Abstract

Marx's writings on Asia do not bulk large in the corpus of work he published in his lifetime: several articles for Charles Dana's Daily Tribune; scattered references in his Critique of Political Economy, Capital, and Theories of Surplus Value; and (more precise and analytic than the aforementioned) the statements in the Grundrisse. Obviously, his overriding interest lay in the description of capitalist society in western Europe. Nevertheless, what he studied about Asia significantly affected his understanding of capitalism, communism, and dialectical naturalism. Though he never wrote in an extended manner on Asia, the Orient was implicitly present in, and had profound influence on, his western-centered scholarly work. It is impossible to grasp the central meaning of communism and the dialectic without comprehending Marx's attitude toward Asiatic history. Failure to correctly appreciate Marx's writing on Asia has led many scholars to distortions in their evaluations of Marx and their projections about a communist society. Karl Wittfogel is a case in point; because he misconstrued what Marx thought of Asia, he was led to make invalid judgments about the nature of communism and the course of communist revolution in the twentieth century.

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