Pakistan Institute of Development Economics



Karl August Wittfogel. Oriental Despotism: A Comparative Study of Total Power. New Haven, USA: Yale University Press. 1957 (Reprinted 1981). 550 pages. USD 119 (Paperback).
Author: Shehar Bano

Karl A. Wittfogel, famously known for his hydraulic thesis, was a German historian and sinologist. In his book, Oriental Despotism: A Comparative Study of Total Power, he has given a comprehensible account of social, political, and economic history of Asian societies. The book offers a study of the development of totalitarian rule in hydraulic societies. He refers to the Asian societies as hydraulic societies, as they control the population by maintaining control over supply of water and irrigation system. The book focuses on different factors that invited totalitarian rule in these societies. Influenced by the classical economists, Wittfogel argues that large irrigation systems tend to win large lands and an expansion and acquirement of large areas is the development of managerial form of administration.