Baudin’s work was first published in France in 1928 and it has achieved some reputation as a “classic.” Its first appearance in English is, on balance, welcome.
The text consists of 221 pages of large type and generous margins. The organization of the material proceeds through fourteen chapters including “The Substructure: The Agrarian Community,” “The Superstructure : State Socialism,” and “The Equilibrium between Supply and Demand.” There is a 36-page Appendix (which was the first chapter of the French edition) on “The Historical Sources.” This is followed by 97 pages of notes, five modest maps, and 43 pages of bibliographical titles.
Baudin ranges competently over the formal structure of Inca society, but pays little attention to the operational aspects of the culture. The social and economic data which he presents leads him to conclude that Inca society was a “menagerie of happy men” and that “it is not surprising that this great empire, organized on the most rigid lines, should have been monotonous and melancholy.”
These conclusions may be correct, and the author’s skill and even brilliance in aranging his evidence may warrant an English translation. But it may be hoped that readers will notice that the author skillfully attributes the menagerie, the monotony, and the melancholy to what he calls socialism, not wishing, apparently, to support his analysis with other possible interpretations of Inca life. A basic question is raised: is not this work anti-historical? Is it not founded on blatant historiographic subjectivist presentism? How much of the present (1928 or 1961, depending on whether you read the original or the translation) is Baudin entitled to read into the past?
M. Baudin has, in the reviewer’s opinion, committed another irrémissible sin of historical scholarship : he allowed a new version of his interesting study to be published without completely revising the original in the light of the ample new evidence which has appeared on this subject. The English version has an up-dated bibliography (yet with some extraordinary gaps) and a few substantive changes based on more recent scholarship. Otherwise it is the same book as that published a generation ago. Notable insights provided by archeologists and anthropologists, such as John Rowe, are simply not incorporated into A Socialist Empire. It should be enough that a book attempts to reveal the facts of the complex and still-hidden society of the Incas and their subjects in its own terms, as Rowe does, without trying to impose an inverted “Whig interpretation of history” on history.
There is a Foreword in which Ludwig von Mises shows that he believes that capitalism is better than socialism any day, any place— presumably even for the people of the Andes in the fifteenth century. I go along with Rowe.