From Dialectic of Nature to the Asian Mode: A Pre-history of North Korean Environmental Approach

Robert Winstanley-Chesters

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    North Korea is not a nation or field that attracts a great deal of critically minded analysis which would address the processes and moments of its ideological history. This is especially true when it comes to matters of North Korea's relationship with nature and the environment, and the ideologies which underpin developmental and productive strategies within that nation. The routes which Marxist analysis in general took to connect to the Korean Peninsula are themselves fairly obscure and rarely considered. This paper therefore seeks an examination of the generation of Marxist analysis of nature and of those modes of production which encounter, transform and interact with natural and environmental forms. It considers the work of both Engels and Marx on the subject before tracing the journey those theorisations took into the practices and articulations of later Marxists, communists and socialists tasked with applying Marxist principles more widely in the processes of nation building and governance. In particular, it analyses notions of an Asian Mode of Production and the debate in Marxist circles as to that mode's veracity and utility. It also encounters briefly the work of Karl Wittfogel, a counter-Marxist theoretician, and his notion of Hydraulic Economy. Finally, the paper traces the journey made by these theoretical structures into the intellectual world of the Korean Peninsula, navigating the debates it generated among early Korean Marxist intellectuals and their embedding or otherwise within the ideological structures and processes of North Korea.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-18
    JournalCapitalism, Nature, Socialism
    VolumePublished online: 26 May 2016.
    Publication statusPublished - 2016


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