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Primitive Sta Tes and the Reproduction of Production Rela Tions : Some Problems in Marxist Anthropology
Talal Asad Critique of Anthropology 1985 5: 21 DOI: 10.1177/0308275X8500500203 The online version of this article can be found at: http://coa.sagepub.com/content/5/2/21.citation

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) determine the dominant values of the (p. 5) Now it is well-known that the Downloaded from coa..And in which cleavages of wealth. which we refer to as Group A..’ And on the other hand that ’In a general sense. which we refer to as Group B. however. privilege. but was very unclear about the position it was taking.. the concept of ’the economy’ was not.sagepub. consists of those societies which lack centralized authority. an analytical distinction was made between two groups of society as follows: One group.. but it gained added impetus from the writings of British structural-functionalism. and judicial institutions . consists of those societies which have centralized authority. modes of livelihood (.) Those who consider that a state should be defined by the presence of governmental institutions will regard the first as primitive states and the second group as stateless societies. Pre-occupation with this problem is of course not confined to anthropology.com by guest on February 10.in short which lack government . and (b) to the principle of conflict and cohesion between homologous lineage segments in stateless societies. 2013 ..’ securing of social order (i. and constituted judicial institutions . Not quite so well-known is the fact that the ’Introduction’ took up briefly the question of the relevance of the economy to an understanding of the political structure. status.in short. a government . administrative machinery.and in which there are no sharp divisions of rank..e.PRIMITIVE STA TES AND THE REPRODUCTION OF PRODUCTION RELA TIONS Some Problems in Marxist Anthropology Talal Asad - - University of Hull 21 Classical theories of the state have typically been formulated in terms of the problem of social order and its continuity. The reason for this. of course. and status correspond to the distribution of power and authority. Thus in the influential ’Introduction’ to African Political Systems ( 1940). or wealth. was that although the notion of ’the political system’ was explicitly defined. Thus on the one hand it argued that ’It is obvious. that mere differences in modes of livelihood do not determine differences in political structure.) The other group. (. administrative machinery. the control of violence and the achievement of integration) in these two kinds of society was attributed (a) to the governmental regulation of rights and obligations vested in the different levels of the social hierarchy in primitive states. (.

peoples and strongly influence their social organizations.Increasingly.com by guest on February 10.e. If wealth is accumulated it takes the form of consumpting goods and amenities or is used for the support of additional dependents. or occupation operate independently of differences of wealth. Hence it tends to be rapidly dissipated again and does not give rise to permanent class divisions. of class and of state 2 structures are typically avoided However. Problems connected with the nature of leadership.’ ’Economic privileges. such rights to tax.i. status.sagepub. they came to be preoccupied with the definition and identification of a distinctive object of enquiry: ’the political’. Thus American political science combined with the British tradition of intensive anthropological field work to produce Political Anthropology . under the influence of American political science. In such a perspective ’the political’ is typically identified as the activity of subjects who compete to determine and implement public goals . and that of the Polanyi school of institutional Downloaded from coa. problems concerning the relationship of political structures to the economic organization of society were far from being displaced. including their political systems. virtually displaced such interests as there had earlier been in the socio-economic pre-conditions and effects of political structures. 2013 . Concepts of non-subjective economic pressures. in America. ’The economic’ is thus seen merely as one of the supports or rewards of effective power within such a ’field’.’ 22 ( 1940:8) By and large subsequent British anthropologists accepted the negative conclusion about necessary connections between the polity and the economy and directed their efforts at the refinement of the African Political Svstems typology. the social organization of factions.the study of power conflicts as a process in which the ’political field’ is continuously being re-defined from one moment to the next. influenced by Steward. tribute and labour. Here the work of cultural evolutionists. and at the same time implicitly conceded: ’Most African societies belong to an economic order very different from ours. Theirs is mainly a subsistence economy with a rudimentary differentiation of productive labour and with no machinery for the accumulation of wealth in the form of commercial or industrial capital. Distinctions of rank. It was suggested by adherents of this tendency that an actioncentred sociology was the only way of avoiding the closed-system assumptions of British functionalism. where the new Political Anthropology also flourished (indeed where it is now centred). are both the main reward of political power and an essential means of maintaining it in the political systems of (primitive states).’ One aspect of this lack of clarity was that the relevance of a concept of class for the analysis of the structure and development of precapitalist states was at once explicitly denied. the process of decision-making. as a kind of conscious behaviour rather than a structure of non-subjective conditions.

Fried does not mention Marx at all in his book.the differentiation of categories of population in terms of access to basic resources. And at the heart of the problem of maintaining general 23 ’It order is the need to defend the central order of stratification . the growth of slavery and the impoverishment of most freemen.’ (pp. and yet this statement is. one means of doing this is to indoctrinate all members of society with the belief that the social order is right or good or simply inevitable. Thus Fried and Sahlins (who have drawn on both these anthropological traditions) have elaborated in some of their writings a range of questions about the connection of the form of the polity with that of the economy. his discussion of the development of private property. which is defined in Downloaded from coa. 230-1 ) In other words. laid great emphasis on the creation of repressive institutions controlled by the central authorities in the Athenian state. and has two very minor references to Engels. have both encouraged. I begin with a quotation from Morton Fried’s The Evolution of Political Society ( 1967) which will serve as the initial statement of the question I want to discuss: is the task of maintaining general social order that stands at the heart of the development of the state. the formulation of such problems. is based on a distinctive conception of the appropriation of surplus by the propertied class from the producers. Thus although Engels.sagepub. the state is necessary to a class society in the way it deploys physical force and performs ideological functions to ensure the continuity of hierarchical order.com by guest on February 10. for the notion of differential access to basic resources by social strata is not the same as the Marxist concept of class exploitation. very close to the Marxist view of the state as an instrument for the maintenance of class exploitation. My concern is with questions that are at once narrower and more precise than that. though in different ways. But there has never been a state which survived on this basis alone. but not quite. but in order to maintain a given structure of class relations. Undoubtedly. of course. Virtually. Close but not identical. 2013 . According to Marxism.economics. I must stress that in what follows it is not my aim to provide a survey of the contributions made by Marxist anthropologists towards an understanding of the political economic structures of primitive societies. questions which are virtually without parallel in British anthropology today. the state emerges not merely to defend a certain order of stratification. as already indicated. in The Origin of the Family. Every state known to history has had a physical apparatus for removmg or otherwise dealing with those who failed to get the message. For in Britain it is an explicitly Marxist anthropology that has been centrally engaged with precisely these questions. And it is to the way in which some of these questions have been addressed in recent Marxist anthropology that the remainder of this paper is devoted.

and (b) as the pre-condition for constituting and reproducing given production relations .i.as subsequent discussions about the Asiatic Mode of Production and/or Hydraulic Society revealed. The question of the origin of the state was thus framed in terms of the way in which the privileged accumulation of wealth led gradually to the development of institutions for the elaboration of privilege and the protection of wealth. or logically necessary to its reproduction. deriving from a dual sense in which the concept of class is employed . and in the sense of socio-economic strata enjoying differential privileges. the distinction between royal and non-royal lineages was essentially political and ideological in a ’superstructural’ sense.In their argument that African States.3 This twofold sense of class is connected with another duality. the implication clearly was that the state was not essential to production relations. but the state was not a necessary pre-condition of the relations of production.e. 24 and the ruling classes which controlled them.com by guest on February 10. the first entitled ’Long-distance exchange and the formation of the State: the case of the Abron kingdom of Gyaman’ Downloaded from coa.hence logically a part of the latter. powers and interests within a given social formation. These two senses of class are of course related. one which anthropologists dealing with the origin of the state have not sufficiently analysed. Recent attempts to theorise this problem. and sometimes as their pre-conditon. because the relations between rulers and ruled were essentially non-exploitative. example. classes in the sense of agents of production (as defined by determinate relations of production). However.sagepub. emerged on the basis of longdistance trade rather than agricultural production. by Poulantzas for the final are not without serious flaws. For Marxism has a dual view of the state: (a) as the instrument for maintaining and re-enforcing given production relations . and so was not logically a part of the relevant mode of production. Wittfogel’s work on Oriental Despotism of course revolved around this ambiguity regarding the relations of the ruling class (exploiting class) to other classes in the social formation (mode of production) . Class privilege and power were supported by the state. In two interesting articles. Thus sometimes the origin of the paradigmatic Asiatic state was represented as the consequence of a certain form of exploitative relations. volume three.4It was in this context that French Marxist historians and anthropologists first proposed the concept of an African Mode of Production. 2013 . According to this view.necessary but logically distinct from the latter. but their precise articulation has never been adequately theorised since Marx first began to do so for bourgeois society in the famous unfinished last chapter of Capital. It might serve to legitimate and enforce an unequal access to basic resources. but it did not determine the relations of production.analysis by the dominant relations of production through which surplus product is extracted and then distributed. there is an ambiguity in this view of the origin of the state.

together with part of the gold they extracted.e. it merely defines one of the conditions in which that extraction takes place. But the free lineage subjects also yielded part of their harvest. and the second ’Class and Class Consciousness in the Abron Kingdom of Gyaman’ ( 1976)’. they supplied the necessary manpower for the raids that secured for him a most profitable commodity . whose class position is described in terms of the producers/non-producers couple and the ruled/rulers couple at the same time. Free peasant subjects. as were their means of production and everything they produced.e. Although his discussion is focussed on the Abron kingdom. In spite of the payment of tribute to the Abron. cultivated their lineage lands and paid an insignificant tribute to their rulers. to the king although he did not own them. that ’free’ labourers. which ensured that the first was subordinate to the second. This argument for the priority of production over exchange is certainly in line with the method of orthodox Marxist political economy. on the other hand. and articulated at the level of the state.( 1974)6. Terray has criticised this view and argued that the state in West Africa was indeed necessary to the reproduction of production relations in terms of which the exploiting class (ruling class) established its dominance. According to Terray.i. It is only the slave minority. the logic of state formation in the latter is presented as being applicable to other social formations in West Africa. they could certainly be made to work harder. largely working in the lucrative gold-mines owned by the aristocracy. But the remarkable thing is that the two modes of production are not logically on a par. Terray argues. but the owner/non-owner couple in such a context does not define the presence or absence of surplus extraction. In addition. It was thus.sagepub. its position as the ruling class. And as Terray suggests. control of production (based on slave relations) and not of exchange (which was in any case largely in the hands of Dyula traders) that secured for the aristocracy its political power and wealth .i. slaves Downloaded from coa. but it is elaborated in a way that raises a number of interesting 25 problems. There is clearly an important difference in the mode of surplus extraction from slave labour and from ’free’ labour.com by guest on February 10. In addition to supplying them with fighting men when needed. the free cultivating majority are represented in their relationship to the latter not as producers to non-producers. The slaves who worked in the gold-mines were owned by the Abron king. and in more dangerous conditions. their acquisition of surplus flowed primarily from the ownership of large numbers of slaves who were put to work in gold-mines and who also cultivated for their masters and laboured as porters to transport their goods. Terray maintains that although the Abron aristocracy participated in long-distance trade. but as ruled to rulers. 2013 . such as the Ashanti. or their means of production. this distinction constituted the basis of two modes of production (the lineage mode and the slave mode) existing within the social formation. or their land.

but the presence of debt bondage and of market relations within Gyaman to which he does refer in passing.’ (1974:331-2) In a recent article ’Precolonial Gold a Region: with Mining and the State in the Akan Critique of the Terray Hypothesis’. As is known. and among the rights reserved by the aristocracy to itself was first of all that of organising captive raids and of deciding on peace and war: now a number of captives were prisoners of war.26 (for slaves were not only productively employed but also.sagepub. this was especially to preserve their warhke spirit. of slave labour . It is the totality of the social conditions defining these pressures that can be represented as production relations binding the rulers to their subjects. but the way in which they defined the conditions for the continuous but uneven extraction of surplus from the producers. the structure of the State closely followed that of the army. However. and it was seen above that if the Asantehene discouraged his subjects from engaging in trade. 2013 . and more importantly. The reason that Terray does not consider the production relations of free subjects in this way is connected with his interesting attempt to analyse the way in which the Abron state constitutes the political and ideological pre-conditions for the establishment and reproduction of the dominant relations of production . Terray does not deal at all with agricultural conditions among the free subjects. among the obligations binding vassals to the sovereign features first of all the duty of assistance in time of war. sold abroad). To analyse production relations in this sense it is therefore necessary not only to examine the development of the pressures that generate surplus over time. and the quest for the support of ancestors and supernatural powers in view of conflicts to come.com by guest on February 10. and the rules of sharing this booty favoured the kings and the chiefs.an analysis which he thinks facilitates our understanding of its origin: ’In fact it is possible to consider the Abron or Ashanti States as in many ways existing as machines destined to create and reproduce the material and social conditions for the exploitation of captives.e.8 Raymond Dumett makes a careful evaluation of the relevant historical evidence and concludes that ’Terray seriously under-emphasizes the importance of Akan state administrative organization. land tenure relationships and Downloaded from coa. major themes of the ritual and religious activity of the state were the exaltation of the great deeds of the past. The central place occupied by captivity in these societies allows us straightaway to understand why the aristocracies in power were first and foremost military aristocracies. On the ideological level. but also to describe the uneven struggle between classes and fractions of classes to intensify or resist such pressures. these formed the most important part of the booty gained by the conquerors. indicates that there were important economic pressures which made themselves unevenly felt over time on lineage-based cultivators subject to the direct and indirect extraction of surplus. and the subdivisions of the first closely corresponded to the different sections of the second. in Ashanti as in Gyaman. it was not simply the acquisition of these different kinds of tributary products and services that in themselves constituted a relation of production.i.

our interest here is not in determining the comparative value of royal incomes from slave production. Since this argument is developed in the context of the debate about the implications of long-distance trade for the emergence of the state. of slave labour used in the cultivation of royal and chiefly estates. Yet he does not explain why the commercial supply of slaves could not meet the demand. and their control can be secured through coercive arrangements which do not depend on political centralization.’ (1974:339) Yet surely all that is necessary for the ’functioning and reproduction’ of these relations is the replenishment of the supply of slaves.’ (p. Renewal of the supply can take place through exchange. 64) The view that slave production in gold mining was the crucial source of income for the state. and their effective control in the labour process. and that it was in their turn slave relations which evoked the formation of a state as the pre-condition of their functioning and reproduction. cit.9 In any case. he does not appear to have considered carefully the question as to how the Abron state can be said to be a necessary pre-condition for the functioning and reproduction of slave relations of production if the latter were already well established before the formation of the state.taxation. accompanied in mature cases by simple domestic slavery. finds virtually no support in the available literature: ’traditional gold mining was carried out mainly by free family labour with slaves used as an adjunct to the kinbased. Dumett insists. in West Africa. however. but it does not address itself directly to the theoretical problem concerning the necessity of the Abron state in the maintenance and reproduction of slave production. nor why the gap between such supply and demand became critical for production. but in examining the thesis that the state was a pre-conditon for the existence and reproduction of production relations on which class exploitation was based in Gyaman. there is historical evidence for the existence. Terray writes: ’In the light of these data. 2013 . For even if slave labour used in gold mining was not historically as important in the way that Terray describes.) Dumett’s empirical critique is important. how should the specific effects of longdistance trade be characterised? In our view. It is after all part of Terray’s argument that long-distance Mandingo traders had introduced and promoted slave relations of production in the area prior to its political centralization. What drove the exploiters of slave labour as a class (for such there already was by definition) to create the military state for acquiring 27 Downloaded from coa. labour unit. its real role consisted in the introduction of slave type relations of production into social formations dominated until then by the kin-based mode of production. Terray.’ (loc.com by guest on February 10.sagepub. no state could allow itself to rely on trade alone to obtain such an indispensable resource for itself ( 1974:332). In other words. Let us therefore set aside for the moment Dumett’s objections and examine the logic of Terray’s argument. insists that the military apparatus of a centralized state was essential for reproduction because ’given the occasional nature of trade in captives.

through slave labour). Terray may have correctly identified the origin of the surplus appropriated by Abron slave-owners in the sphere of production as opposed to exchange . Thus Terray assumes that the religious doctrines and cults of the Abron are both necessary to and effective in reproducing slave relations of production. but in terms of the unequal political options that offer themselves .the inculcation of martial virtues essential to military activity. and at the same time as the necessary solution to a crisis in their reproduction. 2013 . The difficulty with Terray’s functionalist conceptions can be clearly identified in his treatment of Abron religious ideology. the ideological function of the state is viewed as a form of psychological conditioning . Quite apart from the problem discussed above as to whether the military activities of the state are indeed necessary for the procurement of the needed supply of slaves (and hence the question as to whether religious Downloaded from coa.e. My argument is not that there must have been such a crisis.com by guest on February 10.28 their slaves directly? What is missing here is a discussion of the implicit suggestion that there was a crisis in the traditional mode of reproduction which led the exploiting class to create ’the state’ as its solution. or even that such a crisis is a necessary cause of their establishment. but that the existence of such a crisis must be historically demonstrated if the proposition that ’slave relations evoked the formation of a state as the pre-condition of their functioning and reproduction’ is to be given any sense. And this is something that cannot be shown if the relevant political-ideological conditions are conceptualized as part of the definition of the relations of production between exploiting and exploited classes.sagepub.but what he has not done is to show that the formation of the Abron state was necessarily determined by the mode in which that surplus was extracted (i. economic. within a context of class struggle. it does not follow that their establishment is a necessary consequence of such a crisis.as he claims . The crisis produced by such struggles over historical time may make the creation of new conditions necessary of they are to be solved. The establishment of particular institutions constituting historically determinate states can be seen as attempted solutions to intractible crises. which in turn is essential to the procurement of slaves on which the social order of Gyaman society is ultimately based. as Terray does. ideological conditions over the appropriation of the social product. That is to say. I have argued above that the problem of the reproduction of production relations should not be seen in a functionalist manner as a mechanical process but rather in terms of the unequal struggle within a complex of political. but it raises some important questions for a historical materialist. My point is simply that if newlyestablished centralized institutions are to be represented as the necessary conditions of existence of given production relations this must not be done in a functionalist manner (i. This is a view fully worthy of the functionalist RadcliffeBrown.. neither more nor less.e. However.. as an inter-locking system of cause and effect).

The reader is merely told that the tribute was extremely light because the rulers depended on their peasant subjects for vital military support. They could be the ideological means of moral and political dispute . it must be viewed as part of the developing conditions that defined the relations of production of the lineage based cultivators.and indeed economically inseparable from them. and (b) that such support could only be sought in conflicts aimed at the procurement of slaves? Surely. Religious doctrines and cults that were basic to concepts of social morality and political obligation (as Akan doctrines and cults were)’O must have formed part of such a language of possible argument. It is therefore a mistake to represent Abron religious doctrines and cults as an instrument used actively by the state to shape the passive minds of its subjects.sagepub.com by guest on February 10. I have suggested above that although the tribute may have been light. The fact that these religious concepts implied a hierarchy of powers and functions. and that they derived most of their income from the products of slave labour. logically on a par with slave relations of production . whenever there was conflict over the appropriation of tributary goods and services between the free lineage producers and the Abron ruling class. 2013 .12 If this is accepted. Terray devotes a great deal of attention to the question of class conflict. but Downloaded from coa.activity of the state is essential to the acquisition of slaves through debt bondage or purchase) there are also difficulties that arise from the assimilation of the notion of doctrines to that of indoctrination.precisely because and to the extent that they were shared by rulers and ruled alike. but largely in terms of the conditions preventing the development of politically organised class action (and so of ’revolutionary class consciousness’) within the lineage mode of production. that a language of argument employing them could not be ’revolutionary’ (as Terray might say. given his pre-occupation with ’true class consciousness’) is beside the point. then the question that arises is this: in what way and to what extent does the ideology of the social formation serve as a pre-condition for the extraction of surplus within these two sets of production relations? There is no material for answering this question empirically in Terray’s two papers. what is the reason for assuming that (a) the support of ancestors and supernatural powers was crucial for effective military activity.&dquo. In his paper on ’Class and Class Consciousness in the Abron 29 Kingdom’. a conflict issuing in moral or legal argument. Thus what grounds do we have for accepting that the ideological definitions of the ruling classes necessarily created the desired motives and pre-dispositions among subjects within subordinate classes? More concretely. Since the tribute relation between the free Kulango cultivators and the Abron aristocracy is excluded by definition from the concept of a lineage mode of production (because exploiting/exploited classes can only be intrinsic to that mode) the question of the political-ideological conditions of tribute payment to the aristocracy is not taken up. there must have been citlturally characteristic ways in which such arguments could be expressed. However.

In this respect Terray’s neglect is by no means unique among Marxist anthropologists. Although it Downloaded from coa. but in the fact that what needs to be explained by historical materialism in such transformations is generally taken for granted. and of reproduction. because the mode of production determined a fixed and enduring social-political structure. 2013 .outside’. and has also been developed most effectively by Marxist historians analysing the changing conditions of feudal production relations in medieval Europe. is clearly quite different from the one that is central to Terray’s analysis. However. The difficulty here lies not in locating the precise moment of such an act (because it often occurs ‘very gradually’). and hence to a transformation of social relations. we understand why class contradictions inherent in the lineage mode of production cannot lead to revolution. for it is the totality of these conditions which determines whether and in what way reproduction actually takes place.com by guest on February 10. according to which exploitation exists only when the exploiting class is ’in a position to dictate its conditions to the exploited class and to determine the amount of surplus which it appropriates. produced within and yet necessary to a given mode of production becomes impossible to theorise. or to the overthrowing of one class by another. by trickery and deception). thc seizure of power from ‘inside’) or as the effective securing of consent (by honest persuasion. One consequence of this has been the re-enforcement of the old prejudice that non-European social formations were intrinsically stable. And the problem of the origin of the state tends to resolve itself into the task of identifying a ’typical’ contingent historical act by which a new. for historical materialism the problem of the origin of the state cannot be framed in terms of the founding act of a new order whether this is seen as the decisive application of force (conquest from .sagepub.’ (1976:97).point has been that in this context ideology should not be seen as a form of psychological conditioning which maintains given exploitative relations mechanically and thus ensures their reproduction over time. Thus the ’emergence of the state’ as a revolutionary event.&dquo. Unfortunately Marxist anthropologists have been extremely slow to incorporate this concept into their analyses of pre-capitalist social formations. Instead. Such a view of production relations. It is this that leds Terray to write: ’.. to the seizure of power by one class to the detriment of another. it must be seen as one of the conditions in terms of which the complex struggle for the appropriation of the social product takes place. that their transformation always depended on factors external to the mode of production..’ my ( 1976:88) 30 The concept of a struggle over the appropriation of the social product within developing historical conditions is of course central to Marx’s analysis of capitalist relations of production.the precise historical conditions which make a particular structure of centralized political institutions first possible and then necessary as the form of existence of a developing class society. reintegrated. functional order is founded.

J Middleton & D Taite. A Tuden (eds.because such relations can exist without a centralized political order. Equally. and (b) the possibility of a re-definition of the centrally structured political. I ondon. however unequal the conditions and means may actually be at any given moment. 1965 It is significant that one of the most outstanding British studies in this field. 31 NOTES I F or example M G Smith ’On Segmentary Lineage Systems’ in Journal of the Roval Iribes W ithout Rulers anthropological Institute Vol 86. 1956. Political nthropology of anthropology Chicago. I ondon 1958 P ( I oyd ’T he Political Structure of African Kingdoms an E xploratory Model’ in Political Sy stems and the Distribution of Power (A S A Monographs 2).). M G Smith’s Gov ernment in Zazzau (1960) which deals with political changes in a West African kingdom over a period of one hundred and fifty years. 2013 . for example ’Introduction’ to M J Swartz. In other words both forms of the dual Marxist view of the state (on which theories of origin such as Terray’s have been based) seem to me unacceptable. the state is not necessarily the instrument of absolute ruling class power . 1966. 1969 Downloaded from coa. 15 their presence nevertheless signals two things: (a) the possibility of an intensification of surplus extraction. A generalized theory of the origin of the state cannot be provided by historical materialism because the necessary pre-conditions and consequences of all forms of class exploitation and class struggle cannot be determined in an a priori manner. and F G Bailey. V W I urner.com by guest on February 10. legal.sagepub. etc. Stratagems and Spoils Social a Politics Oxford. Information for such an analysis may be very difficult to obtain but that is no reason for making a methodological principle out of our ignorance. whether directly through a bureaucratic apparatus or indirectly through a hierarchy of classes. pays virtually no attention to socio-economic conditions I his neglect is deliberate and based on an explicit theoretical claim ’Government and society are quite distinct systems although they are inter-related. ideological circumstances within which there takes place a struggle over the appropriation of the social product. economic. and we shall gain very little indeed by undertaking to analyse the governmental changes of Zazzau within the wider framework of social change’ (pp 295-6) 2 See. and thus to analyse the options open to contending classes at each phase of their struggle to consolidate or alter these conditions within the total social formation.because in defining a set of administrative. The state is not a necessary pre-condition of relations of exploitation and of their reproduction . institutions it forms part of the structured conditions of social life of all classes and part also of the means of their mutual struggle. then necessary and eventually problematic.is obvious that class exploitation can exist without centralized political institutions (as I argued nearly a decade ago in my re-analysis of Swat political organization). (eds ). financial. The problem for historical materialism is therefore to determine in each case what are the conditions of such intensification and re-definition. what makes them first possible.

In: M. I. describing Abron religious concepts as part of a language of argument I am not. which were developed in the context of revolutionary socialist politics in twentieth century Europe. 2. Research in Economic Anthropology .J. 1968.M. 3. 27. Organization’. . in: Dalton (ed. 13. 1974. 1972. people. in: The Sociological Review. ’Slaves. like the Abron. R. (ed.). commonly. In ’Market Model. the precise form of this kind of statement is a consequence of importing Leninist conceptions of class conflict. surely. Research in Economic Anthropology. Hilton (ed. See C. (.. pp. 1974. My concern is simply to question the way in which analyses such as Terray’s represent religious ideology as a form of psychological imprinting necessary for a given structure of economic exploitation. 7. See for example R. 1979. also G. 1977. No. No. Numerous cases are on record from the nineteenth century of fines imposed upon villagers by central government courts. is whether it was easy or difficult for free labour to respond to the state’s demands . 1978. 6. Bloch.. 3.). First published in: Economy and Society . and especially Hilton’s own contributions in this volume.E. 2013 . Trade. The Transition from Feudalism to Capitalism. Busia’s article in D. Wittfogel and the Asiatic Mode of Production: Reappraisal’. 1. Thus writing of the Ashanti. Wilks observes that ’the shortage of money within the rural economy left the villager highly exposed in the matter of debt. In part.).com by guest on February 10.) Marxist Analyses and Social Anthropology . Man Downloaded from coa.). An Economic theory of the Feudal System London. 2. See the review article by T. in: G. In: Dalton. into problems of the analysis of pre-capitalist societies where they are irrelevant. see K. Terray regards the tributes as ’light’ in comparison with the quantity of surplus extracted from slave labour. (ed.R. 1979. ’Recherches sur un mode de production africain’ in: C. Class Structure and Consent: a Reconsideration of Swat Political Vol. Vol.. 2. Dalton (ed. although their traditional cosmology differed from that of other Akan groups. In course. London. Sur le ’mode de production asiatique’ . London.). which were fixed at levels appropriate to the wealthy citizens of the towns but not to the rural producer.A.. Paris. Forde (ed. London.R. Kula. 32 10. 1976. London. 14. Johnson Society Vol. Cf. which was frequently obligated either to sell or mortgage ) its land and. Nor am I saying that all disputes employing such a language were essentially disputes over surplus. 29-30).. Llobera. Research in Economic . 1976. Bond Men Made Free.M.) In such circumstances payment of the fine became the responsibility of the awowa some of ( transgressor’s lineage. On the religious moral-political doctrines of the Ashanti. 8. Vol. An Essay on Wealth in Asante’. Hilton. See the useful survey by Robin Law.3. 3. 15. Duby. 7. No. ’Karl A. A.and here the answer must vary according to time and place. The class relations I discussed in this article were quite different from those that have pre-occupied analysts of the so-called lineage mode of production in which relations of exploitation are postulated on the basis of distinctions between elders and . No. 1. Bailey and J. and Taxes: the Material Basis of Political Power in Precolonial West Africa’. Vol. a on Poulantzas and Carchedi in: Economy and 4. Coquery-Vidrovitch. The Rural Economy and Country Life in the Medieval West .’ (’The Golden Stool and the Elephant Tail. 11. In this way lineage property became alienated to wealthy functionaries and entrepreneurs in the towns. But the crucial question. of trying to characterise the essential form of their religion but a possible mode of their religious discourse. W. 6. were of Akan origin. 5. 1979. 12. African Worlds The Ashanti. Anthropology Vol. If these conditions are relevant to Gyaman (and Terray explicitly assumes a parallel between crucial conditions in Ashanti and Gyaman) then the economic subjection of the free cultivators cannot be summed up simply in terms of the formal definition of tribute nor can slave relations of production be analysed in complete isolation from this economic subjection.sagepub. 1973. 9. Vol. 1976.

com by guest on February 10. assume and between men and women On the whole Marxist anthropologists have tended to that pre-state societies can sustain class relations of the latter kind only. This traditional assumption regarding the joint emergence of class society and the state seems to me questionable 33 Downloaded from coa. i.e. that class relations between socially differentiated populations based on principles other than age and sex presuppose the existence of a state which can perform the necessary coercive and ideological functions. 2013 . although ranking and other forms of social distinction do not.sagepub.juniors.