Power, Descent and Reproduction: A Critique of the Concept of the ‘Lineage Mode of Production’ in Chinese Society

  • John Clammer


One of the most lasting contributions of the recent flourishing of French neo-Marxist anthropology has been that of drawing attention to the materialist element (the ‘political economy’ if you like) of that most sacrosanct and frequently (in the philosophical sense) idealised province of the Anglo-Saxon social anthropology: kinship. The present chapter is an exploratory one, and therefore tentative in its conclusions, or at least in its formulation of the specific problem to which it is addressed. This may be defined as the application to the analysis of traditional Chinese society of three of the questions raised by the French neo-Marxists, namely, (i) is there such a thing as a ‘lineage mode of production’. (ii) does exploitation exist in a lineage society? and (iii) do classes exist in lineage societies? Traditional Chinese society, which had the patrilineage as its focus of organisation, immediately suggests itself as a suitable subject for such an investigation. This is not only a matter of antiquarian interest — a matter of studying a society no longer in existence in mainland China — but also for the study of social dynamics. Chinese society has undergone revolutionary changes in the last thirty years, and the question arises: were some of the seeds of these changes contained in the pre-revolutionary social system?


Kinship System Filial Piety Social Anthropology Lineage Society Lineage Organisation 
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Notes and References

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© John Clammer 1985

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  • John Clammer

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