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Malthusian theory of population UPSC

In 1798, Malthus gave a theory on population. This theory is based on the observation of the western European population and society. His theory supported the capitalist system of economics and deterministic approaches to geography. In his theory, he explained the way in which nature controlled the population and neglected the role of technology and medical advancement to control the population.

Some assumptions in Malthus's theory

  • Humans always needed some basic things for survival such as food, water, clothes, etc. 
  • Attractions between two opposite sex.
What is the theory of population?
  • The population growth rate is higher than the growth of the resources. 
  • Population grow in geometric series: 1,2,4,8,16
  • Resources or food grow in arithmetic series: 1,2,3,4,5,6 
  • In 25 years the population would be two times. 
  • If population growth is not prevented by man-made checks then positive checks may be arises. 
There will be a food crisis at some point in time and it is shown below the image. 

point of food crisis
point of the food crisis 

Positive check on the population growth:

  • War
  • Drought
  • Flood
  • Epidemics
  • Earthquake
  • Tsunami

Man-made or Preventive Checks on population growth:

  • Abortion
  • Contraceptive pills
  • Birth control
  • Unethical control
  • Promote late marriage.
  • Family Planning

As per Malthus, if preventive checks are not taken place then positive checks will happen. 

By doing this, in the short term, positive measurements can be avoided but in the long run, can not be avoided. 

Malthusian Trap:
In the long run, the population will not be growing because of food shortages; this situation is also called the Malthusian trap. 

Neo Malthus theory:
It supported the preventive check to avoid food shortages for the current population and for the future population.

Criticism of Malthus's theory: 

  • Marxism criticized that hunger and poverty are not due to population increase, it is capitalism that causes resource inequality.
  • Population growth is not always geometry series
  • The green revolution in India proved that food growth is not arithmetic in series.
  • Having a baby is a social need, it is not only a result of opposite-sex attraction.
  • In India, hunger does not result in food scarcity but results in the inaccessibility and distribution of food.
  • Based on the historical data, the population is not get doubled in 25 years, the historical data is shown in the below table. 

Population in Billions
Doubling time in years


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