New Haven: Yale University Press, 1957. Sixth Printing. Paperback. Rare. Used - Very Good. Clean, unmarked, tight. No creases to spine. 13 x 20 cm. Endnotes. Bibliography. Index. 556 pp. Item #11587
Oriental Despotism: A Comparative Study of Total Power is a book of political theory and comparative history by Karl August Wittfogel (1896–1988) published by Yale University Press in 1957.
The book offers an explanation for the despotic governments in "Oriental" societies, where control of water was necessary for irrigation and flood-control. Managing these projects required large-scale bureaucracies, which dominated the economy, society, and religious life. This despotism differed from the Western experience, where power was distributed among contending groups. The book argues that this form of "hydraulic despotism" characterized ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, Hellenistic Greece and imperial Rome, the Abbasid Caliphate, imperial China, the Moghul empire, and Incan Peru. Wittfogel further argues that 20th century Marxist-Leninist regimes, such as the Soviet Union and People's Republic of China, though they were not themselves hydraulic societies, did not break away from their historical condition and remained systems of "total power" and "total terror"