T. Robert Malthus
Malthus’s Essay on Population (1798) begins by pointing out
that our ability to produce children will always outstrip our ability to provide
energy for their survival. This, Malthus says, is a condition of our biological
existence. Therefore, he continues, population must be kept in line with what
the society can produce in the way of sustenance. Finally, he states, every way
available to keep population in check—both preventative and positive—has
negative consequence for individuals and societies (including birth control).
Because of this simple fact, he argues, we can never achieve the just and
equitable society anticipated by believers in material and spiritual
progress—poverty, pain, vice, misery will always be the lot of some. Note that
he does not claim that population would soon outstrip its resources and that
society would collapse. Malthus's basic insight had a significant impact on
Darwin, Wallace, and Spencer in their development of evolutionary theory.
to me that you have read and mastered the course
material. Answer the following essay questions
to be turned in during class before your exam over this unit. For full credit,
list the question, a ddress the questions fully and
completely in your own words and voice. Length should be about
500 words per question.
What are Malthus's views of inequality?
Why did Malthus oppose the Poor Laws of England?
The following short answer questions are from your
readings and are to be turned in during class before your exam over this unit.
Each can be answered with a short paragraph of three or four sentences; use your
own words and voice.
Why is Malthus's 1798 Essay so maligned?
Discuss Malthus's position on the Poor Laws of
What social practices keep population in line
What is the cyclical relationship between
production and reproduction?
What was Malthus's prediction of future
"For Malthus, overshoot is almost always present
in every human society." Explain.
What are the positive checks on population
growth? How do they differ from preventive checks?
What was Malthus's position on contraception?
Explain Malthus's use of cost/benefit analysis.
What are the Poor Laws?
What conflict did Malthus see between the Poor
Laws and individual liberties?
What reforms did Malthus advocate to address
How does Malthus differ from the later Social
How does Malthus explain the Double Standard
regarding premarital sexual behavior?
How does Spencer see population pressures as
improving the species?
What is frequency of cropping?
What is Boserup's posited relationship between
the system of land use and technology?
What are Boserup's contributions to Malthusian
Discuss Malthus's preventive checks. How
affect human behavior?
How did Malthus influence Darwin and Wallace?
T. Robert Malthus'
1798 Essay: Chapter One
Malthus, T. R. (1798/2001). An Essay on the
Principle of Population. In F. W. Elwell, A Commentary on Malthus' 1798 Essay
on the Principle of Population as Social Theory (pp. 127-294). Lewiston:
| Syllabus |
Send comments to felwell at rsu.edu