Hydraulic Despotism; China's Long Fixation on the Three Gorges dam.(BOOKS)
Byline: John Derbyshire, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Fifty years ago the sinologist, political scientist and recovering Marxist Karl Wittfogel gave us his theory of "hydraulic despotism." Surveying the great imperial systems of the pre-industrial world, Wittfogel argued that their centralized, bureaucratic nature was a consequence of their having to organize great masses of manpower for water-management projects - dams, dikes, canals, and so on - in regions where rainfall was uneven or unreliable. He then suggested that this "hydraulic" mentality lingered on in the great totalitarian empires of the 20th century, and cited the Soviet passion for dam building as evidence.
Wittfogel's theories did not gain much acceptance and have now been pretty much forgotten. The building of great dams continues to be an obsession in at least one part of the world, though, a place whose rulers perceive themselves, quite consciously, to be the heirs of one of the oldest and greatest imperial despotisms of all. That place is China, where Wittfogel's inquiries began. The latest …
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Publication information: Article title: Hydraulic Despotism; China's Long Fixation on the Three Gorges dam.(BOOKS). Contributors: Not available. Newspaper title: The Washington Times (Washington, DC). Publication date: December 1, 2002. Page number: B08. © 2009 The Washington Times LLC. COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group.
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