It is perhaps surprising that the recent resurgence of interest in the application of Marxist theory to the study of the historically non-capitalist societies of the Third World should have focused, at least in part, upon the stateless societies of Africa. To some extent, this interest in some of the least differentiated and least class-stratified of societies can be related to the fundamental problematic of Marxist sociology: the characterization of the stage of advanced communism, which remains so obscure in Marx's own theoretical work. An understanding of the dynamics of ‘primitive’ communism might be seen, therefore, as an essential precursor to this underlying concern. Certainly, the often highly tendentious views of Marxist writers on such issues as the definition of the state and the extent of exploitation in the primitive communist mode can be related to this need. However, the rise of Marxist anthropology has not only been presented as a problem of general evolutionary theory. Other influences have been offered to account for the new concern, the most widely cited being the supposed crisis of functionalism, and the resulting necessity for a complete reorientation of the whole discipline of anthropology. Stateless societies, having long occupied a central place in the field of anthropological enquiry, and yet outwardly presenting such simplicity of form, offer a particular challenge to the radical, and in several recent works have been interpreted in what is claimed to be a novel and distinctive way.