A Commentary on Malthus' 1798 Essay on Population as Social Theory

 Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2001. ISBN: 0773476695.

Written by sociologist Frank W. Elwell, Dean of Liberal Arts at Rogers State University. The book is a commentary on Malthus’ 1798 Essay on Population that attempts to tie the interpretation closely to the original Essay rather than to the politically charged reactions to that Essay.  Malthus' master work is not a simplistic projection of future population growth and inevitable collapse, the Essay is actually a far subtler ecological-evolutionary social theory.  Malthus’ theory is fundamentally based on the relationships between population and food production.  Increase the supply of food, he argues, and population will rise to meet this increase. This, he asserts, means that the race between population and resources can never be truly won by any sociocultural system. Therefore, some measure of social inequality is inevitable in all human societies.

The work includes commentary and criticism of Malthus’ methodology, the materialist, evolutionary, and functional elements of his theory, as well as the application of his theory to understanding the nature of welfare programs and possibilities for social progress.

Illustration: Earthly Sustenance, 2000, pastel on paper, by Eva F. King.


Related sites:
Classical Theorists
In the Classical Tradition
Reclaiming Malthus

Frank W. Elwell is Professor of Sociology and the founding Dean of Liberal Arts at Rogers State University.  He teaches social problems, sociological theory, medical sociology, and cultural ecology and is the author of The Evolution of the Future (Praeger, 1991),  Industrializing America (Praeger, 1999), A Commentary on Malthus' 1798 Essay as Social Theory  (Mellen, 2001), The Classical Tradition: Malthus, Marx, Weber & Durkheim, and Macrosociology: Four Modern Theorists.

Elwell's Homepage

©Frank Elwell Send comments to felwell at rsu.edu