Marxism and Malthusian Theories


The problem to the issue of giving out socialist ideas is the perception that poverty is something natural to human beings. It is usually caused as a result of rapid growth in population that surpasses the amount of food produced. This was basically what was stipulated by Thomas Malthus in his publication titled the principle of population as it affects the future improvement of society that was released in 1978. Malthus was one of the famous ancient political economists and made a number of publications including the principle of political Economy in 1820 [footnoteRef:1]. Despite the fact that, he was a reverend, most of his time was spent on disseminating knowledge of History and Political Economy at a college. [1: Robert M. Young (May, 1969), Malthus and the Evolutionists: The Common Context of Biological and Social Theory. Published by: Oxford University Press on behalf of The Past and Present Society (pp. 109-145).]

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Basically, Malthus population theory applies the concept of supply and demand in relation to the production of food and the growth in population. Basically, his main aim was to show that the rapid population growth which was quite higher than the amount of food produced will lead to problems such famine, war or diseases. He also made a sentiment that any attempt to change the status of the poor will lead to the increase of the number of people to be feed, hence creating more shortage of food leading to a situation of food becoming more expensive hence leaving them in a more desperate state of poverty. Malthus argued, that human nature results to a high birth rate that is not limited and if it will not be regulated it will lead to a situation where the population will double itself more than four times in a century. He stated that, if the population is not checked, it will increase at a geometric ration while on the hand food production increases at an arithmetical ratio. His conclusion was based on this two ratios the geometric and arithmetic ratio.

For instance depending on the population of the regardless of any number, it will increase at the ratio:1,2,4,8,16,32,64,128,256,512

While the rate of food production will increase at the ratio:1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10..

Therefore in two and a quarter century, the ration between population and the amount of food produced would be 512/10. In three centuries this will be 4096/13. This means that in at least two years, the ratio will be quite significant despite the fact that there will be an increase in food production[footnoteRef:2]. [2: Robert M. Young (May, 1969), Malthus and the Evolutionists: The Common Context of Biological and Social Theory. Published by: Oxford University Press on behalf of The Past and Present Society (pp. 109-145).] Marx basically disapproved this theory. This is because he believed that, there can never be a general theory that will explicitly represent all the social systems.

He argued that what was believed to be overpopulation and lack of food was ideally caused by people being unemployed as a result of the periodic trade cycle that formed a very distinct characteristic of capitalism. Marx proved how capitalism led to a situation where there as an industrial reserve army of people lacking employment which become more during trade depression and decreased when the economic conditions improve. This economic cycle was not in any way related to the rate of birth but was mainly concerned with the economic laws that mainly deal with the production of goods and selling them at a profit. Basically what refuted the population theory by Malthus is the changes in surrounding capitalism. Increased productivity of food as a result of introduction of technology in farming lead to a situation where the prices of food went down and the production managed to handle all the food requirements of the urban population that was rapidly increasing.

Another factor that disapproved this theory was the increasing production and development of contraceptives. This lead to an increasing use of the contraceptives during the 19th century they were invented. This drastically led to a significant drop in the birth rate[footnoteRef:3]. [3: Anon, (2017). [online] Available at:

http://file:///C:/Users/SuperUser/Downloads/Historical%20Sociology%20- %20Anna%20Green%20_%20Kathleen%20Troup%20(dragged).pdf [Accessed 27 Sep. 2017].]

Malthusian population theory is biased in terms of class basing on what it propagated. This mainly because major focus has been put on the population classes those owners the means of production forgetting the distributors of the same. The theory did not talk about the amount of wealth that is owned by the minors in the capitalist’s society. Also, the theory ignores all the wastes related to capitalism such as commerce, armed production, advertising and the power of the government.The main focus is placed on the poor and desperate people in the society. Basically Malthus places his major blame on the working class during that period of time. Many socialist tend to deviate from this theory because they believe that human population will not be swept of due to lack of resources such as food. Basically in the capitalist’s society, scarcity is not something natural rather it is a social problem.

Basically food production is a variable depending on the nature of social existence is a certain place. It should be noted that Marx showed that there are a number of factors of production such as human labor, which are restricted depending on the social relationship with regards to production. Basically the problem lies on the monopoly in the terms of the owners of means of production and making distribution is the business of the minority hence excluding the majority[footnoteRef:4]. [4: Robert M. Young (May, 1969), Malthus and the Evolutionists: The Common Context of Biological and Social Theory. Published by: Oxford University Press on behalf of The Past and Present Society (pp. 109-145).] This is basically the general law governing the accumulation of capital whereby by placing the surplus in possession of the capitalists class leads to very high levels of poverty to the people that source this surplus production. This can be stated as through the accumulation of capital many people become unemployed. Unemployment is quite an important characteristic of the capitalist society.

We have a constant reserve army of labor that has different size depending on what the capitalists want. The error main mistake that many of the classical economist made Malthus included was to place major focus on capital accumulation and the main areas of production that are affected rather than having a broader scope of looking at how the total social capital relate to the entire labor force. [bookmark: _GoBack] According to Marx’s analysis, population has been looked at as a dependent variable. In the event that the reserve army of labor is reduced or become depleted and there is an increase the amount of wages then the surplus value will reduce making the capitalists think of ways of improving production so as to make profits. These measures may include improving technology or making foreign investments. This will therefore increase the level of productivity of the labor force and consequently leads to more jobs hence everyone will be in a position to afford food. Looking at the Marxist thinking, population is not the problem, rather the problem lies on the accumulation of surplus.


Anon, (2017). [online] Available at:

http://file:///C:/Users/SuperUser/Downloads/Historical%20Sociology%20- %20Anna%20Green%20_%20Kathleen%20Troup%20(dragged).pdf [Accessed 27 Sep. 2017].

Robert M. Young (May, 1969), Malthus and the Evolutionists: The Common Context of Biological and Social Theory.

Published by: Oxford University Press on behalf of The Past and Present Society (pp. 109-145). URL: Accessed: 02-08-2017 15:59 UTC

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