Kamil' Galeev 1
  • 1 National Research University Higher School of Economics, 20 Myasnitskaya Str., Moscow, 101000, Russian Federation

Karl Wittfogel’s hydraulic theory and its contemporary critics

2011, vol. 10, No. 3, pp. 155–179 [issue contents]

Karl August Wittfogel (1886–1988) is German and American sinologist, sociologist and historian, whose ideas were under strong Marxist influence. Soon after the World War II he created a theory of hydraulic state that ascribed the despotism and backwardness of non-European societies to their mostly irrigation based economies. This theory appeared in finished form in his book «Oriental despotism: a comparative study of total power» (1957). This article discusses modern (since 1991) critics and interpretation of Wittfogel’s ideas in English-written periodicals and dissertations. Our study reveals that Wittfogel is still widely cited author, though his ideas are rarely discussed. Hydraulic theory had an impact on the modern thought, although its modern interpretations may differ from Wittfogel’s one. For example, some scholars argue that hydraulic theory has to be regarded only as an economic theory and that it can be used in European studies, too.

Citation: Galeev Kamil' Ramilevich (2011) Teoriya gidravlicheskogo gosudarstva K. Vittfogelya i ee sovremennaya kritika [Karl Wittfogel’s hydraulic theory and its contemporary critics] The Russian Sociological Review, 3, pp. 155-179 (in Russian)
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