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An Essay on the Principle of Population (Penguin Classics)

3.47  ·  Rating Details  ·  877 Ratings  ·  46 Reviews
Theprovocative historical work on social economy, demography, and population control.

Malthus' life's work on human population and its dependency on food production and the environment was highly controversial on publication in 1798. He predicted what is known as the Malthusian catastrophe, in which humans would disregard the limits of natural resources and the world would
Paperback, 304 pages
Published May 20th 1985 by Penguin Classics (first published 1798)
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Humans tend to increase faster than they can create food, so at a certain point they will be unable to support themselves. There are two ways to control this: decrease birth rate (preventive checks) or increase death rate (positive checks); if the first one doesn't happen, the second inevitably will.

That general idea is so obvious that it seems hard to believe someone would have to come up with it, and Malthus is just the guy who laid it out most clearly. People have known that since the dawn of
Sidharth Vardhan
There is that old riddle that goes like this - suppose germs in a glass are doubling every minute and the glass will be full of germs after one hour. When was the glass half full?

The answer is 59 minutes. The thing is after 59 minutes, germs would be like - look how much space we are left with, we still have a hour to spare. This fallacy arises out of our tenrency to think in terms of arithemetic proportion, whereas population grows in a geometric proportion.

Some reviewers argue that all Malthus
Jun 15, 2016 Lotz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I’m not sure what exactly I expected from this little book. Certainly, I expected to see Malthus’s oft cited argument concerning the rate of food production vs. that of population increase (but I wondered if an entire book, however brief, could be filled on that topic). I just as certainly did not expect to meet such a charming writer and incisive thinker.

But why has this book stood the test of time? Doubtless, Malthus was wrong about every specific prediction he ventured to make. He did not fo
Bill Bowyer
Feb 01, 2016 Bill Bowyer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An intelligent man taught me to think of Malthus by drawing a line graph, with population on the x-axis and food supply on the y-axis. Draw a straight line from the top left corner to the bottom right and plot a point midway down the line. Once you pass that point going down, things start to get interesting.

I see that a good number of reviews on here are negative, and I imagine they're that way because the reader stopped once Malthus went into the English Poor Laws. Like any good theorist his w
Jun 29, 2007 Em rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Malthus is a rational man, a brilliant man, but a man without a real sense of humanity. His justifications of his theory were taking humans as mere objects translated into numbers, looking on the macro side, and not even dealing with the intimate details of people, family, and community in his theory. Sort of Darwin-istic only he's taking it a step further to say hey yeah the fittest will survive and those that are unfit won't--and we should not aid them in any way. So in a way, his implication ...more
Dec 04, 2015 Sookie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This essay may not be completely relevant with changes made in the fields of agriculture, reproduction sciences and wealth accumulation. It however finds relevancy in equating population, food control and moral high ground that man has to take. The simplistic premise is extended to all the classes, many developed and developing countries. Malthus takes into account the industrial revolution that is afoot in Europe, expansion of the empire and the unprecedented diseases that crop up every now and ...more
What a complete ass.
Neil Collins
I read this book because it has been recommended as one of the influences for the modern capitalist system. Adam smith is regarded as the founding father of our current economic system and the ideas of Malthus which are presented in this book serve as a solidifying justification to further support the capitalist class system.

As much as I detest the inhumane and completely debunked conclusions of this book, I did give it 2 stars, rather than one. This is because i do think the book is important a
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Oct 22, 2013 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: Good Reading: 100 Significant Books
I read this because it's listed in Good Reading's "100 Significant Books" and I found reading through that list a valuable education in itself. I found this surprisingly readable. Works on this list such as works by Kant, Spinoza, Adam Smith, can be heavy going--that's not the case here. This is very accessible, and it's short--about a hundred pages. What's more, many of its arguments are still important, still relevant. I can hear echoes of these arguments in both conservative and environmental ...more
Apr 21, 2016 Nikolaos rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a book filled with wisdom worthy of its era. The concept of virtually unlimited resources, be it colonization of the universe or the per person provisions production far beyond one's needs were elusive to the brilliant, sane minds of 1798. Therefore, the proliferation of our species while accessing finite resources is an inviting topic. I may interpret the author via my reality distortion field (I did unknowingly quote him when I was 10), but Malthus did not cheer for the suffering of hu ...more
Three stars suggests average, which is in fact almost the polar opposite of how I'd describe this book. In fact, there were some parts that I thought were brilliant, and others that made me want to be sick.

First off, it's important to note that theoretically, Malthus principal argument - that population growth can only ever be held in check by 'misery' (i.e. famine) and 'vice' (i.e. war) - has been basically undone by the advent of contraception. Nevertheless I felt this was an important book to
John Rivera
Jul 08, 2008 John Rivera rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy, economics
Interesting little bit. Comes up often in sociology's conflict theory and even as a current piece to discredit concerns about overpopulation. Malthus forgot one important piece when writing this work--economic growth. Malthus assumed that food would grow at a linear rate, while population would grow at an exponential rate. Advances in farming and economic pressures for greater demand, thankfully, proved Malthus wrong.
A work that has made a significant impact on a recognition of population growth, An Essay on the Principle of Population explains much of the effects and difficulties relating to the population of a society. The essay's main argument, that population and subsistence increase at different ratios, the former being a geometric ratio, and the latter an arithmetic ratio, expose some of the effects of population growth, and the checks in which keeps it back. The many other arguments made in addition t ...more
Tarun Rattan
Jan 11, 2014 Tarun Rattan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Malthus was among the first authors to address the perils of over population and this is a seminal book which was been quoted repeatedly by different authors in numerous economics, political history books. So I was interested in perusing the original thoughts of the author. The book is worth a read though it was written in early 17th century but the thoughts & views mentioned in the book are still relevant. The author's caution to limit overpopulation needs to be adhered by all people in res ...more
Alex Milledge
Apr 28, 2014 Alex Milledge rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A problem we will soon face unless we start learning the virtue of condoms and constraining our desires with rationality.

My teacher commented that when he was born (in the 40's or 50's), he said the population was about 4 billion people. Sixty years later, it has almost doubled. That is astonishing. If there was no World War II, that population would surely be doubled if we account for the loss of 60 million people and their offspring of about two generations.

Malthus's doctrine is undeniably t
Feb 13, 2011 Lindsey rated it liked it
It was interesting to finally read something that I've always heard so much about. Most of what I knew of the book was correct, and the big fallacy that is always attributed to him - the discounting of technological advance that increases the productivity of land - is omnipresent when reading the arguments.

However, I was surprised by the expression of some surprisingly liberal ideas, especially regarding women and their position in life. He both acceded that women are not of lesser intellectual
Sep 18, 2013 Mike rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“Population, when unchecked, increases in a geometrical ratio.
Subsistence increases only in an arithmetical ratio. A slight
acquaintance with numbers will shew the immensity of the first power
in comparison of the second.”

With that paragraph, Thomas Malthus launched one of the most controversial arguments of the modern age. The idea that mankind will one day be so numerous that there will be insufficient sustenance. Although Malthus refused to put his money where his mouth was (namely by estimatin
Paul Adkin

Malthus' famous reflections on demographic unsustainability become lost in this work. It seems he is more interested in putting forward liberal-democratic, nihilistic ideas, like his concluding "evil is necessary for advancement," than looking for a solution to over-population. It probably needs a second reading to see what the relationship between necessary evil and the juggernaut onslaught of a booming population have in common, and what conclusions can be drawn from such a combination. But,
Jun 14, 2016 Hatem rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: اقتصاد
* عدد السكان يتزايد بمتوالية هندسية بينما الغذاء يتزايد بمتوالية عددية
* المحركان الرئيسيان لزيادة السكان هما وفرة الغذاء و انتشار الفضيلة
* رخاء المجتمع يتحقق بزيادة إنتاج الغذاء لا بفرض ضرائب على الأغنياء
* زيادة الإنتاج الصناعي و التجاري دون الزراعي و إن أضاف لثروة الامة لكنه لا يحسن وضع الطبقات الدنيا و هي الأغلبية في أي مجتمع
Nov 25, 2015 Rachel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: e, male-author, 2015
This isn't an easy book to read although a lot of what Malthus says makes sense even if it isn't overly relevant in the modern day as we have become a lot more technologically advanced and more able to provide for the population. It is very wordy and the language is of its time which makes it difficult to understand in places. It could be a lot more direct.

It uses plenty of examples to show where the different chapters and comments apply in the real world. Some people may find Malthus's views to
An Essay on The Principle of Population entailed the provocative idea of the danger of population growth. Malthus began to worry about the growing populations and he devised his ideas on why and how population growth can be damaging to the overall happiness.

However, Malthus was a physiocrat in the 18 century England. He failed to account for the growing technology that helps to multiple the foodstuff to support the growing populations. He did offered some insightful points on the nature of human
Nov 20, 2010 Ravi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The English is old-fashioned and one needs to put in effort to read parts of this book. However the ideas are brilliant. Even today his observation that those who can least afford children have the most is valid. His forecast that population would doom the species have not materialised to date because technology and resources permitted the generation of larger volumes of food. As resources run dry, we now face ever increasing challenges to generate sufficient food and we are now approaching the ...more
May 15, 2013 Patrik rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed reading the first third of this famous Essay. The first seven chapters described the principles of population for which Malthus has become justifiably famous and for which economics was named the dismal science (Thomas Carlyle's term after reading Malthus), although the descriptions of these principles are so 18th century...

However the latter two thirds of his Essay were tedious as Malthus addressed books and ideas put forward by his contemporaries (usually Malthus disagreed with thei
Tai Tai
Sep 08, 2014 Tai Tai rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
having read the Origin of Species first, it's clear that Darwin was greatly inspired by Malthus' words. This book makes it point clear and the rest is just exploration and refutation
Jan 17, 2013 Cody rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a good short read for those who are interested in historical thought in general, but especially for those who are interested in historical thought as it relates to many fields of biology (population biology, ecology, evolutionary biology, conservation biology, etc.). Malthus' essay was instrumental in shaping the thoughts of many 19th century naturalists, including Charles Darwin's "struggle for existence" that necessitated his theory of natural selection. If you are a biologist of any s ...more
Gupse Ceren
Jun 06, 2016 Gupse Ceren rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
kafalara gel.
Patricrk patrick
Malthus asserts a lot of stuff but doesn't provide a lot of data to back up his claims. I tend to agree with a lot of what he asserts such as men and women are not going to lose sexual attraction to each other and man is not going to become immortal (and if he did it would just make the population problem worse). He did use the 4000 year figure for the age of mankind but that was the accepted wisdom in his age. Somewhat dated but still worth reading just to know what he really said.
Chris Gould
Apr 07, 2012 Chris Gould rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Malthus' first edition was sheer comedy. Some of his research began with the source "it is said"...! As the editions progressed, Malthus research methods got more thorough, and he never did manage to prove that countries' populations were doubling over 25 year periods. Malthus, being a clergyman, worried about the possibility of food shortages due to overpopulation - and worried about land rubbing out. What he missed was the potential of technology to transform food production.
Chris Gunnell
While the main thesis of the book is one that is interesting and one that has seemed to have some merit (with only technological advances like the Green Revolution to buy us more time), the entire book has a very Christian-oriented tone that seems unnecessary. The ending, in general, is very focused on the problem of evil, which (while not necessarily bad) is just sort of baffling at the end of a book on economics and population. A good book, nonetheless.
I feel like Malthus wrote this for an assignment because it was so incredibly overdone. He repeats everything at least twice and goes slightly off-topic towards the end. He makes decent points, but he really had no way to know what the future would bring in the way of advances in agriculture and industry, which made it more of a time capsule than a relevant essay.
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The Rev. Thomas Robert Malthus FRS was an English cleric and scholar, influential in the fields of political economy and demography. Malthus himself used only his middle name Robert.

His An Essay on the Principle of Population observed that sooner or later population will be checked by famine and disease, leading to what is known as a Malthusian catastrophe. He wrote in opposition to the popular vi
More about Thomas Robert Malthus...

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“The view which he has given of human life has a melancholy hue,
but he feels conscious that he has drawn these dark tints from a
conviction that they are really in the picture, and not from a jaundiced
eye or an inherent spleen of disposition.”
“The constancy of the laws of nature, or the certainty with which we may expect the same effects from the same causes, is the foundation of the faculty of reason.” 1 likes
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