S Godes, Spornye voprosy metodologii istorii Diskussiia ob obshchestvennykh formatsiiakh, Kharkov, 1930, pp 216-217 Cf Marx,

In document The question of the Asiatic mode of production : towards a new Marxist historiography (Page 107-110)

3 taking place' i.e the development of private-property based slavery.

M. S Godes, Spornye voprosy metodologii istorii Diskussiia ob obshchestvennykh formatsiiakh, Kharkov, 1930, pp 216-217 Cf Marx,

'However changing the political aspect of India's past must appear, its social condition has remained unaltered since its remotest antiquity, until the first decennium of the nineteenth century.' ('The British Rule in India', l o c . c i t p. 91.)


See, for example, V.N. Nikiforov, 1 23Zakliuchitel*noe slovo po dokladu1

in Obshchee i osobennoe v istoricheskono razvitii stran Vostoka, Izd. 'Nauka', 1966, tr. in Recherches internationales a la lumiere du marxisme, No. 57-58

(Jan.-April, 1967), p. 243. 3

Cf. S.M. Dubrovsky, K voprosu o sushchnosti 'aziatskogo' sposoba proizvodstva, feodalizma, krepostnichestva i torgovogo kapitala, Moscow,

...given the cultivators work on their own land with the aid of their own implements, and that they alienate their surplus labour in the interest of a third person or third persons, they are therefore subject to feudal exploitation. ^

But as stressed earlier, Marx believed that it was the relationship between those who owned the conditions of production and the direct


producers which provided the key to any given social epoch. The 'public ownership' and 'public' appropriation of the surplus value in the Asiatic formation clearly distinguished this formation from 'feudalism', which for Marx was characterised by the private ownership and private approp­ riation of surplus value.

Marx himself frequently protested against what he regarded as erroneous comparisons between Oriental society and Western feudalism

(for example, 'La Touche d. facts verfälscht dch phraseology borrowed 3

from feudal Europe' ). Such comparisons were based part3.y on the fact, as he observed, that institutions of commendation and benefice could be


identified in e.g. India. Many of the early writers on Western feudalism had drawn an analogy between the early phases of the system of fiefs in Western Europe (before they became heritable) and the Turkish timar system - which could in turn be assimilated to the Persian/Indian jaghir system.^

From the account given by L.A. Sedov, 'La societe angkorienne et le Probleme du mode de production asiatique', La Pensee, No. 138 (March- April 1968), p. 72.


Capital, Vol. Ill, p. 791. 3

Marx's conspectus of Sir John Budd Phear, The Aryan Village in India and Ceylon, loc.cit., p. 283. For other examples see ibid., pp. 256, 262.


Marx's conspectus of Kovalevsky, op.cit., Sovetskoe Vostokovedenie, 1958, No. 5, p. 12.


See J.G.A. Pocock, The Ancient Constitution and the Feudal Law,

Cambridge U.P., 1957, pp. 30, 82, 97, 132, 134. Pocock observes that the analogy drawn in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries between the Turkish system of timars and early European feudalism was based on the

Marx's own specific rejection of the analogy between feudal forms of benefice and the timar or jaghir forms’*- has not inhibited later Marxists, with access to the relevant material, from providing defini­ tions such as the following:

Jagirdars - representatives of the Moslem feudal gentry in the Great Mogul Empire who received in temporary use big estates (jagirs) for which they did military service

and supplied contingents of troops. When the Empire disintegrated the jagirdars became hereditary feudal owners.^

One of the most important reasons why Marx shunned the analogy between Oriental society and Western feudalism was that his approach to

social analysis was couched in terms of the potential development of systems. According to his model of Eastern society, the institutions of benefice existing there did not have the same potential for development which had been intrinsic to their Western counterparts, and hence they were of a completely different character.

One of the specific differences between Western feudalism and Oriental society which was enumerated by Marx was the absence in the latter of

anything approaching the Western system of feudal law. Marx followed Palgrave in describing feudal law as being based on the assumption of the right of the individual, whether free or enserfed, to legal protection


from his feudal lord. Moreover in the empire of the Great Mogul, for example, civil law excluded patrimonial justice (the exercise of juridical

system imposed from above as a matter of state policy. (Ibid., p. 97.) In fact the Turkish system was a matter of state policy, but European feudalism arose from the collapse of the state, a fundamental difference between European and non-European systems of benefice.

^ Marx's conspectus of Kovalevsky, Problemy Vostokovedeniia, 1959, No. 1, p. 7.


Marx and Engels, On Colonialism, Moscow, Foreign Languages Press, n.d. (published during the 1960s), pp. 356-357, fn. 38.


Sir Francis Palgrave, The Rise and Progress of the English Commonwealth, The Anglo-Saxon Period, Part 1 (first published 1832), new ed., Cambridge U.P., 1921, p. 11; Marx's conspectus of Kovalevsky, Sovetskoe Vostokovedenie, 1958, No. 5, p. 12.

functions by the feudal lord),"*- whereas in Western feudalism 'the


functions of general and judge, were attributes of landed property.' The work which stimulated many of Marx's strictures on applying the concept of feudalism to Asiatic society was that of M.M. Kovalevsky on communal land-tenure, a copy of which the author sent to Marx on publication in 1879. Elsewhere in his book, Kovalevsky stated that

under Mohammedan rule in India,allodial land tenures had tended to change into feudal ones, and free landowners had become dependent. Marx

rejected the inferences which had led Kovalevsky to this conclusion. He argued that the mere fact that under the Mogul benefice system the land tax was paid to an appointee of the treasury rather than directly to the treasury, by no means implied the feudalisation of India. In general, the Indian land tax no more converted landed property into feudal


property than did the land tax in contemporary France. The fact that the tax was used by the government as a payment to its appointees did not make the latter into feudal lords. Marx also observed that in the East

there was no poetisation of the soil (Bodenpoesie) comparable to that of Western feudalism, and the principle of nulle terre sans seigneur did


In document The question of the Asiatic mode of production : towards a new Marxist historiography (Page 107-110)