Karl August Wittfogel

Wittfogel, Karl August (kärl aüˈgŏst vĭtˈfōgül) [key], 1896–1988, German historian and sinologist, Ph.D. Univ. of Frankfurt, 1928. In the 1920s and early 30s, he was an active member of the German Communist party and, between 1925 and 1933, a member of the Frankfurt School. After being interned in a concentration camp by the Nazis (1931–33), he moved to the United States, becoming a naturalized citizen in 1939. There he held academic positions at Columbia Univ. and at the Univ. of Washington. His research on the relationship between the managerial demands of irrigation agriculture and the development of bureaucratic totalitarianism, outlined in Oriental Despotism: A Comparative Study of Total Power (1957), profoundly shaped anthropological theories of the origins of complex societies and the state.

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