Wittfogel, Karl A. (1896–1988)

Karl a. wittfogel, a german historian and prominent sinologist, is most noted for his theory of the hydraulic civilization. Applied by Wittfogel primarily to ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, China, the Indus Valley, and regions in pre-Columbian Latin America, he contended that the strong central political control was necessary to control the source and disposition of water. The degree of centralization within these civilizations was extreme to the point of being despotic. All of the civilizations noted in Wittfogel's studies existed in arid regions, where vast irrigation systems supported extensive agricultural operations, with the exception of China. It is on this point that his theory has been sternly criticized. The prominent China scholar, Joseph Needham, argued that early Chinese governments, although exercising central control, were not despotic. ...

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