Population Theories and the Economic Interpretation

Population Theories and the Economic Interpretation

Population Theories and the Economic Interpretation

Population Theories and the Economic Interpretation

Excerpt

Since the time of Malthus, few indeed remain indifferent to the so-called 'population problem'. Outside the academic sphere there are those who, on the one hand, still see in population phenomena the explanation of the existing world distribution of material goods; and, on the other, those who continue to believe that essentially the population 'problem' is a red herring invoked, as in the past, to justify the status quo.

Within academic circles, the situation is much different. Here a dispassionate attempt is made to understand population phenomena. Tools of greater precision are devised for the measurement and ordering of the diversity of demographic patterns and developments, explanatory hypotheses are tested, etc. Nevertheless, there is evidence that even in academic circles, political preconceptions, as well as pure reason, determine a population 'attitude': e.g. upon the publication of the anti-Malthusian Geography of Hunger by Josué de Castro, an important population study centre in the United States published in a special issue, which was widely and gratuitously circulated, an ill-conceived and over-anxious critique of Castro's work. It seems clear, then, that there are population attitudes as well as purely theoretical interests in demography.

A further difficulty encountered in pursuing the study of demography is the great interest the subject arouses in students engaged in different lines of academic endeavour. Frequently biologists, physiologists, sociologists, economists, mathematicians, physicists and philosophers advance a population theory.

Thus it is that in view of the diversity of thought and the variety of contributions to population theory, the author is not entitled to assume that his audience is familiar with the various hypotheses adduced to explain population dynamics. Hence in Part I of the book, 'Population Theories Since Malthus', the exposition is burdened, perhaps, by too much detail and documentation. However, since Part I is not only expository but polemic, it seemed best to quote extensively.

In Part II, 'The Economic Interpretation', the approach deviates from current thought on labour problems. To me, labour-power is a commodity and demand for labour governs supply. Since completing the book it has occurred to me that . . .

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