The Asiatic Mode of Production in China

As Chinese intellectuals emerged from the Cultural Revolution, they began to cast around within Marxist philosophy for a new model by which to understand China’s history, and in particular the resilience of autocracy into their own day. The model they found in Marx was his concept of the Asiatic mode of production, which rejected the supposed universalism of the European model of the passage from feudalism to capitalism in favour of a lineage more purely Asian. The essays in this collection are translations of contributions to the debate over the Asiatic mode of production by some of the leading senior Chinese theorists of the early 1980s. The mode has mostly lost its adherents today, but at the time it provided critical thinkers with a escape hatch from the Stalinist historiography in which the Communist Party of China had trapped them.

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