amounts of commodities, proportionate to the whole, is accom¬ plished while the producers are yet embraced in the ancient community life of the agricultural villages, the mark of the ancient and Asiatic

1 Marx, Kapital I (MEW 23, p. 93). In the composition of Das Kapital, Marx cited the Institutes of Manu, Mark Wilks, Political Resident in Mysore, South India, and George Campbell, in reference to the life of the village communities of India, likewise the Parliamentary papers and addresses of 1864 and 1867 relative to eastern bullion and famines in Bengal, Madras and Orissa.

He made use of an

anonymous document on the advantages of the East India trade, the work of Bernier already mentioned. The Bengal Hurkaru (Bi-Monthly Overland Summary of News), Josiah Child, the work of Hugh Murray and James Wilson, Sir Th. Stamford Raffles. He applied in addition to the foregoing, the materials from Richard Jones, J. S. Mill, Montesquieu, Thomas Mun, Thomas Papillon, Adam Smith, i.a. See the following note, and Bibliographic Addition to the footnotes to this chapter.


Marx on the astatic mode of production, i8jy-i86y modes of production. These two modes were then differentiated in their labor relations: both modes were unfree, but the laborers, slaves, clients, the famuls, servus in ancient Greece and Rome, early in the history of each, while they remained unfree, were transformed; the relation of bondage or unfreedom was no longer collective, if it ever had been, and during the classical period it was an individual relation, whereas the Asiatic villages retained for long thereafter the collective relation of unfreedom, bound by the content of collective customary practice and by the form in which the land-rent was collected: the communities were the unit of rent-tax collection. The ancient Asiatic village communities, moreover, long retained their form, and came under the external forces that led to their decline only during the colonial period, when European capitalism entered the lands of Asia in force. The village communities, as collective bodies, on the other hand, disappeared from the scene long before the period of classical antiquity in European history, and only traces of these communities can be found in the historical records of Greece and Rome; indeed, these traces are subject to debate by historians. Marx developed the difference between individual possession and communal ownership of the land in the village communities of the Orient in the traditional periods; the distinction expressed in the Grundrisse arose out of the non-difference between possession and ownership in the primitive period. When he came to formulate the theory and the relevant name of the Asiatic mode of production, in the Critique of Political Economy, in 1859, he showed that the landed property was held in common by the village communities, it was ownership and not possession that they practiced. The phrases of 1859 were copied out in Capital, volume I. Later Marx deviated from his view that the village communities of the Asiatic mode of production owned the land in com¬ mon, and ascribed the practice of possession in common to them: “Those age-old small Indian communities, e.g., which exist even yet, rest on communal possession of the soil, on direct connection of agriculture and handicraft, and on a fixed division of labor, which serves as the determined plan and outline in forming new communities. They form unities of production that are sufficient to meet their needs, their areas of production ranging from 100 to a few 1000 acres. The chief amount of the products is produced for the direct needs of the community, not as commodity, and the production itself is independent of the division of labor in the whole of Indian society, which is mediated through commodity exchange. Only the surplus products are transformed into commodities, and a part of this surplus, moreover, only in the hands of the State, to whom a given amount from time out of mind has flowed.” 121

Marx on the astatic mode of production, i8jy-iS6y Here and in the succeeding passages of Capital, Marx set forth the chief characteristics of these village communities:2 1. Communal possession of the soil. a. Different parts of India have different forms of village commu¬ nities, and different forms of landownership. b. In the simplest form the community cultivates the land in common and distributes its products among its members. 2. Direct connection of agriculture and handicrafts within the village. a. Each family carries on its own spinning and weaving as a sideoccupation. b. Further handicraft specialists in the village, a round dozen. (See above, ch. II A.) }. Fixed division of labor within the village, which serves as the model for the establishment of new communities as the population in¬ creases. 4. Division of labor according to the traditional plan is shown by the mechanism of the community. Division of labor accordingly as the manufactures is impossible; the smith’s or carpenter’s market re¬ mains unchanged, the smiths etc. increase in number without subdi¬ viding their labor. Each repeats what the next and what the prede¬ cessor did. 5. Production for the immediate wants within the village. 6. Absence or low development of commodity exchange and produc¬ tion within the village. 7. Production within the self-sustaining village community independent of the division of labor in Indian society as a whole. (Division of labor in the whole society as well as between villages is mediated through commodity exchange.) * Marx, Kapital l (MEW 23, pp. 378f.). This is a characterization of parts of traditional India for which he drew on Mark Wilks, Historical Sketches of the South of India (History of Mysore), 1810; George Campbell, Modem India, 1852; Sir Th. Stamford Raffles, History of Java, 1817. Further in reference to Raffles, see above, ch. I B, note 78 and ch. II A, note 21. On the unity of household handicraft industry and agriculture in traditional India see Marx, Kapital III (MEW 25, p. 795); the household handicraft is here described as a minor occupation resting on an agricultural foundation.

The natural economy of the Asiatic mode of production is

built up on the basis of this combination in the villages. We will return to the question of agricultural and household-handicraft industry in the villages of Asia below. The appearance of commodities in the village community is discussed in Kapital I (MEW 23, p. 102): “Commodity exchange begins where the communities end, at the points of their contact with foreign communities or members of foreign communities.” Cf. Kapital III (MEW 23, pp. i86f.). This will be discussed further below. On the differences between the forms of land tenure during the colonial period, see Marx, Kapital III (MEW 25, p. 346, note 50). On ownership/possession, see Marx, Grundrisse, pp. 376 et seq.; Kritik der politischen Okonomie, 1859 (MEW 13, p. 21); Kapital I (MEW 23, p. 92).


Marx on the asiatic mode of production, iSjy-iS6y 8. The excess of products of the community is transformed into commo¬ dities. 9. A part of this excess, in commodity form, flows to the State. 10. The State collects tax as rent in kind and labor.

This outline of the village economy in the Asiatic mode of production was based on the Indian example, which was then extended to include other parts of Asia. It accorded well with the schema of Adam Smith, whereby the State collects tax as rent; the village is left in possession of the land; and the rural wing of the economy has been separated from the urban. The distinction proposed by Marx in the Grundrisse between communal ownership of the land cultivated by members of the village community and possession by the individual cultivator was set aside by Marx in Das Kapital. The variations in forms of land tenure observed in India did not permit the earlier formulation to be continued. Communal cultivation is recognized as the simplest form, but the more complex variations were later recognized concretely, whereas the non-variance was abstractly posited in the earlier writing, as a juridical formalism. To point 2: The unity of agriculture and handicrafts within the village is dis¬ tinguished as family undertakings in house-industry (spinning, weaving) and as the separate village occupations of smiths, carpenters, etc. The division of labor in the village is distinct from the division of labor in the society as a whole. To points 3 and 4: The unity of the city and the countryside in the later history of India, which had been earlier posited on the basis of Bernier’s evidence, is here implicitly rejected. The division of labor within the villages is not the same as the division of labor in Indian society as a whole. The commod¬ ity exchange in the Indian society as a whole is not the same as the commodity exchange in the villages. These two differences are accounted for by the development of the production centers in the cities as distinct from the countryside, and the exchange with foreign nations and profits taken by the colonial powers. To point 6: Commodity production arises out of commodity exchange. The flow of commodities to the State treasury from the villages is developed side by side with commodity exchange between the village communities. Exchange between village communities and tax levies by the State are inseparable, having the same commodity form.

Marx on the asiatic mode of production, iSjy-iS6y To points 8 and 9: The State collects rent, in this sense indistinguishable from tax. To point 10: The introduction of money into the economy is at a low level. Even the village product as commodity is not converted into money. The chronology of the Indian village community was not specified by Marx. The ageless antiquity is the anterior terminus, the small com¬ munities still existed in part, here and there; the whole is abstracted from time, within these limits. The self-sufficient villages, a simple productive organism, constantly reproduce themselves in the same form, and where destroyed by accident are built up again on the same place, with the same name. Here is found the key to the mystery of the unchangeability of the Asiatic societies, the quest for which Marx began in 1853, in his correspondence with Engels. This constancy contrasts with the dissolu¬ tion and rebuilding of the Asiatic States, the restless change of dynasts; the structure of the economic foundation of the society remains un¬ touched by the storms in the region of the political clouds. The unity of agriculture and handicrafts is one of the “timeless constants.” The movement of separation of town and land is an ancient datum, accelerated by the relations of European capitalism and colonial¬ ism, but the new phenomena bring to an end the village constitution and relations which have such antiquity and slow rate of change as to appear timeless. The theory of history is this, that the division of labor in the traditional Asiatic village community between agriculture and manufacturing is developed up to a given degree, and then carried no further. The manu¬ facturing process is divided among the different handicrafts, but within the particular branch of manufacture in the village further subdivision is not generated. The production in each workshop making the same product, such as pottery, woodwork, ironware, is the repetition of the others. The answer to why it is impossible is not to be sought in the entire system of production in traditional Indian society, for here, on the large scale, the limitations on development of technology and productiv¬ ity within the workshop are transcended. The production within the mechanism of the community is the first of the limitations. Further to the theory of history here developed by Marx, there is a relation between the constancy of the village community life and the constant replacement of dynasties. The vast distance and the non-commu¬ nication between the villages and the dynasts made possible the changes on the one side, the unchanging life on the other; the non-relation between the two sides and the unchanging life of the villages made the changes of dynasty all the easier in the Asiatic empires, at least in Indian 124

Marx on the asiatic mode of production, 18jj-i86j history. The central point to be accounted for in the theory of the Asiatic mode of production is the practice of the village community as the unit of unfree production, or the body of immediate producers. The accidents of history, the dynastic changes, are not only to be recounted, they are also to be accounted for. The accidental is accounted for in the sense that: (a) there are constant accidental changes, (b) they take the form of dynastic overturns and replacements, (c) they do not disturb the fundamental system of production in the Asiatic village communities. There are other non-essential changes as well: Marx made reference to usury in the precapitalist mode of production in the villages as a revolutionary force only when it breaks up the tradi¬ tional forms of property. Otherwise usury can last for a long time, as it does in the Asian villages, without disturbing the traditional system, that is, without bringing forth anything but economic ruin and political corruption. Here, just as in the series of dynastic replacements, there is only repetition, without the introduction of new factors. The repetition is both geographic and historic: the general plan and activities of pro¬ duction, distribution, exchange and consumption tend to repeat them¬ selves in one village or in one district after the other. Historically, the lack of variation in geographic distribution means the reproduction of the former system by the next generation in the same state as before. There are movements toward individualization of property holdings, and regional variations in production, but the entirety is not thereby changed. The revolution in the villages occurs when the small unit of production is destroyed, together with the separation of the immediate producer from the soil, and by the concentration of the conditions of labor that is thereby freed in the form of capital. Usury becomes a revolutionary force when it accompanies these changes.3 A particular practice by itself cannot effect a radical change; it remains, in its isolation, superficial. Accompanying a fundamental change, however, the particularity can overthrow an entire system. The practice of usury fits in with either system, that of the traditional village economy in India, or the capitalist system. The relations of usury are themselves

• Marx, Kapital III (MEW 25, pp. 61 of.). Marx later found support for this analysis of usury in the work of J. B. Phear.

See below, ch. V B. The concentration of labor conditions in

capital is related to the conception of Richard Jones of the labor fund.

See Marx, Theorien

tiber den Mehrivert III (MEW 26.3, pp. 405!!.). An earlier formulation was given in the article on the future of British rule in India, New-York Daily Tribune, 8 August 1853 (MEW 9, p. 220 et seq.) where the destruction of the village communties by the British railroad activities in India was taken up.

Jones likewise

expressed the idea that the change of a particular institution or practice can only take effect if the entire society is changed.


Marx on the astatic mode of production, i8jy-i86y capital relations in that they actually or potentially form capital, cause capital to circulate, or money circulate in the form of capital. A few capital or capitalist relations are found in circumstances that preceded the capitalist economic formation of society on a small scale in ancient Babylon, Egypt, Greece, Rome, China or India. But the capital-labor relation, the formation of formally free wage labor as a class, the for¬ mation of concentration of capital and its circulation on a large scale has posited a system of modern capitalist society that is qualitatively and substantially different from the small sum of the capital relations found here and there in the economic periods of society that preceded it. In 1857, Marx had taken a related step: the relations of earlier forms of property, such as communal property, are to be encountered in bourgeois society, all misshapen, even travestied, caricatured. The relations of the capitalist economy have brought about the ruin of the small unit of agricultural and handicraft production in Asia, while at the same time the bourgeois society, ‘the most developed and many-sided organization of production as yet developed’, contains within itself oppositive forms, being itself an oppositive form of development.4 The consideration of communal property in land, and the village community led Marx at this time to the theory of stages of social development, as we have seen, and had formulated this theory as the periods of economic development of society. The consideration of the village community was the basis of a further theoretical development in Marx. He wrote in 1859, “It is a ridiculous prejudice spread about in recent times that the form of the natural communal property is a specifically Slavic, even exclusively Russian form. It is the original form which we can prove by the Romans, Germans, Celts, of which India provides an entire sample case with many examples, even if they are partly in ruins.”5 The ruins are also the misshapen forms produced by the colonization of India by capitalist interests. Now the peoples mentioned in this connection are members of the Indo-European language family. The unity of the cul¬ tural traditions of these peoples is accepted by historical linguists today, who have had to clear away a good deal of romantic and nationalist speculations to establish a scientific evaluation of the linguistic evidence of communal institutions in the most distant Indo-European antiquity.6 4 Marx, Grmdrisse. Einleitung, pp. 25f 6 Marx, Kritik, 1859, op cit., p. 10 (MEW 13, p. 21). This passage is reproduced by Marx in Kapital I (MEW 23, p. 92). * E. Benveniste. Re vocabulaire des institutions indo-europeennes. 2 vols. Paris 1969.

On clan

(gens) estates and commensalism in ancient Rome see A. Alfoldi, Early Rome and the Romans. Ann Arbor, 1963, pp. 17 and 132. The controversy on this matter is outlined in The Ethno¬ logical Notebooks, Introduction, pp. 58-76 and notes, pp. 377-386. See below, ch. V D, note 13.


Marx on the asiatic mode of production, i8py-i86y This is a strengthening of Marx’s argument within the given historical limitation, but it at the same time robs it of an implicit generality, for we have then but one cultural tradition of communal institutions, and not many. All that can be inferred from the list given by Marx is that the Indo-European tradition had these institutions; it is not the canon for all mankind that is thereby established. If the original communal existence of mankind is to be shown, it will be by more extensive evidence.7 Marx, in his examination of the communal ownership of the land, wrote: “A more exact study of the Asiatic, more especially the Indian, forms of communal property would demonstrate how, out of the various forms of natural communal property, various forms of its dissolution are brought forth.”8 This formulation establishes Marx’s position in the theory of social evolution of mankind as multilinear. Moreover, it is concrete: the historical medium is that of different forms of communal property, wherein the dialectical moment in the various forms of its dissolution is developed. The content of the communal property is singular, the forms in which it historically appears is multiple; the forms of its dissolution are multiple, the end result, which is the development of private property in land is likewise multiple, differing in the ancient Roman, Greek, Germanic, the modern bourgeois forms. Behind the variety of the forms of communal property lies a further dialectical moment: the history of the development of the forms of primitive soci¬ ety, in which the communal property is evolved, is likewise multiple, and this is demonstrated by the data of the contemporary ethnological

These references are not introduced in order to prove the primordial existence of the communal life.

Those who assumed this proposition to be true, such as Kovalevsky and

Durkheim, or those who assumed it to be false, such as Fustel de Coulanges and Max Weber, were equally partial in their arguments. The matter is not to be settled on these grounds, and the participants in the debate have acted with unwonted naivete, which is itself the subject of some questioning.

The references to linguists and historians in the present context and in

chapter V are introduced in order to show that the thesis of the collectivists is alive long after it was supposed by G. v. Below, Weber, etc., to have lived its short life and passed on (see Introduction, note 8). 7 Friedrich Engels, in a footnote added at the beginning of the Communist Manifesto, edition of 1888, operated under the same limitation.

He referred to the ‘primitive form of society

from India to Ireland, including Russia and all Teutonic races.’ These are all members of one group, the Indo-European speaking peoples. 8 Marx, Kritik, loc. cit., and Kapital, loc. cit. In the Randglossen

Wagners “Lebrbuch” (MEW 19, p. 359) Marx refers to ‘the very numerous

communities’ which “... existed before the appearance of private capitalists (altindische Gemeinde, stidslawische Familiengemeinde etc.)” The ancient Indian and South Slavic family communities are referred to again by Marx in the Ethnological Notebooks, in reference to Morgan, Phear, and Maine.


Marx on the astatic mode of production, i8jj-i86j literature. The forms of communal property differ in the various parts of the world, but not the content, which is one. The content is the relation of the direct producer, the cultivator, to the land. Two factors have worked in opposition to each other in the Asiatic mode of production: on the one hand, the great distance between the life of the village communities and that of the sovereign political author¬ ity; on the other, the activity of the sovereign political authority through its public works in the life of the villages. The first factor was an ever¬ present actuality, the second sometimes present, sometimes only a potentiality. Sir Henry Maine described the kingdom of the Sikhs in the eighteenth century wherein the sovereign did not intervene in the life of the villages within his domain, save for the levy of taxes. The Chinese district magistrate acted as the representative of the emperor, admin¬ istering many tens or hundreds of thousands of people, acting as mayor, district officer, tax collector, legislator, judge, jury, prosecutor. So great was the distance between the sovereignty and the villages that, as Chardin wrote of Persia, they pursued unrelated courses. Leo Tolstoy has even magnified this perspective into a “theory” of history, but the exaggerations aside, the perspective remains. On the great historical level, that which is noted down in the compendia of Ploetz and William Langer, there is much activity: regimes succeed each other, dynasties replaced each other, princes publicly slew their enemies or had them removed by more furtive means, while the villages conducted their own fives apart from these great events, and were but little affected by them. These historical courses were such that the character of the village constitution or composition did not change over the centuries, whether in function or structure; but aside from replacement of dynasties, the same is to be said of the polity and economy of the imperial systems of Asia on the whole. As to the public works and the water control, the variable factor is the model chosen. The central State power was active at various times in the history of China, but not to so great a degree in South Asia, Southwest Asia, and Central Asia. The development of great irrigation projects by centrally controlled means was carried forward in China with great involuntary labor undertakings, which built the Grand Canal, connecting the central and northern parts of the empire, and the system of waterways that connected the entire realm:9

• Joseph Needham. Science and Civilisation in China, v. IV. Pt. 3. Cambridge, 1971. In Section 28 (f), pp. 211-378, the control, construction and maintenance of waterways are set forth. See figs. 813-925 (Plates 336-388). See Wittfogel, IVirtschaft und Gesellschaft Chinas, pp. 410-456.


Marx on the astatic mode of production, j8y/-i86y these were not matched by the water-control enterprises in India, Persia, or the Khanates of Central Asia.10 Marx contrasted the West, with its small scale waterworks developed by local voluntary associations, to the East,11 whereby it is implied that the voluntary associations are absent in the latter. Instead there were to be found the organisation of involuntary labor not in associations but in servitude, a tax in labor levied on the masses of the peasantry. How¬ ever, while such labor was important in the traditional Chinese economy, it was less so in that of India. Both China and India in the traditional periods of their history lacked the kinds of voluntary associations found in Flanders and Italy, and this was regarded by Marx as an indicator of the more advanced state of civilization in the West. On the one hand, the great social distance between the sovereignty and the villages in the East was bridged only by forced and involuntary conscriptions of labor, directed from without. On the other, the absence of voluntary associa¬ tions in the East is connected with the absence of private property there. In Italy and Flanders were found the very early forms of capitalism. Because of the profound differences between the different parts of Asia, it is difficult to conceive of a single category that comprises them all in the terms already introduced. For this purpose we must turn away from consideration of the limited conception of hydraulic under¬ takings. The central question of Marx in reference to the Asiatic mode of production concerned the collective institutions of the village com¬ munities. The role of the State as the means of developing water control by the great public works was introduced by Engels in correspondence with Marx in 1853, and was taken up by Marx in his writings of that time. In the later writings, during the 1860s, Marx made only brief mention of water control; in the last writings, 1879-1881, on the Asiatic

10 See for Islamic irrigation, Eilhard Wiedemann. Zur Technik bei den Arabern, vol. I, pp 273-322. On the qanats of Persia, see Richard Jones, Essay on the Distribution of Wealth, pp.

12of. Carl Troll


surveyed the worldwide distribution of qanat irrigation in:

C. Troll and C. Braun, Die Wasserversorgung. 11 MEW 9, p. 129.

See ch. II A, above. Flanders and North Italy are both regions where

artificial irrigation of the soil was carried on by local voluntary associations, both are places where capitalism was early established. On the early development of capitalism in Italy see Marx, Kapital I (MEW 23, p. 744): friihsten entwickelt...”

“In Italien, wo die kapitalistische Produktion sich am

That capitalism was early developed in Flanders and the Low

Countries generally has come out, not particularly in the well-known work of Max Weber, Die protestantische Ethik und der Geist des Kapitalismus, but more importantly in the discussion around its thesis. The relation of voluntary associations and early capitalism has been partially explored by Gierke, Das deutsche Genossenschaftsrecht, vol. Ill, §13. Hints of this relation may be found in the works of Jean Bodin and Johann Althusius. Further hints are found in Max Weber, Wirtscbaft und Gesellscbaft, pp. 199-211.


Marx on the asiatic mode of production, i8py-i86y mode of production it was even further reduced in importance. The State in the Orient, according to his publications and notes from the period 1859 and on played chiefly a negative role, by the accumulation of the surplus product, which served no further purpose in capital for¬ mation.12 The adversion of the surplus product of the village to the State treasure was negative from the standpoint of the village as well, which received no return from it. This is subject to variation: The central State power intervened in the life of the village commu¬ nity through levying a tax in the form of labor for the great public works in China, and this intervention had a great effect on the economy of the villages, which were bound by the alienation of the sum of the labor power conscripted for the great public works to the central regime. The overarching power of the State was removed by a great distance from the village, but bridged the distance by the levies of involuntary labor. The relation of the central power to the village communities in India was such that the amount of the levies of involuntary labor for the public works there was great in traditional times but was quantitatively inferior under the British in the nineteenth century, so much so as to constitute a radical change in both the constitution and function of the central State power in India in its relations to the villages. This traditional period in reference to India includes the ancient, Islamic and Mogul times, down to the eighteenth century A.D. During this period China was sometimes divided, but more typically and usually was united; China was, moreover, united during this period precisely under the conquest dynasties of the Mongols and the Manchus as much as it was

12 la 1855, before Marx had formulated the theory of the Asiatic mode of production, he considered the question of water control to be an important one, but beginning with the Grundrisse, continuing in the Kritik of 1859, in Kapital, Theorien iiber den Mebrwert and in the notes pertaining to India and Asia generally taken in 1879-1881, the question of water control became a subordinate problem. For Marx’s writings in the New-York Daily Tribune on Asia see ch. II. See further his articles in the Neiv-York Daily Tribune: On the English-Persian war: - 7 January, 14 February, 24 June 1857. On China: - 23 January, 16 March, and 10 April 1857. 20 and 25 September (on the history of the Opium trade); 5 and 15 October 1858. 13, 16, 20 and 30 September, and 3 December 1859. (Chiefly concerned with the English-Chinese conflict and trade with China.) On India: - 15 July, 4, 14, 18 and 29 August, 15, 16, 17, 21, 26 September; 13 and 23 October, and 14 November 1837. (These include 12 articles on the Mutiny in the Indian Army.) 28 May, 7 June, 23 and 24 July 1838. 30 April 1859. They are collected (in German, translated from the English original) in MEW 12 (articles written in 1857 and 1858) and 13 (articles in 1859). Further references to this question will be found in the following chapters.


Marx on the asiatic mode of production, 1857-1867 under the indigenous Ming dynasty. But this thought, in order to be understood, must be turned into its negation: the impact of the central State power on the villages was little different during the conquest dynasties from that of the period of indigenous rule.13 The history of the empires of Asia differ in this regard. The history of the villages is another matter.14 The slow rate of change of the life of the villages of Asia in the traditional cultural period, at times imperceptibly slow, determined the slow rate of change of the great central polity, such that the changes of the central authority were superficial from the beginnings of history down to the most recent times. Marx had developed the thesis that the Indian village community was self-sustaining, and included both agricultural and handicraft production, connecting this self-sufficiency to the backwardness of the villages.15 We infer from this that in the village community the unit of production and the unit of consumption was the same, insofar as the portion of the village product retained after taxes is concerned. The period in question is the Mogul and British periods. The village economy comprised therefore the division of labor within itself, but the village was not engaged in commodity production, save to the extent that its product was alienated in the form of exchange and tax levies to the State. The production was for its own needs, by common, directly socialized labor.16 The Asiatic mode of production was devel¬ oped as a concept by Marx in the Foreword to his Kritik of 1859, but he had already determined that the theoretical and practical significance of the concept lay in the fact of communal landownership. A part of its surplus labor belongs to the State, which Marx conceived in a dialectical inversion as a great community. The inference is the following: in the absence of private property, the community is the proprietor of the land;

1S The Mongol or Yuan dynasty 1260-1368 A.D. (Conquest dynasty). Ming dynasty 1368-1644. (Indigenous dynasty). Manchu or Ch’ing dynasty 1644-1912. (Conquest dynasty). Arabs in Sind from 712 A.D. (Conquest). The Mogul empire in India 1526-1761 A.D. (Conquest).

The British dominion in India ended in 1947. 14 The relation of the agricultural empires of China, India, and Persia to the nomadic pastoralists of Central and Inner Asia, chiefly Turks and Mongols, falls outside our view. The relations of these great economic wings, the pastoralists and the cultivators, who have been caught in a great institutional network of mutual interdependence and economic reciprocity, have been dealt with in: Lawrence Krader, The Cultural and Historical Position of the Mongols, Asia Major. Idem. Feudalism and the Tatar Polity of the Middle Ages, Comparative Studies in Society and History.

15 Marx, Grundrisse, op. cit., pp. 375-386. 14 Marx, Kapital I (MEW 23, pp. 56, 92).

Marx on the astatic mode of production, iSjy-i86y the State is recognized as proprietor, and hence is a higher community. This is not the first time the State has been conceived as a higher com¬ munity, having earlier appeared in the work of Johannes Althusius. The State exists as a Person, and the surplus labor is made over to it in the form of tribute and in the form of labor in common for the actual despot and for the god, the residue of the time when the primeval tribe existed and whose being was thought of in that way.17 The village is no longer represented as isolated. This representation was further developed by Marx as the prehistory of the commodity: the evolution of the product into a commodity arises out of exchange between communities, and not between members of the same community. But as soon as things become commodities in their external relations, they become the same, by reverse action, within the internal life of the community. This is the original condition of the commodity relation; slavery and serfdom are later conditions under which commodity exchange takes place, and for these modes of production the same condition for the transformation of goods into commodity was valid. The guild organization of handicrafts, which is separated from the cultivation of the soil in successive periods by slaves and serfs in the West was subject to the same condition, under the provision that this development of commodity exchange holds good only so long as the means of production in each branch of production are only transferable with difficulty into the other. Under this circum¬ stance, the different spheres of production relate to each other, within certain limits, as foreign countries or communistic communities.18 The

17 Marx, Grundrisse, p. 377. See Gierke. Johannes Althusius, p. 25. The State was defined as “universalis publica consociatio..that is, the public community of universal type; consociatio publica is a political community (p. 23). See also Johannes Althusius, Politico (1603) edited by C. J. Friediich, 1932; J. W. Gough, The Social Contract, pp. 75-79. The passage from the Grundrisse is Marx’s further reflection on the question. Why does the history of the Orient appear as a history of religions? (Letter of 2 June 1853: MEW 28, p. 252.) See above, ch. II A. 18 Marx, KapitalIII (MEW 25, pp. 186-187). Cf. Kapital I (MEW 23, p. 102): “Things are in and for themselves alien to man and therefore alienable. In order that this alienation be re¬ ciprocal, men need only encounter each other tacitly as private owners of those alienable things, and in that way as persons independent of each other. Such a relation of reciprocal estrangement does not exist for the members of a natural community, whether in the form of a patriarchal family, an old Indian community, or an Inca State. Commodity exchange begins where the communities end, at the point of their contact with foreign communities, or members of foreign communities.” This passage is to be taken as a view of man’s social evolution of mankind as multilinear. The Inca State cannot be regarded as having emerged out of either the patriarchal family or the community; the Inca State is a form of community in its own right. It is a simple com¬ munity as the State different from the overarching community as the State in the ancient Orient mentioned by Marx in the Grundrisse, p. 377. See below, note 24, in this section.


Marx on the asiatic mode of production, i8jy-i86y prehistory of the commodity production is a matter of exchange between communities; it is a matter of relations between human groups, and it then becomes a matter of production in society, or the relations between social man and nature. The evolution of the commodity relation was incorporated by Marx into the general theory of evolution.19 This development of evolutionary theory is at once concrete in tracing out a particular lelation in the economy, and it brings in the relation of the single evolutionary path to the general. The universal evolutionary development of mankind exists only as an abstraction; the particular evolutions are various and concrete. The internal life of the Asiatic village community is self-sustaining, the product being consumed by the inhabitants themselves. The surplus produced is extracted by the State as taxes, by the landlord as rent, by the State as landlord in the form of rent-tax; the surplus produced is further exchanged as commodities with other communities. The external relations are then internalized by the community, whereby commodity production and consumption, distribution and exchange are incorporated into the life of the village communities. The community continues its capacity for self-sustaining production, but is no longer isolated, being now a subjected part of the State and engaging in exchange relations with other communities. The commodity relation is irreversible, and once introduced into the village community in its external relations, it is then introduced into its internal relation. The establishment of the relation in a given set of communities may have been repeated many times, but once the era of its introduction is past it cannot revert to a precommodity existence; in this sense the process is irreversible, as chronological sequence as well as logical pre¬ condition. The life of the community and its history is determined by its commodity relations and the production in society of a surplus product. So far we have paid attention to the onset of the process; during the historical course of the traditional village community of Asia, in the Asiatic mode of production generally, just as in the mode of classical antiquity, the existence of men as producers of commodities plays a subordinate role in production; the transformation of products into commodities is less important than the production, distribution, ex¬ change and consumption of the product apart from the commodity relation. Production of commodities, finally, becomes the more im¬ portant as the community enters the stage of its decline, which is effected by external forces of trade, and colonial domination.20 The development of the community is in this sense determined by the relations of com18 See the footnote by Engels to Kapital III (MEW 25, p 187); cf note 2 in this section. *° Marx, Kapital III (MEW 2), p. 346) See also Kapital 1 (MEW 23, p. 93)


Marx on the asiatie mode of production, 1837-1867 modity exchange, at first an external relation of the community, which is then internalized, and the production in society of a surplus product, which is a relation of the community that is both internal and external. The temporal sequence in the establishment of commodity exchange and production is significant, proceeding from without to within the com¬ modity, and from exchange to production. The surplus production is an internal and at once an external relation of the village labor to the product, which thereby becomes transformed into a social product, and the isolation of the village community comes to an end. At the outset of the development, the division of labor is found, it is the division of labor within the family as well as in society; a modest devel¬ opment of the division of labor within the community is detected, for example, in the traditional village community of India, where these processes are found without the commodities becoming products.21 Cooperation within the community in the labor process and war, enslavement in the relations between communities, were undertakings of hunting peoples at the beginning of human culture; cooperation without the necessary production of commodities, such as may be found in the communities of India, also is found under agricultural conditions. Marx referred to Linguet relative to the cooperation in primitive com¬ munities whose earliest form is hunting animals. Linguet by a brilliant leap came to regard war among primitive peoples as the hunting of men.22

11 Marx, Kapital I (MEW 23, p. 56) The division of labor in the traditional Indian community included the village bookkeeper. See Marx, Kapital II (MEW 24, p. 136), also Kapital I (MEW 23, p. 378), and the passages which Marx quoted from Wilks, Historical Sketches of the South of India, the Fifth Report 1812, Campbell’s Modern India. In Marx, letter of June 14, 1853, MEW 28, p. 267, the village accountant in India is termed the Curnum, Shanboag, or Putwaree (citing Wilks, 1810, op cit. pp. ii7f.) A circumstantial list of occupations in villages in the Bengal delta is given in Phear, The Aryan Village, op. cit. (See below, ch. V B, and Ethnological Notebooks, op. cit., pp. 250-253 (Marx, excerpts from Phear.) See also ch. II A, note 7, above. 21 Marx, Kapital I, op. cit., pp. 353b Marx here uses the term ‘Kulturanfange’, the beginnings of culture with reference to hunting peoples. (See also ibid., pp. 194, 372, 535.) This is the modern usage of the term culture in the history of anthropology as a science, referring to the totality of the scope of human evolution and not to a restricted side, such as agriculture, or fine arts. It was the practice in Marx’s time to restrict the term ‘culture’ to one or another of these partial usages. On the other hand, Marx also used the term Kultur in Kulturvolker to apply to civilized peoples. Cf. his Kapital I (MEW 23, p. 92). On war, see S. N. H. Linguet, Theorie des Loix Civiles, where it is implied that among primitive peoples, slave-taking has an economic purpose, just as hunting of animals. Marx so understood him. See above, ch. II B, note 32, and ch. Ill, note 45, in this section. Linguet, whom Marx considered to be a reac¬ tionary, held the Asiatic slavery to be preferred to the chains of the day-laborer in Europe (op. cit., pp. 496, 510. See Marx, Theorien iiber den Mehnvert I. MEW 26.1, p. 320 on Linguet, and p. 325 on Asiatic slavery).


Marx on the asiatic mode of production, 1857-1867 The cooperation within the agricultural community in India is at once like and unlike that found in the primitive hunting communities. Both forms of cooperation presuppose a division of labor, but not necessarily a division of labor in society. The division of labor in the community is in part like the division of labor in the family, the unit of production, consumption, distribution and exchange is the same, labor time spent in production is not quantitatively reckoned up, and has no objectively fixed value. J. S. Mill had already called attention to the combination of labor in the agricultural villages of the Orient; Emile Durkheim has written of the division of labor in society, whereby he differentiated be¬ tween the mechanical and the organic solidarity.23 The agricultural com¬ munity in traditional India thus points both backward and forward on the scale of development: By the introduction of commodity production and exchange and the production of surplus products the social division of labor is established, and conversely, by the social division of labor within the agricultural community the commodity and surplus produc¬ tion is introduced; the cooperation ceases to be of the primitive kind found among the hunting peoples. The social division of labor is established in the traditional village community of India by its relation to other communities and to the State; the community is itself a naturally evolved and not consciously planned development, such as was to be found in the artificial communism of ancient Peru.24 The relation of natural and artificial development of institutions in Marx’s writings rests in major part on the distinction

23 Emile Durkheim. De la division du travail social (1893). 5th ed., 1926. By mechanical solidar¬ ity Durkheim meant the primitive kind, corresponding to the division of labor in the family. The distinction was not new, the terminology was, but it is unfortunate.

The mechanical

solidarity is found among peoples with the division of labor of an organic kind, based on sex, maturity, physical strength. The mechanical solidarity is found in primitive societies, which are poor in knowledge of mechanical technology. 21 Marx Kapital III (MEW 25, p. 884). The Inca realm is referred to as the natural community having the form of the State [Kapital I, MEW 23, p. 102). The formulation of this problem by Marx as it was expressed in the first volume of Kapital is perhaps not to be taken as the definitive one.

There he wrote: “Solch ein Verhaltnis wechselseitiger Fremdheit existiert

jedoch nicht fur die Glieder eines naturwiichsigen Gemeinwesens, habe es nun die Form einer patriarchalischen Familie, einer altindischer Gemeinde, eines Inkastaates usw.” In the third volume of Kapital this thought was modified (loc. cit.): “Gesellschaftliche Produktion irgendeiner Art (z. B. die der naturwiichsigen indischen Gemeinwesen oder die des mehr kiinstlich entwickelten Kommunismus der Peruaner).. In these references, the Inca State and the Peruvians are one. The natural community in the form of the State among the Incas had a more artificially developed communism than the natural community of India. See above, in this section, note 18. On the natural economy of the Incas, with neither commodity exchange nor commodity production, see Marx, Kapital II (MEW 24, pp. 119, 151).


Marx on the asiatic mode of production, i8}j-i86y between the traditional forms and the forms shaped by legislation, by decree, by action imposed by the central government upon the villages. Marx noticed this in the case of the Inca realm; it is also to be noticed in regard to the mir of the Russian peasants in the nineteenth century. The general features of the social and cultural evolution of mankind developed by Marx are shown in the following table: table i. Plan of the Social and Cultural Evolution of Mankind in Marx, Earliest Begin¬


nings of Culture

8j j-i S6j A/







Family Life








of Humanity as a Whole

Patriarchal Family / Community


I New World

Old World

(Mexico, Peru)




Commodity l H Exchange Relations

Community within \ the State: Higher Community of the State. Asiatic Mode of Production. State as Landlord. Community

Unity of Cultiva¬

Ancient Mode of

in Posses¬

tion and Handi¬

Production. Unfree

Natural Community

sion of

craft Production

Labor (Slavery).B\ s

as the State.

the Land

in the Village.



Later, Separation

of Town and


of Town and


Labor. C\




Medieval (Feudal) Mode of Production. Unfree Labor. (Serfdom)

Down to Spanish s Conquest (16th Century A.D.) Unfree Labor.

Modern Bourgeois Mode of Production. Formally Free Labor. Down to 19th Century (in Ruined Form)


Marx on the astatic mode of production, 1837-186j Notes to Table I:

A/ Compare this schema with the outline of human development proposed by Marx in his earlier writings, in which Marx wrote of the series of successive forms of property: “The first form of property is tribal property. It corresponds to the undeveloped stage of production, in which a people subsists by hunting and fishing, by pastoralism, or at most by agriculture.”

“The second form is the ancient communal and State property, which

proceeds particularly out of the union of several tribes into a city, through contract or conquest, and in which slavery still remains in existence.” “The third form is feudal or Estate property.” 1845-1846.

(Marx, ch. I, Feuerbach, in: Marx and Engels, Die Deutsche Ideologic,

MEW 3, pp. 22-24.)

The developmental concept is unilinear, the single

historical sequence; once the tribal form is passed, it is that of ancient and medieval Europe. The wider cultural ambitus of the later developmental sequences advanced by Marx in connection with the Asiatic mode of production is of particular moment, therefore. In the latter case the beginning of a multilinear sequence is set forth by him. The foundation of Marx’s periodization has undergone a change.

Whereas in The

German Ideology, the basis for periodization is the form of property, yet from the concep¬ tions in the Grundrisse, the Critique of 1859, and Capital, the basis is the mode of production as a whole.

The mode of production is comprised in two wings, the productive forces

and the production relations.

The production relations have as their legal expression the

property relations. (Foreword to the Critique of 1859.

See above, ch. II B, note 53).


should be added that the form of property is a schematic conception just as is the legal expression of the production relations as property relations. We take this occasion to note the development of Marx’s historical conceptions: His first essay at periodization of human history began with the form of property as the criterion for differentiating the historical periods.

He then established the mode of

production as a whole as the criterion for differentiation of the periods; the changes in the productive forces and in the relations of production are the means whereby the movement from one period to the next is effected.

Finally, Marx propounded the movement as

movements, as multilinear, and not unilinear, in various historical lines among different peoples.

While these were set forth in a tentative way in the works composed in the

period 1857-1867, they were set forth more definitely, although still not finally, by him in the period 1879-1881; see below, ch. IV-V, and the Ethnological Notebooks. B\ The present work is concerned with the forms of communal property in land and the unity of cultivation and manufacture in the villages of Oriental type; marginal to its concern is the form of property and manufacture on dissolution of the communal forms. Accordingly we will note, but only in passing, that within the framework of the theory of development as it is here set forth the small peasant household and the independent handicraft workshop make their appearance more than once: They first appear after the dissolution of the primordial community of “Oriental” type in Europe, and before slavery became the predominant form of social labor in the classical period of historjr in Greece and Rome; the independent manufacture-workshop appears as separate from the manorial form of property in land during the era of the feudal mode of production in medieval Europe; and both the small independent household and the independent workshop (the latter in continuum from its presence in earlier eras) in the period of capitalist production. The communal unity of land ownership is at once a part of the Asiatic mode of produc¬ tion and opposed to it. (See section III B where this question is further discussed.) On its dissolution the village community gives rise to the individual household which is described by Hesiod and which forms the idealized picture of the ancient Germanic household postulated by Justus Moser.

On the independent household economy in

classical antiquity, Marx wrote, “This form of free parcel property of independent peasants


Marx on the asiatic mode of production, 18 jy-i86y as the dominant normal form creates on the one hand the economic foundation of the society in the best times of classical antiquity; on the other hand we find it among modern peoples as one of the forms which emerge from the dissolution of feudal landownership. Thus the yeomanry in England, the peasant class in Sweden, the French and West-German peasants.”

He continued, “The free property of independent peasants is evidently the

most normal form of landownership for small enterprises...” (Marx, Kapital III (MEW 25, p. 815). This free normal, or even most normal, form is then replaced by the slave economy of the ancient city-states of ancient Greece and likewise of the Roman latifundia, which destroyed Italy, according to Pliny the Elder. The high esteem in which Marx held these small independent peasants, be they Hesiod’s farmers or the yeoman of England, is made clear. Marx found praise for this small producer who was not bound to the soil, in many of his writings. (See Marx, Kapital I, MEW 23, pp. 92b) From this it follows that the condition of free labor in the political economy occurred not for the first time in history when the transition to capitalism was made in western Europe.

The formation

of the class of free labor is a condition for the formation of capitalism only when it occurs in conjunction with the development of capital, specifically, with the self-formation and self-expansion of capital, or its Selbstverwertung. The basis for the underlying historical perspective here set forth is given in a condensed, indeed lapidary, note by Marx: “The small peasant household economy and the independ¬ ent craftsman’s workshop, both of which form in part the basis of the feudal mode of production, and also appear beside the capitalist enterprise after the dissolution of the feudal, likewise form the foundation of the classical community at its best time, after the original Oriental communal property was dissolved and before slavery had seriously dominated over the production.” (Kapital I, ch. XI, footnote 24. - MEW 23, p. 354). Earlier, in the same paragraph to which this footnote is appended, Marx had placed the cooperation in the labor process of the hunting peoples and in the agriculture of the Indian community on the one side, and capitalist cooperation on the other; in both the hunting and Indian agricultural communities, he wrote, the production conditions materials - were owned in common. (Ibid., pp. 3 3 3f.) The original Oriental communal property, on its appearance, both in Europe, before the rise of the Greek city-state, and in Asia, replaced the earlier hunting form of communal property. The Oriental community at the same time formed the basis of further development both in European classical antiquity and in Asia.

Development is found at different rates on both continents. The

Oriental community, mode of production and the corresponding form of property ownership lie at the basis of both developments, and are found under altered conditions in the political societies and their States in the New World. The difference between the various forms of pre-capitalist modes of production is at the same time transformed into their commonalty.

The most important characteristic

relation of these pre-capitalist modes, once they have transformed themselves from the primitive state, is the production in society of surplus value, and the most important form of this relation is the provision and collection of rent. Marx wrote in the matter of their commonalty: “Whatever the specific form of the rent may be, all of its types have this in common, that the appropriation of the rent is the economic form in which landownership is realized, and that on its part, ground rent presupposes land property, property of determinate individuals over determinate pieces of the planet; the proprietor may be the person who represents the community, as in Asia, Egypt, etc., or this property in land may be the mere side-effect of the property of determinate persons over the persons of the immediate producers, as in the slave or serf system, or it may be pure private property of non-producers over nature, a mere title to property over the soil, or finally, it may be a relation to the soil as among colonists or small peasant landholdings...” (Marx, Kapital III. MEW 25, p. 647.) 138


Marx on the asiatic mode of production 1857-1867 The representative of the community, the State or monarch in Asia, has the power to extract the rent, in the form of surplus labor or surplus product, in the same way as a feudal landlord or modern absentee landowner. The commonalty of these relations is in turn transformed, by its effective action, into the various rates at which the different modes of production that correspond to them, coming into being, develop, and disappear. C\ The different modes of production have the corresponding relations of social labor to the means of production, as bound or free. Aside from the form of social labor in the capitalist mode of production, and prior to it, all relations of social labor to the means of production are unfree, taking labor in its predominant form in the different modes of production. This comment holds for the pre-capitalist forms of labor-relations in the Old World and the New, and in the Old World, both in Europe and Asia. But only the forms of unfree labor which form the predominant classifications in the successive periods of European history, the slave and servile labor relations, in the modes of production preceding the modem, have been identified by name. The want of general terms for the different forms of unfree labor in the extra-European and the world-wide contexts, other than those of slavery and serfdom, is a matter of the utmost theoretical and practical importance.


the negative side, it is a means of overcoming the Europe-centered historical perspective; on the positive side the identification of an historical phenomenon by an appropriate name is a necessary step in its scientific treatment, and an instrument useful in combatting it. The relation of labor to the means of production under capitalism is formally free, but in content it is bound. The forms of unfreedom in the relations of labor to the means of production in the former colonies of the capitalist powers are maintained in place by the capitalist relations of production and the formal freedom of labor that is a part of those relations. The capitalist mode of production stands opposed to the Asiatic, classical, feudal, modes of production by virtue of the difference in the relation of social labor, formally free on the one side, unfree on the other; at the same time, the capitalist mode stands opposed to the other modes of production in civilized society in the relation to nature. Marx wrote in the Grtindrisse, Introduction, p. 27: “In all forms in which property in land predominates, the connection with nature is predominant. In the forms in which capital predominates, the predominant element is the social historical.” The condition under which the form of labor is free is at the same time the condition under which life in society predominates, or the relations between human beings in society reduces the relation of mankind to nature to a degree of lesser importance. Formal freedom in society and the predominance of the social over the natural relation, of the social over the natural element, go hand in hand. The various forms of unfree labor are directly associated with the modes of production in which property in land predominates. Liberation from the predominance of the natural relation, liberation of capital from groundrent, and the formal liberation of labor are the conditions whereby capitalist society has been formed as a stage of economic formation. The changes in the relation of man to nature under capitalism are discussed below, ch. V D.

References: see above, ch. II B; see in the present section notes 1, 2, 5, 16, 18-20, 22, 24. Cf. Ethnological Notebooks, passim. In delineation of the different epochs, Marx proceeded to ever more concrete criteria. In a letter to Engels of 14 March 1868, Marx wrote, “The viewpoint which I set forth, that the Asiatic, particularly the Indian, forms of property are the beginning in Europe receives a new support here, (although Maurer knows nothing of this).” (MEW 32, p. 42.) He refers to G. L. v. Maurer, Geschichte der Dorfverfassung in Deutschland, 1865-1866.


Marx on the asiatic mode of production, i8jy-i86y Overcoming of the Geographic Particularity of the Asiatic Mode of Production Marx traced more than one kind of an “original” landholding system. He wrote that the form of the natural community of the Incas is the state. Here there is an entirely closed natural economy of the state; their community does not engage in exchange of commodities. This has two moments: i. The state as community, being closed, has no exchange with other communities, hence no commodity exchange or production. Circulation as the moment of exchange takes place only within the community, in this case. The product is consumed where it is produced, within the community, z. The community as the state yet encompasses a further distribution within its limits. A surplus is produced and con¬ sumed within the community, but within an exchange taking place. As the community is the form of the state, the product is not the com¬ munity product but the social product. But this presupposes the relation of social labor. The separation and relation between private labors by division of labor in society has taken place; there is production by surplus labor of a surplus product, but in the absence of commodity production. Formally the old Peruvian system of labor is communal labor; in its content as in its effect it is social labor. In the Inca system the first traces of political economy, political society and the state are perceived, but only faintly: The community does not exist apart from the state; community and society in form are one. The conditions of political society are: (a) differentiation between community and society; (b) the mutual dependence of communities by commodity exchange; (c) differentiation in society between those who work for others and those for whom the work is performed; (e) the relation to the soil as bound or free, and the distinction between public, communal and private forms of landholding; (f) division of labor in society; (g) formation of the state; - these conditions are only in their beginning among the Incas. The Asiatic mode of production encompasses the distinction between community and the state. State property in land is ager publicus, public property, and is distinct from private property or possession; both are distinct from communal property. Private property, however, is not constant but variable. The owner of the property in land is the com¬ munity; individual private property in land is but poorly developed; the immediate cultivator of the soil is in possession of his share, he does not own it. This mode of production has the production of value, exchange of commodities between community-producers of value, hence com¬ modity exchange, hence exchange value; the social producer is no longer the same as the social consumer of the product. Social labor is distinct from public and from communal labor. The surplus product and 140

Marx on the astatic mode of production, 1857-1867 commodity as product are now differentiated. The community as the state is the proprietor of the land, which is the property of the state. The community as the state is the proprietor of the land as public property as distinct from the natural community of immediate producers as collective proprietors. In the degree that private property in land or its product is poorly developed, even the monarch in the old realms of Asia is not an owner of the land or of its surplus product in his private capacity. The entire surplus product of the realm is made over to him, he has it at his disposal, but he is its possessor, not its owner. The individual cultivator of the soil bears the same relation to it as the prince to the surplus product. On the other hand, the community of the cul¬ tivators bears the same relation to the soil as does the state: the soil is the property of the community and of the state as the overarching community. Labor is communal labor (labor for collective purposes within the community), public labor (labor in the collective undertakings of the state as the overarching community, as water control); private labor and social labor are now differentiated. Community and society are now fully separate; political society has been developed; that means, the state has been extruded by the society. The small communities have at first a passive relation to each other, aside from their bellicose and slave-taking engagements, and in this con¬ dition, they vegetate, changing but slowly. The individual families labor on the plots allotted to them by the community of which they are a part, the communal whole in turn remains isolated. It is by the process of exchange of their products that the isolation comes to an end, and with it, the independence of each, its autonomy; that end had not hitherto been brought about through the wars and slave-taking. By the establish¬ ment of the reciprocal relations of exchange the communities come to form a part of a totality, the unity of which is realized in the despot, the father of the plurality of communities. Relations of equality between communities are replaced, the erstwhile autonomous communities are now subordinate parts of a sovereignty. The relation of commodity exchange and the production of a surplus are reciprocally interactive and mutually supportive processes. They have as their consequence the production of commodities, and the provision of the surplus product in commodity form to the sovereignty. The land has at first been appropriated within the community through the labor of its members, whereby the property, or indifferently, the possession by the community, by the individual members of the com¬ munity has been established. The appropriation of the land by the sovereignty as the overarching community is the means of establishment of the right of property over it, a consequent appropriation, a legal, a

Marx on the asiatic mode of production, 1817-1867 secondary right; the distinction between possession and property right is established thereby. The surplus product comes forth together with the actual appropriation of the land by the sovereignty; the appropriation of the land, the surplus labor or surplus product, by the sovereignty, are the mutual determinants of one another, and are, moreover, thus legally determined. The Asiatic mode of production serves as a model which extends far beyond its geographic bounds for the comprehension of the formation of the State; conceptually, it has proceeded beyond the simple possession of the soil as undifferentiated from property and its appropriation; at the same time, the condition of the right of property in land appears to have its juridical existence in the despotism. The reality is other than the appearance, the appropriation has been effected through labor, the right to the land rests in the community by the labor of its members. The higher community, or the State, has an apparent right which is enforced by its despotic power. This power is not a usurpation, for there has existed no prior right that it has usurped; the right is created by the act of appropriation. The surplus product, under the conditions of the earliest unification of the agricultural community within the State, has two forms: a determinate amount of labor for communal provision, a form of insurance for the future, which is an immediate relation of the surplus; and an indirect provision for meeting the costs of the community, for military and religious service. The dominium of the overlords is here found in its original sense, relative to the expenditure of the surplus.25 Marx distinguished between the actual legal appropriation of the land.

25 On the State as landowner and the surplus product that falls to the State as landowner in the Asiatic mode of production, see Marx, Theorien iiber den Mehrwert III (MEW 26.3, p. 412), comment on Richard Jones. On the beginnings of commodity exchange see below, in this chapter, note 33. See also ch. II B, note 46. In this connection Marx wrote, further, “In Asiatic societies, where the monarch appears as the exclusive possessor of the surplus product of the countryside, entire cities arise which are at bottom nothing but wandering camps, through exchange of his revenue with the free hands, as Steuart calls them.” (Grundrisse, op. cit., p. 371.) Here it will be noted that Marx still maintained the view of the Oriental cities that he had learned from Bernier. IV, V, and VI.

His subsequent change of this view will be discussed below, in ch.

The monarch as possessor of the surplus product of the land, the State as

landowner, stand in a dialectical opposition to each other. The surplus product derived from the land falls to the ownership of the State, to the possession of the monarchic individual, as it is here implied by the usage of the terms. Cf. J. Steuart, Inquiry, v.I, Bk.I. ch. 5. Finally, Marx still adhered to the interpretation of the role of the city in Indian history, which he had found in Bernier in the early 1850s, at the time that he wrote the draft of the fourth volume of Kapital. There he noted: “See Dr. Bernier, who compares the Indian cities with military encampments.” (Marx, Theorien uber den Mehrwert, op. cit., p. 428. This part of the Theorien was probably written in 1863, the whole in 1861-1863.)


Marx on the astatic mode of production, i8yy-i86y and the apparent juridical absence of property right in the Oriental despotism, which is a dialectical opposition, and not a mere juxtaposition. The appropriation in actuality is a twofold process, by labor and its legal expression, the labor being that of the individual, its legal ex¬ pression that of the community. The labor of the individual is in turn a part of the division of labor within the community, a part of the labor of the collectivity; it is not labor in society. The exchange developed within the community is not differentiated from that of the family, it is not commodity exchange. The apparent juridical relation to the land is the absence of property in the Oriental despotism, which is the condition of its appropriation by the despot, who thereby fills in a vacuum created by the weakness of the community in its external relations, a weakness which expressed the backwardness of the village community in Asia in the nineteenth century. The Asiatic mode of production comprised within itself the conditions which perpetuated the tribal or communal property; it is this form of property which exists as the foundation of the absence of property, and which appears to have its juridical existence in the traditional empires of Asia. The obstacles which the internal fixity and articulations of the Asiatic mode of production counterposed to the disruptive effect of trade with England in the nineteenth century were twofold: the unity within the village of agriculture and household industry;26 the tribute relation in Asia.27 Now tribute collection and payment is found in other modes of production as well, such as in classical antiquity or in medieval feudalism. In the Asiatic mode of production, the tribute is collected from the village communities, the State is the collector, hence the owner, therefore the seller of the product. The owner is the person who represents the community in Asia;28 this representative is a double conception, just as the political relation is twofold. On the one hand the representative is the village headman, on the other it is the sovereign, the State as sov¬ ereign, personified in the monarch as the representative of the sovereign State. The village headman was an ambivalent figure; on the one hand he was the channel for tax collection, representing the village to the State treas¬ ury, and was the representative of the State in the village, on the other hand he was closely connected with the village and frequently had kinship bonds with the villagers. He was the agency whereby the 48 Marx, Kapital III (MEW 25, p. 346). See below, this section, note 54. 27 Ibid., p. 338: “In the slave relation, the serf relation, the tribute relation (insofar as the primitive communities come into consideration), it is the slave owner, the feudal lord, the tribute receiving State, which is owner, hence seller of the product.” 28 Ibid., p. 647: "... der Eigentiimer die Person die das Gemeinwesen reprasentiert...” See also preceding note.

Marx on the astatic mode of production, 1857-1867 unpaid labor or the surplus product was extracted from the village in the form of rent; he was the village advocate against oppressive increase in rent and tax. He was the court of appeal within the village for the settlement of disputes that could not be settled between the individual families; he supervised the village affairs, kept the peace within the village, and spoke for the village in its relations with the neighboring villages. Because of his close connection with the daily life of the fellow villagers, his links to the others through kinship by common descent and marital bonds, through proximity and neighborly relations, he was an intimate part of the village. His position was, by its very ambivalence, an important reason for the absence, or low degree, of class conflict in the traditional village in Asia. And because of the low development within the village of the class opposition, the conflict between the social classes on a regional and nation-wide scale and class consciousness were likewise poorly developed. The village headmen, the religious spokesman who in India was the village Brahmin, the weight of tradition, the interplay and conflict of local interests each supported and fed back its support to the other elements of community life, channeling the potential oppositions between the classes into such expressions which allowed the forms of village life and the relations to the State to continue un¬ changed for thousands of years. The rural usurers, as Richard Jones and Marx pointed out, did nothing to upset this system; alone the primitive banking and circulation of credit in kind or in money effected no change in either the village or the political economy of the State. The accumulation of capital, its saving, investment and reinvestment practices were introduced from without, by the European merchants and financial powers. There were differences in the relations of the village to the State between China on the one side, India and Persia on the other. The Chinese peasants at times joined with the disaffected gentry to overthrow the dynasty in power; they acted to support the dynasty or withheld their support from it in the face of threats from foreign conquerors or from internal rebels who held that Heaven had withdrawn its Mandate from the reigning Emperor. The Indian reports assert that the villages of India were less involved in the so-called affairs of State, the replace¬ ment of dynasties and the succession of conquerors from without. In fact these are not affairs of State, but merely superficial changes that in no way affected the veritable affairs, which were the occupancy and cultivation of the lands and the collection of the rents thereof. The State was personified in the Oriental despot; it is in this case the sovereignty as the subjective being of the State. Just as the capitalist is the personification of capital, the subjective being of capital, or capital 144

Marx on the asiatic mode of production, i8py-i86j endowed with a will and consciousness of its own, so the Oriental monarch, or indeed any autocrat, is the personification of the State, or its subjective side. Because of the low development of the class opposi¬ tions and consciousness of the peasants, the low development of alter¬ native institutions which elsewhere have served to constrain the power of the autocrat, this personification, this subjective being of the State, this figure of speech embodied in a living person was able to engender a belief in his absolute power and cowed acceptance of his capricious sway. Hegel, as we have seen, considered that the lands conquered by China became the private property of the sovereign, and their inhabitants serfs. On the one hand, this statement is part of a sequence of thoughts, partly factual, partly called forth in the exposition of his system, whereby he arrived at the conclusion that the difference between slavery and freedom was not great, that the slave status was not raised, rather freedom through the universal equality in China was degraded.29 The factual basis for this conclusion was the generally spread opinion, brought back to Europe by travellers and missionaries, that the distance between the monarch and the rest of the people in Asia was great. The conquered (foreign) peoples likewise stood at a great social distance from the sovereign, but in a different one from that of the Chinese subjects themselves. Viewed from the side of the Mongols during the period from the twelfth to the eighteenth centuries of our era, the relation to China was practically twofold: one of economic exchange and of political-military power. Viewed from the side of China the relation to the nomads was one of the same practical necessities, but it was coupled with the ideological and abstract doctrine of the universal Chinese right of empire. The Chinese assumed the right of dominion over the nomads on their frontiers, chiefly Mongols, Turks, Tibetans. By the right of prescription, or the passage of time in which the dominion has been in force, this dominion is unquestioned.30 Those nomads who have oc¬ cupied the steppes further removed from China have fallen outside the Chinese dominion. The service of Hegel was to separate the relation of the private subject to his land from the public relation of the sover¬ eign to the land as private property. The subject did not take the land and the inhabitants as his own, his relation was dependent. The terms of Hegel, as private property and serfdom are inexact,31 the distinction ** Marx on personification: Cf. Das Kapital, vol. I, 4th ed., 1913> PP- 115^- > v°l1911, pt. 2, pp. 354, 360.

3rd ed.,

See Krader, Ethnologie und Anthropology bet Marx, op. cit., ch. 3.

Hegel on serfdom in China, S amt lie he Werke, Bd. n, pp. i8if. 30 This question was raised by F. C. v. Savigny in regard to Rome. 31 Hegel, Vorlesungen iiber die Philosophie der Geschichte and his Philosophic des Rechts.


relevant passages from this works have been cited above, ch. I A.


Marx on the astatic mode of production, i8yy-i86y between the public relation of the sovereign and the private relation of the subject remains. The conquered lands stood as tributaries to China; when the nomads, whether Mongols, Turks or Manchus, conquered China they stood in the same relation to the nomadic peoples beyond the Great Wall. Tribute is a double conception. On the one hand it is an economic one, wherein products of social labor are offered and taken. On the other, the tribute in Asia is a two-way political relation, its payment out is countered by a movement in the opposite direction. Thus, the Chinese emperor was traditionally offered tribute, and gave goods of economic value in exchange; the system was in fact a form of economic exchange, save that distinctive political considerations entered into the transactions. These political and military factors determined the value of the tribute by other means than the intrinsic value they would have otherwise had in China. The weaker the political and military position of the Chinese was, the greater was the value of the goods offered. The greater the power of the recipients, in this case, the nomadic pastoralists on the borders of China, the less they offered in exchange.32 The relations of the Chinese sovereignty to the Mongol and Turkic nomads differed little in the matter of tribute from the relation to the Chinese peasantry. The internal relations were determined to a great degree by the power of the State, which in turn was determined by the maintenance of steady flow and physical amount of the surplus produced by the peasantry and collected by the agents of the State. The exchange relation takes place between families, tribes, communi¬ ties and not between private persons at the beginnings of culture in the prehistoric period down to modern times. Marx brought together the factors of exchange, division of labor and community:33 The natural

32 E. H. Parker. A Thousand Years of the Tartars, pp, 265-281. Arthur Waley. The Life and Times of Po Chii-1. pp. 5 5 f. L. Krader. Cultural and Historical Position of the Mongols, op. cit. 33 Marx, Grundrisse. Introduction, p. 23, had written, “Exchange arises at the beginning in the relation of the different communities to each other, rather than within the same community between its members.” The commodities out of this mode of origination of exchange are then developed. See Marx, Kapital III (MEW 25, pp. i86f.). See the development of this in Marx, Kapital I (MEW 23, pp. 372f.): Proceeding from the division of labor within the family, which is further developed in the tribe, there is a natural division of labor on a purely physiological foundation of sex and age differences, together with the expansion of the communities, increase in population, and particularly conflict between different tribes, and the subjection of one tribe by another; there is an extension of the materials of the unities.

Exchange of products at the points where different families,

tribes and communities come together arises “for it is not private persons but families, tribes, etc., which stand independently in relation to each other at the beginnings of culture.


Marx on the astatic mode of production, 18jy-i86j environment determines by its variability the differences in means of production and subsistence among the different communities, and it is this difference which in turn determines the exchange of products. The variability in the natural environment does not determine the exchange directly, but only through the process of man’s material interchange with nature. This material interchange is effected by the production of the means of production and subsistence. These means of production and subsistence exist in their different forms; they do not exist in any single, unitary form, which is an abstraction. The means of production and subsistence exist only in their concretion, that is, in their variety. The intermediation of the process of production and subsistence is the indirection of the relation of man and nature. That indirection is the relation of man to nature by the medium of culture. Culture is the inter-medium, the intervening screen between man and nature; it is the intermediation between man and nature. Nature exists only in its variety, concretely in the different relations of the organic and inorganic kingdoms. Culture exists only in its variety, concretely in the different relations of man to nature. In their concrete, variegated existence, culture and nature are one, culture is a part of nature, nature is a part of culture. The material interchange (Stoffwechsel) with nature and the exchange (Austausch) between communities both arise out of the difference between communities in the relations to the natural environ-

Their mode of production, mode of life and products are therefore different. It is this natural difference which, on contact between the communities, calls forth the exchange of the reciprocal products and hence the gradual transformation of the products into commodities.” Social division of labor arises through exchange between originally different spheres of production which are, however, independent of one another. This point was earlier made by Marx, and in the Critique of 1859 above all.

There he

wrote, “In fact the exchange process of commodites appears originally not in the bosom of the spontaneous community but where they cease, at their borders, at the few points where they come into contact with other communities.

Here trade begins and from there strikes

back into the interior of the community, with a destructive effect.” Marx quoted Aristotle in this connection, Aristotle had made the private family the original community, Marx at this time held that the original form of the family is the tribal family, out of the historical de¬ composition of which the private family first arises. (Marx, MEW 13, p. 36). changed this view.

See Ethnological Notebooks, passim.

Marx later

In the Grundrisse, pp. 763b, he had

not yet distinguished between family and tribe (p. 375), but he had already formulated his position on the origin of exchange: “Trade begins not between individuals within a com¬ munity, but where the communities cease, - at their border, at the point of contact between different communities.” He went on to point out that India offers us “a model map of the most varied forms of such economic communes, more or less dissolved, still completely recognizable, however.

A more thorough historical research finds it again as the starting

point among all civilized peoples.

The system of production based on private exchange is

first the historical dissolution of this spontaneous communism.” (p. 764).


Marx on the astatic mode of production, iSj/-i86y ment. This difference calls into existence the differences in production which, by contact between human communities, takes the form of re¬ ciprocal exchange of products, and thereby the transformation of these products into commodities which come into existence by the virtue of their exchange value. The social production arises out of the exchange between the different spheres of production, which then come to em¬ brace not only the relations between communities but within the com¬ munity. The social division of labor, as distinct from the physiological division of labor, arises out of exchange between originally different spheres of production. What was formerly independent is rendered dependent, what was formerly dependent is rendered independent.34 The history of all social division of labor in the form that is developed and mediated by commodity exchange has as its basis the separation and opposition of town and countryside; the economic history of society is summed up thereby. Marx, who did not go further into this matter at this point, had developed the protohistory of the relation elsewhere: in the Asiatic mode of production, the relation of agriculture and handicraft industry is not separate; the separation takes place by the removal of the manufacturing part from the countryside and its development in the town, a process which contributed to the acceleration of the dissolution of the Asiatic mode of production. Two factors have been singled out in tracing this dissolution, the external one of the impact of colonialism. 84 “Where the physiological division of labor forms the point of departure, the different organs of a totality that belongs directly together are separated from each other, they dis¬ integrate, and the commodity exchange with foreign communities gives the chief impetus to this disintegration.

They become independent to the point where the combination of the

different labors is mediated by the exchange of the products as commodities.” (Marx, loc. cit., p. 373). The division of labor based on, or as the realization of, physiological differences is distinct from social labor, it is usually the division of labor within the family, and is of a primitive nature. It is characterized by differences in sex, age, strength, health. This aspect of the division of labor has not been systematically studied, but we may say, in the first place, that it excludes the conception propounded by Friedrich Engels: according to him, the division of labor begins in the family by the reproduction of the human kind, by the bearing of children. The physiological and the social divisions of labor are opposed to each other. Marx’s system of the original division of labor was brought out in his Theorien iiber den Mehrwert II (MEW 26.2, p. 8): “Labor must be productive enough so that the laborer does not need his whole time to sustain his own life. From there on, however, the difference begins. Moreover, if labor was originally little productive, wants are also most simple (as with the slave), and the masters relative

themselves live

not much better than those in bondage. The

pioductivity of labor, which is necessary for the profitmonger to


a parasite, is very tiny. We find a high rate of profit where labor is still very unproductive, where machinery, division of labor, etc., is not applied; one of the cases is in India, where the wants of the laborer are absolutely small, and he himself is pushed down by this miserable need...” (See also p. 409.) Marx found support for this view in the work of J. B. Phear. See below, ch. V, and Ethnological Notebooks, pp. 245-284.


Marx on the asiatic mode of production, i8yy-i86y particularly in the nineteenth century, such that only a few vestiges survived in India, and the internal processes of millennia-long evolution which have been in evidence in China, India, Persia and elsewhere in Asia, and which reached a form of stagnation in the development of the Asiatic mode of production; hence despite the high civilization it could not oppose the most highly developed and most multifarious historical organization of production that has been achieved. Marx proceeded in the discussion of surplus value from the category of cooperation to that of the division of labor, wherein the chronological and the logical sequences coincide. At the end of the chapter on coopera¬ tion, however, he made a brief historical excursus, or rather, an excursus in reverse order, proceeding from the mode of cooperation in capitalist production to the mode of cooperation in the kingdoms of Asia, ancient Egypt and the Etruscan theocracy to cooperation among primitive hunters and the agricultural communities of traditional India. All forms of cooperation in social production stand on one side, the capitalist form on the other: The capitalist form of cooperation does not appear as a particular historical form, but cooperation itself appears as proper to the capitalist production process, as its specifically distinctive his¬ torical form. In contrast, the effect on the eye of the works of the ancient Asiatics, Egyptians, Etruscans is powerful, but the form of social cooperation that built them was simple.35 The difference between the capitalist cooperation and that of the an¬ cient agricultural communities of India, which carries forward the cooperation of the hunters, consists in two factors, or two sides of one factor: in the pre-capitalist communities the conditions of production are communal property, and the single individual is not torn forth from the umbilicus of the community.36 The two factors are related as the positive and negative poles of the same factor; each is a condition of the other. The production of the colossal if simple cooperation in the ancient empires of the Oriental and Mediterranean worlds that were discussed by Marx (here he commented on a text of Richard Jones) concerned solely and exclusively the immense statues and monuments. Jones raised the image of vast masses of non-agricultural labor in the Oriental empires, after supplying the expenses of the civil and military establish¬ ments, providing the stupendous monuments of China, Egypt, India.37 55 Marx, Kapitall, ch. n, end (MEW 23, pp 353-354). 36 The tearing forth of the individual from the womb of the community is developed by Marx in his excerpts from Sir H. S. Maine, Lectures on the Early History of Institutions.

See The

Ethnological Notebooks, op. cit., p. 329. There the opposition to Maine on the one side and to J. J. Rousseau’s theory of primitive man expressed in the Contrat Social is set forth (see the Introduction to the Ethnological Notebooks, p. 41). This will be discussed below, ch. V. C. 37 Marx Kapital, loc. cit. Richard Jones, Text-book of Lectures, pp. 77-78. 149

Marx on the astatic mode of production, 18 jj-i 867 The great constructions of ancient Egypt were not due to the large size of its population, but to the great proportion of it that was disposable.38 The development of mankind is not a natural necessity, the factor of necessity in man’s relation to nature arises under social conditions: to control a natural force socially is a necessity, therewith to economize it, to appropriate or tame it. The necessity arises in reference to the domi¬ nation of the natural force in the history of industry; it is necessity in the concrete, not in the abstract sense. The irrigation works by artificial canals in India, Persia, Egypt, Lombardy or Holland are given as specific examples of another sort of necessary taming of nature. Man in all stages of development is subject of necessity to the limitation of natural conditions, which are catalogued by Marx as internal and external. The internal natural conditions are man’s physical constitution; the external fall into two classes: at the dawn of culture they are the natural bounties of fish or game; in the industrial period it is natural wealth - means of labor such as navigable rivers or mineral resources. Throughout the development, whether under primitive or advanced industrial conditions, mankind is limited by the potentialities of his natural surroundings and what he can make of them through his cultural traditions and prepara¬ tions ; the relation of mankind to nature is in either case mediated by his culture. The artificial irrigation works of the Oriental empires are the medium whereby man dominated nature by first dominating his fellow man, by enslaving and conscripting the labor force for those undertakings: the domination of nature is to begin with a social phenomenon. This lesson was drawn from the work on the political economy by Marx relative to the production of absolute and relative surplus value under capitalism, and undergirded by the historical excursus into the primitive and ancient Asiatic conditions, whereby the development of the dialectic of man and nature is set forth.39 The castes of India and the guilds of Europe are said to arise out of the ‘same law of nature which regulates the separation of plants and animals into genera and species, save that at a certain stage of development the inheritance of the castes and exclusiveness of the guilds are decreed as a social law.’40 The

88 Marx, Kapiial I (MEW 23, p. 535). Jones was not the first to have depicted the productions of the Orient as being the result of a surplus after the necessities of life had been met. Aristotle had written of Egypt in this way, and Hegel who cited Aristotle to the same purpose. (Aristotle. Metaphysics. A2. 982b. G. W. F. Hegel.

Wissenschaft der Logik. 2nd ed., 1831.

Vorrede.) In both cases an economic determinism in a pure sense is expressed. 89 See above, note 21, likewise the discussion of the division of labor. 40 Marx Kapital I (MEW 23, p. 359f.): “Manufacturing produces in fact the virtuosity of the craft laborer by reproducing and systematically driving to an extreme within the workshop


Marx on the asiatic mode of production, / Sjy-i 867 transformation of natural into social law is effected by a human inter¬ vention: the laws are given by the caste and the guild constitutions, which are in either case determined by tradition. Heredity is a biological fact, and the passing of the right to membership in a caste usually passes from father to son, the societies in question being mainly patrilineal. But the patrilineal sequence is not biologically determined, it is first internalized and given its cultural formulation by the society in question. The right of succession to membership is determined not by the biology of procreation; the succession passes by right through surrogate channels with equal validity, by adoption, marriage, or change of rules of mem¬ bership. Cessation of membership is likewise a social determination: by retirement, eviction as well as by the biological factor of death. Membership is a right that may be partially restricted and renewed. Entrance into membership and passing out are matters of cultural, that is, ceremonial, participation and determination, wherein the caste or guild makes plain its assent to the succession or withdrawal of the right to membership.41 the natural separation of skills which it found already made in the society. On the othei hand, the transformation of a man into the divided labor of the life-calling of a man corresponds to the drive of earlier societies to make the crafts hereditary, to petrify them into castes or to ossify them in guilds in the case where the determinate historical conditions created a variabil¬ ity of the individual which contradicts the caste system. Castes and guilds arise out of the same natural law which regulates the separation of plants and animals into species and sub¬ species, save that at a certain stage of development the heritability of the castes or the ex¬ clusiveness of the guilds are decreed as a social law.” There follows a passage in praise of the fine muslins of Dacca and the calicoes of Coromandel which are produced with a primitive technology. The passage is quoted from: Historical and Descriptive Account of British India, by Hugh Murray, James Wilson, et al. vol. II, pp. 449, 450, where an engraving of a Tantee, or weaver at his loom is reproduced. The Indian loom is upright, the warp is stretched vertically, was Marx’s conclusion, on observation of this illustration. (Kapital, loc. cit., p. 360). 41 On the constitution of castes and guilds see Weber, Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft, op. cit., pp. 43 5b, 536ff., 592; on caste and religion, pp. z66f., 30of. See also his Gesammelte Aufsat^e %ur Religionsso^iologie. 3 vols. 2nd ed., 1921-1922. v. 2, pp. 33-44 on castes and guilds. Weber was perhaps overly rigid in making the factor of heredity out to be the discriminating feature between castes and guilds. Keeping guild-membership within the family is not unknown in Europe; on the other hand, literary fosterage, or the ‘sacred relation’ between master and disciple, in which the master stands to the disciple as a foster-father, is reported both in the Brehon tracts of medieval Ireland and the Brahmin tracts of ancient India. See H. S. Maine, Lectures on the Early History, pp. 24iff. The fosterage is kept within the caste in this case, but biological descent is not the criterion for transmission of the necessary qualifications for suc¬ cession to the status of the master. We distinguish therefore between descent in general as the criterion of admission into the caste, and descent in particular. The latter is irrelevant to the succession from master to disciple in India and in Ireland. On guilds in traditional India, see Kosambi, The Culture and Civilisation of Ancient India, pp. 2, 100, 125, 184-196; guilds and tribes, p. 123; guilds and castes, pp. 19, 123. Early India, pp. 27515".

Charles Drekmaier, Kinship and Community in

Marx on the asiatic mode of production, i8jy-i86y The critique of Destutt de Tracy which Marx made took up the question of landownership in the countries of Asia, where he wrote, “Thus in all lands, such as in the Asiatic, for instance, where the chief revenue of the country is in the form of rent on land, in the hands of landlords, princes, etc., the manufacturers, whose number is small and therefore not conditioned by competition, sell to them their commodities at monopoly prices, and thus appropriate a part of their [the landlords’ and princes’] revenue; they enrich themselves not only by selling to them “unpaid” labor, but also by selling commodities for a greater quantity of labor than is contained in them.42 The revenue from the land in the form of rent accrues to the landlords as private persons, and to the princes as private persons. Taxes to the State are not mentioned, nor the capacity of the prince as a public and official body. Here the idea of the Oriental society and despotism falls away, and the relation of the different categories of rent and the different paths of its distribution are taken up. The Asiatic mode of production is constituted mainly of the produce of the soil by its tillers. On the one hand, the process of production in the traditional Asiatic mode of production is connected with no previous process of accumulation. On the other, the production of capital-producing capital, of machinery, fixed capital, laborsaving devices, capital-intensive means of production, of capital that increases the productivity of labor, is but poorly developed in either branch of the Asiatic mode of production, agricultural cultivation and handicraft industry. Hence the productivity of the cultivators is not far different from that of the handicraft labor in the villages of Asia in the traditional mode of production, just as the proportion of the products of cultivation in the whole corresponds to the proportion of the number of cultivators in the whole.43 We have said that the social category of the Oriental or Asiatic society and the purely political characterization, the Oriental despotism, was not applied by Marx in his final formulations of traditional production in Asia. His concern, as he dealt with Asia, was with its inner production

42 Marx, Theorien iiber den Mebrwert I (MEW 26.1, p. 248). The matter concerns the critique of Destutt de Tracy, Elemens d’idtologie, IV et V parties: Traite de la volonte. 43 Marx, Kapital I (MEW 23, p. 625): “Since the most numerous part of the people of India is self-sustaining peasants, their product, their means of labor and of subsistence likewise never exist ‘in the shape of a fund that is saved from Revenue and has therefore run through a previous process of accumulation.’” Marx drew on Richard Jones in this connection; this line of thought had been introduced as a departure from that of Adam Smith who had con¬ sidered the pay of agricultural labor in the countries of the East superior to that of town labor, which would imply, ceteris paribus, a higher rate of productivity of the land over that of the town, further implying a separation of production of town and countryside.


Marx on the astatic mode of production, 1857-1867 relations and their difference to capitalism. Of the four modes of pro¬ duction, Asiatic, ancient, feudal and modern, the ancient and feudal -were well-known, the Asiatic mode was still in existence, albeit in a ruined form. Marx was concerned, in taking up the Asiatic mode of production, not with the characterization of the society of the Orient, which had been useful in his newspaper accounts of the 1850s, but with the relations of production as they existed in themselves, as they were contrasted in theory with the capitalist, and as they were comprised and transformed in colonial practice within the capitalist system. Jones had proposed that the backwardness of the traditional Asiatic system lay in its lack of circulation of money, hence the inability to transform labor into capital, hence the inability to concentrate capital and accumulate it. The vast surpluses produced in Oriental countries were collected by aggregation of tiny mites from great numbers of primitive cultivators, an extensive exploitation of labor and land. The division of labor in society in the Orient and the artificial irrigation of the soil did in no way transform the extensive exploitation of the soil into an intensive capital accumulation; the self-sufficient village remained unchanged in its mode of production precisely because of the limitations of the system of rent in produce (according to Jones), which hindered further development of capitaliza¬ tion. But the rent-limitation is but part of the answer to the question of stagnation; the absence of accumulation and of increased productivity is not explained by the payment of rent in kind alone. Marx mentioned the lack of village initiative in the form of voluntary associations, and the persistence of primitive conditions of production. Further, Marx wrote that whatever the social forms of production, its factors remain laborers and means of production, which are separate from each other, and in order that production take place they must be connected. The particular ways and modes in which this connection is effected dis¬ tinguishes the different economic epochs of society. That which dis¬ tinguishes the capitalist mode of production is the separation of the free laborer from his means of production; the process of social pro¬ duction itself becomes a function of capital, which the individual human and material formants of commodities enter into, and which in its his¬ torical development is further advanced by the organization of the labor process and the expansion of technology. What is lacking in the Asiatic mode of production is free labor, the formally free laborers, and the freedom of the laborer from the bondage of the village community, which is the bondage to the soil.44 44

Marx, Kapital II (MEW 24, p. 42). Here Marx differentiated the various economic forma¬

tions of society according to the manner whereby the producers are related to the means of


Marx on the asiatic mode of production, i8py-i86y Land-rent in its simplest form is labor rent, which in the Asiatic mode of production is made over by the cultivator to the State as landowner and at the same time as sovereign. In the first chapter, we mentioned Adam Smith’s formulation, land-tax or land-rent which was perhaps more of a problem stated than a solution proposed. Marx made a provisional survey of this problem in the Grundrisse, taking it up again in Capital-. The labor-time above the most essential means of subsistence for the cultivator is the unpaid portion of his labor, the surplus of time spent in labor in the field, or the product thereof that is made over to the landlord in the form of land-rent whether in kind or in the form of labor. This surplus is the germ of that which appears in the capitalist mode of production as profit. The distinction is made here between the proprietor of the land and its possessor; the land and the means of production in this case coincide, and the producers are unfree: this general system obtains for the Asiatic, classical (in most of its history) and feudal land relations, and for the vast preponderance of the immediate producers in each. Rent and tax coincide, or rather there exists no tax which is different from this form of land-rent. The State is the highest landlord; sovereignty is here property in land concentrated on the national level and there is no private property in land. Instead there is here private as well as communal possession and utilization of the land.45 production. These relations were classified by him as separate and inseparable, i.e., free and unfree: “The laborers and the means of production always remain the factors of the social forms of production, whatever those forms may be.” But labor and means of production are such factors only when separated from each other. Marx continued, “In order that there be production at all, they must be connected. The particular manner in which this connection is brought about distinguishes the different economic epochs of the social structure. In the case before us the separation of the free laborer from his means of production is the given point of departure, and we have seen how and under what conditions both are united in the hands of the capitalist, namely, as productive modes of existence of his capital.” This is a further development of the thesis expressed in the Grundrisse, pp. 3 "75 ff. 15 Marx, Kapital III (MEW 25, pp. 798f.).

Here Marx reviewed the relation of labor rent

under servile conditions of the feudal mode of production. He then wrote: It is further clear that in all forms in which the immediate laborer remains the “possessor” of the means of production and conditions of labor necessary for the production of his own means of subsistence, the property relation must come forth as the immediate relation of mastery and servitude.

The immediate producer must therefore appear as

unfree; an unfreedom that can vary from serfdom with compulsory labor to mere tributary obligation. The immediate producer is found here, according to this assumption, in possession of his own means of production, of the objective conditions of labor necessary for the realization of his labor and the creation of his means of subsistence; he conducts his agriculture, as he does the rural house-industry which is connected with it, independently.

This independence is not eliminated by the fact that these small

peasants, somewhat as is the case in India, form a more or less natural production-


Marx on the asiatic mode of production, i8jy-i86y In the aspect of the Asiatic mode of production as a system of political economy, Marx continued the formulations, in the third volume of Capital, which he had introduced in the period 1857-1858, in the Grund¬ risse, but with certain changes both in form and content. According to the formulation in Capital, the State is the sole landowner, the landlord in the literal sense. The discussion of rent as tax which was begun by Adam Smith and carried forward by Richard Jones, was taken over by Marx in the Grundrisse under the twofold heading of the economic and the juridical relations; in the third volume of Capital, the idea of the absence of private property in land is expressed in this way: there is no property in land in Asia in which the State is not landlord. In conse¬ quence of the unification of landownership and sovereignty in the State, in this system of political economy, there is no form of tax other than ground rent which is collected from the cultivators. But the State is only the nominal landlord, and in fact the village communities conduct their affairs as autonomous entities.

community among themselves, for the matter here concerns only the independence from the nominal landlord. Under these conditions, the surplus labor can be squeezed by extra-economic force, whatever form this may assume. (Marx’s note: After the conquest of the land, the next thing for the conquerors was ever to appropriate the human beings for themselves. See Linguet. See also Moser.) This is distinguished from the slave or plantation economy in that the slave here works with the conditions of production of another, and not independently. Personal relations of dependence, personal unfreedom, in whatever degree, and bondage to the soil as appurtenance of it, are needed, serfdom in the strict sense. If it is not the private landowners but, as it is in Asia, the State, which stands to the unfree cultivators directly as landowner and simul¬ taneously as sovereign, then rent and tax coincide, or rather, there exists in this case no tax which differs from this form of ground rent. The relation of dependence under these circumstances need possess no harsher form, whether politically or economically, than that which all subjection to this State has in common. The State is here the highest landlord. The sovereignty here is property in land concentrated at the national level. Therewith, however, no private property in land exists, although private as well as communal possession and use of the soil exist. Here Marx combined a number of formulations which he had previously made: “... In der spezifisch-orientalischen Form, das Gemeindemitglied als solches Mitbesitzer des gemeinschaftlichen Eigentums...” (Grundrisse, p. 3 80). “In der asiatischen (wenigstens vorherrschenden) Form kein Eigentum, sondem nur Besitz des Einzelnen; die Gemeinde der eigentliche wirkliche Eigentiimer - also Eigentum nur als gemeinschajtliches Eigentum an dem Boden.” (Grundrisse, p. 383). “[[Wird der Mensch selbst als organisches Zubehor des Grund und Bodens mit ihm erobert, so wird er miterobert als eine der Productionsbedingungen, und so entsteht Sklaverei und Leibeigenschaft, die die urspriinglichen Formen aller Gemeinwesen bald verfalscht und modifiziert, und selbst zu ihrer Basis wird. Die einfache Konstruktion wird dadurch negativ bestimmt.]]” (Grundrisse, p. 391). The references by Marx are: Linguet, Theories des loix civiles, Justus Moser, Osnabriickische Geschichte. On Linguet, see above in this section, note 22, and ch. II B, note 32.


Marx on the asiatic mode of production, iSj/-i86y The condition of individual unfreedom of slavery in classical antiquity and of serfdom in European feudalism is a personal relation of depend¬ ence, a personal, individual unfreedom, which is counterposed to the collective unfreedom of the Asiatic mode of production. The distinction between ownership of the land by the State, and possession of the means of production, the land by the immediate cultivator is made; the cultivator is bound to the soil by means of custom and obligations imposed by extra-economic force. The concentration of property in land is the determinant of sovereignty in the Asiatic mode of production, according to the formulation in Capital; in this way, the program of the Grundrisse, which called for the determination of the epochs of the economic formations of society is carried through. The concentration of land is understood in the formal sense, of ownership; there is no other thought of concentration. But the land under cultivation is owned, possessed, as means of production. The concentration of ownership of land is the negation of the concentration of the means of production as capital. In the Asiatic mode of production, the landownership is concentrated, while the production of the means of production is diffuse and poorly developed. In the aspect of the social evolution of the systems of landownership, Marx proposed that the evolution of property in land in ancient Rome led in a different direction from that which the evolution of property in land had taken in the Asiatic mode of production. The public and the private spheres were separated in Rome at an early period in its history. The ager puhlicus was the Roman expression of common property in land, which was carried forward into the historical period. The practical significance of the ager puhlicus was laid down at a time when the member of the community in Rome was free and equal to his peers, the private landowners as a body. The opposition of public and private interest was evolved at the same time that the interests of the class of serving people, who labored upon the soil which was owned by another and those interest of the landowners came to be opposed to each other. In this connection, the private right of landownership alongside the public right, together with the respective interests, came to be recognized; the separation of the public and the private, the official and unofficial, of city and countryside, and their oppositions, were the mutual determinants of each other. The community existed as a State in the case of ancient Rome because it was a city; this was also the case of the ancient Greek polis. The absence of the community as a city was the condition of the nonexistence of the community as the State among the ancient Germans; the State in Asia was the overarching community, the community of communities, whereby the categories of landlord and landowner coin156

Marx on the astatic mode of production, 1867-1867 cided. These communities were different from the natural communities encountered by the Spaniards in the New Woild at the time of their conquest; there the State and the natural community coincided.

We have seen that Richard Jones made a four-fold classification of landrent: rent in labor, kind, tax, and the cottier system of payment. Jones’ schema is logical in three of its parts, where the criterion in common is the form in which the rent is paid. The relation between the immediate producer and the landowner is the basis of the formal classification, according to which the rent is collected in the form of labor, a part of the crop, or either labor or crop converted into money. The fourth category offered by Jones is rent as tax, which is different from the other three, being determined by the character of the rent-collector; for rent coincides with tax in the case that landowner and landlord are the same, sovereignty and right to tax-collection by definition adverting to the latter. This consideration has nothing to do with the form in which the rent is made over by the cultivator, whether as labor, produce or money, for rent or tax or rent as tax can be made over in any of these forms. Where there is no form of tax that differs from the ground-rent, the dif¬ ference between the public and private positions of the landowner, and the difference between the cultivator as renter and as subject, are erased. Marx acknowledged this erasure, but subsumed it within the first two categories, rent in labor and in kind, which comprise the forms of unfree labor on the land in the Asiatic, classical and feudal modes of production. Labor-rent is the simplest and most primary form of rent, its original form; it is the original form of surplus value, and coincides with it.46 The relation of unfree labor covers all the forms of rent in its original conditions, but is subject to historical and regional variation. Thus, the unfree or bound labor, unfree labor as unfree labor-rent, has the form

49 On Jones, see above, cb.


A, notes 24 and 56.

Marx, Kapital


ch. 47, develops the

following system of rents: 1. Labor rent. 2. Rent in kind. 3. Money rent. 4. Share cropping (the metayer or metairie system) or small peasant parcel cultivation. The system of metayage is related to the category, rent in kind, for the metayer provides to the landowner a portion of his crop in return for the land which he cultivates, on which he houses his family, and in return likewise for supply in advance of plough animals, seed, implements for cultivation. (There is considerable variation throughout the world in regard to the means of production supplied by the landowner.)

The terms metayer, metayage, metairie, have a Latin root

meaning ‘half’, i.e., the portion of the product which is to be shared between the landowner and the immediate cultivator; this practice, too, is subject to variation. Finally, the return of the half-share, or whatever the amount stipulated is, to the landowner is in natura or in money. Because of its mixed character it is treated apart by Marx and others.


Marx on the asiatic mode of production, iSjy-i86y of the slave and servile relation in the classical and feudal systems of European history; the surplus labor which is produced in these systems is the basis of the rent which is paid to the landowner, the surplus pro¬ duct is that which is in excess of the amount of labor necessary for the social production and social reproduction of the direct social producer, or the cultivator. This surplus labor and its social product is unpaid, involuntarily extracted labor in the form of rent, which is readily iden¬ tifiable in the known periods of European history, they spring readily to the eye, and the forms of identification are well-defined. The forms of unfree labor in the Asiatic mode of production, on the other hand, are not so readily defined; the characteristics of the village economy are such that the laborer is bound by traditional social practice, and not by ex¬ plicit forms, as slavery and serfdom. Slavery has arisen out of immemorial custom; the origin of the servile relation is more limited in time, but its origins are no more explicidy recorded than those of the other forms of unfree labor. In their result, the European forms have a somewhat greater ease of explicit definition, expressed in the traditional legislation and law-codes; the Asiatic form does not. The characteristics of the Asiatic mode of production are known by their negative qualities: the surplus labor and rent are unfree, involuntary, bound labor; the social labor in the village is in the form of unseparated field cultivation and handicraft industry carried on in the household. Compare the list of occupations enumerated in Wilks, the Fifth Report of 1812, and Campbell, which Marx brought out in his correspondence and in Capital: these fall into two categories, the village handicraft industries and the services; the combination of labor in the fields and in the household industries helped to make the village community self-sustaining.47 The absence of the precise definition of the relation of unfree labor in the Asiatic mode of production, as compared with the relation of slavery and serfdom, arises out of the historical circumstances in which the Asiatic mode of production was evolved; it is the common source out of which, in its variations in space and time, the different forms of political, class divided society has been developed. The production of the surplus value by the village labor is in its first instance bound, unfree production which is developed in particular circumstances as the slave or serf relation, in its primordial form, the village is the unit of production, certain products

47 Mark Wilks, op. cit. House of Commons, 1812. Fifth Report from the Select Committee, op. cit., Campbell, op. cit.

See Marx, letter of 14 June 1853 (MEW 28, pp. 267C).


Stuart Mill on the combination of labor in the Oriental society is discussed above in ch. I A. Further on the division of social labor see above, ch. IB; see Marx, Kapital I (MEW 23, pp. 378f.).


Marx on the asiatic mode of production, i8yy-i86y for household consumption being produced within the village by specialized households, others within the household itself for its own consumption. There is but little need for the villagers to go beyond the village to meet their wants. On the one side, the forms of unfree labor in Asia are various; slavery is known, but is not the characteristic or predominant form of labor in the Asiatic mode of production. If village labor is unfree, it is in its condition of labor as the slave of the village, not of a master; the village form of slavery is not slavery pure and simple, but a related form of unfreedom. On the other, the natural economy is preserved in the Asiatic mode of production, its form being the payment of rent in kind, which was suitable to the stationary conditions of society in Asia in the traditional periods. The movement out of the production of surplus value in the form of labor to the form of rent in produce was a movement forward in production, by reason of the greater amount of play in his allocations of time which the direct producer thereby gains. He now has more choice in applying his time to the production of the necessary versus the surplus product, while being no less bound to produce the surplus. The product of his labor as a whole belongs to him, and he now allocates a part of it to the satisfaction of his wants, while the remainder is taken away as rent and other levies. The agricultural year is not a continuous and homogeneous amount of time, such as is found in the modern factory system, where nature is more than one step removed from the production process. There are better and worse times for performing the tasks of agriculture, and if rent is extracted from the cultivator in the form of labor, he may find that he has to labor in the fields of the landowner at the best time of the growing season, and at the least favorable one in his own. In this sense, the natural conditions are less distanced from the process of production and consumption in society, and man is less alienated from nature in the Asiatic than in the capitalist mode of production. The distance between the two modes of production is great. Although as viewed from the standpoint of capi¬ talism the Asiatic mode of production appears to have been a stagnant form yet it proceeded from the relation of rent in labor to rent in kind by an internal development in the allocation of the surplus labor. The latter system, however, because of its great inferiority in social pro¬ duction, was the more readily exploited by the conquering commercial nation, such as the English in India.48 48 Marx, Kapital III (MEW 25, pp. 8o2ff.).

See p. 804: Here Marx wrote that the form of

ground rent in its bound form as product rent, through the indispensable connection of agriculture and house-industry, the virtual self-sufficiency of the peasant family, its independ¬ ence of the market and the part of the society which has movement of production and history.

Marx on the asiatic mode of production, i8y/-i86j The’difference between the unfree and the free labor is vastly greater than the internal differences between the various forms of unfree labor, so that it is not very material whether the bond of labor to the soil is fastened by the traditional Asiatic community or the State, whether by the patron, by the feudal lord or the plantation owner; to this extent, in its negative formulation, Marx’s explanation of the slow rate of economic development outside the capitalist mode of production coincides with that of Richard Jones. For this reason, the Chinese peasant and the Indian ryot were put into the same category by Marx,49 while at the same time he brought out the variety of caricatures into which the Indian village systems fell during the period of English colonialism. The opposition of unity and diversity in this period is shortlived; the great depth of stability which lasted for centuries in various parts of Asia gave is well suited to provide the basis for stationary social conditions. The character of a natural economy, such as we see in Asia, has this form. He continued: “Here, as in the earlier form of labor rent, the ground rent is the normal form of surplus value and hence of surplus labor, that is, of the whole excess labor, which the immediate producer must provide gratis, in fact therefore by force, - although this force no longer comes against him in the old brutal form, to the owner of his most essential labor condition, the soil. The profit, if we can by a false anticipation call the part of the excess of his labor over the necessary labor, which he appro¬ priates to himself, so little determines the product rent that it grows behind its back, and is limited by the extent of the product rent.

The latter can have an extent which seriously

endangers the reproduction of the labor conditions, the means of production itself, renders more or less impossible the expansion of production and reduces the immediate producer to the physical minimum of means of subsistence. This is particularly the case where this form is found and exploited by a conquering trading nation, for example the English in India.” There is nothing in the quality of life in Asia, in the traditional periods, there is nothing in the quality of the Asiatic mode of production, that created the stationary or stagnant economy. It is the quantity of the rent in kind extracted by the landowners from the cultivators that rendered the expansion of production next to impossible. 49 Marx, Kapitalll (MEW 24, p. 1x3): “Ob die Ware das Produkt... Whether the commodity be the product of production based on slavery, or of peasants (Chinese, Indian ryots), or communities (Dutch East Indies), or of State production (as such production, based on serfdom, appears in earlier epochs of Russian history), or semi-primitive hunting peoples etc.: as commodity and money they stand opposed to money and commodities in which industrial capital is presented...” The forms of unfree labor here comprise the slave-labor, peasant labor in India and China, and the collective unfreedom of the communities in the East Indian archipelago.


combined category of unfreedom stands opposed to the formal freedom of wage-labor, further includes serfdom and further includes labor in State production; the entire category stands opposed to the formal freedom of wage-labor in industrial capital production.


reference to the Dutch East Indies is from Raffles, History of Java, op. cit. See Marx, Kapital I (MEW 23, p. 379); MEW 28, p. 269. On State production see Marx, Grundrisse, p. 378 et seq. On semi-primitive hunting communities, see Grundrisse, pp. 37jff. On primitive production, see Kapital II (MEW 24, pp. 436b). See the next note. Further on Raffles, see above, ch. I B, note 78, ch. II A, note 21, and in this chapter, notes 1 and 2 above.

Marx on the asiatic mode of production, 1857-1867 place to a swift change and the reproduction of numerous systems in the subsequent period. The laboring class in the Asian countryside, torn loose from the com¬ munal body, from the traditional institutions, changed the form of the relations to the means of production, but not the substance. The peasants (in a later development) were bound not to the common soil or to the State, but to the usurers and the private landlords. During the late nineteenth century and down to the 1940s in China this was the case; they are still so bound in many parts of India and Pakistan. Just as the wage labor of the capitalist mode of production is only formally free, but is materially bound to the means of production, so are these peasants. The condition of the peasantry of the various parts of Asia during the period in question, being the vast majority of the laboring class, deter¬ mined the relations of the urban labor to the means of production in turn. Both have been engaged in reproduction of capital at a low rate of capital intensity, hence the relations to production of the two branches are not far different, and for this reason the preponderance of the peas¬ antry in number over the urban segment of the class of labor has had a determinant effect on the relations of the latter both to capital and to the society as a whole. Finally, as long as the unit of peasant production remained self-sus¬ taining, even given that it produced a surplus, it did not produce capital; the production process was not related to the formation of capital in the villages. This weakness was the strength of the traditional community in Asia, its ability to support itself, the entire society and the State in Asia. This became the basis of the backwardness of community and society, which in turn enabled the establishment of colonialism there in the nine¬ teenth century. In the relations between communities and between the communities and the State, the production of commodities and of a surplus was developed, which was then further extended within the community. The natural economy, or exchange and payment in kind, the absence of wage labor and of a money economy continued upon the basis of a village community system just as much as on that of the servile and slave systems.50 Exchange alone could not effect a change in the village community.61 50 Marx, Kapital II (MEW 24, p. 474): “... The greater part of the mass of money in circulation is provided in the form of labor wage, of money which as the money form of variable capital functions ... in its great mass only as means of circulation in the hands of the laborers. This is wholly in opposition to the natural economy as it preponderates on the basis of every system of subjection (including serfdom), and even more so in the more 01 less primitive communities, whether these are substituted by relations of subjection or slavery or not.” ,l Cf. Marx, Tbeorten Uber den Mebrwert III (MEW 26.3, ch. 24). See his Grundrisse, pp. 74if.:

Marx on the astatic mode of production, 1817-1867 The forms of unfree labor are two, collective and individual. The relations of client to patron, slave to master and serf to lord, and in¬ dentured labor are individual forms of unfree labor, the individual is bound in these labor relations. Collective forms of unfree labor are found in the tribute relations established in the ancient and medieval Asiatic empires, and in Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine antiquity; and relations of dependency under colonialism. The village community in Asia maintains a double relation of unfreedom. On the one side, the individual as a member of the community is bound by customary practices to the community; he and his family are bound by lack of alternatives, there being no open labor market or possibilities of employment elsewhere. He cannot open up new land for cultivation save with the greatest difficulty: land is not hard to come by, but the labor, animal power and implements for clearing, watering, fertilizing the land are scarce. These bonds are constraints on the individual in the Asiatic mode of production, they are the opposite of the forces that push the individual off the land and pull him toward the city in modern times in Asia;52 they are the forces that have bound the individual to the soil in Asia in ways that are distinct from those found in European history. The Asiatic village community was itself bound by a form of collec¬ tive unfreedom; it had to make over to the collector from the State treasury the rent due either in labor or in kind: chiefly the latter, there is little known of labor rent, at least in traditional India. The form of unfree labor in the Asiatic mode of production was double, both in¬ dividual and collective. The unfreedom was both a matter of form and of content; the unfreedom took the form of the traditional practices that bound the individual to the community and the community to the social whole, whereby the State treasury, as a part of the whole, now a tradi-

“Trade is dominant over industry in the stages that precede bourgeois society; in the modern society it is the reverse. “Trade will naturally react more or less on the communities between which it is conducted. It will subordinate more and more production to exchange value, force the use-value more and more into the background, in that it makes subsistence more dependent on sale than on the immediate use of the product. It dissolves the old relations. Thereby increases circula¬ tion of money. At first [it] seizes merely the surplus of production; gradually takes over the latter itself. Yet this dissolving effect depends much on the nature of the producing com¬ munities between which it operates. For instance, [trade] has hardly shaken the old Indian communities and the Asiatic relations generally.” Marx, loc. cit., then wrote of independent trading cities on the various levels of economic development, in the old-Asiatic, Greek, and medieval Italian societies. In the Grundrisse a distinction was already introduced between city and countryside in the Asiatic mode of production. See also Marx, Kapital III (MEW 25, p. 342). 68 On these push and pull factors see: Philip M. Hauser, ed. Seminar on Urbanisation.

Marx on the astatic mode of production, 18jy~i86y tional part, extracted the rent-tax through its agents; the two formal relations of unfreedom reinforced each other in this way: the village headman collected the tax-rent for transmittal, he was at the same time the representative of the village, its customary judge and arbiter in the village panchayat, tribunal. The two functions were reciprocally support¬ ive, whereby the village and its labor were bound in to the system of supply of the excess product to the State. That excess was not used to found new industries or to form centers of capital accumulation and concentration, it simply maintained the economy in the same state as before, providing a means for self-maintenance, just as the village was assured, by its supply of unfree labor, of the means of self-sustenance. The content of the condition of unfreedom was provided by the oral traditions, religious practices, rites and customs of the villages and the whole society, which was reinforced in turn by the caste system and the institutions of the State. The village was in this sense not a sovereign body, a republic, but a tributary body. It was sovereign in the sense that, apart from the levy of rent-tax, it conducted its own affairs, subject to the same customary practices and laws that bound in the sovereign.53 It was not sovereign, insofar as it was subject to these levies, or was no more or less sovereign than other tributary bodies. The rent as tax was in this sense a form of tribute. The village was a quasi-dependent body. It was a corporation, in the phrase of the Fifth Report of 1812, but it had no charter of in¬ corporation. It was a self-perpetuating and self-sustaining body, a corporation as such. The multiple bondage of the individual and the community served to maintain the traditional life and to suppress change of the traditional Asian societies. The major force of change came at first from without. In the stages preceding capitalist society, wrote Marx, commerce dominates industry; it is the opposite under capitalism. The destruction of these prior economic forms in Asia was effected by means of exchange in the nineteenth century. The colonial powers proceeded thereby to the transformation of the traditional society, but it went slowly in India, and in China. The English in India first sought to separate the agricul¬ tural from the household handicraft production, then they proceeded to economic experiments, infamous in practice: they created in Bengal a caricature of the English large landed properties; in the southeast of India a caricature of properties in small plots; they made the commune

53 See below, ch. V C, in connection with H. S. Maine’s discussion of Ranjit Singh, the Sikh prince of the eighteenth century. 163

Marx on the astatic mode of production, i Sjy-i86y of Northwest India, with communal landownership, into a caricature of itself.54 The delineation of the conditions of the Asiatic mode of production on the one side, and of its dissolution on the other, called for a mode of analysis in which the concept of the Oriental society and of its political expression, the superstructure of the Oriental despotism, had become too global, non-malleable, and insufficiently sensitive for the critique of capital, of colonialism, and of the development of capitalism in Asia, just as, paralleling these developments and determining them, the intro¬ duction of capitalist relations of production in Asia brought about the extinction of the Asiatic mode of production in fact.


i. Property in Land In certain communities of hunters or fishers access to the hunting grounds or fishing banks is determined by membership in the group.66 64 Marx. Kapital III (MEW 25, p. 343): “...In those earlier modes of production the chief possessor of the surplus product with whom the merchant negotiates, the slaveowner, the feudal landlord, the State (e.g., the Oriental despot) represent the wealth for which the merchant sets the traps, as Adam Smith correctly nosed out for the feudal period.” On the non-separation of agriculture and household industry in, and the effect of trade on, the Asiatic mode of production, see ibid., p. 346: “The hindrances which the inner fixity and articulation of the pre-capitalist, national modes of production counterpose to the disruptive effect of trade is strikingly indicated in the commerce of the English with India and China. The broad basis of the mode of production is here formed by the unity of small agriculture with house industry, to which is still adjoined in India the form of village communities resting on communal ownership of the soil, which was moreover the original form in China as well. The English applied their direct economic and political power in India at the same time as ruler and landowner in order to shatter these small economic communities.” Marx’s note on the caricatures of landed properties follows: “If the history of any people offers a history of failed and really absurd (in practice infamous) economic experiments, it is the economics of the English in India. In Bengal they created the caricature of the English large landed properties; in southeast India a caricature of smallparcel properties; in the Northwest they transformed, as much as they could, the Indian economic communities with communal ownership of the soil, into a caricature of itself.” The language of ownership and possession by the village communities, and of the unity of sovereignty and landownership, encountered earlier in the passages from the Grundrisse, are carried forward in the third volume of Capital, together with continuity of evaluation of English colonial practice in this statement with that of the articles written for the New-York Daily Tribune. 56 Cf. Marx, Grundrisse, pp. 39iff. for this and the two following paragraphs. A significant part of Marx’s doctrine on property in land had been brought out by him some ten years earlier, in his polemic against P. J. Proudhon. See Marx, The Poverty of Philosophy, 1847, ch.


Marx on the asiatic mode of production, i8j7-1867 Proceeding from this starting point, property then takes on two sub¬ divisions, property in things as means of production, land, or again property in human beings as slaves. If the human being as organic appurtenance to the soil is taken, conquered together with the conquered land as one of the conditions of production, slavery arises, whereby the original simple social structure is modified, the primitive community is turned into a false community, it is determined by its negation. Property means originally, on the one side, a concrete relation, on the other it means a behavior, a formal relation of man to his natural conditions of production, as belonging to him, as being his own, as being presupposed together with his own existence in society; this relation, at once concrete and formal, to the conditions of production as natural presuppositions of his own self make up the extension of his body: the implements of labor, and beyond these, the soil. The forms of these natural conditions of production are: The social existence of the individual as a member of the community; the community proceeds from the original form of the tribe to its falsified, negated form, whereby the community becomes a subjected part of a greater unity, the State. The concrete and formal relation of the individual to the soil is mediated by the community. This is the basis for the differentiation of individual possession of the soil, so that only its products are distributed, from common ownership, common labor on it. Man’s natural condition of production is his belonging to a community, this natural society. His existence is no longer indifferently subjectiveobjective, his existence in society is divided; his subjective existence being conditioned by his social existence, just as much as it is by his relation to the soil. Property in this sense means having subjective and objective existence in a natural society; belonging to it excludes the free forms of existence, the alternative human existence, which is determined by the negation of the bound form, the modification of that form, its fal¬ sification. The objective relation of the bound individual to the soil is constituted to begin with through the community alone, it is the external relation, the original condition of the externalization of man, hence his

II, §4, Property in land, or rent. There the question of rent in relation to tax is taken up in the context of the opposition between the industrial capitalist and the proprietor of land (MEW 4, pp. 165-175). Here Marx wrote of the hatred that the industrial capitalist bears toward the landowner, who seems to him useless, an opposition not encountered in the Orient. In the Grundrisse, the distinction between the village community as landowner and the cultivator as possessor, and the categories of sovereignty and community as joint owner are developed in a formal way, and the interrelation between the economic and juridical systems is set forth. 165

Marx on the astatic mode of production, 1857-1867 objective condition of existence.66 The Asiatic village maintains this negative relation of the individual, which is mediated through the community to the soil; its conditions of existence are false, its self¬ sustenance is false, it is actually subjected to a higher unity, the State, which leaves the villages untouched only so long as it is in the interest of the greater power of the sovereignty to do so. The human individual has his natural social existence in the commu¬ nity; the fundamental condition of property rests on the social condition 6‘ The separation of living labor from the means of production is the objective condition of the formation of wage-labor, the liberation of living labor, its formal freedom. This is not the chronological sequence of the formation of the capitalist mode of production, but the delineation of the necessary condition of its formation and continued existence. “The in¬ dependent Fiirsichsein (being-for-itself) of value as against the living labor capacity - hence its Dasein as capital, - the objective equality which is maintained in itself, the strangeness, alienness of the objective labor conditions against the living labor capacity which proceeds to the point that these conditions of the person of the laborer stand opposed to the person of the capitalist as personifications with will and interest of their own. This absolute division, separation of property, i.e. of the material conditions of labor from the living labor capacity so that they stand opposed to the laborer as alien property, as the reality of another juridical person, the absolute territory of his will, and so that therefore on the other hand labor as alien labor appears opposite value personified in the capitalist or the conditions of labor - this absolute division between property and labor, between the living labor capacity and the conditions of its realization, between objectified and living labor, between value and value creating activity - hence as well the alienness of the content of labor against the laborer him¬ self - this division now appears just as much as the product of labor itself, as objectification of its own moments.” Marx, Gnmdrisse, p. 356. This movement has taken place at but one point in time and space, whence it has spread to other parts of the world. The traces of this historical movement are to be detected in ancient Egypt, Babylon, ancient Rome, China, India, but it never burst forth into a full development such as it took on first in western Europe in the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries, whence it spread during this period to America, to Japan and parts of Latin America. The historical development is the concrete expression of the relations among particular peoples in the countries along the Rhine, and either side of the North Sea, of the formal liberation and separation. In Marx’s development the conditions of production in society and of labor are given first as they appear abstractly, as necessary conditions for human life, and then as they appear historically in their concrete form in particular societies. The point has been made that the development of an alternative in medieval Germanic jurisprudence between right of membership in the community and free private right against it is equally valid for the process of development of communes and municipalities themselves. (Gierke, Das dentsche Genossenschaftsrecbt, op. cit., vol. I, pp. 663ff., 689fT.; vol. Ill, pp. 447ff., 728ff.) The process of opposition of common and private right in the agrarian communities of Germany is actually traced by Gierke, Die Genossenscbaftstheorie und die deutsche Recbtsprechmg, (1887) 1963, pp. 209, n. 3, and 210 et seq. (Further references there cited.) See also Sir Henry Maine, Ancient Law, pp 15of. The path of development in Europe set forth by Savigny, Gierke and Maine is quite different from the path of development of any country in Asia in the same period. Whether the European side is the development of Roman or Germanic law is a quarrel that is now forgotten, and rightly.

Marx on the astatic mode of production, 18 j?-i867 of membership in the community, whereby the social and economic existence of the human individual are indistinguishable: the Asiatic form of the community rests in turn on the self-sustaining unity of agriculture and manufacture. The individual becomes the possessor, not the owner, under these conditions; he is himself the property of the community, his labor is unfree labor, he himself is unfree, his originally bound condition continues unmodified, unfalsified, under the abstract condition that no surplus is as yet produced, and the community has not introduced the exchange and production of commodities. The social existence of man is in this sense not negated by external relations. Conquest, surplus labor, commodity exchange are the concrete con¬ ditions of the initial negation of this relation. Marx does not start, as did Hegel,57 from the non-difference between subject and object in human existence. Man in society, man as man, is already human, according to Marx, as such he has a subjective existence to start with. The society and the economy are mutually interactive: the social relations and the economic relations rest on each other. Thus, the relation of property rests on the membership of the individual in the tribe; the self-sustaining community rests on the un¬ dissolved unity of agriculture and manufacture. The opposition of society and economy has as its further development the opposition of the originally unitary branches of the economy. Moreover, the different modes of human existence are separate: in Asia, agriculture and manu¬ facture are united in the villages, conquest is not so necessary a con¬ dition of unfree labor as it is under slavery in classical European anti¬ quity and medieval European feudalism, when agriculture predominates in the villages, the town crafts and the rural production being conducted as separate economic branches in the same great economic unity. Slavery is but one of the forms of unfree labor, and not the only one; each of the varieties of unfree labor, that of the Asiatic village community, that of the classical bondage, the slave system, or the client system, that of the servile bondage to the soil are minor differences when compared to the great difference, as against all of them, which is introduced by the for¬ mally free labor relation in the capitalist mode of production.58 57

Karl Marx, Okonomisch-Philosophiscbe Manuskripte. Die Deutsche Ideologic. MEW 3, pp 13-36;

Thesen Uber Feuerbach, ibid., pp. 5-7. Grundrisse, pp. 356, 366-374, 388, 395. G. W. F. Hegel. Phanomenologie des Geistes, 1807.

See the Vorwort, Einleitung, and ch. A.I.

See also his

Jenaer Realphilosophie (1805/06), 1967, pp. 179-194.

58 Marx on wage-labor and labor-wage: Kapital I, ch. 17 end (MEW 23, pp. 562!?.); Kapital II (MEW 24, p. 474). On fetishism: Grundrisse, p. 579 and Kapital I, ch. I, §4. On free labor: Grundrisse, pp. 592 et seq. and Kapital III, ch. 48, third section. Kapital I (MEW 23, p. 183): “The possessor of money, for the transformation of money


Marx on the astatic mode of production, iSjj-iS6y 2. Stagnation and Change in the Asiatic Mode of Production Just as the village community that is engaged in the Asiatic mode of production is the negation of the natural society, the falsification of the primordial community, it is the concretion of the abstract natural com¬ munity. The higher Oriental unity to which the village community is subjected is the political society, or the State; it has no abstract existence, it exists only in its concrete relation to the villages, as tax collector in labor-rent and rent in kind; the labor-rent is primarily involuntary labor upon the roads, canals and irrigation ditches. The surplus labor produced by the villages is just as much unfree as is the labor within the village communities. The necessary labor and the surplus labor are of the same unfree category, the immediate community and the over¬ arching political unity remain in the same general and at once concrete relation to the cultivator. It is in the interest of the superordinate power to leave the villages untouched, that is, to depart as little as possible from the traditional forms of government. It is in the interest of the villages to leave the State untouched, given that the village continues in its traditional, unfree, involuntary mode of operation, in statu quo ante, in the same state as before. The village life has a means of revenge upon the State in return for the unwonted interference in and departure from the traditional life: by combining with the disaffected gentry in China and thereby effecting the overthrow of the reigning dynasty; alternatively, by remaining indifferent, isolated and self-contained while foreign con¬ querors replace the reigning dynasty in the traditional states of India or of China. In either case, the system of government does not change. The factors of change involving the change of whole societies, bringing changes throughout the society: the money economy, the concentration of capital, the concentration of capital-producing capital, the introduction of rent in money form, the savings from production and exchange, have not been introduced. Since these factors of change are not the concern of either the community or the State, and since the regular agents of such change, known in other circumstances to have brought about a change in the mode of production: the urban industrial proletariat. into capital, must therefore find the free laborer on the labor market, free in the double sense, that as a free person he disposes his labor power as his commodity, that on the other hand he has no other commodity to sell, is free and clear, free of all the necessary matters for the realization of his labor power.” Ibid., p. 562: “All legal conceptions of the laboter as those of the capitalist, all mystifica¬ tions of the capitalist mode of production, all of its illusions of freedom rest on the apparent form of the transformation of value and price of labor power into the form of the labor wage. This apparent form makes the actual relation invisible and points precisely at its opposite.” See above, this chapter, note 56.


Marx on the asiatic mode of production, i8jy-i86y capitalists, money-lenders, have not arisen within the Asiatic mode of production, the economic, social and political systems of Asia have shown no tendency for internal dissolution. The village communities that were engaged in the Asiatic mode of production had external relations in two directions, to the other in¬ stitutions within human society, and to the natural surroundings. The institutions comprising the social environment of the village were again primarily of two sorts, the surrounding villages and the State. The village produced surplus labor and surplus product, the crudest form of the surplus value, which at the beginning of the Asiatic mode of production was collected by the agencies of the State as rent or, in¬ differently, tax, made over to the State involuntarily by the villagers. The imposts were collected as rent-tax, without difference between the town and the countryside, from the laborers engaged directly in pro¬ duction, there being differences of degree but not of kind between the production of the town and the land. On the one side, the Asiatic villages combined agricultural and handicraft production within them¬ selves ; they did not depend on the cities for any characteristically urban production. On the other hand, the Asiatic cities, particularly of India and Central Asia, engaged in the same types of production, except for the raising of grain and fiber plants, as did the the villages; the cities otherwise engaged in the tending of gardens and orchards, and in pro¬ duction in handicraft workships, as did the village laborers, albeit in different proportions. The opposition between town and countryside is not encountered in India and neighboring lands in the traditional periods of their history, and the imposts of rent-tax corresponded to this non¬ difference, this non-opposition. The State required the provision of involuntary labor at first, later the involuntary provision of the surplus product to the State through its agencies of tax collection, equally from the cities and the villages. The village no less than the urban community within the Asiatic mode of production forms the concrete negation of the abstract natural society, it is not a natural society, still less are the two together such. The village depended on artifical water control, or devices to dam up the flood in times of superabundance of water, and conduits to lead off the excesses; the city in the same setting even more so. The villages and the cities depended on the artifical devices of reservoirs for storing water against the times of scarcity. The devices of farming and garden¬ ing comprised not only planting and ploughing, reaping and harvesting, but manuring or night-soil, the implements to prepare the soil for planting, devices for seed storage, for beating off the pests, the scavenging ruminants, rodents and birds. The village no less than the town was 169

Marx on the astatic mode of production, i8jj-i86j and is alienated from nature in this elementary way; the cultural devices intermediate between nature and the human kind. The voluntary and involuntary supply of surplus labor for the main¬ tenance of water flow was a part of this intermediation. In part, the intermediation was conducted directly by the villages in the Asiatic mode of production. In part it was conducted by the State through its agencies of water control. How much of the labor in water supply was voluntary, how much involuntary cannot be determined. This central issue is unexplored even after three centuries of discussion and a half century of debate. The Indian villagers had specialists who looked after the village water conduits, and specialist Brahmin astronomers-astrologists who looked into the sequence of the water seasons. The ancient Egyptians and the traditional Chinese regimes maintained the State astronomers. State engineers who performed tasks necessary for water or hydraulic (to speak Greek) control, aqueduction (to speak Latin). How the village and State enterprises in water control were related has not been studied. The involuntary labor on the irrigation canals was a cultural as well as a natural necessity; it was a traditional necessity. The village com¬ munities in the Asiatic mode of production, the predominant unity of production, produced the preponderant amount of the product in each of the empires and throughout Asia. The cities produced but a small proportion of the entire product; the urban product was to a large degree intensive production from the soil. Both the scientific tone of these enterprises in town and countryside and their religious overtone were continuous with each other and resembled each other. The urban product was not different in kind from the rural, and the rite of the one was the extension of the rite of the other. Both villagers and townsmen transformed the natural necessities into culturally mediated necessities; that which is necessary to mankind for the maintenance of life is trans¬ formed in the particular case into necessities for the maintenance of the cultural tradition. The religious enterprises formed a part of the tradi¬ tion, linking the parts of the whole together, leading the dance, the leader, conductor, Leiter, Leiterin, Coryphaeus of the festival of the waters. The priestly astronomers in ancient Egypt were necessary for the pre¬ diction of the rise and fall of the waters of the Nile, the priestly astrono¬ mers of traditional India performed like tasks in regard to the monsoons of south Asia, necessary for the agriculture in that part of the world. The monsoons were necessary, their prediction was and is necessary, drought and flood are fearful (India is suffering famine this year, 1973). The tradition exceeds the calculation of the immediate necessities, and seething up, appears to have a life of its own, produces a whole calendar

Marx on the asiatic mode of production, 1857-1867 of gods and goddesses, a Pandemonium becomes attached to the direct agricultural necessities. The natural necessity and the social necessity have become intertwined and mutually dependent, the natural necessity of water, the social ne¬ cessity of water control, and the further ritual are all interrelated, the priestly ritual is held to be no less necessary than the techniques of water prediction and control. That which is socially necessary to the villagers for the maintenance of the tradition becomes a necessity no less relevant to the internal economy in the strict sense, and to the internal cultural economy in the broad sense than the natural necessities of air, sunlight, water, soil, plants and animals. The provision of the surplus labor by the villages was the external necessity, it was at the same time an internal necessity, both the internal and the external needs were acknowledged by the villages; to this con¬ struction they gave their assent. The acknowledgment, the assent are not an act of false consciousness. But this acknowledgment, this assent are tied to the acknowledgment or recognition, rather, of the necessity of the ritual participation and conduct of the priests, their conduct in general and their particular participation in the rite of conduct of the water, as the Leiterin. The condition of unfree, involuntary labor of the villagers is internalized by them as a condition of the cultural economy; the involuntary and unfree condition is then an inner condition of the cultural economy, and becomes a part of the content of the cultural economy. The involuntary form of the levy of the surplus labor becomes an inner condition, the content, of the culture, its economic side, and the direction of the culture as a whole, its economy, which is at once the same as and other than the economic foundation. The formally free labor, labor that is free to contract for individual wages and the free ex¬ penditure of labor time, is not accessible to the village labor in the Asiatic mode of production, objectively, as a viable social practice. Further, it is not accessible subjectively to the villagers as a utopian wish. On the one side, there are no social institutions necessary to bring this formal freedom about in the tradition of the Asiatic mode of production, on the other there is no preparation for this free relation in the religious beliefs and expressions, and in the folklore. The folk tales, folk songs and folk poems remain to be examined for the expressions of this sort of freedom; they probably will not be found, or new means will have to be developed for their detection. Again, however, the folklore is explicit on the matter of other forms of freedom: the pastoral nomads of Asia celebrate the freedom of the steppes as opposed to the restrictions of the agricultural laborers, the peasants celebrate their condition as opposed to that of the nomads who are chained to their ignorance by their customs.

Marx on the asiatic mode of production, 1857-1867 In the commodity relations of the villages in the Asiatic mode of production, the product of the other villages and the surplus production and labor of all of them in relation to each other and to the agencies of the State are taken into account, from the standpoint of each village in the first place as an externality. The commodity relation is internalized by the villages, which are then transformed into commodity producers; the transformation period having been transcended, the new production is set in an irreversible process, and the external economic relations of the villages come to prevail over the erstwhile inner relations, just as the trade relations predominate over the productive relations. Having passed through this transformation, neither the villages in the traditional economy of Asia nor the State produced social change wide and profound. We have referred to the low degree of development of the relations between the social classes, and the low degree of development of class consciousness among the Asian peasantry in the traditional periods, in connection with the analysis of the ambivalent situation of the village headman. The further change was introduced from without. In earlier times, landownership by the State of all or most of the lands in the realm, and the eradication of the difference between land-rent and land-tax, whereby the sovereign became the sole or chief landlord, were introduced, but effected little change in the Asiatic mode of production, whether measured by intrinsic means against other internal change-producing factors, or by extrinsic means. The change introduced by the capitalist incursions into Asia preponderates over these earlier ones. The internalization of the necessities of water control, and of all the means, technical and religious, that are relevant thereto, on the one side, and the internalization of the unfree condition of labor on the other, were encompassed by the village communities in the various stages of the Asiatic mode of production. These processes of internalization are not unconnected in the evolution of these communities. Thus, the involuntary provision of the surplus of labor into the hands of the State through its agencies of tax collection, and the internalization of the condition of unfreedom are connected by means of the ritual expressions: the participation of the priestly astronomers in Egypt and of the Brahmin astronomers and astrologers in India have been mentioned; and these are both directly related to the internalization of the necessities of water control through involuntary labor. The unfree condition of labor in the Asiatic mode of production is related to the two foregoing processes of internalization, but the relation is an incomplete dialectic. In order to understand this, we must first take up the commodity relation more fully. Commodity relations arise at first through exchange between communities, and through the pro172

Marx on the asiatic mode of production, 18jy-i86y vision of the surplus products to the State. Only the surplus of the production is transformed into commodities; a part of that surplus, again, is so transformed only in the hands of the State, to which a determinate amount accrues in the form of rent in kind. The commodity relation is an exchange relation; we take for this the model of the ex¬ change between communities. Is the commodity relation between the villages and the agencies of the State an exchange relation, or is it some other sort? Rent in kind is a commodity; exchange is a reciprocity: the reciprocity is the service rendered by the agencies of the State in mainte¬ nance of water control through the provision of the involuntary labor of the villages. The State through its agencies of tax collectors, astrono¬ mers, managers and whipmasters provides a return to the villages for the rent collected from them in the form of tax. The commodity exchange between the villages is an external relation; exchange within the villages is not a commodity relation. The external relation is then internalized by the villages in the form of commodity production; but this part of the product is the surplus, the excess over the needs for subsistence of the families in the villages. The commodity is in the form of rent in kind made over to the State as tax, the exter¬ nalized form of that which has been internalized as commodity exchange. The first form of the land-rent collected by the agencies of the State is that of the involuntary labor for the public works, both the embellish¬ ments of the empires and the waterworks. The commodity production, as rent in labor or as rent in kind is not the negation of the unfree condi¬ tion of the village labor; it would only be so if it were accompanied by the development of capital production, but since it is not, the commodity relation stands as an incomplete dialectic, an unresolved process, partly related to the other processes of internalization, but partly not related to them. The fact that commodity exchange and production, in that order, did not lead to capital formation gives the impression of stagnation, of lack of movement, of the Asiatic mode of production. Nevertheless, the dynamisms are to be observed: The transformation of the levies of the surplus product of the villages, in the form of involuntary labor, rent in labor, which is the crude form of rent as tax, into the levy of the rent in kind is the first dynamism. In ancient Egypt, the astronomer priests, and other agencies of the State, conducted the affairs of water supply; latterly, at least in India, the villages appear to have regulated their own water supply, Brahmins were supported by the villages direcdy. (This remains, however, to be studied.) The last major transformation in the Asiatic mode of production was incomplete; it was the movement from commodity exchange to commodity production, connected with the *73

Marx on the asiatic mode of production, i8jy-i86y twofold external movement of the commodities, between the villages and between the single village and the State. The development of commodities was not fully internalized, there was no formation of capital, there was no personification of the capital as capitalist, the village grain-lender and usurer were failed capitalists; they buried their gold in the ground. We will see (at the end of this chapter) that the East India Company had access to a theory whereby gold was likened to any other commodity, it circulated, it was exported, imported. It was this development that was lacking in the Asiatic mode of production. Rosdolsky has written, “It clearly stands out from all texts before us that Marx perceived in the so-called ‘Asiatic social formation’ only a particular variant of the original communism standing at the beginning of culture history.”59 With all respect to this indefatigable and courageous student of Marx, this judgment is erroneous. The method of development by Marx proceeded from the comprehensive ‘social formations’ to the more exact concept of ‘mode of production’. The Asiatic mode of production, to call it by its proper name, is developed in major part out of the village communities, which are in a relation of continuity and discontinuity with the ‘original communism standing at the beginning of culture history’. In form there is a continuity between the primordial communities and the village communities in the Asiatic mode of pro¬ duction; both are communities with great mutual dependence, as contrasted with the individualism of life in bourgeois society. That Marx considered the communities to be in a continuation of each other is clear enough; that they have differences from each other should be clear to all, since the villages included in the Asiatic mode of production are settled and engaged in agriculture, whereas the original communistic communities included wandering hunters and gatherers as well. The village communities of the Asiatic mode of production are not a variant of the primordial communities in another sense as well: the former are part of a society with the State, as well, a political society. The village communities of the Asiatic mode of production by their transformation, by transforming themselves, entered a new historical period, they generated the new factors of surplus labor and surplus value, and of commodity exchange and production, they engaged in new forms of the social division of labor. The villages of the Asiatic mode of production developed a dynamism, with factors not to be found in societies without the State. But at this point, in their internal development, the impetus to change was reduced, and the great changes that they underwent thereafter came to them from 69 Roman Rosdolsky, Zur Entstehungsgeschichte, op. cit., p. 321.


Marx on the asiatic mode of production, i8jy-i86j without. Both these internal and the external movements have been depicted here. It is clear that the village life in Asia, at the time that the literature available to Marx referred to it, showed little appreciable change from time unrecorded; such division of labor that it evinced, its social production relations, and its technology were no more highly developed in the year 1800 A.D. in India than they were a thousand years before, perhaps little changed in form two or more times that number of years, and these differences in lengths of time were a matter of importance in European views. But from this it does not follow that these villages were no different from the ‘original communistic condition’ of mankind; nor does it follow that the Asiatic social formation is to be subsumed under that ‘original’ condition. Marx drew a quite different picture in the interests of quite different theoretical and practical problems. Our task has been to set forth the practical side of the question, in connection with the colonial relations of Asia in the nineteenth century; the theoretical side has been developed in connection with the theory of the general social evolution of mankind as it was brought out by Marx.



i. The Asiatic Commune and Forms of Social Life The Asiatic mode of production is an external conception which arises out of the problematics of the universal history of mankind, accounting at the same time for the difference to the capitalist mode of production, and the integration of the Asian markets within the worldwide net of capitalist markets in the nineteenth century. In its origin it emerged from the critique of the capitalist political economy, and stood on its feet what its forerunners, the theoretical advocacy of the Oriental society and its political wing, Oriental despotism, had stood on its head. The theory of Oriental society proclaimed (in effect) that the Asian lands were rich in extent and in primary aggregation of wealth; the markets were the most lucrative in the world after the European; their labor supply was poorly paid, but vast in numbers; the capital was accumulated slowly, their surplus even more so. If their governments resented intrusion from without, their armies were weak and the general population in¬ different to the changes in rulership. The mercantile interest was at first conducted by private individuals, but later brought in the nation-states of Europe and was transformed into great bodies of interest, exemplified most typically and most powerfully by the East India Company, a quasi-public and quasi-private 175

Marx on the astatic mode of production, i8]j-i86j enterprise which was dominant in Asia from the seventeenth century through the first half of the nineteenth.60 The Asiatic mode of produc¬ tion arose as a conception out of its forerunners, the Oriental society and its political stereotype, the Oriental despotism, based upon the reports of private travellers, merchants, diplomats, missionaries, and the analyses of their materials by the philologists, philosophers, political economists and historians of Europe. As a category of the Asiatic societies and economies, it accounts primarily for the external relations of the Asiatic peoples, and secondarily for their internal relations and developments. Marx developed the category of the Asiatic mode of production on a narrow material base. When compared with the immense body of materials that serves as the foundation of the critique of capitalist production: the Bank Acts, Children’s Employment Commission Reports, Factories Reports, Factories Inspectors’ Reports, Statistical Abstracts, then the materials that have gone into the theory of the Asiatic mode of production appear to be the opposite of wide and deep. Yet the empires comprised within the category of the Asiatic mode of production were vast, with a rich culture, an ancient history and complex social and economic relations. Although brief, this overview has left little unsurveyed among sources of Marx’s publications on the Asiatic mode of production. The survey has referred to the context of the European literature in which these sources take their place; Marx was aware that the English had entertained opposing views generated by their representatives in India who served in official capacities, that the views of private persons involved likewise were those of individuals with considerable public influence, and that the controversy over the ownership of the land in India had practical consequences in regard to rent and tax, the amount of each, the marketing and pricing of the agricultural product, the introduction of agricultural improvements, transportation, social services in times of famine and control of pestilences. After having first adopted the theory of the sovereignty as landowner and the theory of land-rent as land-tax in the form in which it was ad¬ vocated by Adam Smith and Richard Jones, the distinction between possession and property in Hegel, and the theory of stagnation in the

•° The East India Company was a private company organized for the gain of its stockholders, chartered by the English crown in 1600. It was able to conduct its commerce, entering into treaties with sovereign States, until its rule in India came to an end in 1858. The Indian Mutiny of 1857-1858 was instrumental in bringing this about. See the reports by Marx concerning the insurrection of the Indian Army in the New-York Daily Tribune (MEW 13, pp. 230-233, 238-253, 260-263, 268-288, 293-313). See above, ch. Ill, note 12.


Marx on the astatic mode of production, 1817-1867 Orient which is encountered in both these schools of thought in Europe, he then modified them. He developed these lines of thought in the general theory of the village community, which was based in particular on the Indian example and applied to it. The end result was the con¬ struction of the theory of the Asiatic mode of production, which took its place beside that of the ancient, the feudal and the capitalist. The theory of the Asiatic mode of production was developed as part of the critique of the process of production of capital, the critique of the capitalist mode of production and political economy, of the modern bourgeois society, and of the exploitation of the nations of Asia as colonies by the European trading and industrial powers. Therefore, it played a significant if subordinate role in the widest theater, that of the conflicts of interests and spheres which embraced the entire world in the nineteenth century. By its promulgation, the theory of the Asiatic mode of production cast light on the wider conflicts, which have been the decisive ones, in turn, of the succeeding century. The practical problem during the course of the intervening century is that the in¬ dustrial development of parts of Asia has been held back by the par¬ ticularities of the economic relations, the legacy of political institutions and the burden of the cultural traditions. The European powers easily and quickly conquered the Orient; the wealth drained from Asia by the Europeans represented a weighty return for a light investment, which the capitalist mode of production was able to turn to its advantage, as the capitalist relation extended its material base, the production rela¬ tions, enriched by the acquisitions of agricultural products, raw materials, cheap manufactures by poorly paid labor and doubly enriched by the added markets for their products. The countries of Asia in large part still suffer from these unequal relations as the result of the burden of the unequal relations of the past. The theory of the Asiatic mode of production is at the same time a conception that is wholly internal to the idea of human social develop¬ ment. If we turn from the relations of the different national unities within the capitalist mode of production to each other, which are essentially the spatial relations of the capitalist period over the world, to the temporal relations, or the succession of the great economic periods of social formations to each other, then the Asiatic mode of production achieves an added theoretical importance, and a practical significance. The theory of the Asiatic mode of production advances the position that man is a social animal, that the relations of man in society are the elements of his human being, his social being is his constitution as man, man as man. The social relations of the individual in the village communities of Asia are those of close interaction and *77

Marx on the asiatic mode of production, i8y/-i86y mutual dependence, and these relations were projected by Marx back upon the beginnings of human culture, that is, the beginnings of culture and of humanity. From this point of view, we are not engaged in questions of communal ownership and individual rights of possession of the soil, but we take up the question of the individual relations to society, the social relations of the individual, the mutual dependence of society and the individual for the empirically experienced existence of each, the determination thereby of man’s relation to nature, his distantiation and alienation from nature, and his special naturality in the world of nature. The human being does not antedate society, the quaint notion of the philosophers of the seventeenth and political economists of the eighteenth centuries. Nor does society antedate the individual. Each determines and delimits the other. The individual is not counterposed to the State any more than he is directly counterposed to nature. His relations to the State and to nature are determined by his interrela¬ tions with other human beings in society. Man’s relations in society include among them the institutional relations, and among these the given form of the State; these relations in society and to the natural environment are mediate relations. The Asiatic mode of production is both a set of relations in society and it is a relation to nature; it is a bridge between the beginning of culture and of humanity to the modern, most powerful and complex mode of production that has yet been developed: The original unity between laborers and conditions of labor (ab¬ stracted from the slave relation in which the laborer himself belongs to the objective labor conditions) has two chief forms: the Asiatic com¬ munity (natural communism) and the small family agriculture (to which house industry is connected) in one or the other form. Both forms are infant forms and equally little suited to develop labor as social labor and the productivity of social labor. Hence the necessity of separation, sundering, opposition between labor and ownership (to be understood with this ownership of the conditions of production). The most extreme form of this sundering, in which at the same time the productive forces of social labor are most powerfully developed, is that of capital. Only on the material basis which it creates, and by means of revolutions which the working class and the whole society undergoes in the process of this creation, can the original unity be again established.61

•l Marx, Theorien uber den Mehrmrt III (MEW 26.3, pp. 4i4f.). See the draft of the letter of Karl Marx to Vera Zasulic, Marx-Engels Archiv, op. cit. There Marx wrote of the ‘new system’ to which modern society tends, which will be a revival in a superior form of an archaic social type (p. 320). He referred to L. H. Morgan as the source of this thought.


Marx on the asiatic mode of production, i8jy-i86y i. The Slavic, Indian and Peruvian Communities Marx attempted a typology of communal production in the Grundrisse, distinguishing between the Peruvian on the one side, and the Slavic and Indian on the other: “The communal production and the communal property as it appears, e.g. in Peru, is evidently a secondary form; in¬ troduced and transmitted by conquering tribes which by themselves knew the old, simpler form, as it appears in India and among the Slavs.” He added that the Welsh also had a secondary form of communal production and property.62 The difference between the Indie-Oriental and the Slavic forms of communal property appears to be non-essential: “The original form of this property is therefore direct communal property (Oriental form, modified in the Slavic; developed up to the opposite, but stil as the secret, even if oppositive foundation in ancient and Germanic property).”63 The Peruvian and the Slavic communities, by implication therefore the Oriental, have either little or no money, and little or no exchange, which is the condition of money. It is false, therefore, to posit exchange within the community, as the originally constitutive element.64 Marx further wrote, “The relation of conquest, which is the condition of the secondary form of communal production and ownership in Peru has three possibilities: either the conquering people subjects the conquered (e.g., the English in Ireland, partly in India); it allows the old to continue, and contents itself with tribute (e.g., Turks and Romans); or a reciprocity enters which allows a new relation to arise, a synthesis (in part in the Germanic conquests).”66 The factor of conquest by the English in India here carries forward the analysis made by Marx in 1853; the position in the earlier time was that the British stood on a higher stage of civilization than the Indians, the Turks on a lower. The Indians Hinduized their earlier conquerors, among them the Turks, but not the English.66 These communal forms offered little resistance to the advance of

Marx concluded: “The rural agricultural commune therefore issued in Germany from a more archaic form, it was there the product of a spontaneous development instead of being imported all complete from Asia. There, in the East Indies, we meet it as well, ever as the final term or final period of the archaic formation.” (p. 321). See The Ethnological Notebooks, pp. 86f. See MEW 19, pp. 384-406. 41 Grundrisse, op. cit., p. 390. ” Ibid., pp. 396E Marx did not specify in what way the Oriental form was modified in the Slavic. •4 Ibid., Introduction, p. 23. This view is further taken up by Marx in Kapital I (MEW 23, p. 102) and III (MEW 25, p. 187). 46 Ibid., p. 18. 44 Marx, MEW 9, p. 221.


Marx on the astatic mode of production, 1857-1867 capitalist civilization, which operated by many means, only one of which was conquest by force of arms. China in the nineteenth century was not conquered and occupied, except for brief periods and in small parts of the entire country, by capitalist nations of Europe, but it was forced to make concessions lucrative to European trade; and it was exploited economically yet more indirectly in the same period through the tea trade, through most-favored nation agreements, through the comprador system, extraterritoriality practices, etc., etc. Marx in Capital I made certain precisions in regard to the communal institutions of India and Russia that he had not made in the Grundrisse and the Critique of 1859.67 The principal progress in his thought pertaining to India was in the greater accumulation of concrete detail: see for instance his references to weaving of muslins in Dacca,68 to the processes of savings and accumula¬ tion among the independent Indian peasants.69 In the second volume of Capital, Marx made more precise distinctions between the Indian ryots and the communal peasantry of the Dutch East Indies,70 and in reference to the practice of bookkeeping in Indian villages.71 The increasing concretization of the references to the Indian peas¬ antry and to the villages of India in the first part of Capital II is not maintained in Capital III by Marx, because this volume remained more of a draft than the second; there is instead a series of abstractions: comprehensively taken, the reference to the natural economy of the contemporary Indian commune is compared with the European anti¬ quity and middle ages.72 The Indian community is a natural develop¬ ment, the Peruvian communism is an artificial one; in both, the social production is composed of two parts, the part directly consumed by the producers and those who belong to them, - apart from the portion that is consumed in production, - and the part of the labor which is surplus labor, whose product serves to meet general social wants.73 Shortly after the publication of the first volume of Capital, Marx took up the question of peasant communal institutions, beginning with a 47 Cf. Marx, Kritik (MEW 13, p. 21), Kapital I (MEW 23, p. 92). See also MEW 23, p. 102. 48 Marx, Kapital I (MEW 23, p. 360), quoting H. Murray, et al. 48 Ibid., p. 625, quoting R. Jones. 70 Marx, Kapital II (MEW 24, p. 113). 71 Ibid., p. 136. See below, ch. IV B; Phear, who is there cited, discussed the district accounts offices, kachahri tabils. See Ethnological Notebooks, p. 284. 7J Marx Kapital III (MEW 23, p. 795). 74 Ibid., p. 884. The contrast between the first, second and third volumes of Kapital in this regard is plain. The third volume is furthest from completion. The second volume is more concrete, in its earlier chapters, and is closer to final formulation, but it is not in finished state. Karl Korsch has pointed out that it was Marx’s practice to work from the abstract to the concrete; the passages indicated in this and the preceding note bear this out. 180

Marx on the asiatic mode of production, 18)7-1867 reference to G. L. v. Maurer. “He shows,” wrote Marx, “thoroughly that private property in land only later developed, etc. The stupid Westphalian Junker view (Moser, etc.) that the Germans settled down, each for himself, only afterward formed villages, districts, etc., is com¬ pletely controverted. Interesting just now that the Russian manner of repartition of the soil for determined periods (in Germany first annually) was maintained in Germany in places until the eighteenth and even the nineteenth centuries. The view that I have established, that the Asiatic, in this case the Indian, forms of property are at the beginning everywhere in Europe, (although Maurer knew nothing of this) here has a new proof. As far as the Russians are concerned even the smallest pretence of originality disappears, even in this line.”74 The implicit typology was not further developed by Marx, and the later theory of evolution of human society was advanced in conjunction with his studies of Morgan’s Ancient Society. The difference between a typology and an evolutionary schema is profound, for the evolutionary schema either attempts or includes a dynamism from one level or type of development to another, while the typology does not. Marx did not indicate concretely how the Asiatic mode of production was replaced in Europe by the ancient or the Germanic; he made many allusions to private landownership (e.g., Hesiod), the slave system, tribute collection in Rome, all of which succeeded the communal form of life. But he did not form these into a systematic presentation in the Grundrisse, or in Capital, nor did he show how one stage passed over into another. He ob¬ tained various clues to this passage later, particularly in his readings in Morgan, Phear and Maine; thereupon he began to form these clues into a system. It is clear that his researches into the Asiatic mode of production tend

71 Marx, letter to Engels, 14 March 1868 (MEW 32, p. 42). Marx had reference to the account given by his father, who spoke as a lawyer, of the old Germanic system on the Hunsriick (vicinity of Trier, home of the Marx family) until the most recent years (see his letter to Engels, 25 March 1868. Ibid., pp. 5iF.) Cf. G. L. v. Maurer, Einleitung %ur Geschichte der Mark-, Hof-, Dorf-, und Stadtverfassung und der 0ffentlichen Gewalt. Idem, Geschichte der Markenverfassung in Deutschland, Idem, Geschichte der Dorfverfassung in Deutschland. Justus Moser, Osnabrilckische Geschichte. Marx studied the Slavic communal institutions, based chiefly on the Russian example. He distinguished the Russian village community from the South Slavic house or family community. Because of the inordinate attention drawn to the work of August v. Haxthausen, Studien tiber die inneren Zustande ... Russlands on the Russian peasant institutions, Marx remarked ironically, “Communal property has been rediscovered of late as a special Slavic curiosity.” (Grundrisse, p. 764). Further on Marx, in reference to Slavic rural life. Ethnological Notebooks, p. 380. (Krader, Ethnologie und Anthropologie bei Marx, p. 223). Marx in MEGA, pt. Ill, v. 2, pp. ii2f., 115.


Marx on the astatic mode of production, i8j/-i86y toward a general theory of evolution based on the prehistory and history of village communities. The community understood as a territorial unit of neighbors who are not necessarily kinsmen was not discussed by Morgan; he concentrated his theory of evolution instead on the unit of unilineal descent, the gens or clan.75 Marx did not bring the theory of the community together with the theory of the descent group into a single frame of reference. We cannot tax him with this, for in writing Capital the primitive and the evolutionary problems were not the central concern; he left his studies of social evolution incomplete on his death. But any summation of human development from primitive to political society must reckon with the two problems taken together. The Peruvian, Slavic and Asiatic modes of transition constitute concrete aspects of the problem of State-formation; the typology gives way to the discussion of evolutionary dynamism when the problem of extraction and distribution of the surplus product is comprehended both separately and integrally. The system worked out in these cases, together with the African examples, the ancient Near East, ancient Mexico and Yucatan, provides the answer to the problem of the origin of political society. The central concept is that of surplus labor, the separation of the surplus product that results therefrom, and its further distribution and control by those who are not the immediate producers, but who by virtue of their control of the surplus product become the organizers of the different form of political society and the State. We have seen in Chapter I that Marx studied the work of Richard Jones closely and developed a number of salient points on the theory of the Asiatic mode of production by his reading and critique of the latter. Jones, more than any other of Marx’s forerunners dealt with the relations of revenue, savings from revenue, the labor fund and accumulation of capital, partly in dealing with the traditional economy of India. The problem is in this connection twofold; one, to define the characteristic features of the capitalist mode of production, and two, to distinguish it from others, in this case, the Asiatic. Marx wrote: A certain accumulation of wealth takes place at all economic stages of development, i.e., the extension of the ladder of production, in part the formation of a treasury, etc. As long as wages and rent predominate, i.e., according to the foregoing, as long as the greater part of the surplus labor and surplus produce, which does not advert to the laborer generally, falls to the landowner (in Asia, the State), on the other hand, the laborer himself reproduces his labor fund, not only producing his wages but even paying them to 74 Criticism of Morgan’s theory of evolution in Ethnological Notebooks, p. 50.


Marx on the asiatic mode of production, i8jj-i86y

himself, whereby he is most often in the situation (almost always in that state of society) to appropriate to himself at least a part of his surplus labor and surplus produce, - in this state of society wages and rent are the chief source of accumulation.76 The production of surplus produce by surplus labor, i.e. of surplus value, the existence of landowners apart from immediate cultivators of the land, and reference to the State in Asia are all the indices that we need to demonstrate that, according to Marx, the Asiatic mode of production existed in connection with a political, class-divided society. Here production of surplus value and its expropriation by another hand than by its immediate producer are mutually supportive conditions, one of the other. The forms of wages and rent may vary, but the production of the surplus labor and surplus product is a common feature of all these modes of production and their social formations. A formulation corresponding to the above, in major details, but which also goes beyond it, is given by Marx in Capital:11 In the most various economic formations of society, not only does simple reproduction take place, but, although on a different scale, reproduction on an extended ladder. Progressively, more is pro¬ duced and consumed, hence more product is transformed into means of production. This process appears, however, not as ac¬ cumulation of capital, and hence, also not as the function of the capitalist, so long as his means of production, hence also his product and means of subsistence, do not as yet stand opposed to the laborer in the form of capital. The late Richard Jones, successor to Malthus in the chair of political economy at the East India College in Haileybury, expressed this well in two great facts. Since the most numerous part of the Indian people are self-sustaining peasants, their product, means of labor and means of subsistence never exist in the “shape of a fund saved from Revenue, and which has therefore run through a previous process of accumulation.” On the other hand, the non-agricultural laborers in those [Indian] provinces where the English rule has disturbed the old system least are directly employed by the wealthy to whom a portion of the rural surplus product accrues as tribute or ground rent. A part of this product is saved in natural form by the wealthy, another part is transformed for them by laborers into luxury and other consumption goods, while the rest forms the wages of the

’• Marx, Tbeorien fiber den Mehrwert (MEW 26.3, p. 412). Here Marx analyzed the work by Richard Jones, Text-book of Lectures. ” Marx, Kapital I (MEW 23, pp. 624b) 18}

Marx on the asiatic mode of production, 1877-1867 laborers, who are the owners of their own work implements. Production and reproduction proceed on an extended ladder without intervention of that wondrous saint, that knight of the doleful countenance, the ‘abstinent’ capitalist. Here is to be noted Marx’s distinction between the non-agricultural and agricultural production, and between the rural and non-rural populations that were the least disturbed by English rule, that is, where the Asiatic mode of production lasted longest. Revenue, savings from revenue, and accumulation all take place under those conditions, whereby capital was formed. But it was not formed systematically, only sporadically, for the two major conditions that mark the capitalist from all the pre¬ ceding modes of production were not present: 1. The formation of capital by capital, or Verwertung; and 2. the separation of the immediate producer from the means of production, the land. At issue is the question of social economic change, i.e., the specific differences between the epochs of economic formation of society. By introducing the Asiatic mode of production, Marx brought in another line of historical development than the European; at the same time, he changed the criteria whereby the different economic epochs are distin¬ guished from one another, but this change underwent a dialectical reversal, for the same criteria of change were now applied to the different lines of historical development. - We have seen that Marx replaced the comprehensive category of the society, in this case the Oriental, by the category of the mode of production, the Asiatic, etc., but more than that, he singled out specific processes of social production, of the relations of social production, within the economic category, whereby one epoch was distinguished from another in any historical line. Both in the Grundrisse and in Capital, the same critical distinction is made between labor as bound and free, and this distinction is then applied to differen¬ tiate the capitalist from all the preceding modes of production. The criterion of bound or formally free labor is that of a social relation of production, concretely, the relation to the means of production, as the soil. The social bondage of labor, of the laborer, characterizes the Asiatic, classical and feudal modes of production, the form of free labor, but not its content characterizes the capitalist. Further, in Capital Marx developed the theory of capital-formation, or Verwertung; the French term that he drew upon is valorisation, the expansion of capital in a society, the production of a surplus under this specific condition. This is further developed in the capitalist mode of production as Selbstverwertung, capital which forms itself. The surplus product, surplus value by Selbstverwertung under capitalism is turned in whole or in part into capital; in the Asiatic mode of production, on the contrary, the surplus 184

Marx on the asiatic mode of production, i8yy-i86y product is divided into three parts: one part is retained in its original form, as grain, etc.; a second part is consumed as necessaries or luxuries; and a third part is turned into wages of the laborers. In the traditional Indian economy, which was under the consideration of Marx in his reworking of R. Jones’ evidence, both production and reproduction in the economy were expanded constantly, but without the investment and reinvestment of capital for the purpose of the further formation of capital, that is, without the capitalist. In this way a development at a rate which is slow by comparison with the capitalist is introduced into the theory of the Asiatic mode of production, and stagnation is seen to be a false attribute when viewed in this light. I trust that the view of the Asiatic mode of production as stagnant therefore will be ruled out from future discussions of this matter, and forever. The great explosion of social production under capitalist conditions, by the liberation - ejection - of the laborer from the soil and by Verwertung/valorisation of capital is not found in traditional Asia. The criteria for distinguishing the different historical epochs are the social relations of production and changes from one to the next, both the successor in time and the neighbor in space. But relations are intangible, the bonds are figures of speech, on the contrary the literal use of chains is found in capitalism as well as any other mode of pro¬ duction. To the intangible relations there correspond visible and tan¬ gible things; implements of labor and work vary according to the different epochs, which are distinguished one from the other thereby, an industrial, manufacturing, agricultural, economic archaeology. The work and labor implements are the mediations between nature and humanity by means of culture. It is not a case of culture here and nature there, but these implements of culture as a bridge between a social group and the natural surroundings. By these implements we know the social group to be human, and of what epoch, varying according to the different societies and the different periods of their history. The im¬ plements are, as agencies of the abstract process of interchange between humanity and nature the process of reproduction in the economy; they are as such the implements of labor, or the agency of the abstract process of the material interchange. They are, as the agencies of concrete pro¬ duction of use-values, the end-products of social production, implements of work. As the means of abstract labor and concrete work they are either things or a complex of things, earth and water, their demarcation, preparation, regulation and control, the domestic animals, tools and machines. Marx wrote, The remains of work implements have the same importance for the differentiation of the economic formations of societyvwhich have 185

Marx oft the asiatie mode of production, 1817-1867 disappeared as the structure of fossil bones for the knowledge of the organization of extinct breeds of animals. It is not what is made, but how, with what implements of labor, that the economic epochs are distinguished.78


In considering the Asiatic mode of production, the categories of European history should be set on one side with reference to the relations of the city and the land. On the one hand, the opposition between the interests of town and countryside, for instance, between property in land and in manufactures, is characteristic of Europe in the Middle Ages and in the modern period; it is not characteristic of traditional Asian history. On the other hand, the State treasury obtained its revenues and the urban craftsmen their wages from the same source in Asia, the surplus product of the land, the soil. These craftsmen, or artisans, were not fixed in place, but were mobile; they were not, as Richard Jones put it, “con¬ fined to any location by dependence on masses of fixed capital.” The surplus from the land, said Jones, was distributed by the agency of the State in Asia; the capital of the kingdom “was necessarily the principal centre of distribution.” The artisans were not bound to the fixed capital, or the means of production, but left the vanishing national capitals (Jones mentions Samarcand, Seringapatam, etc.) “as soon as new centres of distribution of royal revenues, i.e. of the whole of the surplus produce of the soil, were established.”79 Further, wrote Jones, “The prosperity or rather the existence of towns in Asia proceeds from local expenditure of government.”80 Such expenditure is amassed and distributed from the State treasury and the capital city. The history of the European developments took another course; the urban manufactures, even in the periods when production was still preponderantly rural and agricultural, were of a different kind from the rural; European urban craftsmen did not subsist merely on the surplus produced by the rural branch of the economy, but produced in a way that was independent of the latter. They produced a direct surplus of

7* Marx, Kapital I (MEW 23, pp. I94f.). On Marx’s procedure from the abstract to the concrete, see above, note 73. The reference made by Marx to man as the tool-making animal introduces the name of Benjamin Franklin. It is not known where Marx found this definition, if Franklin said it, or where. Si non e vero, e ben trovato. Marx (op. cit., p. 346 n.) refers to Franklin’s definition of man by nature instrument maker. " Richard Jones. Text-book of Lectures, pp. 73-76. ,0 Idem. An Essay on the Distribution of Wealth, p. 138. See Marx, Theorien tiber den Mehrmrt III (MEW 26.3, ch. 24) on this and the preceding note.


Marx on the asiatic mode of production, iSjy-i 867 their own. Estimates of the quality of manufactures in Europe and Asia by Leibniz and Adam Smith, during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, left room for doubt regarding the superiority of the one over the other. In the first half of the nineteenth century there was no doubt in the minds of British observers that English productivity was several fold greater than that of the Bengal workers. Bernier, we have seen, likened the cities of India to army camps. This is only to be understood in the figurative sense; what meaning can be given to it, in the system of Marx, is to be taken from the indications proffered by Richard Jones. It is understandable, moreover, only if we take into consideration the close connection of this judgment by Bernier to the relation of landownership in Asia.81 Negatively, this relation determined the absence of opposition between town and countryside; positively the distribution of the surplus product of the soil in the Asiatic mode of production was determined in the same way in town and countryside in Asia, unlike Europe. Finally, according to my own observations the cities of Asia have a higher degree of continuity with the countryside than do cities in western Europe and North America; in Asia a great amount of gardening and orchard tending takes place in the cities, which have a high con¬ centration of food production. Not only is the preponderance of production agricultural in Asia, but it is perhaps even more intensive in the cities than in the countryside, and certainly more so than in the cities of the west. In the Asiatic mode of production, moreover, the same crafts were carried on in the villages and the cities.

Bibliographic Addition The literature considering the East Indies and Asia which Marx read took up not only the village communities, their relation to the State, and to each other; a significant segment of that literature concerned the British trade with the East Indies, and out of this second body of literature the important theories of mercantilism and protectionism were developed. The seventeenth century writings on these questions by Sir Josiah Child, Charles Davenant, Thomas Mun, Thomas Papillon, John Pollexfen, Jacob Vanderlint, have scarcely been mentioned, in as much as they were not taken up by Marx in connection with India directly. Marx’s primary concern in reading these authors was not for their data and views concerning the mode of production in Asia, but for their relevance to theories of money, capital and surplus value. Child and Mun were directors, the former also serving as governor, of the East India Company; these men together with Davenant and Papillon advocated increased trade with India both as mercantilists generally and as promulgators of the interest of the Company particularly. Mun proposed that gold and silver are not the sole wealth of the #1 Marx, op. cit., p. 428. See also ibid., pp. 576, 586. See Kapital I (MEW 23, p. 360) on Indian workmanship. Adam Smith had written earlier that British labor stood higher by comparison to the Chinese; he likewise brought out that in China, “towns are no where deserted by their inhabitants.” (Wealth of Nations, op. cit., pp. 70-73). 187

Marx on the astatic mode of production, iSjy-iS6y country; Child and Pollexfen held that money is a commodity like wool, it should not be stored, it could be exported to a nation’s advantage, just as any commodity. Papillon attacked the idea that wealth is money alone; Mun propounded the doctrine that riches “is the posses¬ sion of those things which are needful for a civil life”. Child put forward five theses: 1. That the East-lndia trade is the most national of all foreign trades; 2. That since the discovery of the East-Indies, the dominion of the seas depends much upon the wane or increase of that trade; 3. That the trade of the East-Indies cannot be carried on to national advantage in any other way than by a general joint-stock; 4. That the East-lndia trade is more profitable and necessary to the kingdom of England than to any other kingdom or nation of Europe; 5. That the clamors, aspersions, and objections made against the present East-lndia Company are groundless. (The order of Child’s argument is changed.) Davenant, who was Inspector General of Exports and Imports in London, expanded these expressions of interest of the English trade beyond the East Indies to the plantation trade in Africa. Pollexfen entered a demurrer; on behalf of the manufacturing interest he feared that the cottons and silks of India would ruin the British woollens. The central concern of these men was not with Indian economy but with the English trade. Their work therefore falls outside the scope of this book. Sir Josiah Child. ATreatise Concerning the East IndiaTrade. London, 1681. For the Honoura¬ ble The East India Company. Marx cited Child, A Discourse Concerning Trade, and that in Particular of the East Indies. London, 1689. See Marx, Grundrisse, Kapital III, and Theorien ilber den Mehrwert I, HI, for further references to Child; these references do not concern India as such. See also Child, The Great Honour and Advantage of the East-lndia Trade to the Kingdom Asserted. London, 1697. Charles Davenant (or D’Avenant). The Political and Commercial Works. 3 vols. 1771. Sir C. Whitworth, ed. Vol. I, An Essay on the East India Trade (1697), pp. 83-213. See Marx, Grund¬ risse, Kapital III, Theorien ilber den Mehrinert I, II. Thomas Mun. England's Treasure by Foreign Trade. Or the Balance of our Foreign Trade is the Rule of our Treasure. London, 1669. See also Mun, A Discourse of Trade from England unto the East Indies. London, 1621. Marx, Kapital I, cited Mun. Thomas Papillon, The East India Trade a Most Profitable Trade. London, 1677. Also Papillon, A Treatise Concerning the East-lndia Trade: Being a Most Profitable Trade to the Kingdom and Best Secured by a Company and a Joint-Stock. London, 1680. See Marx, Kapital I. Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations, referred to the work of Child, Davenant and Mun, but neither he nor Marx took up these men in relation to India. John Pollexfen is connected to these seventeenth century economists, in part he agreed with them, in part he opposed them. See his England and India Inconsistent in their Manufactures. London, 1697. Marx referred to this work in his short account of the East India Company, written for the New-York Daily Tribune, 24 June, 1853. Here the manufacturing interest of Pollexfen is brought out, as opposed to the mercantile interest of Child, Mun, et al. (MEW 9, p. 133). Joseph A. Schumpeter, History of Economic Analysis, London, 1961, pp. 361-364, contains an imprecise treatment of Pollexfen, which should be amended in the light of Marx’s comment. On Vanderlint, see above, ch. I A, note 60. Marx read the local press of India in the English language: The Bombay Courier, Bombay Gazette, Bombay Times, Calcutta Gazette, The Friend of India, The

In Kapital I he quoted from the Bengal Hurkaru, Bi-Monthly Summary of News, 22 July 1861, in reference to the lack of hands to clean the cotton in India (MEW 23, pp. 347L). The Bengal Hurkaru was a radical newspaper published in Calcutta, which had de-


Marx on the asiatic mode of production, i8yy-i86y plored the defection from radicalism of James Mill. Mill had declared his policy before the parliament. It was to “make war on the Indian States and subdue them”. See Eric Stokes, The English Utilitarians and India. Oxford, 1959, p. 250. Radicalism, Philo¬ sophical Radicalism, English Utilitarianism are usually, in this context, interchangeable terms. See Elie Halevy, The Growth of Philosophical Radicalism. Part III deals with James Mill. See ch. VII A and B regarding the difference between the Asiatic and capitalist modes of production in outline. Parliamentary papers: House of Commons. Papers and correspondence relative to the famine in Bengal and Orissa, including the report of the Famine Commission and the minutes of the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal, and the Governor General of India. 31 May 1867. Return: East India (Bengal and Orissa Famine). House of Commons. Papers relating to the famine in Behar, including Mr. F. R. Cockerell’s report. Part HI. 31 May 1867. House of Commons. Return to an address, 4 July 1867. East India. Madras and Orissa Famine. 30 July 1867. On the famine in Orissa, see Marx, Kapital 1 (MEW 23, pp. 537, 781). On the Bengal and Orissa famine, Marx, Kapital II (MEW 24, p. 142). On the famine in Behar, loc. cit. On the Madras and Orissa famine, Marx, op. cit., pp. 239f. The Report of the Commissioners included in the Return: East India (Bengal and Orissa Famine, 1867), is quoted by Marx in his excerpts and commentaries on Kovalevsky. (See below. Part n, Marx, ms., p. 70).




Ownership is an exclusive right which deprives the other of that which is owned by the one. The right of ownership is a bundle of rights, a complex of relations. The one as a community is the plurality in the unity, or the Ego as We. Possession is physical occupancy, subjugation of a thing, or the designation of it as mine. Each of these is connected with reciprocal obligations, which are secured both subjectively and objectively, the rights and obligations standing in a mutually supportive relation to one another. My right in a property deprives the other of that right in the given property, the right of the other is a privative relation in regard to myself. The other may have a right to the use and enjoyment of what is proper to, i.e., a property of, the object in question, while I have the right to the use and enjoyment of another of its properties (Eigenschaften). In this sense, the object of ownership (Eigentum) has properties as I do. But the thing has properties that are natural to it, the human being has rights in this property. The second property is cultural, not natural. The property of the thing is not the subject of a social convention, the right that Ego enjoys is acquired by the explicit or tacit acknowledgment of his society. We speak, therefore, of the properties of a thing, but of the rights in the property, or the rights of ownership in it. These rights of ownership are variously combined and variously acknowledged in the different human societies. These rights are conventional, by virtue of the cultural relation, and in this sense not natural; distinct from this relation is the right by nature; in the abstract there are natural rights, but what they are is to be discovered only concretely, in the given societies. The privative relation lessens my right, and hence my material substance: there is at the same time a potential deprivation of the immaterial, or its lessening, by acquisition by another of property in my material substance. The property rights are external and formal relations between persons; the person is the formal, external and legal side of the human being. It is only the formal and external side of the human being, the person, that 190

Kovalevsky on the village community and landownership in the orient can have the rights over things; in the same way, since the property rights are rights in the properties of things they are external to me. The formal rights are not natural, they are historical, cultural and variable; that which we hold to be a right in one society may be differently con¬ ceived in another, that which is comparably conceived may be expressly stated in one society, but not in another. It usually occurs that that which is not expressed is made manifest when the rights, however obscure, are breached or questioned, when the rights of the person are injured. We have assumed that every civilized society has the abstract category of the person, that is, the external and formal side of the human being; we have also assumed that every civilized society has the category of right and that of obligation as the reciprocal of right, or the sum of formal and legal relations of the human beings. Rights are either manifest or are made manifest, how they are made manifest depends on the way in which they were covered over to begin with. Generally, there are three ways in which the rights are unstated: the first is the case of the covert rights, which are consciously known and consciously hidden; it frequently happens that there is an explicit pro¬ hibition against making them explicit. The second is the case in which the rights are implicit, and are subject to an unconscious suppression; they may also have become a commonplace which is not in need of statement, and hence the person is unaware of them until they are breached or questioned. The third way is the existence of the rights as a latency, whereby they are brought into existence as their potentiality is made actual. The conflict over civil rights, the right of and to equality, is a matter of formality in civil society; in the past century, the subjective freedom of the working class, the formal rights of woman, of racial and ethnic minorities, existed as a potentiality and as a latency. They have been covered over by both conscious and unconscious means. We will consider these rights as popular prejudices, which exist only in their contradiction as at once formal and subjective relations. Political society, both in the Orient and Occident, has institutes, law-codes, acts of legislation, together with precedents, and specialists schooled in their interpretation. India and China in their traditional periods were societies of this sort; in both of these societies, the rights over things, or over human individuals who are treated as things, were given formal expression, both in the observance and in the breach. Sir H. S. Maine distinguished these rights as matters of status and contract, whereby the contractual rights are found only in political society, indeed, he said, the existence of contract is the mark of the political society. Status, he said, is a matter of privilege. In contract we recognize only the formal side of the social relations; in status relations, the formal and

Kovalevsky on the village community and landownership in the orient informal are not distinguished, this being the mark of primitive society; (to which it should be added that it is also the mark of the private, non-public sector of civilized society). In India and China, just as in political societies generally, the formal and informal, as well as the official and unofficial, are divided from each other. The Emperor of China who appeared as the father was in fact the emperor, a public and official person, and appeared as the parent only in the light of a fiction. The mark of the formal relations is that they are necessarily attended by reciprocal obligations, which is not true of community life or of family life. In the latter, gain is not, or is not necessarily, balanced by loss, but gain may be reciprocated by mutual gain. It is in unfortunate families and communities, which have internalized, appropriated, made their own, the relations of the public bodies, that profit and loss, and accounts, are reckoned up. Rights between alien societies or polities are accom¬ panied by reciprocal obligations but they must be explicitly contracted for; they are far more limited in their origin than the rights within the given society, which may be implicit, or generally the opposite of these non-overt relations. The relations between individuals exist only as social relations; outside the society, the relations between the individuals, and between the one and the whole, are abstractions in thought, just as the individuals themselves have been abstracted from society. The postulation of a Robinson Crusoe, or of the primitive hunter and fisherman, existing in isolation from society, are fictional creations, abstractions, here the human being is abstracted from society. The relations between the communities within the given society are more complex than those between individuals, because the communities have certain features in common with the society as a whole, and certain features which exist outside of these and contradict the former. In the traditional society of India, the community was autonomous, and hence like a society, in the sense of being a self-sustaining economic unity, and hence of running its own affairs. Relations between communities of the same political society were subject to common rule; thereby sovereignty over them is fixed. Likewise, relations of economic exchange between communities of different polities, relations which were spread all over Asia. It is an abstract formalism to conceive of the relations between communities of different societies as being subject to different rules from those which obtain between communities of the same political society. We have in mind the relations of trade, tribute, and circulation of goods on the one side, the exchange of commodities, and other forms of exchange, whether those of reciprocated trade or not. Rights of landownership, being property rights, are conventional and 192

Kovalevsky on the village community and landownersbip in the orient not natural. It has been argued that each social group has a territory which it holds as its own, and which it defends, and in this sense, the right to a territory is a natural right. However, this territorial right is an abstract right, being conventional and not natural, abstracted from the concrete relations to nature. The territorial right in question must then be converted into concrete rights. These latter may or may not include subsoil rights, or water rights, or air rights, rights of planting, mineral rights, etc. Our concern with the rights of the communities is with further concrete rights, whether collective, personal, prescriptive, restrictive, alienable, heritable, partible; whether the owner has un¬ limited enjoyment of all the produce, whether certain uses are forbidden, and by whom or by what procedure, whether the land is subject to necessary and extraordinary burdens; and what piece of land is in question, how it is physically and legally defined. These rights are concrete and variable from one people to the next; they are variable in their sum because they are concrete. Being concrete they remain variable; abstract rights tend toward universality, and invariance. Rights of ownership and proprietorship are the same; rights of owner¬ ship are distinguished from rights of possession or occupancy. In certain Indian communities, it has been claimed, the individual has possessory rights, while the rights of ownership rest in the community. Rights of possession and occupancy have been variously used: here we will regard them as the same, for actual physical occupancy of a piece of land and its possession by demarcation are one in practice; a possessory right can be held in absentia. But in the cases of peasant tenures the absence is not of long duration; the right of possession will otherwise lapse. On the other hand, right of ownership of land in absentia by those who do not work the land directly is frequently encountered and is of great importance in the history of land tenure in India and China. Two kinds of possessory rights found historically should further be considered. First, squatter’s rights, or ius primi occupantis. The history of the American frontier affords a number of examples of these rights which were applied primarily in the case of new lands, lands newly con¬ quered and acquired by force from the American Indians. The rights of these first occupants were disregarded, and they themselves regarded as non-persons; only the citizens of the new republic were recognized as owners of these rights, which were thereby transformed into the formal rights to the property in land. This squatter’s right has analogies to practices of Muslim and Mogul conquerors in Asian history, likewise to French practices in Algeria. Another form of right of occupancy in the land is connected with watering or ‘vivifying’ it, endowing it with life. He who artificially irrigates desert or waste land, with the permission of

Kovalevsky on the village community and landowner ship in the orient the public authority, has the right of ownership over it. On the other hand, he who simply sows the land watered by spring torrents, mountain run-offs, freshets, temporary water basins, has the right only to harvest the crop that is thereby raised. The two conditions necessary for estab¬ lishing the right of ownership over desert, waste, virgin, and longfallow land are: i. occupying, demarcating, appropriating, working the soil. i.a. In the parts of Asia that we have discussed the conditio sine qua non of working the soil is irrigating it; conducting water to the soil in artificial channels is the usual means of accomplishing this. 2. The land thus occupied and irrigated is registered with the public authorities. No right of ownership can be established without permission obtained by this means. On the contrary, working the soil, even irrigating it, without the permission of the authorities establishes the right to its possession, and to the enjoyment of its usufruct, not to ownership. The difference between possession and ownership in this case is introduced by the intervention of political society, i.e., the agency of the State.1 M. M. Kovalevsky took up the problem of law and society as an evolutionary doctrine, and in this connection, the problem of the com¬ munal possession of the soil.2 His work on these themes had an em¬ pirical foundation in his investigations in the Caucasus; he was much in the debt of Vsevolod Miller, the Caucasus scholar. Kovalevsky took up the doctrine of positivism of Auguste Comte and of social evolution as it was set forth by J. J. Bachofen, Alexis Giraud-Teulon, and Sir Henry Maine. Kovalevsky believed with them in evolutionary progress of society, science and the advancement of mankind. He was not a social critic, but as a liberal and democrat he suffered years of exile, interrupting his career as professor of jurisprudence at the University of Moscow. His relations to Marx were friendly, limited to “scientific” themes. A synthesizer of the theories of his contemporaries, rather than an original thinker, his early work, Communal Possession of the Land, annotated and excerpted by Marx, shows weaknesses which Kovalevsky’s later work overcame.3


These notes on ownership and possession are founded on Hegel, Philosopbie des Recbts,


See above, ch. II B and note 54. See also Marx, Grundrisse, Einleitung.

1 Kovalevsky was a leading sociologist of his time. On the Caucasus, see his Zakon i obyEai na Kavkaye. Idem, Coutume contemporaine et loi ancienne. Droit ossetien, hlaire par Vbistoire comparee, (Vinogradoff, Outlines of Historical Jurisprudence, vol. I, p. 140: his most important work). On Kovalevsky’s place in sociology see: B. G. Safronov, M. M. Kovalevsky kak sotsiolog. B. A. Kaloev, in: Sovetskaja Etnografija.

On his place in law and anthropology, see: Lawrence

Krader. Anthropology and Early Daw. s M. M. Kovalevsky. ObSEinnoe Zemlevladenie, op. cit. The views of M. Kovalevsky, particularly in regard to the Asiatic mode of production and to feudalism as a stage of evolution, are discussed in this chapter. No less fundamental, but properly the subject of study unto itself.


Kovalevsky on the village community and landotvnership in the orient Despite the strictures that Marx placed upon Kovalevsky’s work, one service that it performed is undeniable: Kovalevsky gathered the evidence that showed the practical interest to the conquerors, to the colonizing powers, of the doctrine of the sovereign as landlord and landowner in the Orient. is his assumption that man is by nature a communal animal, and that property is by origin, hence by nature, communal. The relation of land tenure practices, communal possession as indistinct from ownership, to society was not taken up by Kovalevsky. The distinction between possession and owner¬ ship in this connection is a matter introduced in civil, i.e., political society. In particular, it is raised in Rousseau, Hegel, and their critique. Kovalevsky did not contribute to this problem. The general problems of Kovalevsky are discussed in the text. Here we raise some points of detail, and of reputations. Kovalevsky referred (op. cit., p. 59) to a certain Dupeyron, “... to whom falls the honor of having been the first to refute the current prejudice that all the lands of his empire belonged to the Great Mogul.” The Russian editors of Marx’s notes on Kovalevsky have identified the man as Duperron. He is, in fact, Abraham-Hyacinthe Anquetil-Duperron, sometimes referred to as Anquetil, sometimes as Anquetil-Duperron. Those who had set themselves against as well as in favor of the notion that the Great Mogul owned all the lands of his realm, before the appearance of Anquetil’s work, were many. Some idea of the history of the subject is given in ch. I of this book. In particular, A. Dalrymple set himself against the notion of the sovereign as the landowner in Mogul India, and in India generally; he also evolved a theory of communal ownership of the soil in India, or in parts of India. Thus he was a forerunner of Kovalevsky. Instead of mentioning the work of his forerunner, and showing how he accepted it, or differed from it, Kovalevsky ignored it and paid honor to his opponent, Anquetil-Duperron. The latter is indeed worthy of honor, but not at the expense of Alexander Dalrymple, who has been thrust further into oblivion at the hands of Franco Venturi. Venturi, in an article first published in Rivista Storica Italiana, vol. 72, i960, later translated in the Journal of the History of Ideas, vol. 24, 1963, and here cited, referred to him as John Dalrymple, and made him into the Fifth Earl of Stair. This error is further compounded by the fact that the John Dalrymple who is the author of the Essay toward a General History of Feudal Property in Great Britain is not the Fifth Earl of Stair, as Professor Venturi has claimed. (This work, by John Dalrymple, one of the barons of the exchequer, and not the Earl of Stair, was brought out in 1739; it is cited by Marx in the Grundrisse, and in the Theorien tiber den Mebrwert.) But John is not Alexander. Alexander Dalrymple is one of the early formulators of the theory of communal property in India, and was acknowledged as such by Anquetil-Duperron, who then attacked him for upholding it. Anquetil’s attack is justified in part, but in part it is not. Alexander Dalrymple’s contribution was handled with negligence by Kovalevsky and by later students. We will take up the substance of Dalrymple’s theories further in this chapter. Wilks made some contribution to the theory of communal organization of the villages in India; it was not the landownership of the village communities that he expressed, but their communal cultivation ‘in some instances’, and above all, the corporate allotment to the village headmen, water-supervisors, astrologer-Brahmins, washermen, barbers, smiths, the dozen Ayangadees, of a part of the village land in compensation for their services. Kovalevsky, op. cit., p. 158, referred to the obliteration of the difference of mine and thine in the Oriental land tenure practices, a comment which he quoted from Bernier. (On the obliteration of the distinction between mine and thine see Jean Bodin, Les Six Litres de la Rtpublique, Book 1, ch. 2, and Book VI, ch. 4.) Kovalevsky then proposed that this view is also found in Thevenot, Chardin, Tavernier, Manucci, Alexander Dow, Wilks, and James

Kovalevsky on the village community and landoivnership in the orient The argument of Kovalevsky’s book is that, in the original condition of mankind, property was held in common. He distinguished between moveables and immoveables, holding that in the most primitive con¬ dition of all, mankind lived by fishing and hunting, conducting both at first with bows and arrows. These were not settled, but nomadic folk who lived in a horde. Out of the spontaneous decomposition of this horde the family and the clan composed of several families was evolved. The life was still nomadic and the people lived by the products of hunting and fishing. The only form of property was movables, such as clothing, hunting gear, or fishing implements with boats. Housing was owned in common by the entire band at this stage, but food, boats, and the instruments of war and the chase were owned by the separate families; clothing and sewing equipment were individually owned.4 The general evidence for this picture of the most ancient past was put together by Kovalevsky from ethnographies of the Dakotas of North America, the Botocudos of South America, and the Eskimos of the Polar regions, all

Mill. (The matter concerns still the king as proprietor in India, etc.) The fact that so many authorities shared the same view proves nothing. Some of them merely copied other men’s thought, or expressed it under the influence of another. Some did not share that view at all. We have seen that Chardin and Tavernier had opinions that were at variance in significant ways with the view of Bernier, which is at issue.

See in this regard also A. H. Anquetil-

Duperron, Legislation Orientale, Amsterdam, 1778, p. 125. The writings of Wilks stand in flat contradiction to the intent that Kovalevsky has charged them with. See Wilks, Sketches of the South of India, (History of Mysoor), op. cit., vol. I, p. 114 et seq. Kovalevsky appears to have based himself on James Mill’s interpretation, in this case. Mill was the more original and forceful thinker of the two, his error was bolder, just as his relation to Wilks was more immediate and meaningful; and this relation seems to have been borne in mind by Mountstuart Elphinstone.

Kovalevsky appears to have copied out the

opinions without too much critical awareness of the matters that were at issue, also, he may not have read the views of Wilks at first hand.

Kovalevsky’s judgment in any case was

derivative, James Mill’s was motivated by a known interest. Wilks listed Bernier, Thevenot, Chardin, Tavernier, and “I believe Manouchi.” (Wilks, loc. cit.) (Wilks had to qualify his view of Manucci.

See above, ch. I, note 7.) James Mill

treated the same matter (op. cit., 1972 ed., vol. I, p. 15?), without the necessary qualification, and did not separate Wilks from the rest. See above, ch. I C, note 79. 4 Kovalevsky, op. cit., ch. I. Kovalevsky developed these themes in a a number of his publi¬ cations: Etudes sur le droit coutumier russe. Modern Customs and Ancient Laws of Russia. Rodovoj byt v nastojaSHem, nedamem i otdalennom problem. Sotsiologija, 1910, vol 2.

Prior to his

account of these views in his work, Communal Land-Possession, he had reported them in a lecture, O sovremennykh formakh obscinnogo zemlevladenija v Indii, On the contemporary forms of communal possession of the land in India, given before the Moscow Juridical Society, 1878.

See the protocol of this session, in the Juridiceskij Vestnik.

Kosven, Semejnaja obISina i patronimija.

See also M. O.

Kosven edited Kovalevsky’s Tableau des origines de la

famille, 1939. Kovalevsky placed especial weight on the family community, (Hauskommunion) in the evolution of communal possession of the soil. See Kosven, Semejnaja Obllina, p. 32.


Kovalevsky on the village community and landownership in the orient three living peoples. This is the method of reconstruction of the dead from the living. Kovalevsky advanced the thesis of an original com¬ munal relation to the land, once mankind had settled down in certain places, an idea close to Marx’s viewpoint, already expressed in 1853. Further Kovalevsky brought out data to show that Spain by its actions in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, in the New World, and France and Britain in the nineteenth centuries, during periods of domi¬ nance in Algeria and India respectively, destroyed the indigenous communal relationship to the land, which Marx had shown to be the practice in India. Kovalevsky contended that communal possession of land might have continued but for colonialist intervention. Marx expressed himself in a related way in a draft of a letter to Vera Zasulic.5 But Marx’s way of expression was only generally similar. Whereas Kovalevsky referred to possession, Marx referred to ownership of the land by the communities, a distinction which has been discussed above. (See Introduction and ch. III.) Further, Kovalevsky referred to the community whereas other collectivities are taken up beside: the tribe, the clan, or gens, which are not identical with the community. Kovalevsky depicted a simple, unilinear movement of progression, beginning with a promiscuous existence in hordes before the formation of families, a commonly held notion at the time, as it was advanced in various forms by J. J. Bachofen, Alexis Giraud-Teulon, Herbert Spencer, L. H. Morgan, Sir John Lubbock, J. F. McLennan. It assumes that there was no property in land which was asserted by the individual bands and acknowledged or challenged by the other bands. It assumes the late development of the family and of the families grouped into the band. All this is without any evidence and must be set aside as specula¬ tion. In certain regards, Kovalevsky was not abreast of other developments in this field: if there is no immovable property, then it cannot be counterposed to its opposite, or moveable property. In fact, however, if the band, or the family, or the tribe had a piece of ground on which it hunted, or a river bank on which it fished, and it regarded this ground or bank as its own, then it held it as property or demarcated possession. The contemporaries of Kovalevsky made advances in one or another of the areas mentioned: Morgan made an advance in the study of the relation between the family form and the system of kinship, and between the two of these and the formation of the gens, but although Morgan’s book had appeared in 1877, and Kovalevsky had given Marx a copy, he


Marx, Correspondence with Zasulic, preliminary drafts, op. cit.


Kovalevsky on the village community and landowner ship in the orient made no use of it.6 Kovalevsky failed to take the steps that lay open to him: He praised Anquetil-Duperron for having implicitly controverted Bernier, but he failed to read the work of the man whom Anquetil attacked, Alexander Dalrymple; Kovalevsky stopped short in his researches, without finding his own forerunner. Dalrymple was not sure that communal landholding was an aboriginal practice, but his thesis, modified by the evidence of Muttu Krishna, in twisted form runs from Dalrymple to James Mill, Richard Jones, through Maine to Kovalevsky. Elphinstone had advanced the thesis later advanced by Kovalevsky, approximately in the form given it by the latter. Kovalevsky’s argument is at times self-contradictory. Thus he wrote that the communal possession of the soil among the indigenous peoples of North Africa was founded on consanguineal relations, hence it was indivisible and inalienable. Moreover, these relations were so strong that they could not be destroyed by centuries of Arab and Turkic conquests. Thereafter he asserted that communal land possession, specifically by the clan, a consanguine group, was a practice that was in¬ troduced by the Arabs among the same indigenous peoples of North Africa.7 This contradiction has a possible resolution: collective possession * Sec L. H. Morgan, Systems of Consanguinity. Idem, Ancient Society, op. cit. On the receipt of Morgan’s Ancient Society from Kovalevsky by Marx, see Ethnological Notebooks, op. cit., p. 6. 7 Kovalevsky, op. cit., pp. 197-198. Cf. Marx, excerpts from Kovalevsky, p. 77. Kovalevsky wrote: “The organization of landed property (sobstvennost’) in Algeria appears at the same time from two sources, individual and collective.” The first originated under Roman influences, he continued, and developed under Berbers, Moors and Jews, the latter two making up the major part of the urban population. Of the Berbers, the Kabyles preserved many traces of “clan and community possession (vladenie) of the soil and live in undivided families, with strict observance of inalienable family property.” “This circumstance to a high degree is explained by the fact that the greater part of the Berbers took over from the Arabs not only their language and form of life, but the characteristics of their landownership.” We are thus confronted, according to Kovalevsky’s depiction, with a break in the continuity of communal land tenure. Moreover, if the land was held by the Kabyles in family units, then this is quite different from land tenure by communities or clans. (We set aside the question of property versus possession.) It is clear that the undivided or joint family is a different type of collectivity from the community or the clan. Kovalevsky does not tell us what the evidence is for the pre-Roman, Roman, post-Roman (down to Arab conquest) and the Arab-period forms of land tenure. In its form it is defective: it contradicts the very continuity which it assumes. The aboriginal continuity was broken by the introduction of Roman forms of property ownership, the new form after the Roman period was different when the Arab collectivity came to own the land. This is accounted for by a confluence of the Arab type with the survival of the older type through the intermediation of the joint family, which, according to Kovalevsky, survived from Roman to Christian to Arab times. There was a controversy between McLennan, Morgan and Maine pertaining to the un¬ divided family versus the clan or gens. Cf. J. F. McLennan, Primitive Marriage, Studies in Ancient History. Morgan, Systems of Consanguinity, and Ancient Society. H. S. Maine, Village Communities in the East and West; Early History of Institutions. Maine summed up his side of


Kovalevsky on the village community and landoivnership in the orient of the soil takes not one form but many, one of which is ownership by the community, another by some consanguineal group other than the village community. If the Kabyles and others of North Africa had one form which was destroyed by conquest, and another, later form intro¬ duced by Arabs, a possible resolution is found; but Kovalevsky had neither phrased this as a hypothesis, nor found the evidence to support either of the two sides of the contradiction that he was himself caught in.8 The contradiction can be resolved by making the distinction between the collectivity in general and one of its forms, the community. It will be instructive to turn Kovalevsky’s argument around and examine not the course of the dissolution of the communal forms of landownership (we apply Marx’s term, not Kovalevsky’s) in India and Algeria, as though it were an internal or natural process, but the process of destruction generated by the colonial powers, France and England. The reasons for the destruction are many. One is material: the land owned communally among the indigenous peoples had an owner that was stronger in any kind of power, whether physical, legal, or economic than any individual peasant owner’s power. Hence it was more im¬ portant for the colonizers to seize the lands of the communities than to seize those of the native princes, rajahs, beys, deys, etc. The conquerors worked through the agency of the local rulers and influential men, such as the zamindars in India, at the expense of the weaker and poorer peasants, whether independent laborers, communal landowners, or various combinations of the same. The second reason is ideological: the idea of communal property in land was either inimical to the thinking of the colonialists, or incomprehensible to them. It was easier to accept the theory that the monarch was the great landowner in India or Algeria, thus the English East India Company or the French sovereignty in the respective case could declare itself to be the legal heir of the foregoing sovereignty. Further, the English and the French practices were differ¬ ent: the English individually acquired but little land in India, the French in the same period acquired vast amounts of land by individual title in Algeria. These practices, in their difference, had the counter¬ effect on the respective theory of Oriental landholdings advanced by the English and the French. In England, James Mill advanced the theory that the king owned all the land in his realm in India; John Stuart Mill repeated what his father, “the philosophical historian”, had said. This the controversy in his Early Law and Custom, ch. VIII, appended Note A. Whether these questions are actual at the present time is beside the point; the differences were important to leading thinkers of that time. Kovalevsky was neither abreast of the discussion, not ahead of his time in setting it aside. 8 Kovalevsky, op. cit., pp. 2oof. 199

Kovalevsky on the village community and landownership in the orient thesis, moreover had no practical consequence in the nineteenth century, in British India. The same thesis was adopted by the French and applied by them in Algeria. Kovalevsky concluded that, despite the variety of land relations in India at present, there is one form that is the oldest surviving one: the clan community, its members living undivided, together. Kovalevsky drew upon Sir H. S. Maine and other legal sources pertaining to India for support of the view that the communities owned the land in common, or practiced possession of it in common. But Maine had called this communal entity the joint or undivided family, which is not the same thing as a clan at all. A clan is a group of kinsmen who share descent from a common ancestor in a single line, passing either from father to son, or from mother to daughter. Given that the clans do not in most cases permit marriage between members of the same clan, their com¬ position is different from the family, simple, undivided, divided, joint, extended, additive: the family in general has as its nucleus a wife and a husband who come from different descent lines. In that case, therefore, the family and the clan differ in composition. We are not thinking of societies where no clan exists; but what we have just said holds for societies with family and clan or gens. It is therefore out of the question to introduce the family and the clan into the same frame of teference. This was the thesis of Morgan’s Ancient Society. Kovalevsky then in¬ troduced the house-community or gadruga of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is in theory a very large family and therefore not a clan or gens. He stated that, as the time from the original settlement of the clans within the territories that they conquered was extended, the conscious¬ ness of the consanguineal bond between the different branches of the clan weakens. Further, he maintained, with the decline of this conscious¬ ness, each of the subdivisions of the clan desires to control its property independently of the other subdivisions; at the same time the tendency toward individualization of the property relations within the village is strengthened.9 Marx raised the following points against this thesis: “That clan communities (Geschlechtsgemeinde) necessarily dwell on conquered terri¬ tory is an arbitrary assumption of Kovalevsky’s.” Marx asked, “Why does the consciousness here play the role of efficient cause, and not the fact of separation in space, which is already presupposed by the division of the clan into ‘branches’?” Instead of the factor of consciousness,

• Maine, Early History of Institutions, 1914. p. 7 (Croatia, Dalmatia); pp. 79-80 (the same plus Illyria).

Kovalevsky, op. cit., p. 75.

See Marx, excerpts from Kovalevsky, p. 29.

For the

whole passage in Kovalevsky, see Ethnological Notebooks, pp. 36of., in its exact transcription.


Kovalevsky on the village community and landowner ship in the orient Marx proposed: “It is rather the matter, in fact, of the necessity of the breakup of the common economy into small units.” Kovalevsky’s argument turns the world upside down, as Hegel did; consciousness is not the efficient cause but the consequence of the separation. Kovalevsky made the same point again, and Marx’s objection is repeated in another form. Kovalevsky added the thought that the tendency toward in¬ dividualization of the property relations within the village was streng¬ thened at the same time. The conclusion is understandable, and has its place in the system of Marx, but its appendage to the foregoing line of reasoning appears to be gratuitous; that it takes place at the same time as the separation of the daughter from the mother settlement does not follow. Marx inserted a question mark after Kovalevsky’s statement that the tendency toward individualization of property relations is strengthened at the same time. Likewise it was questioned that com¬ munities got their territories by conquest. Kovalevsky developed a theory of feudalism in India on the basis of the ikta (benefices or grants for military service). These were divided in three categories: I) Distribution of lands, or revenue-producing objects, as full and exclusive property of the recipient. II) The recipient has the supervision of certain rights [limited, not full] in the land im¬ parted to him. Ill) Right of usufruct together with domanial seigneury over minerals, salt mines and the like; or over routes, fairs and mills. Tracing the history of the Islamic conquest of India, Kovalevsky concluded that granting of benefices had as its consequence the with¬ drawal of revenue from the State treasury, but not the expropriation of the cultivating population. The effect of the benefices touched the persons rather than the lands. The owners who had been free became dependent, their possessions were changed from allodial to feudal tenures. Marx wrote, “This last makes sense only in reference to Mahomedans who received benefices of types II and III, in reference to the Hindus chiefly insofar as they had to pay natural or money dues to those en¬ feoffed by the State treasury instead of to the treasury. Payment of the kharadj land tax made their property as little feudal as the impot fonder makes the French property in land feudal. The entire passage is clumsily scribbled.”10 10 Marx, excerpts, p. 61. Kovalevsky, op. cit., pp. 123-129. The Benefices were made to military leaders by the conqueror, in the Moslem conquest of parts of India, the Imam. The benefices are the ikta (see above). The granting of offices were a sub-category of ikta which included the right of exploitation of the land and its produce by the cultivators. The granting of these rights in whole or in part could then be sub-let in turn on more limited terms, limited both in time and in the rights allowed. No tenant-in-chief logically could sub-let for longer


Kovalevsky on the village community and landownersbip in the orient Against the interpretation of feudalism in Indian history Marx further wrote: “According to Indian law, the ruling power is not subject to division among the sons; therewith a great source of European feudalism is cut off.”11 This is a purely formal division between European feudalism and the Asiatic mode of production. The content of the difference lies elsewhere: the benefices granted were not granted in perpetuity or in absolute holdings; they were dependent, not independent, and they were lifetenures which the recipients sought to extend into hereditary holdings. In the European middle ages the practice was otherwise, as a rule. Marx took up Kovalevsky’s arguments in favor of a “feudal” inter¬ pretation of Indian land history again and effectively demolished them:12 Weil sich “Beneficialwesen”, “Weggebe von Aemtern auf Pacht” [dies doch nicht bios feudal, teste Rom.] und Commendation in Indien findet, findet Kovalevsky hier Feudalismus im westeuropaischen Sinn. [Kovalevsky vergisst u.a. die Leibeigenschaft, die nicht in Indien und die ein wesentliches Moment ist. ] [Was aber die Rolle des Schutzes (cf. Palgrave), nicht nur iiber unfreie, sondern auch fiber freie Bauern betrifft - durch die Feudalherrn (die als Vogte Rolle spielen), so spielt die in Indien geringe Rolle mit Ausnahme der Wakuf] [von der dem romanisch-germanischen Feudalismus eignen Bodenpoesie findet sich in Indien sowenig wie in Rom. Der Boden ist nirgendwo noble in Indien, so dass er etwas unverausserlich an roturiers ware!] Marx’s arguments against the “feudal” theory are four: 1. The evidence of the benefices in India does not prove feudalism because they are also found in ancient Rome. The same is true of the leasing of offices. 2. An essential characteristic of feudalism is serfdom, and this is not found in India. 5. The soil is not a prized object in India as it is in European feudalism where it could not be alienated to commoners. 4. The chief difference that Kovalevsky found is the absence in India of patrimonial jurisdiction; this is Marx’s term for Kovalevsky’s re¬ ference to patrimonial justice. In Europe the superior lord had no channel into the administration of justice in the domain of his vassal; in

periods than were included in the terms of his own primary grant, or grant other rights than had been granted him. It is possible that laws of logic were not always obeyed. 11 Marx, excerpts, p. 62. '* Marx, excerpts, p. 67.

Cf. Kovalevsky, op. cit., pp. 15 zff.

Matter in square brackets by

Marx. The entire passage is in Gamayunov and Ulyanovsky (see following note).


Kovalevsky on the village community and landownership in the orient the Mogul empire, particularly in civil law, the opposite was the case. Aurangzeb gave the zamindars criminal-police functions in the districts granted to them, but never parted with the power of decision over relations to the soil. A fifth, somewhat weaker, argument is adduced by Marx, pertaining to the individual role of protector or guardian. The distinction between free and unfree peasants in Europe is essential, in India not so. The guardian role of the overlord is a minor one in India. In fact, Marx had taken it as given by Wilks, Campbell, i.a. (see above, ch. I B, IC, III) that the village was in principle untouched by the historical movements of dynastic wars that rolled past them. That which is essential to European feudalism, serfdom, is not found in India; that which is common to other modes of production, such as feudalism and classical antiquity is also found in India. But the differentia specifica that would permit the classification of India as feudal are lacking. From the notation of a substructural, essential difference, Marx then proceeded to the superstructure, the Bodenpoesie. Under feudalism, the land is noble, to be worked by others, too poetic to permit this rich source of income to be alienated to the common folk; the function of this poetry of the soil (not of its cultivation, or labor upon it) is to protect its monopoly by the feudal landowners.13 Further, Kovalevsky proposed that the Turks introduced feudalism in their conquest of North Africa, which Marx rejected. Kovalevsky wrote that, for protection against rebellions by the ever-present local militia, the Turks founded military colonies called Zmala, “which”, Marx commented, “K. baptizes as ‘feudal’ on the bad basis that they could have evolved, under other circumstances, something similar to the Indian Jaghirs.”14 Marx took up the doctrine, or rather he uncovered the myth and the interest underlying it, of the sovereign as the proprietor of the soil in his domain, as it was advanced by the European colonizing powers, both in regard to the British in India and the French in Algeria. On the basis of Kovalevsky’s evidence he found “no trace of the transformation of the

13 L. S. Gamayunov and R. A. Ulyanovsky, The Work of the Russian Sociologist M. M. Kovalevsky “Communal Landholding, The Causes, Ways and Consequences of its Dis¬ integration”, and K. Marx’s Criticism of the Work. Moscow i960. This is a paper presented at the 25 th International Congress of Orientalists, reprinted

in a pamphlet.

Dr Daniel

Thorner has provided me with a photocopy of this pamphlet together with background of the discussion of it in Moscow in i960. (He expressed doubt about the accuracy of its trans¬ lation.) Its authors write (p. 8), “Serfdom is a superstructural reflection of one of the crudest and most merciless forms of non-economic compulsion connected with the exploitation of the medieval peasantry directly in the landlord’s estate.” See below, note 20. 14 Marx, excerpts, p. 79. Kovalevsky, op. cit., p. 205.


Kovalevsky on the village community and landownership in the orient entire conquered land into ‘domanial property’. The lousy ‘Orientalists etc. refer vainly to the places in the Koran where the earth is spoken of as belonging ‘to the property of God.’”16 The significance of this inter¬ pretation of the land practices of the Moslem conqueror of India, which does not correspond to the reality, and the role of the Orientalists in imparting this doctrine to the European powers in Marx’s time, will become clear in the following: At the time of the French conquest of Algeria, Louis-Philippe was declared by his supporters to be the successor to the Imam or rather the subjected Deys. The French took over not only the domanial property but also all land that was not found under cultivation, including com¬ munity land, pasture, forest and unfilled soil. Marx commented, “Insofar as non-European law is profitable to them, the Europeans not only recognize it, as here the Moslem, - immediately! - but ‘misunderstand’ it to their profit, as here.” “The French lust after booty is soon illumi¬ nated: if the government was and is the original owner of all the land, then it is unnecessary to recognize the demands of the Arab and Kabyle tribes to this or that piece of land, as long as they cannot indicate their title through a written document. ...”16 The positive matter in this work by Kovalevsky is the evidence that he drew of the collective life of the agricultural peoples who were at one time gathered together in village communities. Because of his per¬ spectives, gathered from India and Algeria, he concentrated all the categories of the collectivity in the community, obscina. In regard to the latter, he rendered an important service, not only by bringing out the category of the agricultural community, which he also studied in Switzerland and in Russia; he also subjected a sector of the European literature to his critique. He pointed out that when European travellers had discovered the curious fact of the absence of individual proprietors of the land in a country, they immediately concluded therefrom that all the land belonged to the sovereign.17 Kovalevsky’s point is that comls Marx, excerpts, p. 59. Kovalevsky, op. cit., p. 121. 11 Matx, excerpts, p. 80. Kovalevsky, op. cit., p. 212. The cynical theory of landownership by the sovereign, the Imam, and of the European colonial power as the legal successor provides a basis for the seizures of the lands of the communities.

Marx reveals what the theory of the Oriental society is about, that is, the

interest that lies behind those who applied it, who brought down to earth the speculation with which it was cloaked. 17 Kovalevsky, op. cit., pp. 157b Here he uses the terms individual’nyj sobstvennik = individual proprietor; pravitel’ = sovereign. Marx omitted this passage in his excerpts. M. M. Kovalevsky, Modem Customs and Ancient Laws of Russia, wrote of the ancient Russian community, “it was a kind of ownership, based on the idea that the true proprietor of the land was none other than the commune.” (p. 92) Individual households occupied the land,


Kovalevsky on the village community and landowner ship in the orient

munity ownership was overlooked; Marx applied this insight in his attack on English colonial policy in India and French colonial policy in Algeria. (Kovalevsky here cited the Venetian ambassador to Moscow in i6jo, a French traveller to the West Indies in 1569 and an English traveller to the Pelew Islands in the South Seas in 1788 in its support. Although he went too far in seeking support for his thesis in this direction, he did not go far enough in another, the thesis of communal ownership of the village lands in India. These must be critically taken up. It is important to note that the Europeans first acknowledged the sovereign as the landowner in India and elsewhere.) Kovalevsky gathered the evidence that the communal life was de¬ stroyed by the colonial powers; the capitalist society and its agencies destroyed the collectivities and communities, and strengthened the tendency toward individualization of the landholdings. What has not been proven is that this collective or communal life as it was reported in Kovalevsky’s source materials is continuous with the life of the primitive communities of the prehistoric, illiterate peoples. The dis¬ tinction between collectivity and community may be of importance in this connection; left as it is, the focus of the problem on the community alone is a simplification. This simple constatation of continuity from the primitive life to the civilized life in India in the nineteenth century has two defects. The first is that the continuity does not exist in fact. Here the primitive is like unto the state of nature that Rousseau has written about: “The philosophers who have examined the foundations of society have all felt the necessity to go back as far as the state of nature, but none of them has gotten there.”18 The primitive condition, by which we understand the ‘state of nature’ of the eighteenth century philosophy, is a will-o-thewisp, ever retreating as we approach it; there is no primitive condition. The second defect is that it takes up only the continuity from primitivity to civilization, it lacks the counter-thesis of discontinuity with the prim¬ itive and with nature in the condition of civilization. Marx had expressed this thesis of continuity-discontinuity in his repeated references to the caricatured village community in India. The English had created a but did not have the right of ownership thereof. Kovalevsky 12 years after his work on the communal land possession in the East, when he took up the same subject in regard to Russia made the systematic distinction between ownership or proprietorship on the one side and occupation, use, on the other. 18 J. J. Rousseau. Discours sur l’ inigalite, near the beginning. This dart is supposed to be aimed at Thomas Hobbes. It also touches him who aimed it. (See Jean Jacques Rousseau. The Political Writings, vol. I, p. 140.) 2Q5

Kovalevsky on the village community and landowner ship in the orient

caricature of it, but the Indian development had already, internally, created a caricature of itself, it had long before this departed from any connection with a primordial state, whether putative or real. Setting this simplification aside, we are left with the thesis of Ko¬ valevsky: the destruction of such village communities as the English and the French found in their colonies. Here the thesis of Kovalevsky is divided into two questions: The course of decomposition of the village community may be regarded as the result of the unconscious evolutionary process as a whole or as the result of conscious, planned activities directed at its dissolution; it may also be the combination of the two. Kovalevsky had two aims: a work on social evolution and an attack on colonialism. The cause of the dissolution of the village community is in unconscious trends working across broad stretches of time and in the direct impact of the conscious factors. The alternatives were not con¬ sidered in their interrelation by Kovalevsky, who contradicted himself on the relation of the long-term and the short-term issues, and Marx noted this lack of consistency. On the one side Kovalevsky traced back the existence of cooperative societies in the village communities to voluntary contractual organizations, on the analogy of the Russian artel’ or peasant cooperative association; on the other he traced them back to the hunting tribes.19 1. Marx systematically rejected the attempts of Kovalevsky to intro¬ duce either the entire theory of European feudalism into the extraEuropean world, or one or another aspect of it, whether into the history of India or of Algeria. The course of Indian history is to be explained by indigenous, not imported categories, as is that of Algeria.20 2. Marx carried forward the distinction between possession (Besitz, vladenie) and ownership or proprietorship (Eigenthum, sobstvennost’). The landholdings of the peasant communities in India and Algeria are discussed in terms of their ownership, not possession of the soil; the latter is the usage of Kovalevsky which Marx changed in the titles, etc., when he adopted a firm position, but departed from this on occasion in the haste of note-taking. 3. In the notes on the customs of the primitive peoples in landholdings, Marx had few comments to make. These were on the one side matters in which he corrected errors of detail made by Kovalevsky, who might '• Marx, excerpts, p. 34; Kovalevsky, op. cit., p. 92. J0 A translation into Russian of the part of Marx’s excerpts from Kovalevsky dealing with India and Algeria was published in Sovetskoe Vostokovedenie, and Problemy Vostokovedenija. The Soviet editors rejected Marx’s views on feudalism, and referred to the existence of feudalism in India in the notes accompanying the text. See Sovetskoe Vostokovedenie, no. 3, 1958, pp. 25, 26. See above, note 13.


Kovalevsky on the village community and landowner ship in the orient have meant ‘cultivated’ (angebaut) instead of ‘settled’ (angesiedelt), - this is put in the form of a question (Marx, excerpts from Kovalevsky, p. 21) -,21 the matter concerns forced quitting of their lands by the con¬ quered peoples at the beginnings of agriculture. (They must have begun their cultivation, therefore, and not merely settled down on the lands.) Again, on the same page of Marx’s manuscript he noted that the related family communes divided the land unequally by hereditary right, rather than through genealogical right.22 Marx made further ironical remarks about the self-serving or hypocritical rulers of the colonies (excerpts from Kovalevsky, pp. 24, 25). An important methodological point that he brought out in Kovalevsky concerns the latter’s notion of tribal property. Among various Indian tribes of North America, Kovalevsky remarked that needy families had the right to require help from their neighbors who were better off than they, among Nutkas of the Pacific Northwest. This is not a right, rather it is a social praxis. The matter of right in law meant a more highly evolved social condition; here concrete practice rather than abstract right was at issue.23 4. The question of private property versus community, sovereign or collective property, in the interpretation of texts from the code of Manu, was examined above in connection with the writings of Wilks, James Mill, Elphinstone and others. Kovalevsky expressed himself likewise on this question, holding that Manu is to be interpreted in the light of the transition from communal use to individual property. Marx’s position in general was that the community was the owner, the individual the possessor of parcel for a limited term; his dissatisfaction with Kovalevsky’s terminology, in reference to land use, landownership and possession has already been alluded to. In connection with the inter¬ pretation of Manu, there appeared to Marx yet another methodological correction that had to be made: Kovalevsky had argued that the com¬ munal users of the pieces of land turned these into private property by 11 Kovalevsky, op. cit., p. 39: zaselennyja. 41 Kovalevsky, op. cit., p. 42: nasledstvennoe pravo. ** Marx, excerpts, p. 19; Kovalevsky, op. cit., p. 31. Kovalevsky had written, “When the earlier withdrawal of a few objects, such as arms and clothes, brings into sharp relief the custom of burning these objects at the grave of the dead, then prior to that the greater part of the moveable property belonged not to individuals but to the whole tribe, and this con¬ tinued many centuries thereafter, when the moveable property had already gone through the process of complete individualization, with the right of the needy families to require help from the better off neighbors...” Marx held that the relation of the poor to the wealthier families was not a right but, in his words, “rather social practice.” The conceptions of “right”, “person”, etc., are culturally tied to particular civilizations, and Marx held back from their detection in those circumstances where their applicability is not demonstrated.


Kovalevsky on the village community and landowner ship in the orient appealing to the length of time in which they had these bits of land in their possession; and this Kovalevsky explained by the practices of his own day. The problem is brought up in the book of Manu, and Kova¬ levsky interpreted this to mean that the older inhabitants of a district, who held their possessions by virtue of their closer degree of kinship to the original settlers, felt themselves threatened in their rights by the later settlers. In self-protection they applied the prophylactic against this potential danger by conversion of their shares of the communal lands into private property. Marx understood this to mean: “In other words, he (Kovalevsky) explains the matter with the hypothesis that already in the time of Manu, the possessors (at least of the larger shares, corresponding to the closer degree of kinship) were already threatened in their possession and for this reason sought to transform it into private property.” Marx found this argument weak, since the principle of right to possession on the basis of length of occupancy is not found everywhere. Moreover, Marx wrote: “It is much simpler to say: Conflict through inequalities in the shares, inequalities which have become great, which over a longer period of time must also have meant various other inequalities in wealth, demands, etc., in short, many other social inequalities, must have provoked a tendency among those who were thus privileged in fact to strengthen themselves as possidentes, the Haves.” The weak argument in Kovalevsky, not pointed out by Marx, was the explanation of an ancient problem in Manu by a later practice. Marx searched for simplification in the concrete case, while his theoretical ambitus arched over the most complex relations. Kovalevsky’s method was the opposite: he sought for the more complicated explanation of the concrete case, while simplifying the theoretical category; thereby a given range of practices (e.g., the collective, but non-communal) were eliminated or overlooked by him. Marx bore in mind that the end of the investigation was the explanation of the development of inequality in society; Kovalevsky’s way was a detour. The inequality, according to Marx, has a material basis in the distribution of village plots of land, the difference in the allotments growing great, extending over longer and longer periods of time. To these inequalities, the other inequalities become attached; the origin of privilege is connected with the tendency of the original possession of land to be defended and transformed into property - not without disputes.24

84 Marx, excerpts, pp. 34f. Kovalevsky, op. cit., pp. 93^

Kovalevsky on the village community and landoivnership in the orient B.




Campbell, writing in 1852 on the basis of his recent experience in India, submitted not only the fact of the decision to turn the land under English administration in Bengal over to the zamindars, but made certain stric¬ tures pertaining to that fact. First, the decision was Lord Cornwallis’ own. Second, it is explained by Campbell as an aberration resulting from Lord Cornwallis’ admiration for the English landed gentry. The second point is supported by a generally held opinion in England at the time, that in the gentry as a class lay the strength of the country; generals who had ‘a stake in the country’ were given favored commands in keeping with this doctrine. Cornwallis, according to Campbell, carried his position in the face of doubts in London; the responsibility for the grants to the zamindars was his.25 The Directors of the East India Company in London cannot be divested of responsibility since they offered to return Lord Cornwallis to India later in his career. The zamindar was a public officer encountered by the English at the time of their first conquest of India. He was regarded by the English specialists in Indian affairs as a kind of superintendent of the land in the service of the ruler, one of whose most important functions had to do with collection of taxes. The office was sometimes hereditary, or quasihereditary, it appears not to have passed on within the male line of a family only when there was a strong reason against such an assignment in accordance with customary right. (Wilks and Campbell were in agreement over the definition of the office as superintendence of the land.)26 Campbell wrote of the action of Cornwallis taken in 1786:

25 Campbell, Modern India, op. cit., pp. 30jf. Similar language was used by Maine, Village Communities, p. 105. Of the settlement by Lord Cornwallis in Lower Bengal, Maine wtote, “It was an attempt to create a landed-proprietary like that of this country. The policy of conferring estates in fee simple on the natural aristocracy of certain parts of India (and I mean by a ‘natural aristocracy’ an aristocracy formed under purely native conditions of society by what amounts to the sternest process of natural selection) has had many fervent advocates among Indian functionaries... But the great proprietors established by Lord Cornwallis were undoubtedly, with few exceptions, the tax-gatherers of the former Mahometan viceroy.” This, continued Maine, “was soon recognized as a mistake.” Lord Cornwallis, he wrote (op. cit., p. 154), turned Bengal “into a country of great estates, and was compelled to take his landlords from the tax-gatherers of his worthless predecessors.” (These worthless ones would be the Moguls. - L.K.) Maine advocated the village community as the primordial proprietor of the land in India, hence his interest in opposing Cornwallis’ reforms. 28 Wilks, Historical Sketches of the South of India, op. cit., vol. I, p. 187 (note): “I imagine there is now not one man in England or in India, who conscientiously believes that the person designated by the modern term Zemindar ever was a proprietor; I of course mean the Zemindar


Kovalevsky on the village community and landowner ship in the orient “Lord Cornwallis was one of the good old English gentlemen who considered ancient English institutions perfection in any part of the world - had no doubt that rights in land must belong to the highest class connected with it - that a landed aristocracy is the greatest of blessings - and that the receipt of any portion of the rent by the state was a tax on them which could not, indeed, be dispensed with, but should be fixed and limited forever as soon as possible.” He continued, “By far the greatest portion of the country [i.e., Bengal] became the property of the large Zemindars of districts, but there were also some villages where particular families succeeded in getting themselves set down as proprietors of small tenures, and in some few instances they are even so numerous as to make it probable that the members of the community were registered as separate proprietors.”27 in the contemplation of these disputants, for, in the modern technical language of Bengal, the word means equally the descendant of the officer who collected the dues of government from the proprietors, and the proprietor himself where he has been permitted to exist.” He quoted Sir John Shore as having observed in a Minute of 21 December 1789 that “it is equally a contradiction in terms to say that the property of the soil is vested in the Zemindar”... Campbell, op. cit., p. 303 on zemindars, or hereditary superintendents of the land. James Mill, History of British India, 1972, vol. Ill, p. 350: “It now appears that the permanency, from which Lord Cornwallis so fondly expected beneficial results, had no existence; that the plan which he had established for giving permanency to the property of the Zemindars, had rendered it less permanent, than any former system; had in fact destroyed it.” “When it was urged upon Lord Cornwallis, by Mr. Shore, and others, that the ryots were left in a great measure at the mercy of the Zemindars, who had always been oppressors, he replied, that the permanency of the landed property would cure all these defects; because, ‘where the landlord has a permanent property in the soil, it will be worth his while to en¬ courage his tenants, who hold his farm in lease, to improve that property.’” Two issues must be separated: whether the zamindars owned the land is a question of fact which Cornwallis’ opponents held to be without any basis. On the other hand, Corn¬ wallis’ action created a new class in fact, which is a different issue. As to the first issue, Anquetil-Duperron, Recherches Historiques, p. 229, note, wrote that Djaguir dar and Zemindar are Persian words signifying respectively, possessor of a locality (Possesseur de lieu) and possessor of land (Possesseur de terre). The date of publication of this work is contemporary with the act of Cornwallis. There was some scientific justification for the deed; but the scientific merits or demerits are both irrelevant to what was done without regard to either. Rouse, Dissertation Concerning the Landed Property of Bengal, asserted the right of the zemindars to hereditary title to the lands continually occupied by them and their ancestors (p. ii). See Kovalevsky, op cit., pp. i48ff; Marx, excerpts, p. 66. Rouse controverted James Grant (Rouse, op. cit., p. 22). See Grant, An Inquiry into the Nature of Zemindary Tenures, Grant’s thesis was that in the native States of Asia, the sovereign is the sole proprietor of the land (“universal proprietary Lord of the land”); “the ryots hold directly of the Prince by immemorial usage as Tenants in capite.” 27 Campbell, op. cit., pp. 304L To the British the problem of the zamindars was connected to the question of determining an effective means of ruling India, which Cornwallis resolved by applying the English model. The zamindars were conceived as being potentially a landed


Kovalevsky on the village conisnunity and landowner ship in the orient The conflicts introduced by Cornwallis made the difficulties of govern¬ ment or even of intellectual comprehension of the problem of the land tenures unmanageable, and it is as much the second matter as the first which caused the reactions of Wilks, Metcalfe, Elphinstone, Campbell and the House of Commons reports. Cornwallis proposed to strengthen the economic position of the zamindars, who now were granted a basis in landownership which was not only independent of the British regime in India, but which the British, if they were consistent with their own policy, were bound to support. The zamindars were supposedly made into an independent class, potentially able to compete for political power with the British. That their activities did not suceed and that the British remained in power in India for a century and a half thereafter is to be explained on the one side by the external factor, the extremes of difference between the economic and political power of the most advanced country of capitalism at the time, and the backwardness of India at the same time. The zamindars were a gentry of the Indian sort, but they were a serving gentry, not a landowning gentry, the transformation into a landowning class was done by decree, from above, by Cornwallis, by an external force in Indian life. A serving gentry, a gentry in the service of the sovereign, as collectors of taxes, maintains its holdings on sufferance, at the royal pleasure. It is a privileged class, whose position is dependent on a private law and will. To transform these zamindars into a class with the intended independent economic base would have required transformations of Indian social life as a whole. The internal factor which militated against the success of Cornwallis’ policy was the absence of the related economic and social institutions which would have under¬ girded and in turn been supported by the establishment of the zamindars as a landowning class. Again, the zamindars established in their holdings by Cornwallis were isolated, for he could not bring his policies to bear on all parts of India, but only on those parts which fell under his governorgentry. Aside from the means applied, which were those of a foreigner who had neither a relation to nor an understanding of India, the solution failed and in so doing created further problems. The effect of the Cornwallis episode on Indian history was unfortunate; it came to the awareness of Campbell; Maine and M. Kovalevsky responded to this in different ways. See below, ch. V C. Hegel, Philosophic der Geschichte, op. cit., pp. 2iof., commented on the policy and practice of Cornwallis: “The point is most important, whether the land under cultivation is the property of the cultivator or of the so-called feudal lord, and the English had difficulty in getting to the bottom of it. When they conquered Bengal they had a particularly great interest in determining the manner of collections on property, and had to learn whether these were to be imposed on the peasants or the overlords. They did the latter; but now the lords permitted themselves the greatest arbitrary actions.” It will be noted that Hegel referred to the “so-called” feudal lords; the overlords are the zamindars. ZI1

Kovalevsky on the village community and landoivnership in the orient generalship. Moreover, there were those who were committed to wholly different policies concerning the land-tenures in various parts of British India: his immediate successor in Bengal, Shore; Metcalfe, who succeeded to the same office in a later generation; Campbell, the lieutenant-governor of the same province (under direct British vice-regency, no longer through the East-India Company) still later; Elphinstone, governor of Bombay, likewise disagreed with Cornwallis.28 But these men could not agree among themselves: Elphinstone sought support for the village headman, whether under the title of Goud, Muccuddim, Mundil, or Potail, etc.; Wilks regarded the ryots as the traditional owners of the land; Campbell and Maine regarded the village community as the original proprietor of the land. Wilks and Elphinstone expressed doubts concerning the notion of the sovereign or the State as the chief landowner in India; Elphinstone appears to have opposed the thesis of James Mill in this regard, Campbell opposed the thesis of James Mill explicitly, of John Stuart Mill implicitly. Kovalevsky’s account conforms to Campbell’s in certain ways, differing in others. The fact of the distribution of the rights to the lands in Bengal by Cornwallis to the zamindars and his responsibility for the action against opposition by others are common ground between them.29 Kovalevsky emphasized the wish of the majority of Cornwallis’ council to be free of the burden of constant legislation and of perpetual disputes concerning the status of the Hindus. Kovalevsky further held the action of Cornwallis to have been sudden. Wilks described the relation between Lord Cornwallis and John Shore: Cornwallis’ support of the zamindars was controverted by Shore who held that the sovereign had the sole claim to the property of the soil.30 Wilks was critical of Cornwallis’ policy of making the zamindars, who had been the revenue collectors into proprietors. His arguments are: There is no basis in previous practice or right for doing this; it was done out of expediency. The fruits of the expediency were bad, for there was injustice done to the ryots, the zamindars were put in a false position and had to be deprived of their rights of ownership which had been granted them.31

28 See the Dictionary of National Biography, and Suppl., Oxford, 1921-1922 (repr.) for the notices of Campbell, Cornwallis, Elphinstone, Metcalfe, Shore, and Wilks. 29 Kovalevsky, op. cit., pp. i6off.

The question of zamindari tenure is far more complex

than the foregoing discussion, which has necessarily been restricted to the frame of discussion in Kovalevsky and Maine, sets forth. Further ramifications were soon thereafter disclosed by Baden-Powell, Land Systems of British India, and in his The Indian Village Community. *® Wilks, Historical Sketches of the South of India op. cit., vol. I, p. 186. 51 Wilks, op. cit., pp. 187 ff.


Kovalevsky on the village community and landoumership in the orient Maine characterized Cornwallis’ acts as a proverb of ‘maladroit management’. He gave much the same description of the matter as did Campbell,32 and indeed announced, “The principal statements made in the text concerning the Indian village communities have been sub¬ mitted to Sir George Campbell, now Lieut.-Governor of Bengal, who has been good enough to say that they coincide in the main with the results of his experience and observation.”33 Maine developed the position that neither the zamindars, the tax-gatherers, nor the peasantry was the proprietor of the soil. “It was not till English conquest was extending far to the northwest, and till warlike populations were sub¬ jugated, whose tastes and peculiarities it was urgently necessary to study, that the true proprietary unit of India was discovered.”34 This unit was the village community. Maine’s rejection of Cornwallis’ activity was not only expressed in order to deplore a mistaken practice. He sought to substitute his own theory for it, and had the support of the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal of the time.

3J Maine, Village Communities op. cit., p. 153; Here the ‘unlucky experiment’ of Lord Corn¬ wallis is referred to. See above, note 25. »s Op. cit., p. viii. Kovalevsky (op. cit., p. 161) attributed to Campbell and Maine the position that Lord Cornwallis “was right.” This is not true of either Campbell or Maine. 34 Maine, op. cit., p. 106. Maine’s position and Marx’s evaluation will be discussed in ch. V C.




The doctrine of natural law in ancient Rome began with the idea of a human nature pure and free, untrammelled by civilization, and which was found among men in the natural state; this state is opposed to that in which the Romans found themselves: therefore man is not by nature slave, men are enslaved only by capture in war.1 In the matter of the unnatural origin of slavery, which was the principal but not the only type of bondage that was practiced among the Romans, the law of nature (jus naturale) was not followed by their law of nations (jusgentium), and civil law jus civile). The doctrine of the natural liberty of all men in the ancient ius naturale was carried forward in the moral and political philosophies of the eighteenth century; Montesquieu wrote of the opposition of the spirit of liberty to the laws of Rome, and deplored the loss of that spirit by the continued tyranny after Caesar’s time. He defended the actions of Caesar’s assassins who were motivated by love of country which leaves behind it the ordinary rules governing crimes and virtues.2 Rousseau began his Contrat Social with an allusion to the freedom of mankind while in a state of nature: Man is born free, and is

1 Moritz Voigt. Das ius naturale aquum et bonum, vol. i, §§16 et seq.; §§44 et seq.

See P.F.

Girard, Manuel elementaire de droit romain, Book II, ch. 1, where a full bibliography is given. According to the law of nature, all men are free by virtue of their natural equality, i.e., of the rights to which all have like access. Because we are equal, no man is bound by another. The line of argument runs from the positing of equality by nature, whence natural liberty is derived. Behind this lay the observation that slaves were made, no one is by nature a slave, therefore servitude is against nature.

But, according to the law of nations, one man can be

bound by the next. See also W. W. Buckland, The Roman Law of Slavery. Aristotle held the contrary position, that some men are by nature slaves. 1255a.

See his Politics,

Hegel understood this passage to mean that he who is a slave by nature is the one

who agrees to his enslavement by the other. Hegel opposed slavery; Aristotle did not.


below, this section, note 5. * Montesquieu. Considerations sur les causes de la grandeur des Romains et de leur decadence. Ch. XI, near the end. Montesquieu, Esprit des lois, Bk. XI, ch. V, distinguished between the natural liberty of savages and the political liberty of States, that is, societies “where there are laws” (ibid., Bk. XI, ch. III).


Marx on Phear and Maine everywhere in chains.3 Further, the ideologists directly engaged in the American War of Independence, Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine, and the ideologists of the French Revolution, Babeuf, Condorcet, Saint-Just, all applied this doctrine as their basic law, in their revolt against the reign of absolutism, inequality and privilege. As a matter of form, the enemy of the rule of privilege is the notion that all men by nature are endowed with rights; from this it follows that in their ex¬ ternality, politically, all men are equal to each other. We have seen that a mythical China served as the ideal of the moral philosophers and political economists of the eighteenth century, Wolff, Voltaire and Quesnay. The reason is not hard to find in Quesnay’s case, for in China he claimed to have found a rule of absolutism applied in accordance with his doctrine of natural law, a legitimate despotism. Flegel found a state of unfreedom in China, but it was limited by law, the unfreedom itself was bound, subject to external constraint. Yet the constraint of unfreedom does not transform it into freedom; these are only formal abstract conditions of freedom in Hegel’s conception. Hegel on politicalmoral grounds, Adam Smith on the same grounds, but with regard to their effect on the political economy, compared China with India to the disadvantage of the latter; because of the disruptive, particularistic caste system in India, its lack of history, its lack of national consciousness, that is, the absence of consciousness of belonging to and forming a part of a nation on the part of the subjects. The lack of legal limitations placed on the individual, the possibility to rise from the lowest rank to minister, was open to most classes of Chinese society. This, they held, was not the case in India. But all these considerations, with the ex¬ ception of Hegel’s on the ethics of citizenship, and of the relation of mastery and bondage, are formal and external matters. They are summed up by Spinoza’s doctrine of human bondage as the state in which a man is not his own master, but is at the mercy of a force outside himself, wherein he is forced to follow a choice that is not his own.4 Writers on 5 Rousseau composed the Contrat Social in 1762. He was fastened so tightly to the idea of the state of nature and the natural law, that even when he had composed a chapter, which he included in the first draft of the Contrat Social, that refuted the idea of natural law, he suppressed it; that chapter does not appear in the published version.

Rousseau, wrote his editor,

became aware that, in refuting the idea of natural law, he had unwittingly made a deadly breach in the binding force of the Contract; and because, having no other principle to put in place of the Contract as the foundation of civil society, he felt that his only course was to silence the battery which he had incautiously unmasked...” The Political Writings, vol I, p. 441. 4 Benedict de Spinoza. Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, ch. 16: He who is dominated by his desires is most truly a slave. See also his Ethics, pt. IV, Preface: The human bondage is that of necessity; this is the consideration of the formal freedom from the bondage of the emotions or passions.

It is a doctrine of individual freedom, of the condition of freedom of the in-


Marx on Phear and Maine

ethics and morals started with the notion of freedom, and rarely con¬ sidered human bondage, save in one aspect of the problem, that of corporal constraint, and in this sense, physical necessity; compare the moral philosophy of Hobbes, eighteenth century Scottish moralists, and the moral philosophy of Kant. These writings are all conducted within the limits of an objective philosophical tradition which is the heir of Greek philosophy and Roman jurisprudence, and of the Greek philos¬ ophy as it influenced Roman law and philosophy; the libertarian doctrine of the Sophists Antiphon and Hippias was lost to view. The repository of human freedom and bondage, according to Hobbes, Rousseau and Kant, was the individual. That there was a reciprocal action and mutual determination on the one side between society and the individual, and on the other, between mastery and servitude was dis¬ covered by Hegel, whereby the relation of bondage to mastery in society was posited: The master is unfree, as is his bondman, each determines the unfreedom of the other.5 The social relation was in¬ troduced by Hegel; the restriction of the problem of bondage to the individual was overcome, but only as an abstraction. The historical concreteness was posited by Marx. The labor in the agricultural villages of the traditional empires of Asia, in ancient Greece and Rome, in feudal Europe is unfree, just as it is unfree in all the modes of production in society that precede the capi¬ talist. The form of the unfreedom varies, membership in the village community, the slave relation, the client, the servile, tributary and dependent political relations are the main forms of bondage in these epochs. Theoreticians of the Roman ins naturale and the modern proponents of natural right held that man is free by nature; there were joined in this

dividual, not of social freedom, of the condition of freedom in society of human beings. The bondage is abstract, natural, unrelated to any concrete social condition; the freedom is likewise abstract, natural, and unrelated to a concrete, particular social condition. 5 Hegel, Die Phanomenologie des Geistes, 1952 ed., pp. 141-150. See Voigt, op. cit., §§17 and following. (See above, ch. IV): Hegel interpreted his own thesis of the relation of masteryservitude, whereby he brought out the order in which the relation is established; first the conquest and the establishment of mastery, followed by the participation, accord, of the conquered in his state of servitude. The relations are established without reference to their sequence in time; each is a condition of the other. The natural right doctrine was put forth from ancient Roman times and on, in the European tradition, according to which there are universal human rights which are natural to all human beings; although they are not innate, yet they are associated with the living being as human. It is not a world-wide conception, in all probability, and it is most certainly not a world-wide conception as it is known in European history. On the difference in the meaning of law, human and natural law, with reference to China, see Joseph Needham, The Grand Titration, pp. 299-530.


Marx on Phear and Maine fancy Jean Jacques Rousseau and the leader of the historical school of jurisprudence, Gustav Hugo. Marx, from his youth on, separated himself from these notions, and at the end stated his position clearly: the human kind is unfree to start with. The condition of the inhabitants of the primitive communities is bound, just as is the condition of civilized peoples; the forms are different in the various cases; the over¬ burden, whether satisfying or frustrating, differs; the relation of un¬ freedom remains.6 These bonds are, to begin with, reciprocal between members of the community, or between kinsmen; in some cases they are bonds between members of the same kin community, the bonds of kinship and of community membership in this case reinforcing each other. These bonds are not the same as the bonds of mastery-bondage, such as is found in the relations of slavery and serfdom; the bonds of the village community in primitive conditions are relations between those who are not differentiated by social inequalities; the members of these villages, and those of the village communities in the Asiatic mode of production live as in a republic. The difference between the autonomy and the self-sufficiency of the primitive villages and those of the Asiatic mode of production lies fundamentally in this: the Asiatic mode of production is a producer of surplus value, the villages within this mode provide surplus labor and surplus product in the form of rent and tax, the village headman is an ambivalent personage, facing at once inward, as an equal among his co-villagers, and upward, as the representative of the village in tax-collection, or the affairs of State. These village com¬ munities, whether as proprietors of the village lands or not, control them, its members are bound by the relations of tradition, mutual obligations, rights and duties toward each other and to the whole, which enter into and are combined within the relations of consanguinity, affinity and village membership. The villagers are customarily devoted to the defense of the village lands, thrusting off the incursions into its boundaries, both the covert attacks and the covert movements of the boundaries by stealth, at night. The co-villagers are bound, moreover by mutual hospitality, ceremonial prestations, gifts and counter-gifts, by debts. The bonds of the village communities in the Asiatic mode of production are plural, the villagers bear several kinds of relations to each other. The bonds are obscure to begin with, for they are not, or are rarely, explicit. They are traditional and in this sense unconscious bonds, in part latent, in part covert; in this sense they are unlike the institutes of

• Marx, Grundrisse, pp. 375f., 590-396. See below, in this chapter, section C. Regarding Gustav Hugo, see Marx, Das philosophische Manifest der historischen Rechtsschule (Rbeittiscbe Zeitung, 9 August, 1842). MEW 1, pp. 78 and on.


Marx on Phear and Maine the law of ancient Rome, whether the ius naturale or ius civile. Just as the relation of slavery, the village bonds in the Asiatic mode of production are forms of unfreedom in the relations of labor; the forms of the bond¬ age are different, but the end result is the same. They differ in form, for the relation of slavery is imposed from without, by conquest, as this was recognized in the Roman ius naturale, and from above, according to the nature of the slave, in the conception of Aristotle; the village un¬ freedom in Asia, setting slavery aside, was traditionally developed, that is, from within, out of the relation of equality or non-difference. Marx contrasted the forms of compensation to the village in the Asiatic mode of production with that of the servile relation in feudal Europe. The protection which is found in the feudal relation is the provision of the overlord; whether this was mythical or real is another matter, we are speaking of forms. In Asia, on the contrary, there was no protection by the sovereign power of the local villages, nor was there any intermediate agency, as subinfeudation, which accomplished this function. The protection in Europe was a false protection, as much a real threat of real damage as it was a defense against the same. Both in Europe and in Asia, the armies of the invaders and of the defenders alike damaged the fields and the crops of the villages; the land, including the sown, was the battlefield; the villages gained nothing from defense or attack, just as it was nothing to them if one dynasty replaced another: to this extent, Hegel was correct in his appreciation of Indian history. The villagers gain compensation for the unfreedom of the village relations; it is psychological: the community bonds are satisfying and comforting. The bonds of mastery imposed on the villages in the East and the West are not ambivalent, they are uniquely determined in their significance, they are real bonds. The unfreedom of the village in the Asiatic mode of production is ambivalent in another sense: the village, whether landowner or not, is not the land lord, it is not the higher power imposed upon the lives of the peasants. But take away the community as proprietor of the village lands, as being either wholly or in large part a mythical matter in the Asiatic mode of production. There is left a village community in any case. It is the social ground within which the village produces its life, develops its social relations, and its relations to nature. The ambivalence subsists in this, that the communal relations, the common ownership of the land and the means of production, may be developed in a weak or strong degree; if weak, the community is an ambivalence, scarcely a community at all. If the product is shared and the land as the means of production as well, then the communal relations are reinforced. In the absence of strong communal proprietorship of the land, the villages in 218

Marx on Phear and Maine the Asiatic mode of production are ambivalent in their relation to the tax-collection by the State agencies. The villages produce severally, but each village shares the tax-burden jointly, it is distributed through the village headman, and is collected by him. The bonds of the village are ambivalent, again, because they are im¬ posed from above, insofar as the extraction of the surplus value in the form of tax is concerned. The ambivalence is in relation to the tradition as well as by the application of physical force or the threat of force by the traditional agency of tax collection, the zamindari officers. The village laborers of the Asiatic mode of production are unfree both by virtue of the implicit traditions and unwritten custom, as well as by the explicit agencies, decrees, zamindari actions exacted upon the backs of the peas¬ ants by the zamindars, just as they are in the Occident by the acts of the bailiffs, officers of the manors, the court and the police. The unfree labor of the Asiatic, ancient and feudal modes of production are bounds both in form and in content. Epictetus tells the story of the slave in ancient Rome who, when freed by his master, sought to reinstate his former condition; these forms of unfree labor are bound, not yet inseparable from the immediate means of production, the soil. They are all, in this sense, opposed to the free labor of the capitalist mode of production. But in this sense the free laborers, or wage labor, in capitalism is only for¬ mally free. The wage-laborer under capitalism comes to the sale of his labor time as the formal equal of the purchaser of the labor time, the capitalist. The capitalist is formally free, he may buy the labor time of this laborer or another, just as the laborer, the seller, is formally free, for he may sell his living time, or his living labor, to this capitalist or another. But the seller of the labor time must have the proceeds of the sale for his livelihood, he must eat, pay rent for his family, whether he is earning wages or not. In practice, the relation of purchase and sale of the labor time is in favor of the capitalist, since the seller of the labor time is the poorer of the two, moreover, losing his or her living time while seeking employment, falling behind in the rent, and borrowing to eat. The freedom of wage-labor is a formal freedom, in content it is unfree, being bound by and of economic necessity. The formal freedom of wage-labor, just as the freedom warranted for all humanity in the ancient Roman ins naturale, is an abstract right. The civil rights of society under capitalism are likewise abstractions, equality a formal, theoretical and abstract right, the opposite of the right concrete and practical in content. The formal relation of bondage is not negated by the abstract ex¬ pression or the abstraction of the right of nature; the slave in Rome, on the contrary, was as much a slave after he was told that he had a right 219

Marx on Phear and Maine by nature to be free. Rousseau’s primitive, the natural man who is free, is concretely negated by the bondage of the peasant in the Asiatic mode of production, the slave, the serf, the client, bondman, tributary, de¬ pendent, wage-earner in the capitalist mode. The doctrine of individual liberty is unsound because it fails to distinguish between liberty as a matter of form and liberty as a matter of content.1 * * * * * 7 Sir Henry Maine’s Lectures on the Early History of Institutions were published, as was his earlier work, Village Communities in the East and West, on his return from India.8 The latter takes up the comparison between Indian and Germanic village communities, the former compares Indian and Irish legal practices pertaining to chiefship, property in land, sovereignty. Maine, whose theses on historical jurisprudence had been founded on the examination of ancient Roman and English law, now extended the historical method by further comparative materials. His method was to establish a historical tradition, or to presuppose its existence, within which a cultural, social and legal traditional unity was assumed to be at work, and to trace the evolution of the legal institutions within it. He further assumed that the Indo-European (Indo-Iranic, Slavic, Roman, Germanic, Celtic) evolution was the model of the same in all mankind; likewise, that the Indo-European tradition was unitary, evolutionary and progressive. He held that the point at which the progres¬ sion was aimed was the English system of law, landownership and in¬ dividualistic morality; the Indie, Slavic and Celtic institutions would reach this aim, the Indians and Celts being aided, in particular, by the intervention of the English in their historical development. A more self-congratulatory, distanced conception of history is difficult to imagine. At the same time, his services were evident: He argued in favor of continuity of historical traditions, and the comparability of practices in Europe and Asia; he began the critique of legal thought, as we shall see, that divorces diachrony from synchrony; he introduced Indian, Irish, Germanic, Slavic practices and traditions to a wider public, 1 These are but the first steps in the discussion of the relation between the form and content of freedom. It is assumed that freedom and equality are related, as the opposites of bondage. Marx could decipher the secret of the expression of value, which is the equality and the equal validity of all labors, only when “the concept of human equality has already assumed the fixity of a popular prejudice.” He concluded that Aristotle had already discovered the relation of equality in the value expression of commodities, and it was only the historical restriction of the society in which he lived that prevented him from finding what this relation of equality consisted in. Marx, Kapital I (MEW 23, p. 74). 8 Sir Henry Sumner Maine. Lectures on the Early History of Institutions. Village Communities. Maine served in India under Sir John Lawrence; he was in contact also with Sir George Campbell. Cf. Preface to 1st ed. of Village Communities, and Romesh C. Dutt, The Economic History of India, vol. 2, pp. 177, 195. 220

Marx on Phear and Maine even in India, Russia and elsewhere, than would otherwise have gotten at them. He devoted a part of his Lectures on the Early History of Institutions to a criticism of Austin’s theory of sovereignty.9 John Austin, wrote Maine, set aside all the attributes of the State but one, that of force. (Government, society and the State are indistinguishable, in Maine; sovereignty is to be sought in that amalgam.) But, argued Maine, Austin’s position is an abstraction. Marx’s criticism of Maine introduces a triangular relation: Maine was right, but only superficially; Austin’s argument descends from that of Hobbes, whom Marx held in high regard; Austin’s is, on the contrary, a trivialization of Hobbes. Maine, said Marx,10 did not go to the root of Austin’s error: Maine ignores the much deeper point: that the apparent supreme existence of the State is itself but apparent, and that it, in all its forms, is an excrescence of society; as its appearance itself comes forth at a cer¬ tain stage of social evolution, so it disappears again as soon as society attains a stage which it has not yet done. First, there is the tearing loose of the individuality from the originally non-despotic chains (as blockhead Maine understands it), but satisfying and com¬ fortable bonds of the group, of the primitive community, - therewith the onesided working out of the individuality. But the true nature of the latter only reveals itself when we analyze the content, - the interests of these “latter”, - the individualities. We then find that

• Maine, op. cit., Lecture XII, esp. p. 359; John Austin. The Province of Jurisprudence Determined, op. cit. 10 Ethnological Notebooks, p. 329. The concise and express combination of personal or private and class interests which is brought out by Marx is the further development out of the foregoing handling of these themes by him as separate dialectical moments. See, for example, his treatments of interest in Die Heilige Familie (with Friedrich Engels. 1845): “Wenn das wohlverstandne Interesse das Prinzip aller Moral ist, so kommt es darauf an, dass das Privatinteresse des Menschen mit dem menschlichen Interesse zusammenfallt.” Here the interrelation of the personal interest and the human interest, as Marx found it in Helvetius, is brought out. Karl Marx, MEGA, vol. I, part 3, 1931, pp. 306 fpersonliches Interesse), 307 (Privatinteresse). On class interests, see Karl Marx, Class Struggles in France. (First published in: Neue Rheinische Zeitung, 1850, nos. 1, 2, 3, 5-6). More extensively, Marx dealt with the class interests in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte. (Die Revolution, New York, 1852). Here Marx dealt with the material interest of the bourgeoisie, the class interests as public interests, the political interests of the proletariat as opposed to those of the bourgeoisie, and the material interests of both: Of the extra-parliamentary mass of the bourgoisie he wrote: “This mass which at every moment sacrificed its own class interests, i.e., its political interests, to the narrowest, and most sordid private interests, and demanded a similar sacrifice from its representatives, now moans that the proletariat has sacrificed that mass’s ideal political interests to the proletariat’s material interests.” Marx Engels, Selected Works, vol. I, 1951, p. 290.


Marx on Phear and Maine

these interests are themselves again certain class interests, etc.,; hence this individuality is itself class, etc., individuality, and these interests all have, in the last analysis, economic conditions at the basis. On these bases the State is built up and presupposes them. The social evolution of mankind is here divided into stages: the State is not omnipresent in society, it is a factor that is limited in time and space. It appears in certain societies, at a given stage of social evolution, when societies are divided into classes whose interests are opposed to each other. The appearance of the State depends on the economic in¬ terests which are presupposed by its appearance. These interests are at once objective and subjective. The State will be eliminated when the society reaches the stage in its development wherein the opposition of the social classes and of the private ownership of the means of pro¬ duction are abolished. The State is itself not an active factor, it initiates no activity in itself, it is the passive recipient of historical action, it is a mold which contains the historical agents. On the one hand nothing is more real, on the other nothing less real and permanent in society than the State. It is neither eternal nor universal, it is an appearance that hides its evanescent form behind a show of permanence, it is not what it appears to be. It has many forms in the different historical epochs; it is one and the same phenomenon in all its various forms. The State dis¬ appears, and with it all its forms, when the conditions underlying its coming into being and passing away are met. The society passes into the stage of its existence in which the State appears and disappears. But the society is itself not the whole of the active factor, it is a part of an inter¬ active process between the individuals and the social whole. In the primitive society, be it the village community, clan, tribe, etc., the individual is bound by the relations of the social whole, the individ¬ uals in turn comprise the social whole by their relations to each other. These relations are different in civilized from primitive societies; the relations of the individuals to society are mediated as class relations. In the village community, which we have had before us in the Asiatic mode of production, many of the characteristics of these social relations are of the primitive kind, others are civilized; some make for the constitution of the social whole, some are divisive. Here the individual is unfree in his relations, whereby the form of the unfreedom is a collective un¬ freedom; of individual freedom or unfreedom there is none; the labor is unfree both in the primitive condition as well as in the condition of the traditional village community which continued to exist in political society, in the form of the State in India, China, elsewhere in Asia. The bonds of the collectivity create the conditions of unfreedom, as we have seen, no less here than in the state of slavery or serfdom. The bonds of unfreedom 222

Marx on Phear and Maine are torn loose by the evolution of new social forms, and a onesided in¬ dividuality is therewith elaborated. It is onesided insofar as it is not an objectivity in relation to a subjective side of the individuality; it is solely the subjective side: the personification of landownership, Madame la Terre. The usurer, the village capitalist, the rent-collector, the taxagent or zamindar, all act as though they were the private property in land endowed with a will and consciousness of its own, the land person¬ ified. The subjective side of the individuality is also, at the same time, the unbridled self-seeking, self-serving side, the subjectivity of greed, of avarice. This is an unresolved dialectic of the society, for there is no objective side to take it up or to seek its resolution. It remains un¬ resolved, being onesided. The individuality is related in a dialectic of form and content; the form of the social phenomenon is the individuality torn loose from the social group, the content of that individuality is the interest of the social group in which it is developed. The society is no longer a unity, but it is now divided into mutually antagonistic social classes, each having its own form and its own content. The ruling class is the class of individuality, the class of the individuality has for its content: its interests; these are objective, having economic conditions for its basis, being those of the group in form; they are at the same time subjective, having the interests of the individuality as its content. This dialectic of the society is likewise onesided, it is unresolved, defective. The individuality seeks its own interest, and this interest may be identical with the interest of the entire social class. If it is not, then the State acts to suppress the conflicting interest among those it comprises, the propertied class. The State is not only the organ of the ruling class for the suppression of all other social classes - it is that too; Engels was right, - but it is also the organ of the ruling class for the suppression of activities by its own members as in¬ dividuals which are in opposition to their own interests as a class. These are the extremes of individuality. They are the “last”, as Marx had put it, the extreme. Their class interests have economic conditions at their basis, the conditions which at the same time build up the State. The true nature is the composition of its form and content, but because the individuality which it presupposes is defective, its true nature is itself defective; it has no true nature, just as it has no nature. The interests are evanescent as the class that bears them is evanescent, as its individuality passes and the State that it has thrown up for the prosecution of its interests is a passing phenomenon. The interests are passive and active; in their objective, passive, formal mode they are an expression, they are common attributes that characterize the group, having no independent existence outside the latter. Subjectively, they are motives that drive us. The individuality is 223

Marx on Phear and Maine a collective individuality that is expressed by conflicts within itself, and these, too, have their economic conditions at their basis, just as the social class as a whole. The mark of the individuality developed in the traditional village community in India is this: here the class development brings into the era of civilization the characteristics of the earliest beginnings of the civilized period, when social class formation, social class antagonism and consciousness are just in the process of formation. But the conditions of the beginning, of immaturity, are transformed into their opposite. Precisely because they are undeveloped, they are incapable of rapid change, they are carried forward into the era of civilization, of written records, of social division of labor, where they last for thousands of years, subject to imperceptible change, barely show signs of movements. They defend the conservatism of the State, the State in turn enforces their conservation. It is not the immediate cultivator in the village community who is torn free from the bonds of community. The individuality that is torn free is that of the consumers of the surplus product, these are members of the ruling class, the sovereign, clients, his retainers, courtiers, the wealthy in the rural life, the money-lenders, usurers, zamindars. The immediate producers in the traditional Indian society remained within the bonds of the collective life, they are the cultivators who are still unfree, bound to the soil, the form of their bondage is the traditional, collective form; the form of unfree labor in the Asiatic mode of production is a communal unfreedom. The individuality that is torn loose is counterposed to the collective bonds in theory, opposed to it in a half-perceived, halfunderstood practice. The cultivators are doubly unfree: they are unfree by their relation to nature, to the soil, to which they are bound; they are unfree by their social relation, by their bondage to the community through their tradi¬ tional form of life. The individuality that is torn loose is embraced in another unfreedom, the bonds of service to the sovereign power, or to the caste, or the hermit cell. The interaction of the double unfreedom of the cultivator, in virtue of the natural and the communal relations rein¬ forces the collective bondage at the foundation of the society in India in traditional form. The individuality that is torn loose is doubly freed, but singly entrapped.

On the Dialectic of Freedo?n / Necessity and Freedom / Bondage The opposition between freedom and necessity on the one side and between freedom and bondage on the other were developed by Marx 224

Marx on Phear and Maine both in his early and late writings.11 Each of these oppositions is a dialectic of mankind; the opposition between freedom and necessity is the external dialectic, between humanity and nature; that between freedom and bondage is a dialectic of the internal relations of society. The external necessity of mankind, as natural necessity, has its basis in the wants and needs of human individuals and groups. The dialectic of freedom and bondage is, in one of its forms, the relations of masteryservitude. But at the same time, the illusion of freedom is engendered in society in the modern, capitalist period. Marx wrote in The Holy Family, “It is precisely in the slavery of civil society which is in its appearance the greatest freedom, since the apparently perfect independence of the in¬ dividual takes the unbridled movement of his alienated movement of his life-element, no longer bound by universal bonds, and no longer bound by man, as, for instance, the movement of property, industry, religion, etc., for its own freedom, whereas it is a perfect bondage and inhumanity.”12 Both the dialectical moments, of freedom, in relation to its natural necessity, and social bondage are brought out in Capital. Marx wrote of the middle class which sees in commodity production the nec plus ultra of freedom and individual independence;13 the freedom and independence are illusory. The target, however, is no longer the civil society, as it was in The Holy Family, but the middle class, the petty bourgeoisie, which fosters the fantasy of freedom. It is no longer the movement of property or religion which creates the illusion of freedom and the reality of bond¬ age, but commodity production. The historical root of the dialectical development of freedom and bondage as traced in The Holy Family is found in ancient slavery, further extended into the capitalist period. The relation of the different forms of bondage in the different epochs of economic formation of society was developed by Marx in the Grundrisse, and in the different modes of production in the Critique of 1859; earlier, as we have seen, he had written of the successive stages of forms of property, in The German Ideology, but without reference to the respective forms of bondage. The relation of illusion and reality of freedom and bondage in capitalism was further expressed by Marx: “What reigns

11 Marx, Different der demokritischen und epikureischen Naturphilosopbie (Doctoral dissertation. Notes). MEGA I, 1. Notes to James Mill (Political Economy). MEGA I, 3. Correspondence with Arnold Ruge in 1843, (.Deutsch-Fran^osiche Jabrbticber, 1844). In the Okonomiscb-Politische Manuskripte mention is made of the relation of freedom and necessity (MEGA, I, 3, p. 114). The articles published by Marx in the Deutsch-Fran^psiche Jahrbucher, 1843 and 1844, Zur Judenfrage (MEW 1, pp. 347 et seq.), und Zur Kritik der Hegelschen Rechtsphilosophie, Einleitung (MEW 1, pp. 378 et seq.) contain positions of Marx on freedom and social bondage. 12 Marx, Die Heilige Familie. MEW 2, p. 123. Zur Judenfrage II (by Marx). 13 Marx, Kapital I (MEW 23, pp. 82f., note). 225

Marx on Phear and Maine

alone here is freedom, equality, property and Bentham. Freedom! For the buyer and seller of a commodity, e.g. of labor power, are determined only by their free will. They contract as free persons, legally of equal birth.”14 Scorn is heaped on the utilitarian school, Bentham their leader, for fostering the fancy that labor and capital are equal and equally free as a matter of form; they failed to see the blinders which they carried. The seller of the labor time is formally free as a legal person, he has a legal personality, and can contract as an equal with the buyer of his labor time, the capitalist. The seller is formally free, while in the content of his life he is bound. The form of freedom and the illusion of freedom are one.15 The resolution of the two dialectical movements, of freedom/necessity and freedom/bondage was further developed: “The realm of freedom in fact begins only where laboring, which is determined by need and external expedience, ceases; it lies, in the nature of the matter, beyond the sphere of material production proper. Just as the savage must wrestle with nature in order to satisfy his wants, to maintain and reproduce his life, so must the civilized people, and must do it in all social forms and under all possible modes of production. With its development the realm of natural necessity is expanded because the wants are expanded; but at the same time the productive forces which satisfy these wants are expanded. Freedom in this field can only consist in this, that socialized humanity, the associated producers, rationally regulate their material exchange with nature, bring it under their common control, instead of being ruled by it as a blind force, to perfect it with the least amount of energy and under the conditions most worthy of and appropriate to their human nature. But this always remains a realm of necessity. Beyond it begins the human development of energy which is an end in itself, the true realm of freedom, which, however, can only flourish on that former realm of necessity as its base. The shortening of the labor day is the fundamental condition.”16 The external relation to nature as natural necessity, and the internal relation in society as social necessity, are here brought together by Marx. The relation to nature is in the form of the productive forces and their development, the relations of social produc¬ tion and social relations to begin with. In Marx’s formulation, the 14 Ibid., pp. i89f. See also p. 562. The dialectic of freedom and necessity is here treated with irony by Marx. Cf. Kapital I (MEW 23, pp. 117b) The section concerning Commodity fetishism in Kapital I, ch. 1, 4, mentions the human relations to nature and in society, but not in connec¬ tion with bondage. 16 On the dialectic of form and content of freedom/unfreedom see Krader, Ethnologic und Anthropologie bei Marx, op. cit., pp. I73f.

16 Marx, Kapital III (MEW 25, p. 828).


Marx on Phear and Maine relations with nature are mediated through the productive forces, they are the means to effect the mastery over nature and thereby the liberation of society. The call for the shortening of the labor day is the transition from the theoretical to the practical side of the matter, but this remains within the realm of the productive forces; the realization of the short¬ ening will be by social means, the struggle for the shortening of the labor day under capitalism is a social struggle. At the same time it is necessary to convert this into its opposite, to make the relations of social produc¬ tion into means, as Marx indicated in his example. The social struggle is evidently far wider than the conflict over the length of the labor day. Marx began to indicate the dialectic of freedom and necessity, of hu¬ manity and nature, in the 1840s, and the passage in the third volume of Capital is in one sense a continuation of this: “In order that ‘man’ be¬ come the object of sense consciousness, and the wants of ‘man as man’ become wants, the entire history is a preparatory history. The history itself is a real part of natural history, of nature becoming man. Natural science will become later as much the science of man, just as the science of man will subsume the science of nature within itself: there will be one science,”17 Here the relation to nature is proposed as the means to overcome the state of bondage and alienation of mankind. Both the productive forces and the social relations of production are man’s; the development of the division of labor in society is a means to the in¬ creased control over nature, the development of the ever more practical implements of production and productivity of the soil and the sea is a means to the further development of the means of production. The scope of time indicated in the two passages, from the Economic-Philo¬ sophical Manuscripts and from the third volume of Capital is vast; the immense practicality is highly limited, concentrated. The dialectic of freedom/necessity is a relation that is external to human society; the transition to the internal relations is effected through the economy, the transformation of the productive forces into relations of social pro¬ duction, and the converse, the transformation of the relations of social production into productive forces. This transition is adumbrated in the last volume of Capital. In order to work out this transition, we will examine more closely the dual constraints of humanity, the external-natural, and the internal-social, as they were taken up by Marx, In his early writings, Marx brought out the dual moments of the bondage, conjointly, while during the 1850s and 1860s, he was concerned now with one side, now with the other. We have seen the effect of this in the passage just cited from the third 17 Marx, Okonomisch-Pbilosophische Manuskripte, 1884. MEGA I, 3. p. 123.

Marx on Pbear and Maine

volume of Capital; the same can be said of the passage in the first volume, dealing with the Historical Tendency of Capitalist Accumulation.18 In this passage, however, the primary concern of Marx is with the forms of social bondage and their overturn, destruction. We have already pointed out that the dialectic, freedom/necessity is treated ironically by Marx at this time. In the marginal notes to Wagner’s Textbook on Political Economy,19 Marx took up the relation of natural necessity, wherein he reproduced, in part, the language he had introduced in The German Ideology. (It should be borne in mind that the notes to Wagner were taken down in 18791880, whereas The German Ideology was written in 1845-1846). In these marginal notes, Marx was concerned with wants and their satisfaction, things from the external world; the initiative in posing the problem of necessity in this way was not his, but that of Wagner, whose work Marx was criticizing. We note that the style is still ironic, in relation to his opponent and to the subject matter posed by the latter. Marx did not, however, take up the question of social unfreedom and the dialectic of liberation in this connection. In the chapter on Feuerbach, in The German Ideology, Marx proceeded in another way. First he set down the natural conditions by which mankind is bound: “All history writing must proceed from these natural foundations (the natural conditions, among which are the geological, oro-hydrographic, climatic relations - L.K.) and their modification in the course of history through the action of mankind.”20 He then proceeded to the conditions of social relations of production on which our life in society is dependent. Marx wrote that “the mode in which humanity produces its means of subsistence depends on the nature of these;” “what the individuals are depends on the material conditions of their production;” “the form of their intercourse is conditioned by their production;” “the relations between the different nations depends on how far each of them has developed its productive forces, division of labor and internal intercourse.”21 The procedure by Marx is not only seriatim, the manner of posing the problem implies a relation between the dialectical moments of natural necessity and social bondage which were later brought out. Finally, we have the categories for the resolution

18 Marx, Kapital I (MEW 23, ch. 24§7. Geschichtliche Tendenz der Kapitalistischen Akkumulation, pp. 789ff.) 19 Marx, Randglossen zu Adolf Wagners “Lehrbuch der politischen Okonomie” (MEW 19, pp. 362-367). See Alfred Schmidt, Der Begriff der Natur in der Lehre von Marx, pp. nof. 29 Marx, Die Deutsche Ideologie, ch. I, Feuerbach. MEW 3, pp. 20 et seq. 81 Loc. cit.


Marx on Phear and Maine on the problem, albeit in an unfinished form. These categories will now be indicated as they were developed by Marx in his researches into the Asiatic mode of production.

The Language of Unfreedom and Freedom in the Theory of the Asiatic Mode of Production Marx wrote in the Grundrisse of two historical preconditions of wage labor and capital, the first being free exchange of free labor for money, the other being the freedom of labor by the separation from the means and materials of labor. It is the second which we will be concerned with. The separation consists, in the first place, of cutting loose (Marx’s term: Loslosung) of the laborer from his natural laboratorium, the soil. As a result of this Loslosung, there follows the dissolution (Marx’s term: Auflosung) of the small, free properties in land (Hesiod!), as well as the dissolution of the collective landed properties which rest on the Oriental commune.22 Historically, the Loslosung is a recent event in the Orient; we are thinking of a great separation in time between the initial forma¬ tion of the bond between the laborers (cultivators) and the soil, and the dissolution of the bond in the formation of wage labor, which dates, in the Orient, principally from the nineteenth century. The amount of time involved is no less than the duration of the Asiatic mode of production; but it is more than that. The Asiatic mode of production has itself lasted for thousands of years in India and elsewhere, but the bondage of the cultivator to the soil is yet older, for that bondage is the force of custom, and the village community in which this custom is encountered from the period prior to the formation of political society and the Asiatic mode of production into and through that period. The bond of the laborer to the soil and to the community is dissolved together with the dissolution of the Asiatic mode of production by the impact not of colonial conquest but of the market and exchange relations of capitalism in the nineteenth century, the development of a money economy and the capitalist mode of production. It is still within the period of the bound relation of labor, and not at the end, that the individuality is torn forth (Losreissung der Individuality: see above) from the bonds of the group. The bonds of the group and the bondage to the soil are in effect the same. While bound to the group, the individual is bound to the soil, and freedom from one is freedom from the other; (indirect) natural relation and the social relation mutually undergird each other. The individuals who are separated from these ” Marx, Grundrisse, p. 375. 229

Marx on Phear and Maine

bonds are in the first place the rulers, at the time of the formation of political society.23 This is the process of Losreissung, according to which the individual is torn forth from the bonds to his kinsmen and to his group. At the end of the period of the Asiatic mode of production, in the transition to wage labor and capital, the bonds of the individual, both ruled and rulers, are severed; the process is the dual one, for the bonds of both are now severed, whereas at first it was those of the rulers alone, the Losreissung-, at the end, the dual process was referred to by Marx as the Loslosung of the individual and the Auflosung in regard to the community. The bondage to nature and to the group are inseparable, whereas in the later period of development, the ruling individuals are freed. They are freed only as a matter of form, however, for according to Marx’s excerpts from Maine, and his comments thereupon, the sovereign was as much bound, in the traditional polities of Asia, as were the villagers.24 The illusion of freedom and the reality of bondage is only extended to a much wider population in the capitalist period than in the Asiatic mode of production in the traditional periods of Asian history.

Marx criticized Kovalevsky, as we have seen,25 for having failed to apprehend the relations of needy families to their wealthy neighbors as a concrete social practice; rather did Kovalevsky take them to be an abstract right in the primitive social condition. Maine criticized the English School of Analytical Jurists, Jeremy Bentham and John Austin, and Marx developed the opposite of this thesis thereby in the state of civilization. Thus, the Analytical school was anti-historical, hence anti-Maine, the historical jurist, the founder of the historical school of ** This is one of the central problems in the formation of political society and the State. The problem has been discussed by many: See L. Krader, Feudalism and the Tatar Polity of the Middle Ages, pp. 76-99. Also: Mongols. The Governed and the Governors, 1969, and Formation of the State. Prentice-Hall, 1968, ch. 6. There the relations between the ruler and his retinue, henchmen, supporters in the formation of the State among the Turks and Mongols is discussed. Cf. Wilhelm Radloff, Aus Sibirien, and Boris Vladimirtsov, Obscestvennyj Stroj Mongolov, on this problem. Radloff’s analysis is weakened by his theory that the State was formed among the nomads by usurpers of power. But the State cannot have been formed by such usurpers; if the State is first formed in this way, then there can have been no power before its formation, therefore there can have been no power to be usurped, therefore no usurpers. This error of logic aside, his description of the process among nomads along the Sino-Russian border in Central Asia in the mid-nineteenth century is one of the few studies brought out by an observer of the process. His account is convincing. ** See below, section on Maine, in this chapter. ,s See above, ch. IV B. 230

Marx on Phear and Maine jurisprudence in England. These analytical jurists propounded the claim that the Sovereignty, whether sole or collective, ‘wields the stored-up force of society by an uncontrollable act of will.’ That is, there is no higher sovereignty which the sovereignty is answerable to. Maine objected to this that there is a ‘vast mass of influences’ which acts as a constraint on the caprice of the sovereignty. (It is the absence of this constraint in forms recognizable to Europeans that had led them to formulate the theory of the Oriental despotism; Quesnay and Hegel saw the further formalism in which the Chinese emperor was constrained only by an external order, but did not find the inner constraints upon despotism in China which they observed in Europe: the constraint of the sovereignty imposed by the middle class that first held the French monarchy in check and later overthrew it. Quesnay saw the beginning of this process, and its middle; Hegel saw its culmination. What they took for the formalism, the externality, the ripeness was rather other than the marks they were used to detect in Europe, which was more familiar to them.) The constraints represented by Maine are there, but unfortunately he sought for shortness and characterized them as moral, the outward side of the matter. The constraints on the sovereignty are economic before everything else, as Marx brought out. Now these constraints are difficult to determine for the outsider. They were difficult to effectuate for the subject of the Oriental monarchy, but they existed. The court of the Oriental monarch was a welter of conflicting influences. The individuality was difficult to recognise, and the ability of the prominent courtier to perpetuate his estate and assure its transmission to his heirs was doubtful, but that there were courtiers, each batch replacing the foregoing, is well-attested historically. Collec¬ tively they exerted counterbalancing constraints upon each other and upon the monarchy; they were a part of the monarchic system, without which it would not have existed as such: the Oriental monarchy would then have assumed another form, lacking one of its prime characteristics. The State would have assumed another form in the Orient; the individ¬ ualities sprung loose from the communities would then have come into different conflicts of interest.



Sir John Budd Phear, a student of mathematics at Cambridge University, later transferred his interests to the law. He served as a judge in Bengal, then as Chief Justice in Ceylon, casting his experience in this book.26 ** Sir John Budd Phear. The Aryan Village.

Marx on Phear and Maine He was influenced by Maine and his book on India reflects the social evolutionary doctrine in general and the view of India in the scheme in particular of Maine and his school. His work is the most detailed account of a village in India that we know Marx to have read, yet it is not a simple ethnographic tract, rather it is an amalgam of the characters of a number of villages, lacking a specific locus in time and place. It sums up the life in the villages of deltaic Bengal in the 1860s, but we cannot check upon any particular observation, for we do not know when and where it took place. The lengthy introduction to his work is a restatement by Phear of the reigning evolutionary doctrine of the time, in the light of Darwin’s work, as it was further developed, chiefly by Boyd Dawkins, geologist and paleontologist.27 The main part of the book consists of a detailed description of a ‘type-specimen’ of a Bengal village, a somewhat less detailed description of rural Ceylon, and a speculative reconstruction of the evolution of the land and social system of India. The whole ranges from a total view of human social evolution, to the social evolution of India, to practical remarks about the use of transport in districts struck by famine. Marx at one point noticed it as ‘The Aryan Commune’,28 at another he referred to the chapter on Ceylon as ‘The Agricultural Economy’ instead of ‘The Agricultural Community’.29 These slips of the pen tell us something of Marx’s intentions in reading Phear’s book. Marx ex¬ cerpted the work of Phear sometime in the winter of 1880-1881 or in the spring of 1881, at about the time he worked on Morgan’s Ancient Society and Maine’s Lectures on the Early History of Institutions.30 In this work there is no thought that land is owned in common by the village com¬ munity in Bengal.31 The system in Bengal is that of the ryot tenures. The land was privately owned and cultivated, the water was collected in tanks and pools; where a tank was attached to a homestead, neighbors had no right to the water from it. The cultivators were the males of the family who worked their own land if they had it, and if it did not provide the family with a living they labored for hire in their spare time on their neighbors’ land for wages in kind.32 The village headman or tnandal is

17 Sir William Boyd Dawkins. Early Man in Britain. This work was cited by Friedrich Engels in his researches into the early history of the Germans. Cf. his Zur Urgeschichte der Deutschen. MEW 19, pp. 425, 450. 88 Marx, Ethnological Notebooks, p. 543. 28 Op. cit., p. 271. 20 Op. cit.. Introduction, pp. 86-89. 21 Op cit., p. 370. Marx began his note-taking on p. 128 of Notebook B 146. (Note 58, p. 370 of The Ethnological Notebooks.) 82 Phear, op. cit., pp. 12 ff. Ethnological Notebooks, pp. 246 f.


Marx on Phear and Maine not the richest man in the village but a ryot like the rest, his office is theoretically elective, but passes in fact, almost invariably, from father to son. The tnandal and a few elders form the village panchayat or court which hears disputes. The zamindar has become the ‘superior lord’ of the village, the ryots are his ‘subjects’ (since the time of Lord Cornwallis); the zamindar has become the chief owner of all the lands of the village which are not owned individually by the ryots; in some villages he owns all the cultivated land, and in certain cases the lands of several villages together. The zamindar is falsely described as an English landlord, he is merely a rent-charger; the ryot is a field-laborer.33 Out of this back¬ ground, joint-tenure has arisen.34 Both zamindar and ryot are usually in debt to the mahajan, or moneydealer, who advances money or grain to the cultivator and exacts his return on the threshing floor. He may have an entire village under his control, but is an outsider, having no proprietary interest in the village lands.35 Phear was more than a half-century removed from the period of Cornwallis, Wilks, Shore; the landed interests that he describes reflect the earlier conflicts and their resolutions, the outcomes of the ‘reforms’. The village occupations list that he provides is no longer a magic num¬ ber, twelve, it is longer and more detailed than those given by Wilks, the Fifth Report or Campbell.36 Allusion to the transformation of the zamindars into private proprietors of the land is made by Phear.37 The system of land ownership controlled by the zamindars and mahajans is not productive of capital, although the mahajan is referred to by Phear as a capitalist; he does not reinvest his proceeds into capital, but turns it into a source of private expenditure or hoarding. Phear engaged in many speculations in regard to the backwardness of the village economy, particularly referring to the ignorance and lack of enterprise of the ryots. 33 Phear, pp. 29f., pp. 49-59. Ethnological Notebooks, pp. 249, 253-257; a further chapter in the history of the zamindar is found here. 34 Phear, op. cit., pp. 15if. Ethnological Notebooks, p. 263. See Phear, p. 201; Ethnological Notebooks, p 277: Here the joint family system in Ceylon and Bengal are compared, in which two or more brothers and their families live under one roof. In Ceylon they may have a wife in common, a practice discouraged by the English.

The joint family was small in Ceylon,

according to Phear. 35 Phear, op. cit., pp. 25c, 63E Ethnological Notebooks, pp. 249, 256. 33 See Ethnological Notebooks, pp. 247-261.

The notion of the dozen employments, the

specializations of labor in the village is a compound of the magic number 12, with the idea of division and specialization of labor.

The combination of labor expressed by J. S. Mill

(see above, ch. I A, note 61) was taken together with the number of specialized employments in addition to the fundamental cultivation practices in the village. Phear, and Marx, went far beyond the rudimentary system expounded in the writings in England in the first part of the nineteenth century. (See above, ch. II A, note 7.) 37 Phear, op. cit., pp. i47f. Ethnological Notebooks, p. 263.


Marx on Phear and Maine and quotes an Indian zamindar in support of this idea;38 he does not, however, aside from denoting the mahajan as a capitalist,39 explore the idea of capital savings and reinvestment in the land, its capitalization, improvement, or intensified exploitation. On the subject of feudalism in the East, Phear was unclear. On the one hand, he criticized a colleague, La Touche who, in his Settlement Report of Ajmere and Mha'mvarra “falsified the facts by phraseology borrowed from feudal Europe.”40 Moreover, Phear’s conclusions contrast the land systems of Europe and Bengal: “In Europe, in distinc¬ tion from the East, in place of the produce tribute there was substituted a dominion over the soil - the cultivators being turned out of their land and reduced to the condition of serfs or laborers.” (Earlier Phear had developed the idea of the Bengal peasant being glebae adscriptus, bound to the soil.) “In the East, the people practically governed themselves, and the contest for power among the Chiefs of the noble class was mainly a struggle for command of the Kachahri tabils” - the village accounts.41 (Emphasis by Marx.) The idea of the people practically governing themselves will be dealt with at a later point. Here we will note the contrast brought by Phear between East and West. On the other hand, Marx was moved to note, “Dieser Esel Phear nennt die Constitution des village feudal.”42 An idea that Marx had quoted from Bernier43 led him to conclude that there was no town life in India, hence no opposition of town and country¬ side. Adam Smith, on the contrary, had concluded that the town laborer in the East was at a disadvantage in contrast to the country laborer: “In China and Indostan accordingly both the rank and the wages of country labourers are said to be superior to those of the greater part of the artificers and manufacturers.” This comment stands in direct contradiction to that of Bernier; Marx appears later to have sided with Smith, and ultimately found support for the opposition between town and countryside and the affirmation of a veritable urban life in the de¬ scriptions by Phear. The idea of Smith’s, that the country laborer is at an advantage over the town laborer in the East appears to have found no further support. The separation of the rural from the urban production was limited by Adam Smith to the guild production in the cities of the West, versus the peasant production. Smith was critical of the guild 38 38 10 41

Phear, Phear, Phear, Phear,

pp. 65-67. Ethnological Notebooks, p. 257. p. 63. Ethnological Notebooks, p. 256. p. 263. pp. 266f., p. 271. Ethnological Notebooks, p. 284. 43 Ethnological Notebooks, p. 256. 43 See above, ch. II A, note 16. See Grundrisse, p. 382.


op. op. op. op.

cit., cit., cit., cit.,

Marx on Phear and Maine and corporation rules, and held that they kept back the earnings and social rank of the country laborers without providing an economic basis for their own advancement, which is supported by favorable regulations.44 The great division of labor in society in those epochs which precede the capitalist economic formation is that between the town and the countryside. The exchange between the two wings, however, was clear to Marx only when he took up the work of Phear in reference to the mode of production in a traditional Asian setting which, moreover, may be used as a basis for our comprehension of the relations in the Asiatic mode of production. The Asiatic mode of production, if we can sum¬ marize this briefly, is not an exceptional case; on the contrary, it contains many of the beginnings of the further development of political society. The society of the Asiatic mode of production contains in germ the division of labor in capitalist society. We further conclude that if any historical course is to be considered exceptional it is the European, and not only because it comprised within itself the excrescences of capitalist production to which Marx devoted many passages in his writings. The European Middle Ages in particular presents many an unsolved problem. There was, to begin with, a highly developed opposition between town and countryside in Europe at that time, based upon a peculiar kind of reciprocal exploitation: “If the countryside in the Middle Ages exploited the town politically wherever feudalism was not broken by exceptional urban development, as in Italy, the town exploited the countryside everywhere and without exception through its monopoly prices, its tax system, its guild system, its direct mercenary deceit and its usury.”45 The reversal of the expected relation drawn by Marx between the ex¬ ploitation by the town and by the land in the feudal mode of production is not to be found in the Asiatic; in the latter, the town exploited the countryside both politically and economically. The forms of this ex¬ ploitation are difficult to detect if viewed with European eyes, for the urban economic relations were not highly developed, handicraft pro¬ duction and craftsmen’s skills predominated in production, with little manufacturing; the central organ of the State treasury was far more highly developed than any comparable institution in Europe at that time. The Asiatic mode of production is characterized by features that are shared by both advanced and nonadvanced societies; the question of the separation of city and countryside in the context of the Asiatic mode of production is an important part of this problem. Marx wrote in Capital: 41 Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations, op. cit., p. 127. 45 Marx, Kapital, op. cit., vol. Ill, p. 809.


Marx on Phear and Maine “The foundation of all developed division of labor (in society: L.K.) that is mediated by commodity exchange is the separation of city and countryside”, adding, “that the entire economic history of society can be summed up in the movement of this opposition.”46 In the dialectic of city and countryside, the Asiatic mode of production can only be placed along a path that is near the beginning, in comparison with the capitalist or even with the high point of development of the classical or the ultimate phase of the feudal modes of production. The Asiatic mode of production indeed had commodity exchange, but it did not have a well-developed division of social labor nor a well-developed opposition of city and countryside. In Marx’s formulation, once he had freed himself from the stricture of Bernier’s viewpoint, the opposition of town and land in the Asiatic mode of production was recognized as being present, but in a low degree as compared with contemporary Europe; Phear’s evidence supported his subsequent conclusion. Phear points to an in¬ dependent life in the cities of India, where the wealthy and enterprising zamindars have established themselves. They are seldom found in the countryside, the Mofussil(or Mafassal), which term means the subordinate, as opposed to the city, or the principal.47 These town zamindars, although they are of the wealthier sort, and are reputed to be more enterprising than the Mofussil zamindars, have not established business enterprises, and have not been associated with capital formation, the wealth still derived from the traditional production of the countryside, whereat the learned zamindar blamed this lack of enterprise upon the ryots.48 Phear himself referred the backwardness of the Bengal land system and hence of the economy and society of the country, the rest of India being little different from Bengal in this regard, to the system of sub-infeudation and subdivision of joint-interests of families, accompanied by severalty of right. He deduced from this the complexity of landed interests, whereby no one had an interest to make improvements in the land.49 Phear had written that, in the East, the people practically govern themselves, which relates on the one side to the economic independence of the village, its self-sustaining ability, which Marx had already noted in the articles written for the New-York Daily Tribune and in the Grundrisse. On the other side, the self-government of the village is an idea expressed in the seventeenth century by Jean Chardin; it pertains to the great dis48 Marx, Kapital I (MEW 23, p. 373). 47 See above, ch. II, notes 4, 16; ch. Ill, n. 43.

Phear, op. cit., pp. 68f. Ethnological Note¬

books, p. 257. 48 See the excerpt made by Phear from the zamindar, Babu Peary Chund Mookerjee, op. cit., pp. 65-67. Ethnological Notebooks, p. 257. 49 Phear, op. cit., pp. 154f. Ethnological Notebooks, p. 264.


Marx on Phear and Maine tance between the central government and the villages, to the low degree of admixture between the sovereign power and the villages in India and Persia. This idea was later expressed by the British administrators of India, Wilks, Metcalf, Elphinstone and Campbell as the village-republic, which Marx then found to be apposite, alluding to it more than once.50 The land tenure system of Ceylon was generally assimilated by Phear to that of Bengal; but his description of the former led him to an obser¬ vation of the introduction of money into the local economy by another means than that of the money-lender. Phear remarked that there was virtually no money in circulation, which is again traced back to the selfsufficiency of the Ceylonese village in its own consumption.51 Never¬ theless, there came into existence in Phear’s time (1870s) a class of agricultural laborers, for Ceylonese, who had acquired wealth by another means than through agriculture, found themselves able to obtain the labor of the poorer village proprietors for daily money wages, and in this way to ‘farm’ their lands extensively in the English sense of the term.52 Above we have seen that, according to the data from the Bengal delta, the agricultural labor was made up of cultivators, many of them proprietors, and the male members of their families; Phear’s descriptions of Ceylon and Bengal run parallel in this matter, with this difference: the earnings in the case of Ceylon were paid in kind; there appears to have been more money in circulation in Bengal in Phear’s time. Phear touched upon the problem of who was the proprietor of the village lands in Ceylon, and arrived at a variant of the theory of Bernier, James Mill and John Stuart Mill: The territorial head is the successor of the primitive chieftain; the territorial head “in the modern days” was the “proprietor of the village.” Phear drew the further consequences that the succession can pass to the English crown, a religious foundation or a private Singhalese. The principal share of the village produce belongs to this head or his successor, the other cultivators, shareholders, make some contribution to that person of rent in kind or in service; and this contribution of produce in kind corresponds to the ryot tenure in Bengal, the tenure of land by contribution of service of some sort corresponds to labor rent, lakhiraj tenure, in Bengal. Phear commented that the ryot tenures, or contribution in kind was the prevalent form of holding in Bengal, the contribution of service, called nilakariya was the more prevalent in Ceylon.53 Marx held the territorial head ‘in these modern

s0 51 51 58

See above, ch. Phear, op. cit., Phear, op. cit., Phear, op. cit.,

I B. pp. 193-195. Ethnological Notebooks, p. 276. p. 20of. Ethnological Notebooks, p. 277. pp. 182ft.


Marx on Phear and Maine days’ to be falsely the proprietor of the village; hence the right of succession by the English crown would also fall. With this would also fall the theory of Bernier and James Mill. Marx further concluded that the Ceylonese form of tenure by contribution of service was the more primitive one, for the head of the village or village chief was no landlord, he had no ‘rent’ to draw off; he was compensated by services.54 Marx’s argument is too condensed, being a note to himself, for elsewhere tenure by contribution of services by the holder is a form of rent, in feudal Europe, in the ancient Near East, in Byzantium, China. None of these systems were more primitive than the Ceylonese. It is not the form in which the contribution by the cultivator was made, through which he was quit of his due; rather, in the case of the Ceylonese tenures it was the person or character of the village chief, who was no landlord and thus had no rent to collect. The entire argument from sovereignty of the landowner, or of landowner as sovereign is a questionable one, and was used by various European colonizing powers to defend other¬ wise specious claims to the land that they held by armed might. Marx criticized Maine on a point related to this. Maine held that property of land has a twofold origin, partly from the disengagement of individual rights from the collective rights of the family or tribe; partly from the transmutation of the sovereignty of the tribal chief.55 Marx proposed on the contrary that there was not a twofold but a single origin in two ramifications of the same source, which is the tribal property and the tribal collective body, which includes the chief.56 The chief evolved his position in relation to property in land along with the other members of the collectivity, he had no special status at the beginning of the process. There was no basis for assigning to him the right to the collective land or proprietorship over it any more in Maine’s case, which arose in Irish history, than in Phear’s, which arose in Ceylon. Marx separated sov¬ ereignty from landownership in both instances. The concrete formulation in the case of Maine is that the disengagement of individual rights from the collectivity and the growth of sovereignty of the chief, the dismem¬ berment of the tribe and the transformation of its collectivity into a political body are related, contemporary, interactive processes, each contributing to the development of the other. Like many of those who went out to India from England before him, particularly those with a scholarly inclination, Phear tried his hand at a reconstruction of the past history of the land system of India by an in-

51 Ethnological Notebooks, pp. 273^ 65 Maine, Early History of Institutions, p. 120. See in this chapter, section C. “ Ethnological Notebooks, p. 292.

Marx on Phear and Maine terpretation of the law code of Manu. He began with a distinction between property in the modern sense and property in the ancient Indian sense. In ancient India the individual plot was in the hands of the cultivator; the land itself belonged to the village. There was no private property, no buying and selling in Manu. According to the Mitakshara, a later text, the usufruct of the land by actual tillage on the basis of a right of partnership in the village cultivating community constituted the object to which the word “ownership” was connected. The object owned was the produce of the land, and not the land itself.57 I suppose that these old India hands tried their skill at translating Manu, just as the western scholars and country vicars of that day would have a try at translating Homer, with the same percentage of successes.

Phear on Land Tenure Practices Phear provides the most detailed description of village land tenure practices in Bengal excerpted by Marx; yet despite Phear’s prominence as high judge in Bengal and Ceylon, despite the extensive detail of his book, he appears not to have been mentioned by others who wrote on the Indian village holdings at that time. He attached himself to Maine’s thesis regarding the joint family system,58 and in a more general way to historical jurisprudence. Negatively, Phear makes the points that Manu nowhere mentions “land as a subject of property in the modern English sense;”59 he carefully distinguished between the Zillah district in India and the English county,60 and he rejected the analogy between the zamindar and the English landlord.61 Aside from his allusion to the feudal term for India, he appears to have been as rigorous in describing the village system in India within its own terms of reference as he could be; Marx’s attack on Phear for the feudal characterization is important for the understanding of Marx’s viewpoint, not that of Phear. Regarding the distinction between property and possession, Phear devoted a section of his chapter on Bengal to the land system,62 and a part of his chapter on Ceylon to the same topic.63 As to Bengal, we have seen, the zamindar is the “superior lord”, the ryots are “subjects”.

57 Phear, op. cit., pp. 259ft. Ethnological Notebooks, pp. 282f. 68 Ethnological Notebooks, p. 257. 59 Ibid., p. 282.


Ibid., p. 261.

61 Ibid., p. 256. Thereby Cornwallis was refuted again. 02 Phear, pp. 48 et seq. The following description is found in these pages. See Ethnological Notebooks, pp. 253-257. 92 Phear, pp. 180 et seq.

Marx on Phear and Maine The village lands are carefully circumscribed, and the different parts are permanently classified: salt - land wholly submerged during the rains; suna - land not submerged; nadki - land for which rent is paid in cash; bhaoli - land for which rent is paid in kind or in cash; bhiti - house-site land; khudkasht - land which the residents of the village cultivate; pahikasht - land which outsiders may cultivate. The village in the nineteenth century is the unit of rent collection according to a recognized rate falling on the different classes of land, and according to the amount of each class. The ryot pays into the sum due from the entire village according to the amount of land in each clas¬ sification that he actually tills. The ryots maintain their holdings in the different classifications, including the lands which they hold as fallow for a year, also the open lands of the village, by custom. The ryot is bound to the soil, writes Phear, “both by habit and feeling.” He describes the village headman as the “mouthpiece and representative of the ryots” in all matters between them and the zamindar or his officers, but is a cultivator himself, and not the wealthiest in the village. His office is theoretically elective, but in fact is almost invariably passed from father to son, and hence hereditary on the same ground that all employments in India are hereditary. He must be literate enough to be able to master the zamindari accounts and the customary rights of the ryots; he receives no direct emolument, but the villagers help him gratuitously in his cultiva¬ tion, and he often pays a lower rate of rent than the other ryots. Prior to the Bengal settlement of 1793, the zamindar was only a tax collector, not a landlord, and his money proceeds were not referred to as rent, but as jamas (collections) from the villages included in his charge. Other than these men, there were no tax gatherers in India, “save those recently introduced”.64 Prior to the legislation of 1793, the ryot tenures were “regulated by usage, the arbitrament of the village panchayat”,66 and the zamindari amla.66 This system was changed after 1793 in Bengal, such that the zamindars came to be private proprietors of the entire village lands, including the housesites and market grounds, from which the zamindar now collected rents.67 Prior to the institution in force during the nineteenth century in Bengal, writes Phear in a speculative summary at the end of his book, “The proprietary conception went no further than this namely, that the

“ Phear, p. 126. Ethnological Notebooks, pp. 26if. •5 The village court, theoretically composed of five men, more generally, of “the mandal and a few of the elder men.” (Phear, p. 59). se Ibid., pp. i42f. Ethnological Notebooks, pp. 262f. •’ Phear, pp. 28fi, i42fi, i47f. Ethnological Notebooks, pp. 249, 263.


Marx on Phear and Maine particular plot of land which the family or the individual claimed was the part of the village land, which he or it was entitled to cultivate, or to have cultivated for his own benefit.”68 The share of the chief was regulated by custom, he had only the right to cultivate or to depute “that right to another in consideration of a share in the produce”, a share that was in turn customarily fixed. The chief, continued Phear, was zamindar of all the lands in the village or villages for whose rent collections he was responsible; these constituted his zamindari. He held in his private capacity only those lands which fell to his personal share, over which he was the landlord, from the cultivation of which he extracted his share fixed by custom. These private lands were nij lands and were different from the village lands. The zamindar under this system ruled through his officers, who shared the local authority with the panchayat.69 The distinction between the traditional Indian practices and those of the nineteenth century is clearly set forth by Phear. The evolution of the zamindari from the primordial chiefdom and of the chief into a zamindar is a speculative account; but the idea of property as opposed to possession is seen to be a European importation. Land rights had other meanings in India, and were assigned by custom. The holdings are based on prescription, long term, continuous settlement. This is the system developed by Savigny, which Maine followed; Maine, as we have seen, was in turn followed by Kovalevsky and by Phear. (We will not go further into the questions whether the terms ‘right’ and ‘prescription’ are applicable.70 It is enough that the general question of applicability of European concepts is raised.) That nij lands are distinguished from village lands is not the crucial point, which is rather that the zamindar was, according to Phear, the tax gatherer; the village dues passed through his hands to his superior lord, and eventually into the treasury of the State. If he held lands in his private capacity that is a matter apart from his position as tax gatherer. Next, the distinction between rent and tax in the traditional Indian system is drawn by Phear, thus he opposed the system of Bernier, A. Smith, James Mill. This part of Phear’s work is not based on direct observation, but on the reconstructions of the ancient

98 Phear, p. 241. Ethnological Notebooks, p. 281. 69 Phear, pp. 255-258. Ethnological Notebooks, p. 282. 70 It is difficult to decide what weight to assign to Savigny’s system of possession. E.Landsberg, R. Stintzing, Geschichte der deutschen Rechtswissenschaft, vol. Ill, pt. 2, p. 196, has called this work a Zwischenspiel, intermezzo. It was heavily relied upon by Sir Henry Maine, Ancient Law. C. J. Friedrich, The Philosophy of Law in Historical Perspective, Chicago, 1963, p. 139, has called Savigny’s work on


“in many ways the most extraordinary juristic work in German.”

What construction one is to put on “extraordinary” I cannot tell.

It may be extraordinary

in view of the youth of its author, then 24 years old.


Marx on Phear and Maine system made by him. It is therefore not a datum of ethnography, but of the history of an idea.71 It is relevant to our purpose, because Marx set it down, and did not separate himself from this conception; on the contrary, he noted it down at length, underscored it heavily, and drew marginal lines along the passages in which these points are set forth. We see that the system of both restrictive practices of land tenure and letting of village lands to strangers was described by Phear in Bengal. In the preceding century this point had been raised in regard to Coromandel by Muttu Krishna and A. Dalrymple. The village, con¬ ceived as a little republic, which Marx read from Wilks, Campbell and others is also seen in Phear’s description, but in a more qualified way: there were always the officers of the zamindar about. The village headman was the intermediary between the villagers and the agencies of the State; the village was the unit of tax collection, later of rent collection.


The preparation of Maine, like that of Phear and Kovalevsky for the study of India, was in the law; the leader of the English school of historical jurisprudence, Maine attacked the anti-historical school of analytical jurisprudence of Jeremy Bentham and John Austin, also the Utilitarian doctrine. Maine thus set himself against not only Bentham and Austin, but also against James and John Stuart Mill. The legal method that he thereby opposed sought to establish the law by appeal to the principle of the greatest good, a self-evident truth abstracted from society and history. Maine sought to reintroduce both society (in part, at least the moral element) and history. He leaned on the German researches of Maurer for the historical part, and he had at once a depend¬ ent and antithetical relation to Savigny. Lawyers practiced in the common law ordinarily deal with history as a counter-current, going back into history in search of precedents, and do not seek to go forward from a fixed point, such as a text in Justinian’s Institutes or the Code of Manu and the glossators who wrote on those texts. This is a third relation to history that is found neither in Austin nor in Maine.72 71

Ethnological Notebooks, p. 281. The same weakness, found in Maine, will be taken up in the

next section. 71 On the different approaches to time, history and law, see Karl Llewellyn, Prajudigienrecht und Rechtsprechung in Amerika.

Friedrich, The Philosophy of Law op. cit., App. II, pp. 26iff.

Llewellyn, Pt. I, has pointed out that in America, or in the common law, cases are decided by precedent, but without system. Friedrich protested against this, holding that the law is not without system; by implication he upheld Llewellyn’s point about precedent, which is the


Marx on Phear and Maine In his search for the fixed points of the law, Maine established a distinction between two kinds of society, the progressive and the un¬ progressive. The fixed points, such as the codes mentioned above, are therefore invoked in the interest of a theory of social evolution, and provide a means for its confirmation: The progressive societies have moved from status to contract, the unprogressive ones have not. By status Maine meant the relations of the individual in the family, and his constraint by and within those relations: the power of the father over the son and of the husband over the wife. In the ancient Roman law the slave, farnul or famel, was a member of the family, and came under the dominion of the master; the power of the father over the son was a different relation from that of the dominion over the slave and again from the relation of the husband to the wife who came under his hand. All these relations had been changed from Roman times to Maine’s, and the change was denoted by him as progress. The freedom of the in¬ dividual from these status relations have enabled him to engage in contracts as a free party; the slave who is constrained by his status is replaced by the servant who contracts freely with his master.73 But Barthold Niebuhr in the foregoing generation had brought out the work search into the past for a rule as a guide to present behavior. Llewellyn held that rules arise out of law precedents and to this extent he was a formalist, without system, as opposed to Friedrich and Hans Kelsen; the latter sought for the unity of legal form as a neo-Kantian. Frederick Pollock. An Introduction to the History of the Science of Politics, p. hi, wrote that Austin “absolutely ignored history”. This is true, but perhaps Austin’s ignorance was a conscious choice, and not a defect in his learning. A. R. Radcliffe-Brown, the late leader of the school of structuralism in English social anthropology, advanced a theory of society that was partly derived from Austin’s theory of jurisprudence; it likewise consciously ignored history. The structuralist approach to the study of social institutions, which Austin and RadcliffeBrown represented, held to be a virtue that which Pollock, a representative of the historical school, held to be a vice. The appeal to time, to chronology, and thereby to history is but one side of the relation that Kelsen, Llewellyn and Friedrich proposed. All these legal thinkers sought to propound a formalism that took in the factor of time in social affairs, dealing solely with positive law. But positive law stands opposed to natural law, or the law of reason: “So in human laws, there be many grounds and maxims which are placita juris, positive upon authority, and not upon reason, and therefore not to be disputed.” (Francis Bacon, The Advancement of Learning, Book II, ch. 25, 5.) It is past authority and not past time that we are talking about. ,s Sir Henry Sumner Maine. Ancient Law, 1861. Ch. V, end. Three later works further developed the theses first put forth by him in 1861: Village Communities, Early History of Institutions, and Dissertations on Early Law and Custom.

Maine’s Lectures on the Early History of Institutions, which Marx excerpted, consists of thirteen lectures or chapters; the first five deal with the sources of Irish law, kinship, the tribe and tribal land, the chief and his order. Lecture VI deals with the chief and the land; Lecture VEt deals with the family; Lecture VIII with primitive ideas; Lectures IX and X with legal remedies; Lecture XI with settled property of married women; Lectures XII and XIII with sovereignty. (.Ethnological Notebooks, op. cit., pp. 287-536).


Marx on Phear and Maine of Gaius which gave evidence that the ancient Romans were themselves conscious of the particularity of their form of the power of the father over the son, which went as far as the right of life and death, ius vitae ne risque.14 The village community was related on the one side to the housecommunity of the South Slavs, by Maine, on the other to the joint or undivided family in India ruled by the patriarch. He derived the civilized society, the political society, the State, the legal institutions of political society and the State, the sovereignty and the power of the sovereign, from the patriarchal family in its joint or undivided form: the patriarch becomes the chief who becomes the sovereign. He fought off the theory of the mother-right, or the primordial form of the matriarchate, the form of the family in which the mother had the center of the power, in the interest of his defence of the patriarchate as the primordial form of the family. Ultimately he came to the conclusion that we cannot decide whether the matriarchate or the patriarchate was the original form of the family: “... the two groups co-existed from all time, and were always distinct from one another,”75 Maine traced the history of theories of landownership in India as they were held by British administrators: at first the English were distributed into two great schools: the partisans of the theory that the soil belongs to the peasantry either as individuals or as organized in groups; and the partisans of the theory that ownership ought to be, and but for British influence would be, everywhere in India vested in some sort of native aristocracy, but that the first point at issue was obscured by Lord Cornwallis. “The ... public servants of that day have left... on record ... an opinion that no ownership of Indian land was discoverable, except that of the village communities, subject to the dominion of the State.”76 We conclude from this: 1. The idea of the sovereign as the owner of the land in his realm had no longer a place in the theories of British administration in India. 2. The theories that were expressed were practically applied; they were more than theories.

74 Gaius. Institutes. The historian Barthold G. Niebuhr came upon the manuscript of Gaius in 1816, and was the first to publish it. 75 Maine, Early Earn and Custom, op. cit., p. 287. Here he attacked L. H. Morgan, J. F. McLennan and, by implication, J. J. Bachofen, the author of Das Mutterrecht, 1861. This is an example of explanation by the method of ignotus per ignotum, the unknown by the unknown: Maine is moved to wonder at the complexities of L. H. Morgan’s system of kinship attributed to the tribes in the state of savagery. He could not believe that the ‘prodigious mental effort’ required to follow Morgan lay within the mental grasp of savages. 76 Maine, Village Communities, op. cit., pp. 152-154.


Marx on Phear and Maine 3. Maine supported the theory that the village community was the owner of the land that its members cultivated. 4. The State held dominion over the whole land, a doctrine which gave the British the right to enter into the question of landownership, supporting the village side of the case, in Maine’s instance, together with that of Campbell. The difficulties that they encountered have been recorded above. 5. The occupancy of the land by the individual cultivator was dis¬ tinguished by Maine from the question of landownership. The distinction between occupancy and ownership by Maine runs parallel to the distinction made by Marx between possession and owner¬ ship or proprietorship of the land. Maine did not specify what period he had in mind, although he wrote historically. Marx, whose distinc¬ tions were made in the Grundrisse provisionally, as a subject to which he would return, had in mind an abstraction from the practice, a theoretical foundation for the landownership in the Asiatic mode of production. Work on the Vedic Age, which remains an abstraction itself, has since moved in no particular direction, for there have been writers in the 1950s and 1960s who advocated communal and private ownership in the most ancient periods of Indian history.77 Maine did away with the notion of the sovereign as the great landowner by alluding to dominion of the State, a category which, vague as it is, could include the relations to the soil within their realms by the European sovereignties. Maine did not here advance his theory of the confluence of the joint family and the village community. In his work, Village Communities, the family, in the form of the patriarchal family, “... is generally found as the unit of a larger natural group, the village-community.” His generic argument is that the village-community has the “aspect of a group of families united by the assumption of common kinship”, it is at the same time a “company of persons exercising joint ownership over land.”78 This idea was later 77 See above, ch. I C. Little is directly known of the Vedic Age, which refers to the time, perhaps in the second millennium B.C., when the speakers of a language related to Ancient Sanskrit formulated their traditions about their homeland, the cosmos, their religious and philosophical speculations in a series of poems called Vedas. The term itself is related to German wissen, English wit, Russian vedet’, all forms with closely related meanings, and indicating language affinities. The Vedic peoples moved south into India, perhaps from Central Asia, and later set down in writing the Vedas which had hitherto been orally transmitted. The language of the Vedas no longer corresponded to the spoken tongue of the people at the time of the transcription, and the debate still continues about the use of the Vedas for interpreting the social and historical past of the peoples of India. See Majumdar, Vedic Age, op. cit., Kosambi, Culture and Civilisation of Ancient India, op. cit. 78 Maine, Village Communities, op. cit. Patriarchal family, p. 18; village community, p. 12.


Marx on Phear and Maine developed by Maine into the theory of the joint individual family, or alternatively, the joint family, which he likened to the agnatic group of the Romans and to the house community of the South Slavs.79 Maine assumed that the Indo-European speaking peoples had a common historical origin, and that therefore he could move freely from one historical tradition to another. The Germanic speakers, the Indie, Latin, Slavic all had identical institutions which could be substituted, one for the other. The village communities of early English (Germanic) history and of Indie history were one and the same; the house community of the South Slavs and the joint family of India were the same. The relation of the joint family and the village community in English history was explained thus: .. Uffington, Gillingham and Tooting were in all probability English village communities originally settled by the Uffingas, Gillingas, and Totingas, three Teutonic joint families.”80 It is difficult to know what to make of this. Did the joint family of the Uffingas form the village community of Uffington by settling down in the place that came to bear that name? Do place-names ending in -ton indicate the origin of a village community settled by a joint family? Were the name-bearers, Uffingas, a joint family originally? Each of these questions implies an affirmative answer which is blocked out by further assumptions: that the -ton and the -ham were endings of terms which in their composition designated a village community. But how do we move from one ending to the other? Were the land relations the same in places whose names end in -ton as in those with names ending in -ham} Maine and Freeman, on whose authority he drew,81 were able to make these assumptions; they were followed by Vinogradoff and Kovalevsky. Maine then generalized these to embrace the Slavic, Indie, Roman antiquities in one system. The unproved assumptions, some of which were controverted at that time, the movement from one historical tradition to another, the identification of race, language and historical tradition by Maine make much of his work appear to be a weak vessel, a matter of historical curiosity a century later. He was not abreast of researches into Roman law, systems of consanguinity or etymology which were brought out at the time of his own writings, and were relevant to them. 7* Maine, Early History of Institutions, op. cit., p. 7. See his Early Law and Custom, op. cit., pp. 240b 80 Maine, Early History of Institutions, pp. 82f. 81 E. A. Freeman. The History of the Norman Conquest of England. On the basis of knowledge then current the identification of hams and tuns or towns was questioned. See W. W. Skeat, Principles of English Etymology, 1887, p. 496. Skeat explains ham as (English) home (German cognate Heim), tun as (English) town (German cognate Zaun). 246

Marx on Phear and Maine Maine was well received in the social sciences of his day, and was taken up by the legal history of Paul Vinogradoff, F. W. Maitland and F. Pollock; his influence in the study of India has been noted in con¬ nection with Cowell, Elphinstone’s editor, and Phear. The attention Maine drew to the theory of social progress, status and contract, the joint family and community had a powerful effect on Ferdinand Tonnies in his work on Gemeinschaft und GesellschaftM Marx made note of Maine’s distinction between status and contract in a positive way.83 Vinogradoff, one of Maine’s chief followers, summed up the master’s teaching and divided it into two periods, the first reflecting Maine’s time at Oxford University, and culminating in the work on Ancient Lau>, which was founded on his study of the legal system of Rome, the second reflected in his three later books mentioned above, which are in Vinogradoff’s opinion, Maine’s principal contributions to jurisprudence, written after his return from India.84 Tonnies prized Maine for his knowledge of India, Vinogradoff for the manner in which he brought together the antiquities of the Indie, Slavic, Celtic, Roman, Germanic, in sum, the Indo-European peoples. Since Maine wrote, the work of Girard, Buckland, Jolowicz and Kaser have made the relation of the law of nature and the law of nations clearer, perhaps, than it had been to Maine and his contemporaries; since that development took place after his time, we cannot charge him with this error, although we now know that his argument, according to which ius naturale is held to be a mere aspect of the law of nations is erroneous.85 We can properly charge him with having failed to take into account the ancient Roman legal authority Gaius, who recognized that the power of the father over the son in Rome was an extreme case not generally found among other peoples known to him. Maine, had he applied his own method with greater accuracy, would then have seen that the Roman model of the family was a poor one for his theory of status, for it was incapable of generalization according to the Roman evidence, or at least one of its principal sources.

” Ferdinand Tonnies, Gemeinschaft und Gesellscbaft, made use of Maine’s Village Communities for the data on the village community in India and the list of occupations, likewise for the role of the stranger in the Indian village, who was the grain-dealer (= Phear’s money-dealer). Tonnies, I, §17; II, §42. Tonnies cited Maine’s Ancient Law in regard to progress from status to contract (III, §8) and in regard to the law of nations, ius gentium (III, §16). •* Ethnological Notebooks, pp. 299F 84 Vinogradoff. Outlines of Historical furisprudence, vol. I, p. 139. 86 Maine, Ancient Law, op. cit., pp. 3of. On Girard, see above, note 1 of this chapter. Cf. Buckland, Roman Law of Slavery, op. cit. Yet long before Maine, Bacon was clear on the difference between natural law and positive law, the latter including the law of nations.


Marx on Phear and Maine More important is the consideration that Maine saw no further than the family as the source and origin of status, and reduced all social rela¬ tions, other than those introduced by contract, to family relations. Phear, who associated himself with Maine’s doctrine, derived the relations of social rank and economic employment in the Bengal village from the family, which is untenable. Maine sought the bridge between the family and society, as overall categories, in the joint or undivided family, or the family-village-community, an argument which was contested by Indian researches in the nineteenth century, as we have seen. The argument puzzled likewise one who sympathized with Maine’s work and intro¬ duced it to a later generation; J. H. Morgan, his editor, summed up the progressive movement of Maine’s theory, from family to individual ownership, or from status to contract, but he could not follow Maine in the sense that ‘there was communal ownership by a whole village’.86 Thereby, the entire middle ground between family and society is ex¬ cluded; the family, including its larger forms, the Joint Family composed of the parents, the heirs actual and potential, the families of the heirs, the further descendants who retain a right of residence within the family which procreated them - all form a community of sorts, together with the collateral additions, dependents or clients, bondmen and women, and the like. But they do not form a village community in the generally accepted meaning established by the ethnographic accounts or ethnolog¬ ical theories; and this gap in the structure is what J. H. Morgan ob¬ jected to. The family, joint family, etc., owned land in common, worked it in common and used, enjoyed its produce in common, consumed it in common or used and enjoyed the proceeds of exchange or sale of the product in common; the unit of production and consumption are the same in the case of the various forms of the family. The village, given that it has a distinct nucleated form, or that it traces a geometric figure, does not form originally and generically the unit of production and consumption; there is a category of village that owns the land its members cultivate, but the evidence points away from the ancestral form of this village as being the root from which all the modern villages branch in India. The gap in Maine’s thesis follows from his having gambled too much on the originality, purity, reliability, univocality and continuity of the joint family, his source material, which in his idea would retain a homogeneous significance through the most heterogeneous vicissitudes of historical accident. An important part of his argument rests on the continuity of meaning of Roman patria potestas as the primeval power of the father, the patriarch. Since Maine’s day the comparative semantic '• J. H. Morgan, Introd., p. xi, to Maine, Ancient Law, op. cit.

Marx on Phear and Maine studies have tended to loosen rather than tighten the bond between the name of a social institution, or a physical object, and the object denoted. Moreover, the different historical developments have variable and not identical relations to the past. The past itself is not unitary but variable from one people to the next, even in relation to a fixed point shared by them such as a reconstructed etymology or a corresponding institution. Marx chose for excerption and annotation Maine’s Lectures on the Early History of Institutions, one of a series of books written by Maine after his service in India; Inis Lectures dealt chiefly with the comparison of the ancient Celtic, Indie, Roman, Germanic and Slavic legal in¬ stitutions. What gave point to his Lectures had been the recent publica¬ tion of two medieval Irish law codes, the Senchus Mor and the Book of Aicill. Elsewhere we have dealt with the significance of Marx’s excerpts and Maine’s work as a whole;87 here we will confine our remarks to Marx’s comments on Maine’s Indian materials, in relation to other Indian materials that Marx worked on. Maine provided a scale of evolution of the institutions of landownership: the simplest and earliest was the joint family of India, followed by the house community of the South Slavs, then by the village community ‘first in Russia, next in India’.88 We observe that he proceeds from an argument based on a typology, in which the joint family is the representative of a type in which the Roman agnatic group also takes its place, to specifications of time and place. Marx observed that Maine’s ‘first’ and ‘next’ pertains not to the order of the events, but to the order in which Maine learned about them. The order introduced by Maine is gratuitous, and his political opponent on the right, Baden-Powell, also disagreed with it.89 The substance of Marx’s view of Maine’s theory is that it proceeds simply from the family to the village community. At first, Maine wrote, it is the bond of kinship that unites the group that works its land; the bond of kinship grows weaker over time, until at the end the ‘Indian village community is a body of men held together by the land which they occupy’. This change is part of the process which will lead in but a few more steps to ‘landed property in the full English sense’ in India; the English law, Maine proposed, ‘is actually hastening’ this changeover.90 It is the attitude expressed here and in H. M. Elliot that provoked the denunciations by Marx and by the later Indian historians of India:

87 Ethnological Notebooks, Introduction. 88 Maine, Early History of Institutions, p. 78. 88 Ethnological Notebooks, p. 289. On Baden-Poweli, see above, ch. I C. 80 Maine, op. cit., p. 82. 249

Marx on Phear and Maine India has yet to attain the stage of civilization long achieved and sur¬ passed by the English. Moreover, Maine began his historical account of the land question with the family and ended with its dissolution in the Indian village com¬ munity. He introduced as an element of the evolution of landed property the transition from the bond of kinship to the bond of territory. But meanwhile, Marx had studied L. H. Morgan’s theory of the gens as the intervening social institution in the evolution from the social to the civil plan, i.e., from primitive to political society.91 Herbert Spencer, basing his views on the writings of Sir Henry Maine, held that the family was in decline, that its evolution led to its dis¬ integration. Both Maine and Spencer had the family in mind that they observed in England; Spencer wrote, “The unit of an ancient society was the Family, of a modern society the Individual.”92 Maine regarded the ancient society as a simple agglomeration of families of the patri¬ archal type, and in this he was followed by Spencer and by Phear. Marx’s opposition to this view has already been recorded. The contribu¬ tion made by L. H. Morgan to this question separated the evolution of the family from the evolution of society; Morgan did not regard the ancient society as an agglomeration of families. His category, ancient society, referred to the period of barbarism at least in part, but the unit of society during that period was not the family but the gens. The gens was understood by Morgan as a unit of kin that traced its descent from an ancestor in the male line which all shared in common. The patriarchal family in ancient Rome or Greece was totally unlike the gens in this respect, being composed of members of different gentes. The gens in these ancient societies practiced marriage outside its limits, exogamic marriage in this sense was the rule. The wife came to her hus¬ band, therefore, from another gens. From this it follows that the gens was not a simple agglomeration of families, but the society was com¬ posed of gentes. Friedrich Engels understood this thrust of Morgan’s argument in the terms taken up by Marx; it followed, for this group of writers, that the unit of society, both ancient and modern, was not the family. We will point out that among those at work on the subject during

81 L. H. Morgan. Ancient Society. Ethnological Notebooks, pp. 6-31, pp. 97-241. See Friedrich Engels, Der Ursprung der Familie, des Privateigentums und des Stoats, Vorwort zur 4ten Aufl., “Diese Wiederentdeckung der urspriinglichen mutterrechtlichen Gens als der Vorstufe der vaterrechtlichen Gens der Kulturvolker hat fur die Urgeschichte dieselbe Bedeutung, wie Darwins Entwicklungstheorie fur die Biologie und Marx’ Mehrwertstheorie fur die politischen Oekonomie.” 92 Herbert Spencer. Principles of Sociology, vol. I, p. 702. Maine is quoted by Spencer, but the source of the quotation appears to have been lost.


Marx on Phear and Maine the last third of the nineteenth century, Emile Durkheim also adhered to this view, although on other grounds, while M. M. Kovalevsky appealed now to Morgan’s viewpoint and now to Maine’s. The theory of the gens as advanced by Morgan played an even more important part in Marx’s thinking on social evolution than the reference to the family would indicate.93 The gens by its decline led to the for¬ mation of political society; Marx began to work out the system of the gens, the village community and the caste in the process of transforma¬ tion, but did not complete his work. Morgan’s theory makes no presuppositions pertaining to the decline of the family, it is free from this subjective value-judgment; again, Morgan did not measure the evolutionary movement of the family in other societies against the criteria of the English family, as Maine and Spencer had done. Morgan introduced the systems of consanguinity and affinity as distinct from the form of the family, together with the in¬ stitutions of government, the gens and property as distinct from both of these, bringing the whole into a simple materialist determinism: he caused the accumulation of property to have a central part in his theory of the formation of the State.94 Morgan’s approach to property was far more critical than was Maine’s. Maine’s theory of the evolution of property in land pointed to the English system as the ideal, toward which the Indian system would evolve with the help of the English legal in¬ stitutions and legislation. The English system had itself grown out of a past form which was still in evidence in India, that is, from the collective appropriation of portions of the tribal domain to individual households of tribesmen. This transition is made evident by the medieval texts of the Brehons, the men of law in Ireland of that time, the advisors to the Irish chiefs.95 Marx, however, questioned Maine’s end-result of the evolutionary process in society, as well as Maine’s starting-point. Marx agreed with Morgan that the beginning of the process which led to the institutions of civilized society lay not in the family but in the gens.96 Marx agreed with Morgan further in holding that “The time will come, nevertheless, when human intelligence will rise to the mastery over prop¬ erty... A mere property career is not the final destiny of mankind.”97 Mankind will not end with private property, as Maine proposed. 93 See Krader, Etbnologie und Anthropologie bei Marx, op. cit., pp. 19 et seq. 94 L. H. Morgan, op. cit., Part IV, Growth of the Idea of Property. On Marx’s comparison of Morgan’s theory with that of Maine, see Ethnological Notebooks, p. 289. 95 Maine, op. cit., p. 89. Ethnological Notebooks, loc. cit. 94 Ethnological Notebooks, p. 291. 97 Ethnological Notebooks, p. 139. See Morgan, Ancient Society, ed., p. 561. See also Engels, Origin of the Family, op. cit. (MEW 21, p. 172).


Marx on Phear and Maine Marx questioned not only the beginning and the end of the process of social evolution as he found it in Maine, but also Maine’s depiction of its middle course: Maine proceeds not from the gens (Maine could not have done so, for Morgan’s book appeared two years later) but from the patriarch who later becomes the chief. Since this argument by Maine rests again on the simple progression from head of the family to head of the people or tribe, Marx found this utterly opposed to his own view. Marx then continued: “Maine’s nonsense reaches a peak in the sentence: “Thus all the branches of human society may or may not have developed from joint families [where he has the present Hindu form of the latter in view, this has a very secondary character and therefore also - reigns outside village communities, particularly in the cities!] which arose out of an original patriarchal cell; but, wherever the joint family is an institution of the Aryan race (!), we (who?) see it springing from such a cell, and when it dissolves, we see it dissolving into a number of such cells.”98 Marx developed the argument that the city and the countryside were separated in India, the joint family being enthroned in the city, as Phear had shown (see preceding section). The non-separation of town and land in India had been the thesis of Bernier, or the capital city as a glorified, comfortable armed camp, which Marx had taken over in 1853 uncritically.99 Earlier, Adam Smith had introduced a formulation of the opposition of town and countryside, whereby the laborer in the country had a higher social rank and wage in the Orient. Marx at first disagreed in the matter of the separation and opposition, setting the matter of relative rank and wage aside. He later came to agree with Smith, and not with Bernier, in regard to the opposition between town and land in Asia, on the basis of data which he found in Phear and Maine. From this it follows that a possible difference between all the modes of production found in the history of Europe and of Asia, between the history, that is, of class-divided society, is eliminated. The opposition between the composition of the village communities and the cities in India is such that the joint family is enthroned in the cities. It is a matter of wealth, whereby the joint family system sustains and is sustained by the wealthier class in Calcutta or Delhi, the wealthier families being found in greater proportion in the cities than in the countryside, according to Phear.100 89 Maine, op. cit., p. 118. See Ethnological Notebooks, p. 292. 98 See above, ch. II A. 100 The argument of Maine was based on his observations of the joint, undivided family in the cities of India in his time. The wealthy families of Calcutta were able to maintain dozens or even scores of closely related kinsmen in a single household; he concluded that this form of


Marx on Phear and Maine Maine’s conception is that the joint family develops into the village community by imperceptible, simple steps. The entire history and geographic distribution of the system of kinship and land relations is homogeneous, save for accidents of natural derivation, or accidents of human history. Left undisturbed, the agglomeration of peasant numbers over the course of time would have transformed India, or at least Bengal, from a network of joint families into a network of village communities. Maine was not alone in this conception of rural history. As we have the family was a rural phenomenon, of ancient provenience. Both assumptions are gratuitous, speculative. (See above, preceding section of this chapter, note 36, where Phear’s evidence of the difference between the rural and the urban life in India, according to his observation, is given.) Taking this evidence of the joint, undivided family from his own observation in India, Maine then reconstructed the past. The joint, undivided family, patrilineal in its form of kinship and inheritance, patriarchal in its form of government, was taken as the earliest form of social organization in India, and as the earliest form of the social organization of the IndoEuropean peoples generally, by Maine. The observation that Maine made of family life in India is not called into question, it is the speculation that he entertained, whereby this form of the family was taken as a translation from the rural scene and then moved back into the prehistoric past of India that is called into question. As to the argument from there to the generalization of the entire Indo-European past, this is a further speculation, that the IndoEuropean cultural and historical unity is homogeneous and unbroken. Maine, taking the (speculative reconstruction in his own mind) of the Indo-European cultural unity as his starting point, then proceeded to the next step, the house-community of the South Slavs. Since they are also part of this Indo-European cultural unity, and since they have a social-economic institution, a small community of kinsmen related in the patriline, ruled by a patriarch, owning land in common and sharing a common economy, and since the unit is larger in number (as a rule) than is the joint family, he took this as the next stage in the evolution of the Indo-European social institutions. The next higher stage, according to Maine, is that of the village community; here the scene shifts back to India. With variations, this is the general theme of the development of the family, the village community and related institutions of consanguinity and economy which is found in the writings on cultural and social evolution of Friedrich Engels; M. M. Kovalevsky also may be mentioned in this connec¬ tion. The schools of historical jurisprudence in the different countries of Europe also devel¬ oped variations of this theme: in Germany, this was given expression by Rudolf Jhering, Geist des romischen Rechts.

The evolutionary figure was thereby constructed out of a twofold speculation. The first was the patching together of a social institution from one historical tradition, such as the family among the Indians, with a social institution from another, such as the house-community among South Slavs. These were projected back upon a common past which exists only as a fiction. There are subordinate moments in this speculative reconstruction, as we have seen: the urban and wealthy family in India is used as a model for the rural and poor families in that country, and the whole is projected back onto the prehistoric past. The second step in this twofold speculation was the projection of the figure derived for the cultural history of the Indo-Europeans onto the screen of humanity as a whole. Marx expressed his scepticism regarding the steps in the argument as propounded by Kovalevsky, Phear and Maine. The speculative and theoretical base of the cultural evolution of mankind should be reexamined critically. 253

Marx on Phear and Maine seen, Phear and Kovalevsky were of the same opinion,101 their method was the same, that is, they both started with the premiss of continuity and uniformity in history, and neither took up the thesis of a systemic, built-in discontinuity in history. Discontinuities are the result of accident, the unplanned, unaccounted for, the unaccountable for. Maine and Kovalevsky had the same approach to history on two levels: they both proposed that the homogeneous and continuous processes in history can be accounted for, and this they sought to do, by the simple agglomeration, accretion of numbers of people, of the amount of land cleared and tilled, the accumulation of generations, of distance over time from an initial, original, benchmark, such as the surveyors apply to identify an area or the boundary of a field. It is a datum, a given. This datum lies outside human hands, according to Maine and Kovalevsky; it is not a factum in the sense of Giambattisto Vico, something which human beings make and have under our control. It is a mythological datum that is outside our manipulation. It is part of the materials of society, out of which human history and its mythological representation emerges. The indicator of this implicit method is in part rhetorical: these writers make frequent use of such phrases as “in the course of time”, or “gradual transmutation”. This imperceptible process, however, is what is to be accounted for: The imperceptible process, the course of time, is not an answer to any question, it is the question itself: what is the process, the transmutation in time? Because of the homogeneity of history, these men argued, the Indo-European speaking peoples have a future that is likewise predictable; the ac¬ counting takes charge of the present achievement by some, which becomes the predictable future of those who have not yet arrived there. Behind this theory of history lies the philosophy of history of Aristotle, who propounded the doctrine that it is the nature of man to dwell in a polis. Some men, the Greeks in certain cases, such as Athens, live in a polis already. It is the final end of other men to live in a polis, such as other Greeks and barbarians, who have not got there yet.102 101 See above, ch. IV. Kovalevsky dedicated his work. Modern Customs and Ancient Lams of Russia, to Maine. loa Aristotle’s interpreters, Thomas Aquinas and Ibn Khaldun, did not distinguish between those men who actually and those who potentially live in the polis. Thomas Aquinas read into Aristotle the affirmation that man is by nature a political and social animal. William of Moerbecke translated Aristotle’s definition of man, %oon politikon, as animal civile. (See A. P. d’Entreves, Medieval Contributions to Political Thought, p. 25.) Aristotle wrote that man is by his nature a political animal, but some men, as Aristotle wrote in his Politics, are not political, they are not polis-dwellers. It is only Aristotle’s fellow-Greeks who were political, polisdwellers: It is the final end of our nature to be political animals, the generality as applied to all men can only be understood as an actuality in some, and a potentiality in others. The


Marx on Phear and Maine

The indicator of the common method of Maine and Kovalevsky rests not only on their common rhetoric, it rests no less importantly on their theory of mythology. They both removed the founding event of the society from history; they made the founding ancestor and the act of the founding ancestor into a mythological figure and act. Maine and Kovalevsky held different views on this point; the matriarchate preceded the patriarchate, mother-right preceded father-right, in Kovalevsky’s conception.103 But within the framework of the village community and the history of India, from which the matriarchate in any case falls away, the two authors were of one mind. They both removed the only his¬ torical variable which is to be accounted for into the realm of mythology: the village community is a development out of the joint family, ac¬ cording to Maine.104 The village was first established by a mythical founder of whom there is no trace extant, who acted in the margin of the tradition of his people. The people, his descendants, have always been on the land, there was once a time when they were not. Either they came from some other place in their form as human beings, or they changed their form into human beings from something else. The magical or mythopoetic transformations did not interest Maine or Kovalevsky, who preferred to think materialistically, that is, of migrations from one place to another, conquests of the land and people, no more or less demonstrable than the alternative. The founder then set the historical course in motion. At this point Maine and Kovalevsky, each in a different way, worked out the system, which they shared, of the common characters of rural contradiction between the particularity and the generality remains to be overcome in Aristotle’s system. There are at least two ways to overcome it. The first way was chosen by Maine and Kovalevsky. It is to argue that the way some men live, such as the way we are accustomed to live, is potentially the way all men should live, and, they predicted, will one day live. By means of this assumption, which was a moral statement with a political force behind it made into a prediction of the sort encountered in scientific writings, the Indians will own land in India in the same way that the English do in England. The second was taken by Marx, Kapital I (MEW 23, p. 346), who interpreted Aristotle’s definition to mean that man is “von Natur Stadtbiirger”, by nature a town-citizen. To be a town-citizen is actual among some men, potential among others. Marx counterposed this conception of man to that of Benjamin Franklin, that of the ancient Greek to the 18th century Yankee. However, Marx did not take up the doctrine of political man as the final end of humanity, nor did he indicate that there is a synthesis of Aristotle’s doctrine of the political animal with Franklin’s doctrine of man the tool-worker, homo faber. 105 Kovalevsky, Modern Customs, op. cit., Lecture I. Idem. Tableau des Origines, op. cit., 1st. Lecture. Vinogradoff, Outlines of Historical Jurisprudence, op. cit., vol. I, p. I48f., sided with Kovalevsky on the question of the matriarchate, Maine opposed the matriarchate theory. 101 See Kovalevsky, Tableau, op. cit., 10th Lecture; also his Modern Customs, op. cit., p. 72. See above, this section, note 75, concerning Maine’s theory.


Marx on Phear and Maine history, the original common possession or co-proprietorship of the land by the group of close kinsmen, the slow transmutation of the bond of society based on consanguineal relation through the father in Indian history to the bond based on territory. That is what is to have been accounted for. The rest of history, the formation of social classes, their opposition on the basis of differing interests relative to their respective ownership, possession or bondage to the soil as the means of production, is not to be accounted for in their theory of history, it is only to be recounted along with all other accidents, such as international or inter¬ necine wars and replacements of dynasties. Maine wrote, “Similarly, in the developed joint family or village com¬ munity, as the little society becomes more populous, as the village spreads, as the practice of living in separate dwellings extends, as the land rather than the common lineage gets to be regarded as the cement of the brotherhood, each man in his own house practically obtains stringent patriarchal authority over his wife, children and servants.”105 Marx criticized this grouping of joint family indifferently together with village community, he distanced himself from the assumptions of an undiffer¬ entiated historical course, and unbroken, continuous movement from consanguinity to territoriality as the bond of fraternity. The phrase, cement of brotherhood, could not be applied, save in a figurative sense, to the territorial grouping. Marx, moreover, opposed the idea of the joint family or the village community as the little society. Family, joint or other, is not a category of the same sort as society, nor is it the same sort of category as village community. Maine’s phrase is derived distantly from the phrases of Wilks, Metcalfe, the Fifth Report, Elphinstone and Campbell. In their various ways, the writers before Maine had in mind not the whole of society, whether little or great, but the village as a corporation or a little republic. They meant, therefore, that the public and the private, the official and the unofficial, had become separated. This conception marked the difference between the family and the community, for the latter points two ways, it has an internal, exclusive, private, unofficial relation and life, separate from the external, public, official life. This separation does not take place, it is irrelevant in the family. The joint family is not a society, which comprises rela¬ tions extending in scope, quality and degree of complexity beyond the family. Even the qualification ‘little’ in relation to the joint family does not save the figure; it remains a figure of speech that is not apposite. The use of terms such as ‘republic’ and ‘corporation’ by Wilks and the authors of the Fifth Report respectively, and related terms by Metcalfe,


Maine, Early History of Institutions, op. cit., p. 118.


Marx on Phear and Maine Elphinstone and Campbell was directly related to their understanding of the internal but extra-familial relations of the political process within the village, and the external relations of the village, or its non-relations of self-sufficiency and self-regulation. The body of usage was related likewise to the perpetual life of the village, its survival of the death of the individual members. These matters were changed by Maine, who understood perfecdy that the corporation is a self-perpetuating body,106 but chose to deal with the joint family and the village community in another way, as the model on the small scale of the society as a whole. This is an untenable theory however; the criticism of Maine by F. W. Maitland, in the domain of legal history, took up this insufficiency in Maine’s view. Another German student of the history of the law, Otto Gierke, introduced the transformation of the “original” institutions of Genossenschaft into the later associations and corporations, followed the Hegelian transformation from simple to complex over the course of time, but with the movement from the simple to the complex a new institutional system was introduced,107 which stands outside Maine’s system, and that of Phear, Yinogradoff and Kovalevsky. Marx protested in this passage against the use of the term race, and protested more sharply elsewhere in his excerpts from Maine against this.108 The concept of the Aryan race is a figment which Maine helped to broadcast; it is a part of his fiction of the homogeneity of history, restricted to the Indo-European peoples. Maine argued that the lin¬ guistic unity of the Indo-European speaking peoples, their social and cultural history and their biological inheritance were united: they descended from a common body of ancestors speaking a common tongue, and sharing common institutions, traditions, culture. But already in Maine’s day, F. Max Muller, who was a philologist specializing in the study of Sanskrit and the related Indo-European languages, had ruled out the factor of biological inheritance as having any relation with the linguistic problem of Indo-European unity. The unity of the village community is further restricted in its historical descent, since it is composed not only of actual consanguineal kin but also adopted kin.109 Had Maine thought about the implications of

106 Maine, Ancient Law, op. cit., p. no. 107 Otto Gierke. Das deutsche Genossenschaftsrecht. F. W. Maitland translated, edited and in¬ troduced a passage from this work from the 3rd volume, §1 x, pp. 502-644. Maitland translated Genossenschaft as ‘fellowship’ (F. W. Maitland, Introd., p. xlii to his translation of Otto Gierke, Political Theories of the Middle Age, 1900). 108 Ethnological Notebooks, p. 324: “The devil take this “Aryan” cant!” 108 Maine, op. cit., p. 116, wrote that “The joint undivided family ... springs universally out of the patriarchal family, a group of natural or adoptive descendants...”


Marx on Phear and Maine

adoption which can bring in children or adult strangers from without the community, without the linguistic unit and from the most distant geographic remove, he would have ceased to write about race. The introduction of class difference represents a factor in society that is not found in the joint undivided family; it further disturbs the hypo¬ thetical unity of race, language and culture that was propounded by Maine. Marx found that Maine’s account of Indian ethnography was inadequate in the matter of widow-burning in this connection. Maine had written that widow-burning, or suttee, was practiced ‘for the coarsest of motives’: on the death of the father in Bengal, if there are male children they succeed at once to the property, but if there are none, the widow succeeds before the collateral relatives. Maine found the practice of suttee to be an almost universal practice among childless widows with the wealthier classes. The Brahmins, ‘undoubtedly in¬ fluenced by a purely professional dislike to her enjoyment of property’, exhorted her to her immolation; they were opposed to her being made tenant of her family’s property for life.110 Marx objected to this on the grounds that Maine omitted mention of several conditions: It was the collateral relatives of the husband who had an interest in the deceased husband’s property, which they could not enjoy until the widow’s death, as she had a life-tenure in it; the Brahmins had not only a professional dislike to the widow’s tenure, they had a material interest: “beside the ecclesiastical Brahmins, particularly in the higher classes, the husband’s kin must have consisted for the most part of worldly Brahmins l”111 Further, Marx dug out of Strange’s work on the law in India the note that the custom of suttee was ‘confined pretty much to the lower classes’. Strange had been Chief Justice of Madras, and his descriptions bear on that province, in the south of India, away from Bengal in the northeast. It cannot be, however, that Maine’s contention was totally unrelated to Strange’s evidence; some account must be taken of it. Strange held that widow-burning had no deeper root in the religion than in the law of the country.112 Maine had no account for the rise of the ‘wealthier classes’ in tra¬ ditional India, his theory of Indian society having a bearing only on the village community. The sudden appearance of differentiation by reason of wealth can only be regarded as a matter of accident to be recounted and not accounted for. Maine on several occasions wrote of the obligations of family despot¬ ism and the despotism of the groups. Marx criticized this characteriza110 Maine, op. cit., pp. 334ft. 111 Ethnological Notebooks, p. 327. 112 Sir Thomas Strange. Hindu Law, Preface and vol. I, p. 241. Ethnological Notebooks, pp. 325P 258

Marx on Phear and Maine tion; he acknowledged the bonds, but denied that they are despotic.113 In this he took Maine’s reference to the family to include the primitive group, the primitive community, the ‘original’ condition of mankind, as well as the traditional Indian family: this is consistent with Maine’s viewpoint, which regarded the two as being in a continuum: in regard to Maine’s description of the obligations of the family despotism, Marx wrote, “a principal pet-doctrine of blockheaded John Bull to read original “despotism” Further, Marx wrote, “The English Philistine Maine took up all of the primitive as “the despotism of groups over the members composing them”! At that time Bentham - i.e. in the original state had not yet invented the formula representative of the present and the motor of “modern” legislation, so remarkable according to Maine: “The greatest happiness of the greatest number.”114 The position of Marx is a rejection of Rousseau in general, of Bentham and the Utilitarian doctrine of the greatest happiness of the greatest number in particular. He found that Maine was to be criticized on both the general and the particular grounds. First, Marx held that man is bound, in the primitive condition; this is opposed to Rousseau who considered man to be free in this, his natural condition. Marx differed from Maine in holding the bonds of the primitive group, which is what they were both writing about, to be satisfying and comfortable rather than despotic. We may take ‘despotic’ as the opposite of ‘satisfying and comfortable’, since this has a bearing upon the condition of primitivity, as follows: The non-difference between the public and the private, or the official and the unofficial, social life makes the despotic relation unsatisfying and uncomfortable. The establishment of the public life as distinct from the private may make the despotism bearable, or satisfying and com¬ fortable. This is the implication of the distinction between legitimate despotism and unfettered tyranny made by Quesnay, Dow and Hegel in regard to China and India. The despotism can be and in fact is at times actually rational, legitimate, lawful, or is held to be applied in con¬ formity with the laws and with their spirit, with the laws of reason, etc. The individual can, and in fact some types of individual do, derive comfort from this regulation of his life, which is known as Spartan, and this may conceivably bespeak the actual condition of ancient Sparta or some other historically known place. There is even a known, a wellknown, type of personality that finds such a government satisfying and comfortable. We have now left the domain of the primitive, for we have, according to Marx, left the abstract condition of primitivity by having posited the abstract condition of individuality. These oppositions are 113 See above, ch. V A. 114 Maine, op. cit., pp. 323. Ethnological Notebooks, p. 324, p. 326. 259

Marx on Phear and Maine abstract, ideological as opposed to concrete and material. They are related to the political conflicts in defence of individual ownership of property in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the freedom of individuality, as a matter of form, to accumulate capital and sell labor time for a wage, and the attack on this defence of individualism in order to further the collective ownership of capital and the means of production. The opposition of the individuality and the collectivity, of the ideology of capitalism and socialism are born upon the opposition of class in¬ terests, and are the political expression of the latter. The despotism of the primitive group over the members that it is composed of is likewise the despotism of the village community over its members. The abstract condition of the individuality is its formalism; it is contentless, there is no free content corresponding to the formal freedom in society. The slave of Epictetus’s account was freed, he had attained a freedom as a matter of form; in his life’s content he was still enslaved and therefore applied to his master to be re-engaged in that formal status which corresponded to the content of his unfiee life. The abstraction of individuality corresponds to the formality of the free individual in the capitalist mode of production. Marx went no further than the abstraction in his theory of the primitivity and the tearing loose of the individuality, because that individuality is free only in its form, which is the opposite of satisfying and comfortable. The content of freedom exists only as a potentiality in society.115 The Sikh Kingdom in the Eighteenth Century. Ranjit Singh ruled the Sikh kingdom in the Punjab early in the eighteenth century; Maine considers him to have been a despotic ruler of the sort found earlier in the history of Asia, in the Assyrian, Babylonian, Median and Persian empires. His despotic sovereignty was extended over his subjects without recourse to legislation; he ruled in the light of custom¬ ary laws that had regulated the life of the villages in his kingdom, and these were not changed by his rule.116 Maine further developed this 115 See Marx, Kapital I, ch. 24, §7, on the historical tendency of capitalist accumulation; Kapital III, ch. 48, §111; Grundrisse, pp. 592(1., on the relation of free and disposable time. In

all these passages the relations and conditions of freedom in society are discussed. 110 Maine, op. cit., pp. 38off. Maine doubted whether Ranjit (Runjeet) Singh ever issued a command which Austin would call a law. Maine cited the example of Ranjit Singh in order to contest Austin’s interrelation of sovereignty and legislation. The Sikh monarch, Maine contended, reigned without legislating anything. He taxed his subjects heavily, he levied great armies, fulfilling two out of the three conditions of Engels’ theory of rulership in Asia (see ch. VI) “but he never made a law.” See above, ch. I A, note 12, on commands and cus¬ tomary right in Persia, according to Montesquieu.



Marx on Phear and Maine point as an argument in favor of the agglomeration of the family king¬ doms into States. Marx once again questioned Maine’s approach to the formation of the State, which presupposes the flow of patriarchal families into each other in continuous development, without intervention of new factors in the economy or land relations; Marx further questioned the continuity of development from patriarch to political sovereign;117 he did not, however, question the development of the political system and its various activities by the Sikhs, and by implication in the Asiatic empires of antiquity, as it was given according to Maine’s description. Maine wrote that “Ranjit Singh never did or could (!) have dreamed of changing the civil rules under which his subjects lived.”118 Marx emphasized the works ‘never did,’ and he put an exclamation mark after Maine’s exaggeration, ‘could (!) have dreamed’, etc.119 The principal line of agreement between Marx and Maine concerned the composition of, and the function within, the Asiatic village com¬ munities, which continued their occupations of cultivation and exchange without reference to the activities of the political sovereignty that arched over them. The political sovereignty levied heavy taxes and great armies within the realm, but did not interfere otherwise with the life of the village communities. The villages, aside from these matters of taxation and war, on the one hand continued their existence in the same state as before; on the other, they had little communication with the sovereignty. Marx had accepted these points in regard to the Asiatic mode of production, and before that in regard to the Oriental society, in his enumeration of the functions of the State in Asia. There had been a third function mentioned, the public works,120 but this now fell away in the note-taking interaction of Marx with Maine’s materials. The related point of the village community as a corporation or little republic had been expressed by Marx in writings in the 1850s;121 later, the politicallegal language of corporation, republic, was eliminated by Marx, but the point regarding the self-sustaining and self-regulating character of the village remained.122

117 Ethnological Notebooks, op. cit., p. 334: “Nach dem Burschen Maine der origin of the political communities called States is that they were formed by the coalescence of groups, the original group having been in no case smaller than the patriarchal family. (Again I) Aber dies coalescence was soon arrested.” Cf. Maine, op. cit., p. 386. us Maine, op. cit., p. 382. 118 Marx, Ethnological Notebooks, p. 334. 120 See above, ch. II.A. 121 Marx, letter of 14 June, 1853 (MEW 28, p. 267), dispatch to the Neiv-York Daily Tribune, op. cit., MEW 9, p. 131. Grundrisse, pp. 378, 379. 122 Marx, Kapital I (MEW 23, pp. 3‘78f.). 261

Marx on Phear and Maine The opposition by Marx to Maine touched upon Maine’s general theory of the development of the State out of the patriarchal family, his reduction of the society to an agglomeration of families, his development of political sovereignty out of the patriarch and head of the tribe. He agreed with Maine that Austin’s self-acting sovereign, independent of the society over which he governed, was untenable, but he criticized Maine for having restricted his field to the moral constraints in con¬ sidering the limits imposed by the society on actions of the sovereignty.123 The points of disagreement and criticism expressed by Marx concern not the data regarding the Asiatic mode of production which were provided by Maine, but Maine’s general theory of the State in its develop¬ ment and relation to society. Nevertheless, Marx disagreed with Maine on matters of interpretation: we have seen that Maine had explained the practice of the Brahmins in encouraging the suttee on grounds of their professional dislike to the widow’s enjoyment of the property, whereas Marx had discovered in Strange’s materials the economic interest of the Brahmins. The development of a professional viewpoint was systematically pro¬ mulgated by Maine. Thus, Maine attributed the disappearance of the ancient organization of the Celts of Gaul to two factors: “partly because French society was exclusively examined for many centuries by lawyers trained either in Roman or in highly feudalized law, but partly also be¬ cause the institutions of the Gallic Celts had really passed under the crushing machinery of Roman legislation.”124 No other motive power in history was present in Maine’s mind than the actions of lawyers and of legislation, subject, as we have seen, to the moral influences. Further, Maine had written that the agglomeration of families into a form of the State was arrested in India,125 and that only in Rome was there developed a form of the State that went beyond the functions of levying taxes and armies. Maine attributed this development to the accrual of the legisla¬ tive to the tax function.126 The backwardness of the East was attributed by Maine to the backwardness of its law, law-men and legislation; the ‘Germanic custom prevailing in Great Britain’ was ‘immensely stimulated by the [Roman] habit of legislation,’ and other Aryans were not; these include the Irish and the Hindus.127 The practical consequence that Maine drew was that the English, Irish and Indians were bound together by a common heritage with the Romans, and that the English could 1,3 121 125 123 127

Cf. Maine, op. cit., pp. 61-63, where moral constraints on the law are further discussed. Maine, op. cit., p. 3. Cf. Ethnological Notebooks, pp. 415f. Maine, op. cit., p. 386. Maine, op. cit., pp. 3