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Overview[ edit ] Between and Malthus published six editions of his famous treatise, updating each edition to incorporate new material, to address criticism, and to convey changes in his own perspectives on the subject.
He wrote the original text in reaction to the optimism of his father and his father's associates notably Rousseau regarding the future improvement of society. Malthus also constructed his case as a specific response to writings of William Godwin — and of the Marquis de Condorcet — Part of Thomas Malthus 's table of population growth in Englandfrom his An Essay on the Principle of Population, 6th edition, Malthus regarded ideals of future improvement in the lot of humanity with scepticism, considering that throughout history a segment of every human population seemed relegated to poverty.
He explained this phenomenon by arguing that population growth generally expanded in times and in regions of plenty until the size of the population relative to the primary resources caused distress: This constant effort as constantly tends to subject the lower classes of the society to distress and to prevent any great permanent amelioration of their condition".
An Essay on the Principle of Population. We will suppose the means of subsistence in any country just equal to the easy support of its inhabitants. The constant effort towards population The food therefore which before supported seven millions must now be divided among seven millions and a half or eight millions.
The poor consequently must live much worse, and many of them be reduced to severe distress. The number of labourers also being above the proportion of the work in the market, the price of labour must tend toward a decrease, while the price of provisions would at the same time tend to rise.
The labourer therefore must work harder to earn the same as he did before.
During this season of distress, the discouragements to marriage, and the difficulty of rearing a family are so great that population is at a stand. In the mean time the cheapness of labour, the plenty of labourers, and the necessity of an increased industry amongst them, encourage cultivators to employ more labour upon their land, to turn up fresh soil, and to manure and improve more completely what is already in tillage, till ultimately the means of subsistence become in the same proportion to the population as at the period from which we set out.
The situation of the labourer being then again tolerably comfortable, the restraints to population are in some degree loosened, and the same retrograde and progressive movements with respect to happiness are repeated.
Malthus also saw that societies through history had experienced at one time or another epidemics, famines, or wars: The power of population is so superior to the power of the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race.
The vices of mankind are active and able ministers of depopulation. They are the precursors in the great army of destruction, and often finish the dreadful work themselves. But should they fail in this war of extermination, sickly seasons, epidemics, pestilence, and plague advance in terrific array, and sweep off their thousands and tens of thousands.
Should success be still incomplete, gigantic inevitable famine stalks in the rear, and with one mighty blow levels the population with the food of the world. Chapter VII, p 44  The rapid increase in the global population of the past century exemplifies Malthus's predicted population patterns; it also appears to describe socio-demographic dynamics of complex pre-industrial societies.
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