Is Marxism a reflection of the conceptual system it fights against, rather than a truly comprehensive approach to human history? Drawing on recent work in anthropology, history, and philosophy, Donald Donham confronts this problem in analyzing a radically different social order: the former Maale kingdom of southern Ethiopia.
Unlike capitalist societies, wherein inequality is organized by contracts between "free" individuals, in Maale powerful men were thought to "beget" others through control of biological fertility and material fortune. Donham scrutinizes this unusual system of domination in order to sharpen issues in social and cultural theory. He concludes that the interpretation of symbols and analysis of historical contingency should be crucial steps in any Marxists investigation. The result is a provocative and original re-reading of the Marxist tradition, and a spirited defense of its continued vitality and relevance.
"Every once in a while there appears a book that . . . opens up new ways of inquiring into the ways of the world. Donald Donham has written such a book. The style is quiet and judicious, but the effect is stunning. . . . In putting inherited partisan approaches to the test of explaining the realities of Maale society and culture, Donham enriches anthropology and imparts new vigor to the analytical Marxian traditions. History, Power, Ideology embodies a major accomplishment."—From the Foreword