Dialectical Anthropology

, Volume 14, Issue 4, pp 307–321 | Cite as

Pre-capitalist modes of production in Papua New Guinea

  • Terence Wesley-Smith


In the articulation-of-modes-of-production literature there is a tendency to treat conceptual structures as if they had lives of their own. Thus modes of production are sometimes portrayed as meeting, intertwining, and reproducing like giant organisms animated by ineluctable laws of motion. But these structures and categories are primarily the products of thought. As such, they cannotdo anything, and they possess no motivational capacity whatsoever. They are simply analytical tools, more-or-less useful in explaining how and why history unfolded in the way it did.

The categories and relationships suggested in this paper represent a preliminary attempt to make some sense of pre-contact change in Papua New Guinea. Their adequacy or otherwise will be determined ultimately through more rigorous engagements with the empirical evidence than is possible here.


Empirical Evidence Analytical Tool Conceptual Structure Preliminary Attempt Motivational Capacity 
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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Terence Wesley-Smith

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