Are you Wittfogel or against him? Geophilosophy, hydro-sociality, and the state

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Recent explorations of the "hydrosocial" cycle draw inspiration from Wittfogel's basic concern with politics, power, and centralized authority, but move well beyond the limitations of previous scholarship. Most importantly, they have (re)introduced a conception of the social into the hydrological, and grappled with water's materiality in ecumenical and creative ways. Understanding hydro-sociality requires an ontological approach to matter, flux, and flow. Water is the "universal solvent," which makes it infinitely capable of mutation and connection. Yet, such indeterminacy proves difficult to capture in research and writing. Here I pinpoint some of the politico-discursive strengths of the hydrosocial approach, and also where I think its already strong ontological inclinations could be further developed. I draw from work in the area of "geophilosophy" as a way to explore hydro-sociality as a nonlinear process, developing a historicized account of irrigation politics, the flows of matter, and nonlinear dynamics in northwest Mexico's Río Mayo Valley.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)205-214
Number of pages10
StatePublished - Nov 1 2014


  • Geophilosophy
  • Hydrosocial cycle
  • Irrigation politics
  • Mexico
  • Ontology of flow
  • Political geography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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