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Modes of Production and Archaeology$
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Robert M. Rosenswig and Jerimy J. Cunningham

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780813054308

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813054308.001.0001

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The Tributary Mode of Production and Justifying Ideologies

The Tributary Mode of Production and Justifying Ideologies

Evaluating the Wolf-Trigger Hypothesis

(p.147) 7 The Tributary Mode of Production and Justifying Ideologies
Modes of Production and Archaeology

Robert M. Rosenswig

University Press of Florida

In his definition of the tributary mode of production, Eric Wolf proposes that those societies that extract economic surplus through political means generate religious models of the cosmos where supernatural beings provide a metaphor of tribute relations in the human world. As Wolf puts it, “…public power is thus transformed into a problem of private morality." This is a classic Marxist assertion that religion creates false consciousness and motivates people to act against their material interests. Rather than assuming this proposition is correct, anthropological data can be employed to assess it. This chapter evaluates whether a society’s mode of production corresponds to beliefs about the structure of the cosmos using ethnographic data from the eHRAF World Cultures database. Do societies where tribute is extracted by political means have similar justifying ideologies? Conversely, do societies where surplus extraction occurs through kin relations lack such justifying ideologies? My goal is to evaluate Wolf’s intuitively logical proposition with anthropological data. The implications of this evaluation are at the heart of a materialist understanding of causation by empirically evaluating whether material conditions influence ideational beliefs.

Keywords:   tributary mode of production, justifying ideologies, eHRAF World Cultures database

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