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Chapter 11

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Brent Berry

SOC312: Chapter 11 Population and Resources Thomas Robert Malthus (1766-1834)  Population tends to grow geometrically while resources grow arithmetically  If left unchecked, population would become so large that it would eventually surpass human’s ability to produce food in sufficient quantities  Principle of Population--> reducing effects such as plagues, wars, diseases are ‘positive checks’ on population growth and these events would be inevitable results of allowing population growth to continue unabated  Believed that the only way to prevent successive cycles of population growth and collapse was to implement ‘preventive checks’ on population to curtail the birth rate  He was thinking about celibacy and late marriage  ‘moral restraint’ o He considered these personal choices coincided perfectly with the moral codes of a Christian life  Lived through American Revolution, French Revolution and a significant portion of the Industrial revolution Pre-Malthusian Thought on Population  Stangeland o Identified seven pre-Malthusian perspectives on population o Importance of marriage as a vehicle to promote pop growth is prominent in these early writings (just as it was central to Malthus’s own theory) 1. The primitive attitude, usually expressed in religious veneration of the procreative powers a. Ex. many ancient pagan rituals began to encourage humans to procreate in light of recurrent epidemics of disease and war 2. The Greek view, which saw procreation as a civic duty, hence something to be regulated to the needs of the city state 3. The Roman policy of promoting continuous population growth, with a view to the indefinite expansion of the Roman state. 4. The Medieval Christian conception of sexual relations, which emphasized the moral superiority of celibacy 5. The attitude of the humanists, who echoed the Greeks in emphasizing the need to regulate population 6. The individualistic and anti-ascetic attitude of the Reformation 7. The mercantilist attitude, favouring population growth as a way of maintaining national economic and political power a. Greater the population, the greater the state’s productivity and prosperity Precursors to Malthusian Thought  Virtus generative (biological drive to reproduce) is stronger than virtus nutriva (human need for sustenance)  ultimately limits population growth Malthus, Condorcet, and Godwin  Voltaire, Rousseau, Marquis de Condorcet  believed that humans were inherently good but that social institutions were problematic The Principle of Population  Food is necessary to the existence of man  The passion between the sexes is necessary  Power of pop > power in earth to produce subsistence for man  Population increases in geometrical ratio, subsistence increases in an arithmetical ratio  Conclusions: o Population is necessarily limited by the means of subsistence o Population increase where means of subsistence increase, unless prevented by checks o These checks keeps its effect on a level with the means of subsistence  ‘Misery’  difference in growth rates between population and food would produce its own remedies in the forms of ‘misery’ o Including: famine, war, disease, pestilence)  Malthus described these ‘miseries’ to be positive checks on pop growth because they all contributed to increasing mortality  lower pop to the point where resources available be sufficient to sustain it  ‘Vices’  including all the ways that humans had then discovered to avoid unwanted conceptions and children, notably abortion and infanticide)  Described vices as ‘preventive checks’ as they all served to lower the birth rate  disproved of these behaviours  As a preventive approach, Malthus preferred ‘moral restraint’ Modern Criticism of Malthus  Didn’t anticipate how the worst consequences of overpopulation might be mitigated  Didn’t taken into account human resilience in the face of difficult predicaments  Malthus suggested that population and food supply must be In balance, but what constitutes optimum population size is difficult to specify  differs for different societies  Failed to anticipate the use of large scale emigration by European society to relieve population pressure Importance of Malthus to Population Studies  Through his insistence on application of
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