Asian Production Mode – Concept, Summary and Discussion

We explain what the Asian mode of production is according to Marxism and the debate around this concept.

production model asian marxism china india
In the Asian mode of production, control of water is central to the economy.

What is the Asian mode of production?

The Asian mode of production, according to the postulates of Marxism, is an attempt to apply the concept of modes of production with which Karl Marx studied and analyzed the economic history of the West, to non-Western societies that had different revolutionary developments.

It is a concept involved in much debate still, since it is not explicitly mentioned in the body of Marx’s work. However, many Marxist theorists propose it for those societies that went through times of colonial rule by the Western powers.

Instead, Marx’s fellow theoretician, Friedrich Engels, did refer to the Asian mode of production. However, for many contemporary scholars it was similar to the conditions of feudal Europe. Even so, in the economic history of eastern societies such as India, frequently referred to by Marx, the slavery patterns of the West did not exist.

It was distinguished because ehe State played a predominant role through the control of irrigation canals indispensable for agricultural work. In addition, the State controlled the lands, the political and military power.

The latter would be key in the formulation of the concept of the Asian mode of production, in particular to refer to the predominant despotism in the so-called “Hydraulic societies”, in which water management was the predominant factor in the organization of production, usually under state control.

Debate on the Asian mode of production

Scholars of Marxism have not reached an agreement on whether or not it existed. an Asian mode of production. Opinion often depends on the historical period. For many thinkers the model of the extinct Soviet Union is an example. Its rigidity and authoritarianism imposed by Stalin, resembles the Asian authoritarian governments enough.

For others, it is only one possible interpretation of the economic history of China and India.. Another alternative is to understand it as a tributary mode of production: a model in which a “state class” is created that exclusively governs peasant surplus value, without however possessing exclusive ownership of the land.

Other modes of production

As well as talking about the Asian mode of production, there are also:

  • Socialist mode of production. Proposed as an alternative to capitalism by Marx, it grants control of the means of production to the working or working class, to prevent them from being exploited by the bourgeoisie. Thus, the State assumes the abolition of private property and capital to put collective interests before individual ones, as a step towards a classless society but with such abundant production that goods are distributed according to need and not according to merit. .
  • Capitalist mode of production. The model of the bourgeoisie, imposed after the fall of feudalism and the aristocracy, in which the owners of capital control the means of production. The working class offers them their labor power, but they are exploited in exchange for a salary with which to consume the goods and services they need.
  • Slave production mode. Typical of the classical societies of antiquity, such as the Greek or Roman, it supported its production of agricultural goods based on a slave class, subject to a particular legal and social status, sometimes inhuman, which reduced them to being the property of a master. private or state. These slaves had no political participation, no property, nor did they receive any reward for their labors.