Hydroagriculture is the term used by Karl A. Wittfogel in Oriental Despotism to describe small scale irrigated agriculture. This is contrasted to "hydraulic agriculture", "large scale and government-direct farming" which requires large scale cooperation, and according to him, an opportunity for oppression, "Oriental despotism".[1]

Wittfogel's analysis has not been accorded respect due to its conflation with the general rejection of "Orientalism" as a rational category, however, deriving whatever sense there is in it is aided by keeping in mind the distinction he makes between small scale irrigated farming, hydroagriculture, and large scale irrigated agriculture, hydraulic agriculture.[2] Googling for Hydroagriculture yields few significant hits. The term is not in general use.


  1. Page 12, Oriental Despotism: A Comparative Study of Total Power, Yale University Press (1957), hardcover, 556 pages
  2. "Wittfogel's Neglected Hydraulic/Hydroagricultural Distinction" David H. Price Journal of Anthropological Research, Vol. 50, No. 2 (Summer, 1994), pp. 187-204

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