Primitive communism  

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"Many early sociologists and other writers portrayed primitive cultures as noble—noble savages—and believed that their lack of technology and less integrated economies made them ideal examples of the correct human lifestyle. Among these thinkers were Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who is most frequently associated with the idea of the noble savage based on his Discourse on Inequality, and Karl Polanyi, who in The Great Transformation praised the economic organization of primitive societies as less destructive than the market economy. The belief that primitive cultures are ideal is often described as primitivism; branches of this theory include primitive communism and anarcho-primitivism." --Sholem Stein

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Primitive communism is a concept originating from Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels who argued that hunter-gatherer societies were traditionally based on egalitarian social relations and common ownership. A primary inspiration for both Marx and Engels were Lewis Henry Morgan's descriptions of 'communism in living' as practised by the Iroquois Indians of North America. In Marx's model of socioeconomic structures, societies with primitive communism had no hierarchical social class structures or capital accumulation.

Engels offered the first detailed theorization of primitive communism in 1884, with publication of The Origin of the Family. Marx and Engels used the term more broadly than later Marxists, and applied it not only to hunter-gatherers but also to some subsistence agriculture communities. There is also no agreement among later scholars, including Marxists, on the historical extent, or longevity, of primitive communism.

Marx and Engels also noted how capitalist accumulation latched itself onto social organizations of primitive communism. For instance, in private correspondence the same year that The Origin of the Family was published, Engels attacked European colonialism, describing the Dutch regime in Java directly organizing agricultural production and profiting from it, "on the basis of the old communistic village communities".

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