Modes of production and social transitions
in Reflections on the Marxist theory of history
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This chapter begins with an overview of the contribution of V. Gordon Childe, perhaps the twentieth century's most influential archaeologist, who was deeply influenced by Karl Marx. Marx had sketched humanity's prehistory as including, 'in broad outline, the Asiatic, ancient, feudal and modern bourgeois modes of production'. In addition to a discussion of Childe's work to an examination of later Marxist attempts, the chapter explains some of the historical processes analysed by Childe. It outlines some of the Marxist contributions to the explanation of the decline of classical antiquity, including the accounts of Perry Anderson, Chris Wickham and Ellen Wood. The chapter then discusses the debates on the nature of pre-capitalist peasant societies. It further discusses the debates on the transition from feudalism to capitalism generally, and the concept of bourgeois revolution specifically, particularly the contributions made to this literature by Anderson, Christopher Hill, Eric Hobsbawm and Edward Thompson.

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