Social Scientist. v 12, no. 134 (July 1984) p. 26.

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The Concept of Asiatic Mode of Production:

Its Relevance to Indian History

MARX was preoccupied with the discovery of the laws of social development. Explorations into historical materialism led Marx to analyse not only the nature of transition from feudalism to capitalism in his immediate European environment but also into the identification of earlier socio-economic formations especially of Asia. In this he had to rely on the writings of ever so many political thinkers, economists and historians from Aristotle to Hegel as well as the accounts given by European travellers and missionaries. Most c^f these sources were Euro-centric. Marx was particularly influenced by the writings of Richard Jones (political economist), Hegel (philosopher) and Bernier (traveller). His ideas, however, were evolving over three decades since the Communist Manifesto. Marx made several references to Asiatic Community, Oriental Despotism, historic forms of property etc, in his articles on India and China, Capital, Volume III and letters exchanged by Marx and Engels amongst themselves and with others. Asiatic Mode of Production (AMP) as a distinct historical category first appeared in his Economic Manuscripts of 1857-1859 and was confirmed in his Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy of 1859. Though modified with additional historical material like Morgans Ancient Society which influenced both Marx and Engels, the vagueness and geographic particularism which shrouded the concept gave rise to genuine methodological and epistemological problems for Marxist historiographers on the one hand and ammunition for ideological and political controversies on the other. The academic debate on the concept has waxed and waned but cannot be said to have ended.

AMP as Defined by Marx

While outlining the AMP in the Economic Manuscripts, Marx underlined the communal ownership of property. It is the community which produces and reproduces itself by living labour. Only insofar

*Professor of Financial Administration, Indian Institute of Public Administration, New Delhi.

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