An Essay on the Principle of Population

Thomas Malthus. Introduction by K.R. Gupta, Atlantic, 2009, xii, 188 p, ISBN : 8126910540, $28.00 (Includes free airmail shipping)

"An Essay on the Principle of Population remains one of the most powerful statements on the limits to human hopes set by the tension between increasing population and limited means of existence. In this famous treatise, which transformed Malthus into an intellectual celebrity, he posited the hypothesis that population, if unchecked, increases at a geometric rate (i.e. 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, etc.), whereas subsistence grows at an arithmetic rate (i.e. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc.).

Malthus's hypothesis implied that actual population always has a tendency to push above the food supply. Any attempt to ameliorate the condition of the lower classes by increasing their incomes or improving agricultural productivity would be fruitless, as the extra means of subsistence would be completely absorbed by an induced boost in population. As long as this tendency remains, Malthus argued, the perfectibility of society will always be out of reach. Malthus suggested that only natural causes like war, famine, pestilence, etc. could check excessive population growth.

Modern demographers find Malthusian view of power of population highly pessimistic. However, the facts that the world population is increasing at a fast rate notwithstanding various family planning measures, and world food security is under serious threat bear testimony that Malthus's ideas are holding true even today.

The book deeply analyses the views of earlier writers on the subject of population, like Godwin, Condorcet, Russel Wallace, Richard Price among others, challenges them and convincingly brings forth Malthus's hypotheses which have gained universal acceptance. It also contains an inculcating introduction by K.R. Gupta, a well-known economist, which not only analyses Malthus's views but also studies many other factors like migration of population and problems related thereto, population ageing and the ideas of economists like Adam Smith and David Ricardo to further analyse the issues relating to population. The introduction facilitates easy understanding of Malthus's hypotheses and serves as a curtain-raiser for the book.

It will be highly useful to the students and teachers of economics, sociology and anthropology and researchers in these fields. It will immensely benefit policymakers and demographers. Common readers will also find it interesting and informative." (jacket)

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