This introduction, coming out during the two hundredth anniversary of Karl Marx’s birth, discusses the distinctiveness of Marxian anthropology and what it has to offer to our efforts at understanding, and confronting, the complexities of the social contradictions constituted by—and constitutive of—twenty-first century capitalism. The article points out common denominators of Marxian anthropology going back to Marx’s insights, but also offers a cursory social history of the diverse lineages of enquiry within Marxian anthropology, shaped by the relations and inequalities of the context in which they emerged. Finally, we discuss certain crucial fields of engagement in contemporary Marxian anthropology as reflected in this theme section’s contributions.
Marxian anthropology resurgent
Patrick Neveling and Luisa Steur
Land expropriation, socialist "modernizers," and peasant resistance in Asia
Luisa Steur and Ritanjan Das
With the victory of capitalism and the end of the Cold War, almost all countries in the global south, including those still calling themselves “communist,” have become “transition” countries, competing to attract foreign direct investment and reform according to the strictures of global capitalism. Particularly interesting cases of “transition” are those states that explicitly legitimize their rule in terms of communist ideals, the general alliance of peasants and workers toward an egalitarian society, and whose ideological pillars historically include a pro-poor re- distributive land reform.