Malthus was an economist turned demographer, considered as world’s first scientific demographer. He gave his theory in context of industrial revolution and post industrial revolution time.
According to Malthus, population and its ability to grow & multiply is infinitely larger than population’s ability to grow food i.e. while food can be increased in arithmetic progression, population can multiply in geometric progression.
Malthus evaluates, man as passive animal being who is given 2 basic biological/physiological urges-
1. Hunger/drive to satisfy his food needs
2. Sexual urges, instinct to multiply and procreate his species
The 2 biological urges are antagonistic to each other. Therefore as long as food is scarce, the tendency to increase it’s number is less & vice-versa i.e. food is a fundamental control in deciding the population numbers.
His general view was that population tends to increase faster than means of subsistence, thus absorbing the economic gains, unless controlled by ‘preventive’ and ‘positive’ checks.
Malthus however discriminates between poor and wealthier population. Positive checks like wars, diseases, droughts, floods, poverty were more applicable to poor population who he linked to animals and passive beings whereas wealthier population has the option of negative checks like infidelity, homosexuality.
Evaluation of Malthusian Demography Model:
The idea of food as a limitation & land as an ultimate resource is still a valid concept. The prospect of hunger, global food scarcity is a valid possibility.
• Malthus errs in equating sexual drive as responsible for rise in population. In reality the drive to have children is a social drive.
• Man’s interpretation as passive animal being is incorrect. Fact is man is capable of pursuing more progressive pursuits like art, literature.
• Malthus could not accommodate the possibility of human creativity like technology and use of birth control measures which have managed to control our numbers and have not caused global hunger crisis. His prediction of human population doubling in 25 years also differs from reality.
• Malthus had predicted that population will actually increase with development but some of the most developed regions of the world with no known problem of hunger are also having the most stabilized population and even –ve growth rate too e.g. Scavandia, Germany, Japan.
Malthus is most relevant in modern concepts of sustainable development, ecology and concerns of environment. Much like Malthusian perspective of man-resource relationship where much like the land, environment at large is considered to have it’s limit in supporting human population and development. Concept of ‘Limit to Growth’ is Neo-Malthusian concept which became basis of environmental concerns of 21st century. Marx was one of the most powerful critics of Malthus, asserting that poverty is the result of unjust social institutions of capitalism rather than population growth. His theory of food-population relationship is actually a theory in population-land relationship. Hence the theory is also called ecological approach to population growth and population size.