Asiatic mode of production

The theory of the Asiatic mode of production (AMP) was devised by Karl Marx around the early 1850s. The essence of the theory has been described as "[the] suggestion ... that Asiatic societies were held in thrall by a despotic ruling clique, residing in central cities and directly expropriating surplus from largely autarkic and generally undifferentiated village communities".[1]

In his articles on India written between 1852 and 1858, Marx outlined some of the basic characteristics of the AMP that prevailed in India. In these articles he indicated the absence of private ownership of land (self-sustaining units or communes), the unity between agriculture and manufacturing (handloom, spinning wheel), the absence of strong commodity production and exchange, and the stabilising role of Indian society and culture against invasions, conquests, and famines.[2][3]

The theory continues to arouse heated discussion among contemporary Marxists and non-Marxists alike. Some have rejected the whole concept on the grounds that the socio-economic formations of pre-capitalist Asia did not differ enough from those of feudal Europe to warrant special designation.[4] Aside from Marx, Friedrich Engels also focused on the AMP.[5] In their later work, both Marx and Engels dropped the idea of a distinct Asiatic mode of production, and mainly kept four basic forms: tribal, ancient, feudal, and capitalist. In the 1920s, Soviet authors strongly debated about the use of the term. Some completely rejected it. Others, Soviet experts on China referred to as "Aziatchiki", suggested that Chinese land ownership structures had once resembled the AMP, but they were accused of Trotskyism and discussion of AMP was effectively banned in the USSR from 1931 until the Khrushchev period.[6] [7]