JOURNAL of
ANTHROPOLOGICAL
RESEARCH
Volume 50, Number 2:187-204.

FIFTIETH ANNIVERSARY YEAR

WITTFOGEL'S NEGLECTED HYDRAULIC/ HYDROAGRICULTURAL DISTINCTION

David H. Price
St. Martin's College, Lacey, WA 98503

Karl Wittfogel's writings on the evolution of irrigation systems are examined in light of his distinction between hydraulic and hydroagricultural systems. Wittfogel recognized that different hydraulic conditions allowed for the development of different types of irrigation systems: hydraulic societies have tended to develop in massive riverine environments, while hydroagricultural societies have tended to develop along smaller water sources in regions where geographical features hydraulically compartmentalized the countryside. Robert Hunt's recent refutation of Wittfogel's model is examined in light of Wittfogel's own writings about the size and density of hydraulic and hydroagricultural societies. It is argued that Hunt's critique of Wittfogel's model fails because it ignores the specific variables which Wittfogel postulated as primarily influencing the administrative character of irrigation societies.